Preaching & Purpose! (2)

Fruit of Reformation

So reformation is brought about by the living voice of God in Christ coming to us, thus the church is reformed, it is built up. God breathes faith into his church. In the preaching of the word of God resides the power to save and restore the church. John Calvin appeals to the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16).

The power, the dynamic of God, in preaching God comes down to us by this earthly means. This is why Calvin did nothing but preach, that was his calling and his life. He did nothing but preaching and preaching the word of God, preaching the scriptures, opening them up and applying them. You squeezed this man and the word of God came out of him. Not just the exposition but the strong and courageous application of scripture to and in every area of the lives of the people of Geneva; the Old Testament and the New Testament, both of them; applying the rigours the law of God. Gospel preaching with the thread of divine law running through it. In our street preaching we often get professing Christians saying, why are you talking about all this sin, why donʼt you just tell them that Jesus loves them? I seriously doubt whether John Calvin ever told anyone that Jesus loved them, but he certainly brought many people to an experience of it. It was reformation that John Calvin was looking, not as opposed to revival, but primarily, first of all. The recovery of truth began with Luther, the momentum was carried on through Zwingli and Bullinger, but Calvin consolidated the Reformation, Lutherʼs emphasis was upon personal salvation, Calvinʼs agenda was to establish a holy commonwealth upon the earth. The agenda in Geneva was to found such a commonwealth that would honour God in every area of its life. His preaching was provocative, penetrating and convicting.

If God’s Word demanded something then for Calvin it was to be obeyed, simple as that. And what happened to himself was inconsequential as long as God was obeyed, thatʼs all he wanted. But where you have people who are bent on personal pleasure and liberty, you will have folk who dislike, who fear such virtuous authority. Calvin was opposed every step of the way. He got into his pulpit one morning and he found a death threat. Youʼre a dead man if you donʼt shut up, it read. But with the same seriousness, with that same resolution that began with his conversion, his heart captivated by God, with that same seriousness, that same resolution, he kept on. He wanted a church, he wanted worship that was approved of God. He rebuked the spirit of toleration. This toleration that masquerades as moderation, a specious quality with a fair appearance that seems worthy of praise. But that the eternal truth, ought to oppressed, is nothing but the devilʼs lies. To be silent while Christ is insulted, whilst the holy mysteries of God are polluted and trampled on and souls are being murdered: when the church is left to writhe under the effect of a deadly wound; then it is not meekness but sinful indifference. Well, he says, let our big babies go and complain about me as if I were too extreme! In fact, I have never required of them half of what the prophet demands. Now whether I talk about it or hold my peace on the subject, we are none of us any less bound by this law that God imposes on us. And indeed, it is not for nothing that God addresses the faithful saying, “ye are my witnesses, and my servant whom I have chosen” (Isaiah 44:8). Anyone who would be approved as a member of Jesus Christ must show that this title suits him. Therefore they who bury the testimony to the truth by their dissembling and hypocrisy have no excuse. So I ask you, what will become of them who undermine the testimony all their life? Who not only hide their Christianity so as to show no sign of it before men but also commit actions which are entirely contrary to it. The children of God who are in the midst of such pollutions, therefore, have no recourse but to afflict their souls, according to the example of good Lot. Yea, they must speak against the evil as God gives them the means and occasion.

(©️ James R Hamilton, February 2020)
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