Communion with Christ is always the result of Spirit-worked faith, which unites the believer to Christ by means of the Word, enabling the believer to receive Christ as He is clothed in the gospel and graciously offered by the Father. By faith, believers possess Christ and grow in Him. They receive from Christ by faith the “double grace” of justification and sanctification, which together offer the cleansing of imputed and actual purity.
Ecclesiologically, for Calvin, piety is nurtured in the church by the preached Word, the holy sacraments, and psalm-singing. Believers cultivate piety by the Spirit through the church’s teaching ministry, progressing from spiritual infancy to adolescence to full maturity in Christ.
The preaching of the Word is our spiritual food and our medicine for spiritual health, Calvin says. With the Spirit’s blessing, ministers are spiritual physicians who apply the Word to our souls as earthly physicians apply medicine to our bodies.
Calvin defines the sacraments as testimonies “of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.” Being the visible Word, they are “exercises of piety.” The sacraments strengthen our faith, make us grateful for God’s abundant grace, and help us offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
Calvin viewed the Psalms as the canonical manual of piety. He writes, “There is no other book in which we are more perfectly taught the right manner of praising God, or in which we are more powerfully stirred up to the performance of this exercise of piety.” With the Spirit’s direction, psalm-singing tunes the hearts of believers for glory.
Practically, although Calvin viewed the church as the nursery of piety, he also emphasized the need for personal piety. For Calvin, such piety “is the beginning, middle, and end of Christian living.” It involves numerous practical dimensions for daily Christian living, with a particular emphasis on heartfelt prayer, repentance, self-denial, cross-bearing, and obedience.
Calvin strove to live the life of pietas himself. Having tasted the goodness and grace of God in Jesus Christ, he pursued piety by seeking to know and to do God’s will every day. His theology and ecclesiology worked themselves out in practical, heartfelt, Christ-centered piety—piety that ultimately profoundly affected and transformed the church, the community, and the world.