I often miss birthdays, but here is one that is hard to miss. The Reformed world has been acknowledging and commemorating Calvin's 500th birthday this year with a variety of publications and conferences, and today is his birthday. John Calvin was born in France in 1509, and he became one of the most influential Reformers during the crucial years of the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps best known for his articulation of the doctrine of predestination, Calvin in fact contributed so much more to the life and theology of the Church. His writings on various topics, such as the believer's union with Christ, sanctification, justification, the threefold mediatorial offices of Christ (Prophet, Priest and King), worship, the Holy Spirit, and the corruption of man, all combine to form a thoroughly God-exulting theology that has had enormous practical blessings for God's people. While he is rightly celebrated as one of history's great theologians, his pastoral ministry is of great significance as well. Calvin preached regularly (daily even) and his theology was always practiced, not in the ivory towers of a university setting, but in the daily life of the church.
There are many reasons John Calvin is important for the church today. Perhaps one of the greatest is found in the simple fact that he was a reformer. And, as history bears witness, as long as Christ's church remains in its "militant" (not-yet-triumphant) stage, true reformation will always be one of our greatest needs. Like Calvin and the other Protestant reformers, may we be humble enough to recognize this, and bold enough to pursue it.
We are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God's: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal (John Calvin, Institutes, 3.7.1).
For further reading:
Beeke, Joel R. Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. (Various versions and translations are available).
Lawson, Seven J. The Expository Genius of John Calvin. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2007.
Parsons, Burk, ed. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008.