Book Review: The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson

 “We live in a generation that has compromised this sacred calling to preach. Exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics. Desperately does the modern-day church need to recover its way and return to a pulpit that is Bible-based, Christ-centered, and life-changing.”

This quote from the preface sets the tone from which the entirety of the book must be understood. Calvin was many things, a theologian, an expositor, and exegete, but most of all he saw his pulpit ministry as the cornerstone of a God-given calling upon his life. This book is an examination of the preparation John Calvin underwent as he sought to bring light upon every portion of scripture which he expounded. Not only that, it is also a book about the glory of God through the preaching and teaching of John Calvin. The struggles which he went through in order to bring a light to the scriptures was not deeply explained in this book but through these pages you will get a glimpse of the overwhelming odds that Calvin had to overcome every time he stepped into the pulpit.

As Steven J. Lawson puts it, “Wherever he could, Calvin ran to the defense of the gospel. He was not ashamed of the gospel of God in Jesus Christ”. Calvin himself, in some of his sermons preaches against the Catholic Church with some vigor and truth, he tells us, “The Roman Catholic Church today continues the same kind of idolatrous practices that were common amongst the heathen, but in the name of the apostles and of the virgin Mary. The only things that have changed are the names of the idols! But superstition is as wicked and detestable today as it was amongst the first idolaters!”.

This book is laid out in a very simple fashion with grammar easily readable for today’s church. Lawson leads us through 32 distinct marks of Calvin’s preaching. As he unfolds the life of Calvin before our eyes, we can see that this type of expository preaching in the world today is, sad to say, on the downgrade. My hope for all my readers, whether you are a preacher or not, that you would pick up this book and examine the preaching of a man whose sole purpose for expounding the scriptures is that God might be glorified.

The Expository Genius of John Calvin is part of a series titled, A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles. Other titles in the same series consist of:

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

In the words of the author about the purpose of this book, he tells us, “The aim of this book is to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors”. It certainly had that effect on my life and I pray that it will also on yours. The book left of with these final words from Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, and I see no other fitting way to end this review then with these same words.

“We want again Lurthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foeman’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land…….I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been though the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His churches”.

In compensation for writing this review I received a free copy from Reformation Trust Publishing.


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