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by Hilary Tompkins
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Handling Scripture like John Calvin
John Calvin didn’t play around when it came to Scripture. He not only cared about the authority of the Bible, but interpreting it correctly.
Calvin placed preaching the Scripture squarely at the center of the church. In his words, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ; there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” Out of his many writings on Scripture, a few choice quotes remind us how to handle God’s written Word properly—and why it’s important to do so.
1. Scripture should be treated with reverence.
“We owe to the Scripture the same reverence that we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.”
—Calvin’s commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16
2. Scripture proves itself to be the Word of God.
“Then only … does Scripture suffice to give a saving knowledge of God when its certainty is founded on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Still the human testimonies which go to confirm it will not be without effect, if they are used in subordination to that chief and highest proof, as secondary helps to our weakness. But it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith.”
3. Scripture teaches us about God and idols—and how to discern between the two.
“It is necessary to apply to Scripture in order to learn the sure marks that distinguish God, as the Creator of the world, from the whole herd of fictitious gods.”
4. Scripture doesn’t always teach what we’d like it to teach.
“On the whole subject of religion one rule of modesty and soberness is to be observed, and it is this: In obscure matters not to speak or think, or even long to know, more than the Word of God has delivered. A second rule is that in reading the Scriptures we should constantly direct our inquiries and meditations to those things which tend to edification, not indulge in curiosity or in studying things of no use. And since the Lord has been pleased to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid piety, in the fear of his name, in true faith, and the duties of holiness, let us rest satisfied with such knowledge.”
5. Scripture enables pastors in all aspects of ministry.
“The pastor ought to have two voices: one for gathering the sheep, and another for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both; for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able both to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth.”
—Calvin’s commentary on Titus 1:9
This adapted excerpt, courtesy of Logos Bible Software, is from 300 Quotations for Preachers. 300 Quotations contains quotes from more than 70 authors and works, including Augustine of Hippo, Richard Baxter, John Calvin, G. K. Chesterton, Martin Luther, and more.