There are days when the fight to fix my eyes on the hope of the Gospel and not the declining culture is more intense than others. Having listened to this sermon on my way to work this morning, I had to re-read this excerpt.
In 1535 John Calvin was called to preach in Geneva. The description below will give you a little color into just how bad things were in this city. But John Calvin, with great faith, passion and perseverance, expositionally preached the Word of God to the citizens in Geneva. The result was that the Gospel literally transformed a morally degenerate city into, what John Knox would later call, “a New Jerusalem.”
The Word of God is sufficient for social reformation. May you be stirred to pray, as I am, that God raise up a new generation of men to preach the life transforming Gospel in cities everywhere. He did it in Geneva, so why not here?
“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.”
James Montgomery Boice, “Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? : Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook the World“ , pages 70-72. e-reader version