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Calvin: Love Him Or Hate Him Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 16, 2023 1:00 am

Calvin: Love Him Or Hate Him Part 3

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 16, 2023 1:00 am

All of us leave a legacy when we're gone. John Calvin left a legacy, even of restricting freedom of religion. In this message, Pastor Lutzer answers questions about Calvin and the teaching about predestination, the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. What can we learn from Calvin today?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. All of us leave a legacy when we're gone. John Calvin left a legacy during the times of the Reformation, and today we'll look at it as our series on the Reformation then and now continues.

Please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, what lessons do you believe John Calvin has left behind for the church in our day? You know Dave, the thing that Calvin emphasized is the glory of God, the majesty of God, the sovereignty of God. And his books entitled The Institutes of the Christian Religion were actually a textbook for much of Europe for 200 years. And if I had time, I would tell the story about how when the Puritans came here, they used the Geneva Bible. Well, I can't go into that here for lack of time, but it is in my book entitled Rescuing the Gospel. But let me ask a question. Do you believe that the ministry of Running to Win has been a blessing in your life? If so, it's because there are those who have invested in this ministry.

Would you investigate the possibility of becoming an endurance partner, someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts? Well, of course you need info. So here's what you do. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Thank you so much for your partnership. And now let us go to the pulpit of Moody Church and learn more about the Reformation. When people came and listened to Calvin's preaching, they had a desire to return to their home country and establish churches. Calvin agreed with their vision, but taught them the theology of the reformed faith. Calvin believed that a good missionary had to be a good theologian. He not only taught the people theology, but he assessed their character. He was interested in whether or not they were willing to put their lives at risk. After they left, he maintained an ongoing relationship with these missionaries.

He wrote and received hundreds of letters. He answered questions, gave personal counsel, and in short, guided the missionaries in their work in France. All right, so you have people from France.

France, of course, is French speaking, but so is Geneva. So they'd go down there. Calvin would teach them in French and they'd go back to France and they established churches. Until a few years ago, we didn't know how big those churches were. But just look at this.

We now know the facts. By 1555, there were five churches planted in France, but in 1559, four years later, there were 100 churches, and 1562, there were 2,000 churches in France. By 1565, it is estimated that there were 3 million Protestants in France. They were called Huguenots, a name whose origin is unknown.

Quite probably, it was given to them as a name of derision. How large were these churches? Again, just recently, a scholar who did a dissertation and finally uncovered and translated a lot of documents in Geneva discovered this. We now have factual evidence that at least a few churches had thousands in attendance.

Letters recently discovered in Geneva say things like this. From day to day we are growing, we have 4,000 to 5,000 people at worship. Another letter says we are obligated to preach three times on Sunday to a total of 5,000 to 6,000 people. In addition, missionaries were also sent to Italy, Hungary, and Poland. Another parenthesis, why was the reformed faith wiped out in France? Did you know that there were so many churches growing in France that for a time it was believed that France might turn Protestant? Then a man came along by the name of Louis XIV. Have you ever been to Versailles? How many of you have been to Versailles?

I'll tell you. When I walked through Versailles, all that I could think of is Louis XIV. You remember, if you were there, you can actually see where he sat up in the balcony during chapel services. Louis XIV, for various reasons, began to persecute the Huguenots in very, very terrible ways. And the Huguenots fled to Germany, primarily Berlin, where the Elector Frederick received them, and they were welcomed in Germany. And today, when you go to Berlin and you listen to their German, it has French words in it because of the impact of the Huguenots. And there's a Huguenot church in Berlin that will take your breath away because it's the story of the persecution of the Huguenots.

20,000 went to Germany and were welcomed there. And Louis wanted to put an end to Protestantism, and he believed he had done it through intense persecution. And before he died, he said that he knew that God would have to receive him into heaven because he had done God a favor by stamping out Protestantism in France. Well, some of us think that Louis XIV probably was wrong on that score.

It's a very interesting study. That would be a whole study in itself as to why Protestantism didn't survive in France. And it almost seems as if, sorry if you're from France, but it almost seems as if after that period of time, God just pulled a curtain on France. And today France is one of the most secular countries in all the world. Today we still have the reformed faith. Many people call themselves reformed. For example, the Presbyterians. How many of you were born and reared Presbyterian? Come on, confess now.

Only a few, one or two little hands. I mean, if you're a Presbyterian, I mean, let's see those hands. Presbyterianism, coming of course to us from John Knox in Scotland, which turned out to be one of the most Calvinistic countries of the world, all the product of the impact of John Calvin. When Calvin died, he did not want a gravestone. When I was there in Geneva, I wanted to go to Calvin's grave, but there's no grave to go to. They can tell you the cemetery where he is buried, but there's no gravestone. Calvin said that he didn't want a gravestone because he didn't want anybody traipsing to his grave. He died as a humble sinner, grateful that God had saved him and elected him to eternal life. And he wanted to have no praise from man.

I told you that he has this reputation of being such an austere person. Did you know that when they uncovered those letters that I talked to you about in recent years, they discovered all kinds of letters and things about Calvin that nobody knew. For example, he would write letters to people who had doubts about the Christian faith and he would encourage them. He actually visited a woman who was dying. He would visit her every morning because her faith was very shaky and he would read the Psalms to her and assure her of God's promises. He was actually a very warm-hearted pastor, I think. Well, it will be interesting to see what eternity reveals.

All right, one question. As per Calvinism, God saves those he elects. I've been praying for my unsaved family for several years. These verses make me doubt if my prayers will be answered. What do you have to say?

Nobody has ever asked that question before. I'm smiling because that, of course, is the normal response of people. Now, the fact that God has burdened you for your family is a very good sign that God indeed may intend to save them. Paul says, I endure all things for the sake of the elect that they might come to faith. There are people who have not yet come to faith, but they are elect. And let me simply say this because you and I, there's a lot of mystery connected with this. I presented Calvin's side of the argument.

There's a lot of mystery connected with this. You and I have the responsibility for praying, for believing, for trusting, for seeking God on behalf of the unsaved. But at the end of the day, we do have to acknowledge that it is in God's hands. But if God has burdened you to pray for those who do not know Christ as Savior, I would say, invite him to share an even greater burden with you. Your prayers may be the means by which God's will is accomplished in their lives. I thought that there would be no questions tonight.

I was answering them all, but apparently I wasn't. I know that you believe in a just God. We are told that God so loved all the world that he gave his son.

With the doctrine of predestination, it seems as if Jesus died only for a select few. What do you think? Nobody's ever asked that question before. We're getting all of these brand new questions. You guys are just asking excellent questions.

Let's go on to the next question. The death of Jesus Christ was sufficient for everybody. He would not have had to suffer more if there were more elect. But it seems to me that his death was intended to save God's people. Right from the beginning, he came to save his people from their sins. But let's remember that when we preach the gospel, telling people whosoever will is absolutely scriptural.

Please don't ever think that the doctrine of election negates whosoever will. Jesus said this, John 7, 35 and 36. He says, all that the father has given me shall come to me. That's his expression in the Gospel of John for the elect. All that the father has given me shall come to me and whoever comes, I will in no wise cast out.

So when I preach the gospel here at Moody Church, I urge people to believe the invitation is always to everybody. I don't know the people in whose hearts God is working. So don't ever think it means that somebody wants to be saved and God says, no, you can't. You're not elect.

That simply does not exist. If anybody wants to be saved, it's because God has worked in their heart to bring them to faith. So we're always urging people to believe in Christ. And that's the tension in the New Testament.

You have this side of God's sovereignty and you also have human responsibility and we try to preach both, even though we don't understand always how they relate together. When was the King James Version written and how does the Geneva Bible compare to it? Why was one written if the other was already around? Well, why do we have many translations today?

Language changes. King James Version of the Bible was commissioned by King James. He got about 50 scholars together and he said, I want a good translation of the Bible. And that was the King James.

In terms of the Geneva Bible, let's see, King James versus Geneva, John Knox. The Geneva Bible came first and then the King James because it became the standard. You have different translations today also because language changes, et cetera, et cetera. Even the King James that you use today, you know, has been changed throughout the centuries because you couldn't read the original King James. It had so many old English words. So King James is a good translation. There are many modern translations that speak more our language. What would have been the greatest point of disagreement between Calvinism and Luther?

Excellent question. When it comes to election, really, there wouldn't have been any if you've read Luther's bondage of the will most assuredly, but they would disagree over the Lord's Supper. Luther believing that the elements literally are the body and the blood of Christ, though they were not transubstantiated. They would also probably disagree regarding the role of the church and the state. Luther giving much more credence to the role of the state in the church. And also Calvin and Swingly. Oh, I wasn't going to get into this.

These are such good questions. They had this idea that you should only do what is prescribed by the New Testament. So they had no organs in the church. Swingly was an organist, but there was no organ in the church. There is today, but not back then because nowhere in the New Testament did they use musical instruments to worship. Therefore, musical instruments were banned. Luther took the point of view that unless it was condemned in the scriptures or prohibited it, we could do it. That's one of the differences. How did Calvin respond to the Council of Trent?

I don't know, but probably not that favorably. The Council of Trent was a reform movement in Catholicism to reform the church after the reformation in the Council of Trent was 1546, I think. Why have all the churches in France died? Why don't people in France go to church? The church in France is dead.

That's why. The dead are the church, the less people that attend. When you lose the gospel, you have no magnet to bring people. Were many people saved during the period from Constantine to Luther? Boy, these questions are just superb, you folks.

Really. You did have different groups. There's always been, I have a book in my library entitled A Trail of Blood. There's always been the true believers. And even in the church that had become entrusted, encrusted I should say, with tradition, there undoubtedly were believers. So God has always had his people, but quite frankly, the numbers were not that great if you look at it. It's part of the mystery of God, isn't it? Because God is sovereign.

The reformation could have happened earlier. You have all kinds of things that you and I don't know. The older I get, the more mystery there is connected with God and his purposes.

I don't claim to have the answer. Is predestination related to sola fide? Not necessarily. Sola fide is faith alone, saves. So you don't have to believe in the Calvinistic understanding of predestination to believe in sola fide. The difference would be that a person who looks at the Bible as Calvin did would say that the very faith by which you believe is a God given faith. So we bring nothing to salvation except our need. Even faith is God's gift. How does St. Bartholomew Day Massacre fit into the Huguenot story?

Well, it does. St. Bartholomew's massacre. There's a church just outside of the Louvre in France, and that's the church where the bells rang to give the signal for St. Bartholomew's massacre. And I was there a few years ago with my wife, and I said in front of the church, let's just pray right here, because it was close by here that what was it, something like 3,000 Protestants were put to death? The St. Bartholomew massacre. Remember this, that some of the Huguenots, when they went to their death, sang hymns so loudly that the authorities hired a band to drown out their singing.

That's how victoriously they died. The story of the Huguenots in France is incredibly fascinating. But as I say, once Louis XIV put them out, somehow the blinds closed and France lost the gospel. Just know that we stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded us and know that the freedom that we enjoy in America is an anomaly. Europe didn't get it until 1648. And you and I just take it for granted and think it's always been this way.

It isn't. Wait until I tell you about the rebaptizers. Oh, let's stand for prayer. Father, in Jesus' name, we want to thank you for all those who are willing to die for the faith. We thank you, Father, for those who were interested in missions, those who trained pastors and those who began churches, and thank you for the great vision of the gospel. And even though today, in some countries, there are few believers, we thank you, Father, that your purposes do not fail.

Your purpose, according to election, your word says, stands. Now bless us, we pray, and may we go with the confidence that if we belong to you, we belong to you forever. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Amen. Well, this is Pastor Luther, and I certainly hope that you listen next time as I speak about the rebaptizers. Meanwhile, I have in my hands a letter that blesses my soul. It's from Morocco.

And the reason that we get letters from the Middle East is because the ministry of running to win is in Arabic. This man writes, I am surrendering to Jesus Christ and his good news. I want him to lead me in my life and to grow in his love.

I've been dead, but now I am alive. Thank you, Lord. I'm eager to keep learning from your teaching.

Well, that makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it? Would you consider helping the ministry of running to win, even as we contemplate expanding it to other countries and in other languages? Here's how you can become an endurance partner. That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.

Of course, you need info. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. This man's testimony is a testimony that belongs to you, our prayer partners, and those who support us financially.

Remember, go to, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks for holding our hands as we get the gospel to millions of people. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life.

Cammie listens to Running to Win in Idaho and is facing a tough family situation. She writes, My husband's family is LDS, Latter-day Saints or Mormon. I left the LDS church three years ago when I found Jesus. My husband is not a believer. Our nephew is returning from his LDS mission.

All the family is going to his homecoming at the LDS church and attending the service. How do I handle this as a believer if I don't believe in what they teach? My husband doesn't understand why I wouldn't be able to go, even if I don't believe what they do, to save face with the family. He says I will hurt them.

We also have three young kids. Please help. Well, my dear sister, I hope I can help you by encouraging you. First of all, let me say whether or not you attend this event in a sense is a matter of conscience.

If you put this issue between a number of Christians, some may say yes, some may say no. Here's my advice. I think that you should attend. Your husband wants you to. And I think maybe for the good of the family, you would do more harm by not attending than if you were to attend. But that is indeed a matter of conscience because you may feel differently.

But here's the point I want to emphasize. You need to explain to your husband and to your children your deep convictions about the Mormon faith and your own personal faith in a Jesus who is actually able to save you. I thank God that you came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. And you have to see yourself. If I might use terms that the Mormons are familiar with, you must see yourself as a missionary to your family. So I would say that it's very important that you talk to your family one on one. Don't confront the whole family and make this big speech that will be one that will be despised, I'm sure, by those who are listening. But one on one, share your faith. Pray for your children. Share your faith with them. And at the same time, continue to pray and to hope that your husband will come to the light that you personally have experienced.

The bottom line is this. God is with you. He understands your situation. And as you reach out to Him, you will find, I believe, that there is a path that you can follow, perhaps a narrow path, and one that is fraught with many challenges, but there is a path that you can follow to be the best witness for Christ within your family and situation. Some wise words from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time on Running to Win, another major player among the Reformers. We'll meet Ulrich Zwingli, who lived in Zurich in what later became Switzerland. We'll learn his take on how the church should be run and how he differed from Martin Luther. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-16 03:43:56 / 2023-06-16 03:52:42 / 9

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