Christian Focus is to be commended for publishing a clear, concise and comprehensive compendium of John Calvin’s classic, The Institutes of the Christian religion. Systematic, biblical theology is presented in an accessible and appealing format. Using the ESV Bible text, this book is both illuminative and informative.
Part one focuses on ‘The knowledge of God the Creator’. It begins with the memorable phrase: ‘If we wish to have real wisdom, we must know two things: we must know God and we must know ourselves. In order to know one of these properly, we must also know the other’.
Part two focuses on ‘The knowledge of God the Redeemer’. Here Calvin affirms ‘that every part of our salvation is completely carried out by Christ. From him and him alone come all parts of salvation, gifts of the Spirit, strength, consolation, redemption, acquittal, deliverance, newness of life, heavenly inheritance, confidence in his judgement, and abundant supply of every blessing’. Calvin reminds us of our ruination through the Fall, our resultant sinful nature and the necessity of redemption through Christ, by God’s grace.
In part three, he turns his attention to ‘The methods and results of receiving the grace of Christ’. Here, among other themes, Calvin articulates the doctrine of justification by faith, of the Christian life, prayer, the use of the law and election.
My only complaint with what is otherwise an excellent abridgement of the greatest systematic theology ever written is that Christian Focus omitted the fourth part of Calvin’s magnum opus. Sadly, they leave us with an incomplete picture of how God’s grace is channelled through the ministry of Word and sacrament in the context of church.
That aside, this little paperback is a must-read for every Christian. It will make an invaluable teaching aid for church leaders and is highly recommended.