Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Expository Genius of John Calvin - By Steven Lawson

What is the best remedy for the issues in the Church today?  What will be the best means to focus Christians upon what really matters and who they really are?  Do we have grand, 1 hour period of inspiring music and  then a 30 minute exposition of the Bible? What is the best way to worship God in our Church 'services'?  How can we get a new reformation started?   As Lawson says, "there are no new remedies for old problems.  We must come back to old paths.  We must capture the centrality and pungency of biblical preaching once again." In this book, Lawson uses Calvin as an example of the right way to edify, grow, and convict Christians, by his preaching of the complete Word of God.  He puts forth Calvin's book-by-book, verse-by-verse method of preaching as the best way to exposit the Scriptures and to teach Christians.  "This verse by verse style - lectio continua, the 'continuous expositions' - guaranteed that Calvin would preach the full counsel of God.  Difficult and controversial subjects were unavoidable.  Hard sayings could not be skipped.   Difficult doctrines could not be overlooked.  The full counsel of God could be heard."  This is also what my dad(a pastor) has pointed out:  By preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible,  you will cover all kinds of doctrines/topics without having to do topical sermons.  You will hit Theology, Sanctification, Christology, Angelology, Soteriology and Harmatology throughout several books of the New Testament,  and deal with things like relationships, brotherly love, how to Evangelize, prayer, the end times…etc.  These things will come up, and in the order the Apostles deal with them in their letters and with whatever emphasis they give them.

Lawson delves into Calvin's method of explaining the texts, the way he did introductions, whether or not he used quotes from other pastors, whether or not he used notes...  He points out that it took Calvin a long time(at least from our society's perspective), generally years, to finish preaching through a book of the Bible.   In his overview of Calvin's life, the author tells us that when Calvin first came to Geneva he started preaching through a book of the Bible(the book isn't given), while preaching through this book, he was kicked out of Geneva for three years.  When he came back, he started right where he had left off preaching, going right to the next verse. 

My problem with this book is that Lawson praises and extols Calvin too much.  He lauds Calvin throughout the book and quotes other people praising Calvin, such as Warfield, "No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction."  How does he know that?  What if an obscure Pastor had a more profound 'sense of God' than Calvin?  And this quote by Charles Spurgeon:  "Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival." All I can really say is, Wow!  So what about the Apostle Paul? Peter?  Quotes and statements like this by Lawson bothered me.  It seems almost like hero worship, to me it seemed that Calvin was put forth in an obnoxious manner.  Even the title I don't quite care for, I didn't see that Calvin was a genius, just smart in seeking the best way to teach Scripture.

But if you can look past Calvin and look to God's usage of him, this book is quite good.  Lawson encourages us to get back to Biblical preaching, verse-by-verse.  This last excerpt by Lawson is my favorite quote from this book, "Calvin believed that biblical preaching must occupy the chief place in the worship service.  What God has to say to man is infinitely more important than what man has to say to God.  If the congregation is to worship properly, if believers are to be edified, if the lost are to be converted, God's Word must be exposited.  Nothing must crowd the Scriptures out of the chief place in the public gathering."

Thanks to Ligonier Ministries who will be sending me a copy of this book in return for my review of the free pdf copy they sent me(the review does not have to be a favorable one). 

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com



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