The Biblical Prophet
Jeremiah's Challenge to Today's Christians
Based on commentary by John Calvin
In 1843 the Calvin Translation Society
was formed to seek the publication of translations of the works of John Calvin.
John Calvin, the French-born Reformer, theologian, pastor, and Bible-teacher of
Geneva, was instrumental in reminding Christians of the importance of the Old
Testament Prophets. After centuries of spiritual darkness and illiteracy, the
Protestant Reformation returned Christians to the light of the Gospel and the
whole counsel of God. Calvinís five volumes of commentaries on the Old Testament
book of Jeremiah span over 2400 pages! They were originally written in Latin
with a few phrases in French (Calvinís native tongue), as well as of course
Hebrew and Greek (the original languages of the Old and New Testament, of which
Calvin exhibited great mastery). These commentaries were translated into
English by the Rev. John Owen in 1850 and now the English in this series of
topical studies from Calvin has been updated, with some additional verses
and explanations added.
Translator John Owen explained the
origin of these five volumes of Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet
Jeremiah by John Calvin:
on Jeremiah, like those on the Minor Prophets, were delivered as
Lectures in the Theological School at Geneva, taken down by some of the Pupils,
and afterwards read to Calvin and corrected. We find in them the production of
the same vigorous and expansive mind: The Divine Oracles are faithfully
explained, the meaning is clearly stated, and such brief deductions are made as the subjects legitimately warrant.
Though the Lectures were extemporaneously delivered [i.e., without a written
manuscript], there is yet so much order preserved, and such brevity, clearness, and suitableness of diction are
found in them, that in these respects they nearly equal the most finished
compositions of Calvinóa proof that he possessed a mind of no common order.
In modern times, the Old Testament has
been much neglected, resulting in the loss of knowledge of the majority of Godís
inspired, inerrant, infallible, and all-sufficient Word. Godís revealed Word is
alone found in the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New
Testament. Scripture alone (in Latin, sola scriptura) was the
foundational principle of the Protestant Reformation. That principle led the
Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Knox, and perhaps above all others, the
great theologian John Calvin, to return to the whole counsel of God to seek
Godís will for manís salvation, faith, and life. They believed that Scripture
alone was sufficient for what we believe about God, what the church teaches
about God (i.e, doctrine), how we serve and honor the one true God (i.e,
worship), and our life itself. All human traditions and teachings were to be
discarded from Christís Church, for they set up a manmade religion in place of
true religion (Col. 2:22-23; cf. Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:8, 9, 13). To impose such
humanly-invented teachings or practices on Christians was viewed as legalism and
a denial of the Gospel.
The Prophet Jeremiah lived in a time
very similar to the days in which we live. Immorality and idolatry were rampant
in the land, even among professing Christians. The churches were corrupt in their teaching and worship. The Jews boasted of their religious
heritage and ancestry, and yet they had reached the zenith of religious
hypocrisy. False teachings, false worship, and false prophets abounded. The
religious people were immoral and idolatrous.
God raised up the prophet Jeremiah for
such a time as this. Although false prophets were nearly a dime a dozen,
Jeremiah labored nearly alone among the people for a period of about 40
yearsófrom the 13th year of King Josiahís reign until after the final
overthrow of the nation of Judah and their exile into Babylon and Egypt. His
preaching resulted in few if any conversions. The people were set in their
ways; they had set up false teachers who told them what their itching ears
wanted to hear (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-4). They persecuted Jeremiah and railed against
his preaching, ultimately showing their utter contempt of the God who had sent
For nearly two centuries the Lord had
sent His true prophets to His covenant people. Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Joel,
Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah had all been sent by God to reprove the Jews for
their sins. (Zephaniah and Habakkuk were probably for a time Jeremiahís
contemporaries.) Yet, despite the uniform testimony of Godís true prophets, the
Jews refused to repent and only hardened themselves in their rebellion. About 600 years later, the Pharisees would respond in like manner to the
preaching of Jesus, the Messiah, and His apostles.
As John Calvin, one of the greatest
theologians in the last thousand years of Christianity, helps us to see, Godís
prophet Jeremiah has much to teach us as individual Christians, Christian
families, and Christian churches about who God is and what His will is for our
lives. If we reject Jeremiah or any of his teachings, we are rejecting God
Himself, for His words are God-breathed and express Godís will for the lives of
His people (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:11). God does not change; nor does
His will, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
We encourage you to begin by reading the
entire book of Jeremiah from the Bible and then reread it on a regular basis.
To God alone be the glory! Soli
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Bible Ministries. All rights reserved.