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:

The Commentaries 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.[1]

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 him.

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 Deo gloria.

[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on The Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, Vol. I, trans. Rev. John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), v.

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Revised: 05-02-2013