John Calvin is a well-known name in Reformed churches, most often for his Institutes of the Christian Religion or his biblical commentaries. Many of his other writings were important theological contributions in Calvin’s day. Two of those works were his The Necessity of Reforming the Church and A Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto. Both defended the validity of the Reformation and demonstrate Calvin’s pastoral heart and concern for God’s people.
In The Necessity of Reforming the Church, Calvin addressed the German magistrate to explain why the Reformation was urgently needed. Interestingly, the four areas that Calvin highlighted were worship, salvation, sacraments, and church government. Although the doctrine of salvation by faith alone is frequently tied to the Reformation, these other topics, which Calvin equally emphasized, are not as regularly considered. Calvin’s explanation of each of these four needs for reform shows how the Reformation was concerned with our relationship with God by grace alone correct but also with how the church is supposed to be the community of God’s people related to our redeemer.
In his Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto, Calvin responded to a Catholic Cardinal who had written to the city of Geneva to convince them to return to the Roman magisterium. Calvin’s defence of Protestant ministry in Geneva addresses some of the expected issues like salvation, ceremonies, and the abuse of Roman power. What makes this treatise particularly interesting is its context that so clearly shows Calvin’s deep concern for God’s people. When he wrote this response, Geneva had booted him out of the city and he was now ministering in Strasbourg. The fact that Calvin would come to the aid of the city that just threw him out shows how invested he was in the good of the church.
W. Robert Godfrey’s DVD companion to this volume provides very helpful introduction. It surveys Calvin’s work but also situates it in its historical context to help readers get a better grasp of the material. Godfrey is helpful, insightful, and winsome and the DVD is not to be missed.
Harrison Perkins, London City Presbyterian Church