10 Things John Calvin Taught About the Bible

by Bibles.net
Time: 5 Minutes

Here are ten things John Calvin taught about the Bible. Read them carefully—we don’t talk quite like him anymore!—and discover his rich reflections on God’s Word.


The Bible is like a pair of glasses that we need in order to see the one true God.


Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.6.1)


The Bible gets its authority from God, not from human opinions about it.

But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! … The highest proof of Scripture derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.7.1; 1.7.4)


The Bible’s power is in its content, clarity, and simplicity.


But our hearts are more firmly grounded when we reflect that we are captivated with admiration for Scripture more by grandeur of subjects than by grace of language.

For it was also not without God’s extraordinary providence that the sublime mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven came to be expressed largely in mean and lowly words, lest, if they had been adorned with more shining eloquence, the impious would scoffingly have claimed that its power is in the realm of eloquence alone.

Now since such uncultivated and almost rude simplicity inspires greater reverence for itself than any eloquence, what ought one to conclude except that the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words? … For truth is cleared of all doubt when, not sustained by external props, it serves as its own support.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.8.1)


The Bible has miraculously survived every attack against it.

Since the publication of Scripture, age after age agreed to obey it steadfastly and harmoniously. By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men—yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.8.12)


The Bible’s authority is recognized across cultures.


Besides this, it is not one state, not one people, that has agreed to receive and embrace it [the Bible]; but, as far and as wide as the earth extends, it has obtained its authority by the holy concord of diverse peoples, who otherwise had nothing in common among themselves. Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.8.12)


The Bible’s teachings are for our good.

In giving us the Scriptures, the Lord did not intend either to gratify our curiosity or satisfy our desire for ostentation or provide us with a chance for mythical invention and foolish talk; he intended to do us good. Thus the right use of Scripture must always lead to what is profitable.

(Calvin, Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 CO 52:383B; CNTC 10:330 quoted in Justin S. Holcomb, Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction)


The Bible needs to be read and interpreted properly.

In order that it maybe profitable to salvation to us, we have to learn to make right use of it.

What if somebody is interested only in curious speculations? What if he adheres only to the letter of the Law and does not seek Christ? What if he perverts the natural meaning with interpretations alien to it?

(Calvin, Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 CO 52:383B; CNTC 10:330 quoted in Justin S. Holcomb, Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction)


The Bible gives knowledge of God and knowledge of the way of salvation.


First in order came that kind of knowledge by which one is permitted to grasp who that God is who founded and governs the universe. Then that other inner knowledge was added, which alone quickens dead souls, whereby God is known not only as the Founder of the universe and the sole Author and Ruler of all that is made, but also in the person of the Mediator as the Redeemer.

(Calvin, Institutes 1.6.1)


The Bible teaches why salvation is necessary, why and how God accomplishes it on our behalf, and what our response should be.

When Scripture speaks to us of our salvation it proposes to us three aims. One is that we recognize the inestimable love God has shown toward us, so that he may be glorified by us as he deserves.

Another, that we hold our sin in such detestation as is proper, and that we be sufficiently ashamed to humble ourselves before the majesty of our God.

The third, that we value our salvation in such a manner that it makes us forsake the world and all that pertains to this frail life, and that we be overjoyed with that inheritance which has been acquired for us at such a price.

This is what we ought to fix our attention upon and apply our minds to when it is mentioned to us how the Son of God has redeemed us from eternal death and has acquired for us the heavenly life. We ought, then, in the first place to learn to give God the praise he deserves.

(Calvin, First Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, sermon on Matthew 26: 36-39)


Even after salvation, the Bible provides nourishment for our souls. 

This, then, is the first point, that while we are in this world, we must make it our business to profit from the Word of God. Herein lies the key to spiritual life; for if God has granted us regeneration, we are to nourish ourselves with the teaching of Scripture for the rest of our lives. Indeed, it is the only food for our souls.

(Calvin, “On Discerning Who Belongs to the True Church,” sermon on Galatians 4:26-31)

John Calvin confidently believed that the Bible is God’s Word,  given to us for our eternal wellbeing. This Book provides us with the way of salvation and nourishment to those who take care to read it. Have you, like Calvin, “made it your business to profit from the Word of God?”

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