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Geneva and John Calvin

Good Evening, and welcome to the Wild Boar News Broadcast.I’m Matthew McMahon.

Geneva, Switzerland – city of reform, or ridicule? The year, 1538.

Geneva was primed and ready for a kind of relationshipbased on the history of a Swiss confederacy for the good ofthe political-religious state under the guidance of areformer who could shape a theological-socio-economicinfluence. Many of the same reformation principles otherSwiss cantons had already implemented, Geneva had alreadyembraced under the leadership of William Farel, the city’s“reformed” preacher.But more was needed.

To bring the city to true biblical reformation, Farelcornered John Calvin while he was staying in Geneva.Calvin was on a trip back from tending to his father’sfuneral and affairs in France. While passing through,Farel convinced Calvin to remain and continue the work ofreformation that had been started. Calvin refused thetenure, but Farel threatened him with God’s displeasure ofCalvin would not take the task. Calvin decided to go.

Unfortunately, Calvin’s first tenure there did not go well,and on April 23, 1538 he was exiled by the Magistrate(along with Farel and Courault) due to a practicaldifference in implementing the Lord’s Supper to wayward andunruly members of the city, though the Council insistedthey do so.

Think of it. John Calvin was expelled by the cityMagistrate for not conforming to their desires inecumenical unity. Calvin, Farel and Courault refused tohold hands around the campfire, singing kumbaya with thecity’s leaders. Instead, their unswerving loyalty to JesusChrist and His Word pressed them to exclude wicked men fromthe Lord’s Supper. It seems Calvin and his friendsexperienced much of what the prophets of old experienced,and what our Lord Jesus Christ experienced at the hands ofwicked men. The Pharisees and Sadducees, for example,loved their kingdom more than Christ’s kingdom andcrucified Him as a result. Calvin and his comrades weresimply following their Lord, and the testimony is true, “Ifthe world hates you, you know that it hated Me before ithated you.” John 15:18

Calvin spent three years in exile (1538-1541) where hewrote a new version of the Institutes of the ChristianReligion, as well as a tract against the Roman Catholicsfor intruding into Geneva in his absence called “A Reply toSadoleto”.The Institutes of the Christian Religion was the mostwidely read document of the Protestant Reformation, and isstill one of, if not the most, beloved books ever to comeout of the revival of the Reformation. Why? It wassaturated with the Word of Christ. Calvin said that theReformation was primarily the work of God through the Wordof God. This is the heart of the ICR.

When Geneva lay exposed and vulnerable, the Roman Churchdescended upon it in a flurry to take it overtheologically. The Genevan council, and the city to agreat extent, had concerns for Calvin’s return. WhileCalvin was gone the Magistrate could vividly see the illrepute into which the city plunged. There were politicalas well as spiritual problems after the expulsion of theReformers, and the city now desired Calvin to return inorder to help reform them. Calvin refused. He had nodesire to return, and saw Geneva as the last place on earththat he would ever go. Though Calvin was resolved not togo, the Council was resolved to do everything in theirpower to have him return. They even acquired the help ofBern, Basel, Zurich and Strassburg for aid in attaininghim. Farel’s was also solicited, and he bombarded Calvinwith letters urging him to return to the city. Farel againthreatened Calvin with God’s displeasure if he did notreturn. In 1541 Calvin returned to his duties in Geneva,continuing his preaching in the exact place where he hadleft off in the Gospel of Matthew when he was expelled. Helabored under the presumed motto “eat little, sleep less,and study more.” After some years of reformation toil,Geneva became, as John Knox said, like heaven on earth.

Today, no less than Calvin’s time, and possibly even more,reformation is discarded and vanity is set in it place.Churches all across the nation are continuing to bow downto will-worship, anti-Christian theology, and turning tounqualified spiritual leaders of every sort becausereligion is vogue. Reformation, however, is not.Today, it is no less true than it was in Calvin’s day:Reformation must be primarily the work of God through theWord of God. We may despise Geneva for expelling Calvin.But Geneva repented. And out of it God worked His specialprovidence to deliver to us one of the greatest Reformeddocuments ever printed – Calvin’s Institutes.What bright star will come out of the modern churches’expulsion of reformation? With Geneva it was theInstitutes. At this rate and this level of degradation intheological matters, one must say that the American churchwill give history, simply, a theological black eye. Themodern church must take a lesson from Geneva. Repent, foryour churches and leaders are falling headlong into illrepute and theological error to such a degree, that regionhas become like Bunyan’s vanity fair where just a few soulsmake it through to the celestial city. Hosea 4:6, “Mypeople are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because youhave rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from beingpriest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of yourGod, I also will forget your children.

”I’m Matthew McMahon.