“Nominal Christians demonstrate their knowledge of Christ to be false and offensive no matter how eloquently and loudly they talk about the gospel. For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life; neither is Christian doctrine grasped only by the intellect and memory, as truth is grasped in other fields of study.
Rather, doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart. So let such people stop lying, or let them prove themselves worthy disciples of Christ, their teacher.
We have given priority to doctrine, which contains our religion, since it establishes our salvation. But in order for doctrine to be fruitful to us, it must overflow into our hearts, spread into our daily routines, and truly transform us within.
Even the philosophers rage against and reject those who profess an art that ought to govern one’s life, but who twist that art hypocritically into empty chatter. How much more then should we detest the foolish talk of those who give lip service to the gospel?
The gospel’s power ought to penetrate the innermost affections of the heart, sink down into the soul, and inspire the whole man a hundred times more than the lifeless teachings of the philosophers.
I’m not saying that the conduct of a Christian will breathe nothing but pure gospel, although this should be desired and pursued. I’m not, in other words, talking about gospel perfection, as if I were unwilling to acknowledge or recognize a man or a woman as a Christian who has not obtained perfection.
If that were the case, everyone would be excluded from the church, since we do not find any in it who are close to being perfect. Indeed, we find many in the church who have progressed little toward perfection, but who, nevertheless, it would be unjust to reject as Christians.
What I am saying is this: Let us fix our eyes on the goal and sole object of our pursuit. Let that goal, toward which we must strive and contend, be established from the beginning.
After all, it’s not right to barter with God regarding what we will and won’t undertake from those things He has prescribed for us in His Word. God always commends—as of utmost importance—integrity as the principal part of His worship.
And by the word integrity He means sincere simplicity of heart, free from pretense and deceit, which is the opposite of duplicity of heart. In other words, right living has a spiritual basis where the inner affection of the soul is sincerely devoted to God for the nurture of holiness and righteousness.”
–John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life, Trans. and Eds. Aaron C. Denlinger and Burk Parsons (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2017), 12-16.