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Review – The expository genius of John Calvin – Steven Lawson

July 2007 | by Michael Haykin

The expository genius of John Calvin
Steven J. Lawson
Reformation Trust
142 pages; $15.00
ISBN: 978-1-56769-085-9

In a day when many are questioning the viability of preaching as a mode of communicating the gospel, Steven Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, has given us what amounts to a vindication of it as the mode of modes!
Lawson’s analysis of John Calvin’s theology (and practice of theology) is thorough and ranges widely over his various published works. He persuasively argues that Calvin’s response to the above debate would be a passionate affirmation of preaching as God’s great way of advancing his kingdom and edifying his people.
Calvin was convinced that the pulpit was a place of fire and light, where God presences himself through the spoken word – to save sinners and enlighten saints. Without solid preaching, Calvin averred, ‘piety would soon decay’ (p.30).
His high view of preaching led Calvin to stress the importance of the preparation of the preacher. He had to have a heart utterly devoted to God (pp. 43-44) and be a man of prayer – ‘God would have him whom he has set as a teacher in his church to be assiduous in prayer’ (p.44).
But the preacher must also be a tenacious student who stuck to the text – preferably in the original Greek and Hebrew (p.66) – and so came to be mastered by it. Thus, when he came before God’s people, the Word would be foremost in their thoughts.
Easily read, but searching and powerful in application, this study of John Calvin as a preacher is a fabulous gem and needs to be widely read by both preachers and the people of God.

Michael A. G. Haykin
Toronto Bible College