John Calvin On “Christians” Who Do Not Have A Proper Understanding Of How They Are To Live

Source: Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin translated by Henry Beveridge

For while the whole life ought to be one perpetual course of obedience, they rebel without fear in almost all their actions, and seek to appease him with a few paltry sacrifices; while they ought to serve him with integrity of heart and holiness of life, they endeavour to procure his favour by means of frivolous devices and punctilios of no value. Nay, they take greater license in their grovelling indulgences, because they imagine that they can fulfil their duty to him by preposterous expiations; in short, while their confidence ought to have been fixed upon him, they put him aside, and rest in themselves or the creatures. At length they bewilder themselves in such a maze of error, that the darkness of ignorance obscures, and ultimately extinguishes, those sparks which were designed to show them the glory of God.

I would probably say that those who are described in the quote are not really Christians at all. Most of you would probably agree with that. We cannot be a Christian and continue to live like the world. To be a Christian means that we are changed and are no longer like the world. I have heard the change that occurs described in this way: “God changes our want to’s”. That means that He changes the things that we want to do. We no longer want to do the things that we once did. This does not mean that we won’t sometimes fall back into our old ways…we still have the old nature and it is constantly fighting with our new nature…and sometimes the old nature wins.

Calvin points out that the people who live this way try to appease God in some way. They want to have their cake and eat it to…they want to live like the world but have salvation as well. It does not work that way. God wants all of us, not just a part. He will not be appeased. We either live whole heartedly for the Lord or for Satan…there is no middle ground.


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