No Substitute for Reading the Word

As I committed to reading through Calvin’s Institutes with a friend, in honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, I thought it would be worth jotting down some bits that I found particularly interesting. Here’s the quote for today:

Besides this, Paul, “caught up on the third heaven” [2 Cor. 12:2], yet did not fail to become proficient in the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, just as he also urges Timothy, a teacher of singular excellence, to give heed to reading [1 Tim. 4:13].

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1 (9.1)

Calvin was here discussing the Bible, and how some people in his day were completely disregarding it and waiting to “hear from God” personally. He’s pretty intense in denouncing these guys, in fact he talks about them as “giddy men” who are “carried away by a frenzy”.

I liked this quote because he’s very deliberate in looking at what Paul, an apostle who had experienced many direct revelations of God, thought of the Bible (here talking about the old testament, although for us we have old and new). Paul is up there with any of them who claim to have great experiences with God! If he was around today, he could easily make millions selling books entitled “Blessed: My experience of the third heaven”. Yet this is not his desire in mentioning this, nor does he want to encourage us to search after such experiences. He was on about boasting in his own weaknesses so that “Christ’s power might rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9)

But he does make much to Timothy about reading the word (1 Tim 4:13). I find this particularly interesting as our own bent today is often to seek God in a “still small voice” as we’re often encouraged. While this may happen at times in our lives that can be from God and significant, the only way that we’re promised to hear from God is in his word, the Bible.

So each time you ask the Spirit for his guidance and to hear his voice, make sure you open the word – that’s what it’s there for!


Malcolm Purdey is a Christian, husband, father, student minister and science nerd. He completed a PhD in Chemistry and worked as a research scientist before making the jump into ministry in early 2017. He has been married for 5 years and has two daughters aged 3 and 1.

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