This book is a great source of encouragement as it demonstrates the sovereignty of God over all of history. In it Piper presents a compelling portrait of the extraordinary contributions of three ordinary men: Augustine, Luther and Calvin. These three men lived at decisive moments in church history, moments where the future of the church literally hung in the balance, and each man by God’s grace rose to the challenge.
Aurelius Augustine confronted the rising tide of Pelagianism in the fourth century and prevailed, upholding the biblical doctrine of salvation. Martin Luther stood up against the ecclesiastical and political might of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church, igniting the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517, by nailing his famed 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. John Calvin, a contemporary of Luther, carried on the work of the Reformation amid intense opposition from Rome, ministering the word of God from Geneva, Switzerland and laying the foundation for the Protestant church for centuries to come.
In these three excellent biographical sketches the author distills the essence of each man’s abiding contribution to the church of Jesus Christ. Augustine, writes Piper, had a “peculiar slant on grace;” he saw that “grace was the free gift of sovereign joy in God that frees us from the bondage of sin.” Before God’s grace touches fallen man’s heart he is in utter bondage to sin and must choose in accordance with his own nature to run from God. Sovereign grace alone can free man from this bondage and liberate him to seek Christ through repentance and faith. Luther’s fundamental impact on the church lay in his grasp of the authority of the external word. That is, God has given us a perfect revelation which is entirely objective and can thus be relied upon as a completely sufficient guide in all matters of faith and practice. Calvin modeled for us the art of expositional preaching, preaching week by week (even day by day) through the Bible—book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse. This great reformer saw that the Sciptures themselves are the one place where man is able to view the majestic glory of God, and thus they are the key to true worship.
After reading this book I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God in raising up men like these to stand in the gap at crucial crossroads in the flow of history. My heart was filled with both gratitude and humility realizing that we all owe a tremendous debt to the men of God who walked with our Lord in the past.
Pastor Ty Blackburn