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(p)reviews: Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin

I’ve recently cracked open our wedding present from Dr. Hywel Jones of WSC. He has been an encouraging father of the faith, mentor, and an inspiring preacher that my wife and I listen to off the internet as often as we can. So I was eager to make time in my crazy schedule to dig into our gift from him titled, “The Expository Genius of John Calvin,” by Steve Lawson. It’s only a short read like Dr. Joel Beeke says at the front of the book, “a Homiletics I refresher course that can be read in one evening.”

The first chapter titled Calvin’s Life and Legacy might well be read to our Calvary Chapel friends who have unfortunately been subject to some very unrepresentative stereotypes of Calvin. These stereotypes are quickly shattered throughout the chapter and we are left with gratitude for what God has done for the church in this humble reformer, admiration for this man’s unbending faithfulness and jealousy for God’s word and table, and inspiration from a preaching model flowing out of Calvin’s understanding of soli deo gloria. Calvin is certainly not the dark figure he is made out to be by protestants who will not embrace their Reformed roots.

In the second chapter titled Approaching the Pulpit Dr. Lawson gives us a short but vivid account of how exciting it must have been to sit under the preaching of Calvin after he returned to Geneva from banishment. Persecuted French Huguenots, Scottish and English refugees fleeing the wrath of “Bloody Mary” joined Geneva’s congregants and found their comfort in the words that poured forth from the pulpit of Saint Pierre. Lawson puts a new and refreshing face on Geneva’s father of the so called “frozen chosen.”

I then read through the first four of many distinctives listed by Lawson that set Calvin’s preaching apart from the rest: 1. Biblical Authority 2. Divine Presence 3. Pulpit Priortiy and 4. Sequential Exposition.

This is as far as I’ve gotten this morning. Before setting out for a day’s work (construction, sermon prep, taking care of Isabelle) I was left with this convicting thought from pg. 35:

“”In Calvin’s own words,  preaching is “the living voice” of God in “His church.” He reasoned: “God begets and multiplies His church only by means of His Word…It is by the preaching of the grace of God alone that the church is kept from perishing.””

In light of the the current trend of the Church’s overcommitment to the listener which inevitably dims zeal for the “Speaker” (eg. taking polls to determine what interests people most for sermon topics, using drama as an alternate means of ‘preaching’ the word because we live in a visually stimulated culture, etc.) Lawson gives a very solemn charge to those of us who desire to administer God’s word to his sheep :

“Where are such men of God today? Where are the preachers like Calvin, who will preach the Word with unwavering commitment? Where are the pastors who bleive that God is uniquiely with them as they mount their pulpits for the exposition of His Word? Where are the shepherds who have prioritized the preaching of the Word in public worship? Where are the expositors who will preach entire books of the Bible consecutively month after month and year after year?”

I can’t wait to return to this gem of a little book tomorrow morning after coffee.


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