Saturday, May 13, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 20    John calvin and geneva

Prior to Calvin’s arrival in Geneva in August 1536, “the Genevan city council had officially broken with the Roman Catholic Church, abolished the Sacrifice of the Mass, and called for the removal of all images and relics from the churches. Church properties had been converted to Protestant uses for religion, charity, and education. The council had committed the city to ‘live according to God’s law and God’s Word and to abandon idolatry’.” (DeMar, Reformation, 201).

“Before the city council had disestablished Roman Catholicism, the church ruled the state through the Roman Catholic bishop. Afterwards, the state ruled the church through the council.” Calvin’s goal was to change “this unbiblical approach to government,” and “to establish a church governmentally independent of the council while assuring that the council would not be independent of God’s law as it pertained to its civil jurisdiction…. Calvin drew a clear line of distinction between the civil magistrate, whose authority was confined to civil matters, and the elders of churches, whose authority was confined to ecclesiastical matters” (Ibid., 201).

In January 1537, when Calvin and Farel began their work of reform, the Genevan city authorities “were not sure what path to take, and they were certainly not sure about putting their collective futures in the hands of ‘that Frenchman,’ as they liked to call Calvin” (Nichols, Reformation, 75).

Calvin “was offered the position of ‘Professor of Sacred Scripture’ by the council. He accepted the position and began a series of reform efforts. As part of his duties, he prepared a confession of faith to be accepted by everyone who wished to be a citizen of Geneva; he planned an educational program for the populace; and he insisted on the biblical doctrine of excommunication for those who broke God’s law and refused to repent.

“It was over the issues of a strict moral code and church discipline that Calvin’s efforts were opposed. The council believed that it, not the church, should have the authority and power to set the moral agenda and exercise discipline in the church. Calvin maintained that only the church and its government are given the authority to discipline church members” (DeMar, 203).

In 1538, new officials (Libertines, as Calvin described them) were elected to the city council, and they “decided to bring matters to a head. The form of worship in the neighboring city of Bern differed somewhat from that in use in Geneva. For some time, Bern had wished to have it adopted in Geneva. Now the city council insisted on introducing this form of worship. Calvin and Farel did not think that the differences were very important. But they refused to introduce the liturgy of Bern, because it was being imposed upon the Geneva church by the civil government without consultation with the church officers.” Consequently, Calvin and Farel were banished from Geneva on April 23, 1538. Farel went to Neuchatel, where he remained until his death in 1565. “Martin Bucer, who had been won for the Reformation by Luther during the great Leipzig Debate, invited Calvin to Strasbourg. Calvin gladly accepted this invitation. It had brought him to the city where he had been so eager to go in the first place” (Kuiper, Church in History, 195). Surprisingly, he would soon return to Geneva. 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 John Calvin and Geneva

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 20

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

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