Steve Lawson – The Preaching of John Calvin and What We Can Learn

John Calvin

Calvin chiefly was a preacher. Shepherded a flock for 25 years.

Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon respected Calvin as one of the greatest men born of a woman.

Calvin is remembered as a theologian uncovering doctrines that had been buried for centuries. Yet Calvin saw himself as a shepherd called to preach the Word to his flock.

1) Authority of Biblical Truth – Sola Scriptura

Calvin believed the minister’s chief mandate is to preach God’s Word. The preacher has nothing to say apart from the words of God. We need fewer preachers, but we need more real preachers. No room for fantasy and imagination. Preacher is the dispatched messenger. Bring not their own inventions. Merely the delivery boy. Humility characterized his ministry. The Message of Scripture is Sovereign. We owe the Scripture the same reverence that we owe to God. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. Boice said “Calvin had no weapon but the Bible.”

2) Priority of Sequential Exposition

Calvin preached verse by verse, book by book. NT Sunday mornings, NT & Psalms Sunday afternoon, then every weekday morning he taught through the OT. Example: Acts – 189 sermons; Isaiah – 353 continuous sermons. After being run away from Geneva for 3 1/2 years, upon his return, he resumed his preaching at the very next verse that he had left off. Make your meat and potatoes be the sequential exposition of books of the Bible.

3) Accuracy of Sound Exegesis

Plain, literal interpretation of the text. John Murray “Calvin was the Exegete of the Reformation.” He preached from the Hebrew and the Greek. He preached in French and lectured in Latin. Not eisegesis but exegesis. Real estate – location, location, location. Bible Study – context, context, context. Calvin said “The scripture should be understood and explained. How it is explained is secondary.” MacArthur said “The meaning of the text is the text.” All true interpretation requires much perspiration. You will give an account for every sermon before God.

4) Energy of Lively Preaching

He preached with no notes. He used just the Bible. He was so fluent with the Bible that he could flow. It is a sin to bore people with the Word of God. Bore people with Shakespeare, not with the Bible. Lecturers in the pulpit is not preaching. Dig it out and write it down, but don’t lecture. Calvin was not a hyper-Calvinist! Be accurate and precise with the Word of God. No fluff, no waste. His every word was to the point. Every word weighed a pound. Not like preachers circling the airport but never landing. He had a short porch to a big house. No big introduction but right to the point. He puts the cookies on the bottom shelf. Sentences are simple, making the text as clear as possible to his hearers. No flourish in his words. Calvin “Preachers are like fathers, dividing the bread into small pieces to feed the his children.” Don’t choke and gag your people. Painting mental pictures using analogies, similes, word pictures, and metaphors. Used personal pronouns us and we.

5) Necessity of Gospel Defense

One voice for the sheep and the other for the wolves. Guard the gospel.

6) Fervency of Evangelistic Preaching

Calling people to repentance and faith.


4 thoughts on “Steve Lawson – The Preaching of John Calvin and What We Can Learn

  1. Just finished listening to this one as well, what an amazing example Calvin set for preachers; a high standard indeed – but isn’t that how it should be for a man of God? This man ate, slept, and breathed Christ…


    Berean Wife Reply:


    I would imagine that hearing about Calvin and the sheer bulk of preaching he did would be convicting to others that we waste so much time on unnecessary things. Seven plus sermons a week in addition to writing is a tremendous amount of work.

    Berean Wife


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