John Calvin’s “Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life”

John Calvin’s “Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life”
4 min read

In the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin presents what the authentic Christian life looks like when believers’ lives reflect the commands, promises, and prohibitions of Scripture.

The Golden Booklet is clear, concise, and free from much of the ornate language and allegory which can sometimes hinder the modern reader from approaching Christian classics.

Although it is less than 100 pages in length, this book is a classic that will both challenge and encourage you in your walk with Jesus.

About The Golden Booklet

While the Golden Booklet has been a classic for generations, it was not initially created as a standalone volume. It was originally written as a part of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. While the first edition lacked this material completely, it was tacked on to the end of the second and third edition of the Institutes.

It was later reorganized and found a home in Book III of Calvin’s seminal work, where it occupies three chapters.[1] (In the 1559 edition, this material is located in chapters 6-10 of Book III).[2]

Golden Booklet of the True Christian LifeThe purpose of this booklet is to present to the believer how Scripture ought to guide our faith and our everyday lives. Calvin intends to provide a framework of how the truth of our redemption in Christ should factor into how we live out our lives.

Calvin gives his purpose in writing this booklet in the first portion of chapter one. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we are to live in a way that demonstrates harmony between our obedience and God’s righteousness.

This being the case, Calvin states, “Let us then search Scripture to find the root principle for the reformation of our life.”[3]

Calvin understood well that as sinners saved by grace we must be active in working out our sanctification. We are to be ever conforming to the image of our Savior and in doing so we rely on Scripture as our guide.

This is the main thrust and purpose of the Golden Booklet.

Selected Quotes

The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life.

The most effective poison to lead men to ruin is to boast in themselves, in their own wisdom and willpower.

Christians ought to imagine themselves in the place of the person who needs their help, and they ought to sympathize with him as though they themselves were suffering.

A true Christian will not ascribe any prosperity to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune, but he will acknowledge that God is the author of it.

…if we want to curb our passions we must remember that all things are made for us, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author.

Why You Should Read It

The practical reflections and exhortations given in the Golden Booklet are as instructive today as they were in 1550

The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life is an immensely helpful book for reorienting our focus towards God. The allure of the world and the snares of sin have not faded since the time that Calvin wrote these words, and the practical reflections and exhortations given in the Golden Booklet are as instructive today as they were in 1550.

This is not a dense theological treatise; it is instead an accessible pastoral work written out of care for the Christian and concern for those who are influenced by his walk with the Lord.

It is unlikely that a believer will encounter a doctrine or principle of which they were not yet aware in this book, yet they will find an clear and convincing presentation of why and how we are to live for Christ in everyday life.

Reading this book carefully is a rich experience that I would highly recommend to fellow Christians.

As seen in the Golden Booklet, the journey towards spiritual growth and greater intimacy with Christ begins with focusing on God and others rather than ourselves. This is a difficult journey, to be sure, but Calvin does an excellent job of showing that the end result of this is nothing less than becoming more and more Christ-like.

While Scripture does promise blessing for obedience, pursuing Christ should remain our primary motivation for pursuing holiness.

Purchase a copy of John Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life


[1] John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life. Translated by Henry J. Van Andel. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2004), 9.

[2] Jean Calvin and Ford Lewis Battles, Institutes of the Christian Religion. (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), xiv-xv.

[3] Golden Booklet, 16.

Clayton Kraby
Written by Clayton Kraby
I'm a Pastor in North Dakota and created ReasonableTheology.org to help make theology accessible for the everyday Christian. You can find me on Twitter @ClayKraby.