September 9, 2012

The Expository Genius of John Calvin - Book Review

About a month ago I finished reading The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson.  I had read another book about Calvin about a month before this, but I was especially intrigued by the focus of this book.  I was also intrigued by the low price when I purchased the Kindle edition.  (I think it was in the free section for about a week.)

Knowing that, it doesn't mean as much if I say that it was a worthwhile purchase.  Let's pretend that it was regular price at the time... "It was a worthwhile purchase!"  Did the pretending help?

OK, OK, let me just say that it was a really good book.  It was easy to read and covered aspects of Calvin's life and ministry that I hadn't heard of before.  I appreciated the examples that this book shared from different messages that Calvin preached.  The book was well researched and the examples demonstrated the points the author was making as to the methods of Calvin's sermons.

It was interesting to find out that he attempted to speak in such a way so that the common man could understand the message.  When he would quote other passages of scripture, he wouldn't always mention that it was a quote, quite often state a phrase or a portion to emphasize a point.  It was as if Scripture simply flowed from his lips.

I was also greatly encouraged to learn that the focus of Calvin's ministry was simply to "preach the word."  Change didn't come because he had political influence or even an office.  He was simply the pastor who held the belief in Scripture alone.  He faithfully preached his way through book after book of the Bible.  Many times picking up exactly where he had left off after an illness or even after the time he was run out of town, when he returned he started at the very passage in the book he had been preaching through.

The book ends with a plea for faithful preaching, voiced by stating, "We want again Calvins!"  C.H. Spurgeon said this of Calvin:
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.
At another time he said:
John Calvin propounded truth more clearly than any other man who ever breathed, knew more of Scripture, and explained it more clearly.
From the author:
We now stand in the twenty-first century, almost five hundred years removed from John Calvin's time, but we find ourselves in an equally critical hour of redemptive history. As the organized church was spiritually bankrupt at the outset of Calvin's day, so it is again in our time.  Certainly to judge by outward appearances, the evangelical church in this hour seems to be flourishing.  Megachurches are springing up everywhere. Christian contemporary music and publishing houses seem to be booming.  Men's rallies are packing large coliseums. Christian political groups are heard all the way to the White House.  Yet the evangelical church is largely a whitewashed tomb.  Tragically her outward facade masks her true internal condition.
Though I don't agree with that exactly, mostly because we forget to factor in the global church, I think the author might be dead on when it comes to the American Church.  More importantly, I believe that the remedy is not to be found in a program or a new Bible Study, but in the preaching of the Word.  I will close with one more quote of Spurgeon's that the author also chose to end with:
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen's ears.  We have dire need of such.  Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time... 
I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men's ears to hear it.  The moment the church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His churches.