The Expository Genius of John Calvin

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  • I am a big fan of the writing and preaching of Dr. Steven J. Lawson – the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. I was introduced to Lawson’s work more than ten years ago, when I read a book of expositions he published on the book of Job. Since then, I have followed his writing ministry closely, purchasing and reading nearly every work he has produced. And I have always been challenged and edified by Lawson’s writings – both in my personal walk with Christ and my public ministry for Christ. I have equally benefited from his preaching. Lawson regularly places full audio recordings of his messages on his website for free. And whatever I am studying, I check to see if he has posted a message on that text. And, yes, his example is one of the motivating factors behind our uploading my weekly messages for free on our church’s website.

    When I recently discovered that Lawson had published a new book on preaching, I was excited and eager to pick it up. And I was all the more intrigued when I learned the subject matter of the book, “The Expository Genius of John Calvin.” John Calvin is most noted for his role in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, his magnum opus, The Institutes of Christian Religions, and the doctrines of grace that are named after him. But what many do not know is that, most fundamentally and essentially, Calvin was a preacher and a pastor. Lawson’s Expository Genius introduces the reader to this important, but neglected, aspect of Calvin’s life and ministry in a clear and compelling way. From Calvin’s personal convictions about scripture, to his view of proper interpretation, to the nuts-and-bolts of his sermon delivery, Lawson indeed introduces us to the preaching genius of John Calvin.

    The word “introduction” best describes this book. It is a short work, consisting of only 142 pages. And after a brief overview of Calvin’s life and ministry, the book consists of 32 “distinctives” of Calvin’s preaching. Though clearly explained and amply documented, these distinctives are not addressed in great detail. Lawson describes aspects of Calvin’s preaching that directly contradict his own. But Lawson doesn’t even pause to note the differences. This book is not meant for deep analysis. It is meant to point to Calvin as a faithful preacher and pastor, and to lift up the elements that made Calvin’s ministry so powerful – with the hopes that a new reformation will take place today as men give themselves to the pastoral task of expository preaching with greater zeal and diligence.

    I do not have the words to encourage you to read this book as strongly as I desire. Any preacher – novice beginner or seasoned veteran – will be both encouraged and challenged in reading it. I would even commend it for those who are not preachers – as it will help you to better understand that prayer and the ministry of the word are your pastor’s greatest responsibilities. And it will lead to more pointed prayer on the behalf of our pastors. Enough with pastor-teachers who would rather be executives, entertainers, “life-coaches,” or whatever tasks and trends distract the man of God from the priority of biblical preaching. Our charge has not changed: Preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:2). Your calling requires it. God commands it. Our people need it. Preach the word!


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.