The following is a summary of the first book of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapters I – VI. I have used Rev. Timothy Tow’s abridgement of the Institutes as a base. May it interest you to study the Institutes in greater detail.

Summary of Book I (Chapters I – VI)

The first book deals mainly with the knowledge of the one living and true God, who is also the Creator of this world. Since man is the apex of God’s creation, the knowledge of man is also discussed.

True wisdom consists principally of two parts – the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man. Which one comes first is hard to determine, as they are intimately bound together, for our existence is nothing but a subsistence with God.

We begin to discover God when we are plunged into misery. Our spiritual poverty and depravity drive us to seek God, leading us to see that God is all- strength, wisdom and goodness. Through our imperfections, we are made to see His perfections.

However, man in his depraved condition is self-complacent. We judge ourselves by our own standards, and will not aspire to God. On the other hand, a man who is led to the true vision of God and His perfections will be humble before Him. Such a man will realise his hypocritical righteousness, and loathe it as the greatest iniquity. See Isaiah 6.

The human mind is naturally endued with the knowledge of God (Rom 1:19-20). The proof of this can be seen in the retention of some religious sense, even in the most barbarous. Another proof of this can be seen by idolatry. Though idolatry is a corrupted form of the worship of God, nevertheless it shows the strong impression of the knowledge of God in human minds.

The knowledge of God, that induces men to worship the Creator, is what renders men superior to beasts. It makes them aspire to immortality. However, after the fall of man, this knowledge of God is corrupted in his sinful estate. Some would even strive to extinguish the knowledge of God, of which the Scriptures testify, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1).

Although the essence of God is incomprehensible, He manifests Himself through creation and His constant governance of it. The glory of God in natural revelation is testified most vividly in Psalm 19:1-6. We can also see God’s manifestation of Himself in His providence, in the government of      society where we see the exhibition of His kindness and beneficence to all. While He often permits the wicked to exult in impunity for a time, even to the oppression of the godly, yet it leads to God’s judgement hereafter.

The light of nature has revealed God to man. Thus, man is without excuse. Alas, man in his unregenerated estate will never come to the saving knowledge of God, and would rather suppress the knowledge of God, exchanging creation with the Creator. Thus, it is necessary for God to give us another light. This better light is none other than the light of His Word, even His Holy Scripture. The Holy Scripture is thus likened to a pair of spectacles. As the dim eyes of those who are elderly are made bright by glasses, so through the Holy Scriptures we obtain a clear view of God. All dark and confused notions of Him are thereby dispelled. See Psalm 19:7-11.

To enjoy the light of special revelation, we must first be a humble disciple of Scripture. When we reverentially submit to the teachings of Scripture, we will find the true knowledge of God. Such knowledge brings us to a pious and religious communication with God. In such a relationship, there is a twofold knowledge – (a) of Him as the Author of Salvation through the Person of Jesus Christ and (b) of Him as Creator.

A true saving knowledge of God should inspire fear and reverence which leads to obedience, thanksgiving and praise of Him. We give to Him, as a result of this enlightened knowledge, pure religion from the heart which is so hard to find. For, what we often see in worship is often mere formality and great ostentation in ceremonies.

(To be continued)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

Weekly Devotion 26/7/2020

By Preacher James Tan

Christian Cardiology III – The True Value of our Heart and Words

“The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.” (Prov. 10:20)

This proverb shows to us a contrast between two persons, a believer (the just), and an unbeliever (the wicked). The believing Christian is often referred to as “the just” in the Bible, not because of one’s own self-made righteousness, but because one has been declared righteous, justified in the sight of God, because of Christ.

The contrast is between the “tongue” and the “heart”. The Christian’s “tongue” must be as “choice silver”, the purest and finest of silver. Silver is sometimes used in Biblical poetry to show purity (Ps 12:6)). The word “choice” used here, is to show something of good quality, something that is specially selected and chosen.

The words that we use, the way which we communicate, must be as “choice silver”, pure and refined, where it must not bear any sin or evil with it. Our communication should reflect what is within the Christian’s heart, guided and constrained by the Truth and the Spirit. It must be sanctified and clean, not mixed with any selfish desire or thought. Just as choice silver, these words would be worthy to reflect Christ our Saviour.

However, the unbelieving heart, here is described as of “little worth”, where it has no value ultimately! The sinner’s heart cannot do anything to glorify God. Even if it expresses love and  goodness in words and deeds, it sadly does not lead anyone to Christ.

The Christian’s words are valued not according to the beauty of its voice, language, or emotions, as the world does. The world values celebrities, where a speech, a song or a book can be worth millions. The quality of a Christian’s words, a reflection of our heart, mind and soul, must be valued according to God’s standard of    purity, truth and holiness. The words that we utter, compose and sing, might be “politically correct” in man’s sight, but does it show forth a Christian’s heart after God? They must point others to Christ!

May the Lord help us to be a worthy voice to be used for Christ and His kingdom!