I’d be remiss not to mention that today marks the 500th anniversary of Reformer John Calvin’s birthday.  He has contributed much not only to theology, but also to government.

As Bob Hayton mentions in his post today:

His work in Geneva has an abiding relevance and lasting influence down to today in both the church and the state. Two hundred years before Montesquieu’s doctrine of the “separation of powers” (which was later adopted by our US Constitution), Geneva adopted political reforms operating on the same principle. In fact several historians have argued that Calvin is in large part responsible for the democratic experiment that is the United States of America.

John Samson at Reformation Theology in discussing Calvin’s legacy shares that Calvin would not be happy with how his name is tied to Reformation doctrine:

Its actually unfortunate that a man’s name is associated with the doctrines that came out of the Protestant Reformation. It is not something he would have wanted. He spoke and wrote very little about himself. He wanted his readers to be pointed to Christ, not to himself. In character, he specifically asked that he would be buried in an unmarked grave, such was his aversion to public interest. He did not wish for attention to be given to him – but to his Lord and Master.

Marvin Olasky at World challenges the notion that Calvin was mean-spirited as some would claim.

Calvin was a fallen sinner, as all of us are, but was he especially mean-spirited? He taught that God created the world out of love and loved the world so much that Christ came down from the glorious kingdom of heaven and plunged into this world’s muck. Calvin saw God as a generous giver and His mercy as an abundant resource. Jehovah’s Witnesses would later insist that heaven has room for only 144,000, but Calvin understood that God’s grace is infinite.

Puritan Lad reminds us that as much as some agree (or disagree) with Calvinism, we are not justified by it.  Even at 500 John Calvin still holds relevance in social and theological thought, he still very much matters (HT: Rob Harrison).

Be sure to check out what people are sharing on Twitter today.  Also, if you’ve never read it, you really should read his classic work Institutes of the Christian Religion.  I’d also like to commend to you Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s outline of the Institutes.

10 comments
  1. “Jehovah’s Witnesses would later insist that heaven has room for only 144,000”

    Only because they believe that the prospect for most approved persons is everlasting life on earth under God's kingdom.

    They also maintain that the “sacred secret,” (Colossians 1:26) a “secret” first made known to the early Christian congregation, means that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this “secret” was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as “kings and priests,” very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life

    A minor clarification to your well-researched post, which I hope you don't mind.

  2. That's a misuse of Colossians 1:26 – it is taken out of context. Look at Colossians 1:27 – “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

    The mystery that is made known is the preeminence of Christ, (Colossians 1:15-23).

    We see later on Paul writes in Colossians 2:2-3 – “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of the full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knoweldge.”

    Context is king.

    What JWs are doing is taking a verse and stretching it to say what they want it to say.

  3. It is not a misuse of Col 1:26 and it is not taken out of context.

    The letter of Colossians was written to dedicated and faithful Christians, “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colos'sae.” (Col 1:2) The preeminence of Christ would hardly be a mystery to them. It would instead be a fundamental, basic point. Of course the sacred secret involves Christ's preeminence, but to dig deeper is to uncover how his preeminence served to fulfill God's purpose, and how it involved those early Christians in blessings and privileges heretofore unimagined. Paul writes of how the Father “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light,” “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Col 1:12,13) By this means, God will “through him [Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20)

    As put in another letter, “for he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:9-10)

    In yet greater context, the Bible begins with God putting humans on earth, not because he wanted them somewhere else, but to “fill the earth and subdue it.” His original will, then, is for humans to live forever in the home he created for them. Death came about only as a result of their rebellion, or disobedience. (Rom 5:12)

    The Bible ends with an account of how New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth and thus “the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3,4)

    Christ's preeminence involves incorporating a certain number of humans, forgiven of sins, into that heavenly kingdom – to benefit the vast majority of humankind on earth.. Those Colossians were representative of that group. God “and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” (Rev 5:10)

    This means of saving faithful humankind was long a secret among worshippers of God, and was revealed only through Christ. It is the sacred secret (or mystery, if you will) mentioned many times in Scripture.

  4. Actually, Shane, a more accurate translation Col. 2:2-3 ought to read (a la a the surprisingly accurate KJ translation): “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

    So it really does imply that the mystery of God is Christ, but something else. My two cents: Koine is King. http://www.greekbible.com/index.php

  5. First off I'm don't want to enter into a long debate over something that wasn't even the subject of the post.

    Secondly, yes he is writing this to Christians. The mystery has been revealed to them. Who didn't understand the Gospel? Who didn't understand the preeminence of Christ?

    The Jewish people.

    These verses you cite… for all believers in Jesus Christ. While election is seen (and I believe it to be a doctrine of grace) no where is there a number assigned to it.

  6. Do you think that mystery is what Tom says?

    I'm laughing out loud… I was expecting to have a debate on Calvin or Calvinism. This is the last thing I expected.

    Thanks for pointing that out. I still think Tom is taking a very giant leap from this one verse, and the verses he cites in this reply comment.

    All we can know for sure regarding this particular passage:

    1. The mystery is made known to the saints, (Colossians 1:26). Christ-followers, those who have and are being justified and sanctified in Christ (hence “saint” set apart).
    2. All treasures and wisdom and knowledge are in Christ. Paul is arguing that their treasures are accessible to every believer.

  7. I'm not a Witness or a Calvinist, but I thought it deserved to be pointed out. I don't think Witnesses are far out with their interpretation.

    Also, isn't “saint” typically reserved for the deceased?

  8. Sorry. You're right, it's not on topic. Just a reaction to your statement about us misusing Col 1:26. “Agree to disagree” can suffice.

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