For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
- Romans 12:3-8
Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
- Daniel 10:12
“In the First Edition of this work, having no expectation of the success which God has, in his goodness, been pleased to give it, I had, for the greater part, performed my office perfunctorily, as is usual in trivial undertakings. But when I perceived that almost all the godly had received it with a favour which I had never dared to wish, far more than I deserved, I thought I should be very ungrateful if I did not endeavour, at least according to my humble ability, to respond to the great kindness which had been expressed towards me, and which spontaneously urged me to diligence.”
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge)
John Calvin starts off his second edition of his Institutes with gratitude and humility. From his words, it seems that the success of his written work shocked him. And to think that the terms Calvinism and Reformed Theology seem to be interchangeable, but he was shocked by success.
At this point, I had planned to write about pre-Tribulation rapture’s positive points and also the mid-Tribulation and post-Tribulation negative points. After Tim LaHaye spends a chapter asking why people are fighting, he follows it with his view on each point. Sure, as per the Scriptures as a whole are concerned, the best fit for the rapture is pre-Tribulation, but as my title for last week suggests, why fight? If you are interested, the book, Rapture [under attack], is still in print. I thought I would move on to John Calvin’s writings, Institutes of the Christian Religion. I should be finished reading the book about the time this post is scheduled, all 1673 pages of my one volume version.
Calvin had me hooked at his opening remarks above. His reaction to the writing’s success also seems like my reaction when a post seems to develop a life of its own, gathering more and more views, much more than the posts before it or after it. I go through the process of asking, “What did I write that resonated?” then concluding, “Regardless, I can only thank God, as I only publish what is on my heart at the time. If it resonates with me, there should be someone out there who knows that feeling also when reading it.”
John Calvin (1509-1564) was a humble man, but humble in terms of a student of the law – confident, controlled in speech, and a bit bold. He wanted to be a priest, but then he was convinced by his parents to pursue the law, as lawyers made more money. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) the author of a Bible commentary, in one volume or several, has a similar background. Martin Luther (1483-1546) had a road to Damascus story in that he was almost struck by lightning, causing him to dedicate his life to Jesus, and as a result, leave law school to become a monk. All three were trained in the law and were trained to be very precise when writing. I sloppily explain what they might have meant in what they said – totally untrained in law.
But in spite of the humility of John Calvin, my copy of his most famous book has a few introductory letters in it. The first few sentences of one preface is quoted above, but one preface is a cover letter to the king of France, asking for support in establishing a reformed theology church, breaking away from the Catholic church.
This is a common theme. Martin Luther had no intent of breaking away from the Catholic church. He wanted an open discussion to address indulgences and other things that were not Biblical. The Pope, Rome in general, fought back, even planning to kill Luther, allegedly, if he came to Rome. So, in being forced to break away, he needed support from the local royalty.
John Knox (1514-1572) became the founder of the Scottish Presbyterian church. Once Calvin’s reformed church began to grow, Knox was converted to the reformed faith. As the reformed church sect was being persecuted, he spent several years in exile. When he returned to Scotland from Europe, he sought support from the Scottish royalty, becoming Mary’s, Queen of Scots (wherever you place the apostrophe!!) religious advisor for about four years.
Since the royal families were providing backing for the fledgling denominations in France, Germany, and Scotland, those families had influence in the church to make ill-informed religious decisions, just as the King of England had influence on the church of England.
To keep the government out of the church’s business, Thomas Jefferson started the bill of right with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This says nothing of a separation of church and state. It says that the government will not interfere. But the government, once the Supreme Court misinterpreted this statement, has done nothing but interfere.
But I digress. Calvin may have been humble in that he was shocked that his writings caused a groundswell of support, but he was not timid. Timidity would have been the death knell of the reformed church. Since the Catholic church had great political power at the time, this had to be counterbalanced with a bit of localized political power. And 200 years later, Thomas Jefferson saw the danger in this unholy alliance.
That is a good lesson for us. Paul, in the Scripture to the Romans, warns about thinking too highly of oneself and being sober minded. Daniel is reminded in his vision that from the start he tried to understand the ways of God and he was humble. Daniel was chosen to have the vision, because God wanted someone with the right frame of mind to obtain the knowledge and the understanding to pass that knowledge on to others. Then, once we are equipped with that knowledge, we must be sober-minded and humble – but like Calvin – bold!
To become knowledgeable, rely on the Holy Spirit. This presupposed that you have accepted Jesus and the Holy Spirit is within you. But even then, to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice clearly, we need to study God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Entering Bible studies may be helpful. You can discuss with others who are studying the same Scripture. And prayer is very important, to keep the communication lines open between you and God.
The boldness comes when the Holy Spirit moves you and you trust in Jesus more adequately, knowing that whether you are successful or not, God is in control.
Let us all be humble and bold. Those two things do not sound like they go together, almost mutually exclusive. The lives of the early reformers in the church were proof that with God, anything is possible.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.