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by Bubba Jennings
John Calvin is arguably the most influential Bible teacher in the history of the church. He was born on July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France. Calvin's early years were spent studying law until God saved him at the age of twenty-four. Within three years he published the first edition of the legendary Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is perhaps the most significant systematic theological book every written. The final version of The Institutes was published when he was fifty years of age. In the later edition, Calvin more fully articulated the doctrines of God's sovereignty and predestination; he wrote that since the elect are saved by grace, grace would never be taken from them. These doctrines sparked a revolution of vital gospel preaching and comforted the many people who lived in terror of hell. Calvin preached an average of five sermons a week on various days in addition to Sunday and also taught many Bible classes. His studies culminated in the publishing of a commentary on nearly every book of the Bible. His commentaries remain incredibly insightful and even his most ardent opponents, such as Jacobus Arminius, who founded the anti-Calvin theological system known as Arminianism, said, "Next to Scripture . . . I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's commentaries."
The Relentless Preacher
The sheer amount of work he was able to produce is all the more amazing in light of his frequent physical sickness. Calvin suffered from poor digestion, migraines, kidney stones, gout, lung infections, and lung hemorrhages, possibly brought on by too much preaching and teaching. When unable to even walk the few hundred yards to church, he would be carried in a chair to preach. When he was too sick to enter into the winter air, he would fill his bedroom with people who would come to hear him preach. He was so committed to laboring hard for Jesus that he even worked on his deathbed until he breathed his last, saying that he did not want to enter into Jesus' presence as an idle man.
Calvin and Calvinism
Perhaps Calvin is best known for the five points of Calvinism summarized with the acronym T.U.L.I.P, referring to the total depravity of man, unconditional election of God, limited atonement of Jesus, irresistible saving grace of God, and lifelong perseverance of God's true saints. What some people do not know is that the five points of Calvinism were not from Calvin directly but rather were created by his followers some years later based upon his teachings. Today there are some wonderful New Calvinists following in the footsteps of the Old New Calvinists. Among my favorite that I would commend for your enjoyment are Wayne Grudem and Don Carson. Grudem's Systematic Theology is incredibly rich and in my opinion the best systematic theology on the market today. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Grudem speak live at our Acts 29 boot camp in Raleigh and enjoyed personal time with him in his son Elliott's home. He is a wonderful man, very gracious and kind, brilliant, and tremendously encouraging. Carson is also a very gracious, enjoyable, pastoral, loving, and helpful friend. He has been kind enough to include me on the council of The Gospel Coalition. Carson has written, contributed to, or edited some fifty books and is a wonderful Bible teacher and gift to our age.