Saturday, September 16, 2017

John Calvin: A Model for Ministers

As a university student, it is said that he demonstrated a maturity beyond his years. In the providence of God, he had able teachers who marked his life with discipline and intellectual development. In 1528 he graduated with the degree Master of Arts. He was eighteen years of age.”


Typically when someone hears the name John Calvin, one of the first things that comes to mind is those doctrines which are commonly called “Calvinism,” or his well-known “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” However, one must wonder, if after hearing the name John Calvin, do people ever think “an example for ministers to follow.” The question is this: did he, in fact, leave behind a pattern in his life and labors for us to imitate? In this piece, I propose to argue that he did, and intend to prove this assertion based upon two fundamental facts that spring from his manner of life and from his method of preaching.

Calvin’s Manner of Life

If indeed John Calvin is a good example for ministers, then it makes sense that there should be something of that example manifested in the way he lived. Knowing that all preachers of the Word of God are called to be good examples in all that they do (Phil 4:91 Thes 1:72 Thes 3:91 Tim 4:121 Pet 5:3), we ask, did John Calvin in fact live a life worthy of imitation? Here we will begin with a brief biographical overview of his life and then it will conclude by highlighting some particular characteristics from him that are most worthy of our emulation.

John Calvin was born in 1509, on July 10, at Noyon, in Picardy, France, to Gerard and Joanne Calvin. His father was a prominent lawyer and an administrator for a local Catholic cathedral. His mother Joanne was a godly woman who had five children, the second child being John. John grew up in the church and it was his father’s desire that John would one day become a priest. John’s father also wanted his son to have a good education and he was able to secure money from his place of employment to pay for that education.

Concerning Calvin’s early years of schooling, Dr. William Downing says,

Calvin had the advantages of a good education and grew up in the circle of educated and prominent families because of his father’s position. Although he was a plebeian (ordinary; one who was considered to be of lower class), his boyhood friends, associates and fellow-students were of the aristocracy. He enjoyed the advantages of tutors and proved to be a brilliant student, with an insatiable appetite for learning.”[1]

[1] W. R. Downing, Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism, (Morgan Hill: PIRS Publications, 2000), p. 11.

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