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What Could Be More Excellent?

September 11, 2012

I would venture to say that the name of Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) is not particularly well-known, but maybe it should be.  Along with Zacharius Ursinus, he was one of the principal authors of the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563.  Both men were still in their twenties at the time.  But even much before this, the heart of Olevianus had been stirred to learn and teach others about God:

When I was just a boy, I was certainly inflamed with the desire for learning and teaching others about God.  It seemed to be just a small event, but in reality it was significant.  I came upon the writing of a certain learned man in which he was exhorting the youth to what amounted to this very purpose.  There is nothing more excellent, he said, than to teach people about God, the creation of the human race, the fall into sin, reconciliation and restoration through the Son of God (the promised seed of the woman who will bruise the head of the serpent), etc.  What he was saying seemed to me altogether holy and godly, and by these words it pleased the Lord to ignite in me sparks of a fervent desire to learn and eventually teach others, either in the school or in the church.  In my mind’s eye I pictured groups of young people in the school and learners in the church.  What could be more excellent, I thought, than to have there before you not only young people but also gray-haired farmers, who, like you, have been banished from Paradise because of sin, and, like Adam, cultivate the earth – men revered for their old age and as fathers, and many women also, revered as mothers?  If the Lord wishes you to speak His Word to these people and to teach them about God, the creation and preservation of the world, the cunning of the serpent who tempted humanity, and the promised salvation through the seed of the woman, what could happen to you that would be more gratifying?  What more could God wish for?  With out knowledge of such things, people live more miserably than brute beasts.

[Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, 1576, translated by Lyle D. Bierma, Vol. 2, Classic Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2009), 6.]

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