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The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile) Hardcover – March 1, 2007
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Through an introductory study of John Calvin's preaching, Steve Lawson provides a practical Homiletics I refresher course that can be read in one evening, but should be read annually for lifelong impact. Factual yes stimulation, simple yet penetrating, The Expository Genius of John Calvin contains many scriptural and theocentric golden nuggets and hands-on practical tips for beginning expositors and seasoned preachers alike. May God use it to revitalize Christ-centered and Spirit-empowered applicatory preaching in our needy day.--Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Grand Rapids, Michigan
An infectious appreciation of the preaching of John Calvin from the pen of Steven Lawson. No one reading this volume can fail to appreciate the debt we owe to the 'Genevan Reformer' Lawson has consulted the best of current scholarship and has produced a comprehensive distillation of the contours of the Reformer's preaching and, with it, a compelling advocacy of consecutive expository preaching. A magnificent achievement.--Derek W.H. Thomas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia S.C. Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Ga.
In this book, Dr. Steve Lawson has masterfully presented us with thirty-two keynotes that made Calvin the best preacher of the Reformation, all of them centered around the Word of God preached expositorily. He describes for us in a powerful as well as profound way how Calvin brought his congregation upward to gaze upon God's glory as he preached verse by verse, then ended his sermons with prayer filled with the Word! Dr. Lawson is right in saying that because of the spiritual bankruptcy of our time, we need Calvins once again. I would make this book recommended reading in courses such as homiletics and missions for any serious pastor and student of theology.--Dr. Alonzo Ramirez, Professor, Biblical Reformed Seminary, Peru
About the Author
Dr. Steven J. Lawson is president and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a board member and teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, a board member and professor of preaching at The Master's Seminary, professor in residence for Truth Remains, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at Ligonier Academy. A popular conference speaker and author, Dr. Lawson's books include, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, and Pillars of Grace. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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This book was the first in a series that examines the varied ministries of noted men from church history. Lawson states that Calvin “was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor.”
Lawson writes that apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands today as the most influential minister of the Word of God the world has ever seen. He states that by overwhelming consent, he remains the greatest biblical commentator of all time.
Lawson begins the book with a brief biography of Calvin, whose father, a financial administrator for the Catholic bishop of the Noyon diocese, raised his son to enter the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. When his father died, the 21-year-old Calvin moved back to Paris to pursue his first love, the study of literature, especially the classics. He later returned to Bourges, where he completed his legal studies and received his doctor of laws degree. It was while he was studying at Bourges that Calvin came in direct contact with the biblical truths of the Reformation.
Calvin went to Basel, Switzerland (1534-1536), and began writing his magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin's Institutes would become the defining masterpiece of Protestant theology, according to Lawson the single most important book to be written during the Reformation.
Calvin was first appointed professor of sacred Scripture in Geneva, then, four months later, pastor of Saint Pierre Cathedral. Calvin and Farel immediately began working to reform the church in Geneva. Their attempts to fence the Lord's Table by excommunication resulted in their banishment from the city in 1538.
Calvin went into exile to Strasbourg where he pastored a congregation of some five hundred French-speaking refugees in Strasbourg. He also taught the New Testament in the local theological institute, wrote his first commentary (on Romans), and published the second edition of the Institutes.
During these years in Strasbourg, Calvin also found a wife, Idelette Stordeur, a member of his congregation. An Anabaptist widow, she had a son and a daughter from her first marriage. They married in 1540, when Calvin was 31. Idelette would die of tuberculosis in 1549.
Meanwhile, the City Council of Geneva found itself in much struggle, and called for Calvin to return as the city's pastor. Calvin re-entered the city on September 13, 1541, never to relocate again. In Geneva, he made his mark as the Reformed church leader and the Reformation's brightest light.
Upon his return, Calvin hit the town preaching, reassuming his pulpit ministry precisely where he had left off three years earlier-in the very next verse of his earlier exposition.
The rest of the book has Lawson reviewing the distinctives of Calvin's preaching. They are:
1. Biblical authority
2. Divine Presence
3. Pulpit priority
4. Sequential Exposition
5. Diligent Mind
6. Devoted heart
7. Relentless will
8. Direct beginning
9. Extemporaneous delivery
10. Scriptural context
11. Stated theme
12. Specific text
13. Exegetical precision
14. Literal interpretation
16. Persuasive reasoning
17. Reasonable deductions
18. Familiar words
19. Vivid expressions
20. Provocative questions.
21. Simple Restatements
22. Limited quotations
23. Unspoken outline
24. Seamless transitions
25. Focused intensity
26. Pastoral exhortation
27. Personal examination
28. Loving rebuke
29. Polemic confrontation
30. Succinct summation
31. Pressing appeal
32. Climatic prayer
The book concludes with two appendices:
Appendix A: John Calvin's Verse Distribution for Sermon Series
Appendix B: John Calvin's Unspoken Outline of Job 21:13-15 Organized by T. H. L. Parker
I have read several of the books in this series of short biographies (Luther, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon), and plan to read books on Tyndale, Knox, Watts and Edwards. I enjoyed this look at Calvin’s expository preaching, which will be most appreciated by those who preach the Word.
Like I said, this book is not what I expected, but I was not disappointed. From the very beginning, in the introduction, Steven J Lawson sets the tone and his purpose for this book.
The goal here is not to take a sentimental journey-the hour is too desperate for such a triviality. Rather, the aim of this book is to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors.
This immediately changed my view towards reading the book from one
of lighthearted observation, to realizing there may be something in this book that will convict me, and this made me excited.
I have to say that all I have known about John Calvin before this book, was that some people love him and others hate him. There is hardly any in between. I know all about Calvinism, and have heard many a time that what we know as Calvinism is not what Calvin emphasized or taught. I know all about Arminianism and how the two have argued non-stop. I have heard Calvin quoted, but only maybe a handful of times, no where near as often as Edwards, Spurgeon or Luther.
What I ended up learning of Calvin was very convicting to me. Calvin was a man of the Word. Everything for Calvin centered around the Bible, and he thought no outside source to be on a level even close to the Bible. In Calvin's teaching and preaching, He gave very short introductions, usually just reminded people of the previous passage taught, then moved right into explaining the passage he was teaching. Calvin was an expository teacher, meaning he would go straight through a book of the Bible, teaching every single verse in that book, simply aiming to explain what each and every verse means. I believe this is the best way to remain faithful to the whole of the Bible. Calvin almost never quoted other people, using rather other scripture to clarify hard to understand passages. Calvin was the first to emphasize the idea that you interpret the less clear parts of scripture by the more clear parts.
Here are some lines from the book that really stood out to me.
Because a sermon is simply an overflow of a preacher's life, the man of God must prepare his heart well. A sermon rises no higher than a preacher's soul before God.
Later in the book it gives an image of Calvin preaching while pointing at the people to whom he was preaching. Calvin note that while 1 finger was pointed at the people, 3 fingers where pointed back at himself. He saw himself as the main one being addressed by the scripture he taught. This was such a huge point to me. How easy is it to read scripture and listen to sermons without letting is penetrate and change your mind and heart?
We must all be pupils of the Holy Scriptures, even to the end; even those, I mean, who are appointed to proclaim the Word. If we enter the pulpit, it is on this condition, that we learn while teaching others. I am not speaking here merely that others may hear me; but I too, for my part, must be a pupil of God, and the word which goes forth from my lips must profit myself; otherwise woe is me! The most accomplished in the Scripture are fools, unless they acknowledge that they have need of God for their schoolmaster all the days of their life.
Calvin also was intent in his belief that Scripture was his ultimate authority, and that he was only to teach what the Bible itself taught.
Where the Lord closes His Holy mouth, let us also stop our minds from going any further.
My limited views of Calvin were changed dramatically in seeing how humble he was. Calvin saw everything he taught as first pointed at his own heart. He lived in constant repentance, humility, and submission to the God's word, and made no attempt to hide himself from the piercing action of the living Word of God. This is a point in which we would all to good to imitate Calvin. I know that I personally can listen to a hundred sermons, teach a hundred Bible studies, and write a hundred blog posts, without letting my heart be affected.
Many are content to have the gospel preached, provided it does not touch them, or make them uncomfortable.
This is what Calvin aimed to fight against, purely by preaching the Word. Calvin also always had a higher goal in mind, keeping heaven and the throne of God in view at all times.
Having brought God's Word to the people, he then desired to bring the people to God's throne. His intent was to leave them in the presence of the Father.
In thinking about this point, I was extremely convicted of the fact that I don't even do that in prayer. How low and near sighted have I set my sights! I don't teach that way, I don't lead that way. I don't lead my family that way. Oh God, I pray that you would continue to convict my heart of the pride that causes me to think I could do better than to teach your word. Break me of the sin of teaching others without myself learning. Lord, that I would be humble and be humbled in my daily reading your Word. Please Lord, let me not forget or lose sight that the hour is too desperate for such trivialities.
legal note: Reformation Trust Publishing will be sending me this book as compensation for this review. Thank you Reformation Trust!
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