Calvin’s Institutes — Family Devotional Edition
God as Revealed in His Word
Although the brilliant light which is presented to every eye in heaven and on earth leaves the ingratitude of man without excuse, another and better help must be given to guide us properly to God as a Creator. He has therefore added the light of his Word to make himself known unto salvation.
It is like a person whose sight is defective: when any books are set before them, they can tell there is writing, but they can hardly make out two consecutive words; with the help of glasses, however, they begin to read distinctly. So Scripture, gathering together the confused impressions of deity in our minds, dissipates the darkness and shows us the true God clearly.
There can be no doubt that it was by this help that Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs attained to that familiar knowledge which distinguished them from unbelievers. It was necessary that they should know God not only as Creator, but as Redeemer also. The knowledge first given was that which made them acquainted with the God by whom the world was made and is governed. To this first knowledge was afterwards added the more intimate knowledge which alone quickens dead souls, and by which God is known not only as the Creator of the worlds and the sole author and disposer of all events, but also as Redeemer in the person of the Mediator.
Therefore, while man ought seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, his special duty is to hear the Word that he may better profit. If true religion is to beam upon us, our principle must be that it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching, and that it is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture. Therefore, the first step in true knowledge is taken when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased to give of himself in Scripture. We must go to the Word, where the character of God is described accurately and vividly from his works—these works being estimated, not by our depraved judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth.
Accordingly, the Psalmist, after mentioning that the heavens declare the glory of God, that the firmament shows forth the works of his hands, that the regular succession of day and night proclaim his majesty, proceeds then to make mention of the Word: “The law of the Lord,” says he, “is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:1–9). For though the law has other uses besides this, it is the proper school for training the children of God. To the same effect are the words of our Savior to the Samaritan woman, when he told her that her nation and all other nations did not know what they worshiped, and that the Jews alone gave worship to the true God (John 4:22). Since the human mind, through its weakness, was altogether unable to come to God if not aided and upheld by his sacred Word, it necessarily follows that all who sought God without the Word were laboring under vanity and error.
Questions for Devotion
- What has God given us to supplement the revelation of himself in creation, in order to make himself known unto salvation?
- It is not sufficient to know God only as a Creator. What further knowledge of him is necessary?
- What must be the first step taken in true knowledge?
- If we attempt to worship God without His Word, what is the result?