John Calvin and Persecution

“The LORD their God will save them on that day
as the flock of his people.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.”

Zechariah 9:16

“They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. [a] I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.”

Malachi 3:17

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.[a] Be shepherds of the church of God,[b] which he bought with his own blood.”

Acts 20:28

These passages describe God’s attitude towards His body, the church.

The Church is precious to God.  John Calvin wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion for a body of people who were precious to God, but who were being  arrested, tortured, murdered in his homeland.  Calvin had left his home in France, and was living in exile in Switzerland.   After the  initial publication of The Institutes, it attracted the negative attention of church and governing authorities.
Calvin responded to this attention by writing a letter to King Francis I of France.  (And the reverence with which he addresses the king stands in such stark contrast to the casual lack of esteem we show towards governing authorities with whom we disagree, even on the most minor  points.)  Calvin, here with delicate and proper honor towards the king God has established over him, clearly and elegantly calls this king and his realm precisely what he sees them to be.

“I embrace the common cause of all believers, that of Christ Himself – a cause completely torn and trampled in your realm today, lying as it were, utterly forlorn, more through the tyranny of certain pharisees than with your approval.  Ungodly men have so far prevailed that Christ’s truth, even if it is not driven away scattered and destroyed, still lies hidden, buried and inglorious.”

It is hardly recognized or understood in the greater body of the Christian church today that this kind of evil went on in the name of Christ. That one group , claiming to speak and act for God, would behave in such a blatantly un-Biblical manner towards another group.  How can this happen?  And when and how will it happen again?


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