Shortly after completing my undergraduate studies I found employment at a non-profit agency here in NYC that provided social services to Holocaust survivors.
Despite my hearts to desire to “make the world a better place” it didn’t take long for me to realize that my best efforts were nothing more than a drop in the bucket.
Consider how great the extent of human suffering in this world. Consider how vast the problems in our world. I could strive for the rest of my life with every ounce of strength in me and still barely make a dent. So, I changed my perspective and set out on a different career path which, after a short while, also proved to be meaningless.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that God, in an act of sovereignty, brought me to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I saw then that the only thing that made sense in this world was the Gospel. I saw then that the only thing with authority to accomplish lasting and enduring “good work” was the Word of God.
There can be no denying that we are living in an era of rapid moral and social decline. We live in a world in which evil is called good and good is called evil. What is vile is honored among us and what is evil freely flaunts itself and struts about.
In “Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? : Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook the World“ James Montgomery Boice discusses the sufficiency of the Word of God for social reformation by explaining what happened when John Calvin preached the Gospel in Geneva. If you have a few minutes to spare this will be worth your time.
“The final area in which we need to know that God’s Word is sufficient is the area of social renewal and reform. We live in a declining culture and want to see the lordship of Jesus acknowledged, justice done, and virtue increase. We want to see the poor relieved of want and suffering. How can this happen? Not by more government programs or by increased emphasis on social work – though such things may have a supplementary or stop-gap place – but by the teaching and practice of the Word of God.”
“In 1535 the Council of Two Hundred, which governed the city of Geneva, Switzerland, decided to break with Catholicism and align the city with the Protestant Reformation. They had very little idea what that meant. Up to this point the city had been notorious for its riots, gambling, indecent dancing, drunkenness, adultery, and other vices. The citizens of Geneva would literally run around the streets naked, singing indecent songs and blaspheming God. They expected this state of affairs to continue even after they had become Protestants, and the Council did not know what to do. It had passed regulation after regulation designed to restrain vice and to remedy the situation. They thought becoming Protestant would solve the problem. But that did not do any good either. Genuine moral change never comes from the top down by law, but from the bottom up through a transformed people. Geneva’s morals continued to decline.”
“But the Council did one thing right. They invited John Calvin to become Geneva’s chief pastor and preacher…Calvin had no weapon but the Bible. From the very first, his emphasis had been on Bible teaching…Calvin preached from the Bible every day, and under the power of that preaching the city began to be transformed. As the people of Geneva acquired knowledge of God’s Word and were changed by it, the city became, as John Knox called it later, a New Jerusalem from which the gospel spread to the rest of Europe, England, and the New World…”
“There probably has never been a clearer example of extensive moral and social reform than the transformation of Geneva under the ministry of John Calvin, and it was accomplished almost entirely by the preaching of the God’s Word.”
Nothing in the entire universe has the power to transform but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Absolutely nothing.
May God raise up a new generation of Reformers to preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world in moral and social decay.