Calvin’s Preaching: The Preached Word of God

Calvin’s devotion to Scripture led him to pronounce judgment on those men who claim to be called of God but who did not place the proper emphasis on the Word.

How shall pastors teach others if they be not eager to learn? Woe then to the slothfulness of those who do not peruse the oracles of the Holy Spirit by day and night, in order to learn from them how to discharge their office.[1]

Calvin obviously saw the Word as a necessary ingredient in Christian life, worship and ministry. However, this Word was not just the Word read and meditated upon in private, but the Word preached. Calvin wrote that “[…] the Church can only be edified by external preaching.”[2]

Calvin was clear that the preached Word of God is the Word of God. While Calvin was careful to distinguish between the preacher and the Word of God, Calvin was certain that although the pastor is speaking, it is as if the congregation is hearing the very words of God himself. “A man ‘preaches so that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man.’”[3]

This is true, of course, only insofar as the man preaching does indeed preach the Word of God and not simply his own opinions or a system of theology. Calvin’s loyalty was undoubtedly to the Word of God first and foremost and his preaching reflects his commitment to the text of Scripture.


[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, trans. William Pringle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, n. d.), 114.
[2] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, 286 (IV:i:5).
[3] Parker, John Calvin, 90.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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