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Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7 (Calvin)

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How to answer the question ‘Is your conscience at peace?’ A reading of any or all of these forty-four extant sermons on Acts by John Calvin will help the reader determine whether his conscience is at peace or simply asleep!

Calvin’s vigorous presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its full extent shows the sixteenth-century expositor understood the ramifications of New Testament theology, just as did his mentor, the apostle Paul, who, after presenting his reasoned understanding of the meaning of Christ’s work, immediately follows it with the ‘therefore’ of consequence. Calvin mixes biblical teaching and its demands on the believer’s life together so closely that the theology and its effects cannot be easily separated. Divine judgment and mercy underlie this ‘effects theology’, and it is the sense of judgment versus the promises of and the conditions for forgiveness and acceptance that informs the reader’s conscience whether he is indeed forgiven and at peace, a member of the body of Christ.

On the other hand, the reader of the sleeping conscience, by comparison and self-examination, will be incited to awaken to a new or renewed relationship with the pressing demands of Christian ‘effects theology’. Calvin pulls no punches. If belief does not end in an increasingly Christlike character, it is as good as no belief, no theology. The reader is either at peace or asleep.

‘One wonders, after perusing any sequence of Calvin’s sermons, whether Calvin would be welcomed in many Protestant, even Presbyterian, pulpits today. Calvin is hailed for his biblical theology, but largely ignored with respect to his insistence upon the transformed-life, life-long self-abnegation demanded of genuine Christian discipleship. The motive behind his insistence arises from his acute awareness that God, after expressing his fatherly love and gracious acceptance of the wayward, remains the uncompromising judge of all humankind, Christian or not. That awareness of judgment should, Calvin says, “make our hair stand on end” and drive us to repentance, without which there is no forgiveness.’

‘It is hoped that the reader of these sermons will seek not just to confirm the sermons’ agreement with Calvinistic theology, but particularly to experience Calvin’s sincere and profound personal response to the loving and merciful God whose Son is on the threshold of judging with finality the whole world with mercy and justice.’

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Table of Contents: 

  Introduction by William B Evans xix
1 Jesus’ Work and Teaching until His Ascension (Acts 1:1–2) 1
2 How Peter’s Sermon Bore Fruit (Acts 2:36–38) 13
3 On Coming to Christ (Acts 2:38) 27
4 To Whom the Promise Belongs (Acts 2:39–40) 41
5 The Three Marks of the Church (Acts 2:41–42) 55
6 Bearing the Marks of the Church (Acts 2:43–45) 67
7 The Purpose of Miracles (Acts 3:6–13) 81
8 The Way to Forgiveness (Acts 3:17–19) 95
9 The Preachers of the Gospel Persecuted (Acts 4:1–4) 109
10 Preaching in the Power of the Spirit (Acts 4:5–12) 123
11 The Source of All Authority (Acts 4:16, 18–19) 137  
12 No Peace Where There Is Preaching (Acts 4:21–26) 151
13 The Prayer of Faith (Acts 4:24–31) 163
14 The Fellowship of Saints (Acts 4:32–37) 177
15 The Motives for Christian Generosity (Acts 5:1–6) 189
16 Judged According to Our Merits and Demerits (Acts 5:7–15) 203
17 Reverence for God’s Majesty (Acts 5:13–16) 219
18 Strong in the Lord (Acts 5:17–21) 233
19 All to Submit to the Word’s Authority (Acts 5:25–32) 247
20 All Things Made New (Acts 5:30–32) 261
21 God Preserves His Church (Acts 5:33–35, 38–39) 275
22 The Honour of Suffering for Christ’s Name (Acts 5:40–42) 289
23 The Qualifications of Deacons (Acts 6:1–3) 303
24 True Discipleship (Acts 6:1–6) 317
25 Learning, Teaching, and Living the Gospel Message (Acts 6:7–9) 331
26 Defending the True Observance of the Sacraments (Acts 6:11–15) 345
27 Faith’s Total Commitment (Acts 7:1–4) 363
28 Faith Must Be Tested (Acts 7:4–6) 379
29 The Meaning and Use of the Sacraments (Acts 7:8–9) 393
30 Our Shield and Defender (Acts 7:9–16) 409
31 Pride and Presumption Impede God’s Grace (Acts 7:15–19) 423
32 Faith’s Struggle against Unbelief (Acts 7:20–22) 437
33 Persevering after a Good Beginning (Acts 7:23–31) 453
34 Released from Fear through God’s Mercy (Acts 7:31–35) 469
35 Redemption Is of God Alone (Acts 7:35–37) 485
36 God Speaks through His Servants (Acts 7:37–38) 501
37 God’s Word Frees from Idolatry (Acts 7:38–42) 519
38 The Penalty for Idolatry (Acts 7:42–43) 535
39 Divinely Directed Worship (Acts 7:42–44) 551
40 Worship Is Spiritual and Personal (Acts 7:45–50) 569
41 God’s Authority Rejected (Acts 7:51) 585
42 Sustained When Persecuted and Afflicted (Acts 7:52–56) 599
43 Rewards and Reprisals (Acts 7:55–58) 619
44 Faith in Practice (Acts 7:58–60) 631



John Calvin (1509-1564) was a theological giant of the Protestant Reformation. A contemporary of Martin Luther, he had as much influence over this period of history as his German counterpart. In 1536 he published his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was a systematic presentation of the Protestant position. His writings are still cherished and relevant today.