Since having learned what true wisdom is and what the effects of knowing God are, it is only fitting that we learn what it is to know God. Calvin begins this second chapter by defining the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God the Creator is “not only that we conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest, and conducive to his glory, what, in short, it is befitting to know concerning him.” This knowledge only regards itself with a simple and primitive knowledge, not a saving knowledge. There is a twofold knowledge of God, knowledge that God creates and sustains his creation and a knowledge that God is a Redeemer. The first part of the Institutes will only deal with the former knowledge.
Calvin moves to persuade his audience that we must be persuaded that God created the world, he sustains it by his power, governs it by his wisdom, and preserves it by his goodness. This latter part should amaze us because of the fact that we are sinners, justly deserving God’s righteous wrath, and would he not just blot us out forever? However, God rains on the just and the unjust alike, showing them his goodness to all. Calvin goes on to say that everything comes from him so as to make us dependent on him for everything; that we ask him for all things, expect all things from him, and ascribe all things to him. It is after this that Calvin defines piety; it is the union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires.
After defining the knowledge of God and going into a doxological “frenzy”, Calvin does something quite interesting. He refutes the Epicureans, a materialist and hedonist group that sought to find good in pleasure absent from God. Since many scholars were returning to study the ancient Greek texts, it would seem that many were espousing Epicureans teaching in philosophy and, God forbid, the Church. Epicurus would have believed that God created us then just left us to fend for ourselves, A god whom we have nothing to do- sound familiar? Calvin refutes this teaching with two effects of the knowledge of God, that it teaches us reverence and fear, and that it induces us to ask every good thing from him and to ascribe it to him. Think about it, these two statements, which make perfect sense to the Christian, tells us that we have everything to do with God. This makes him very personal yet still far beyond us. Thus, pure and genuine religion is confidence in God coupled with serious fear. Calvin gives us a very relevant warning, to avoid ostentatious and hypocritical ceremony without true sincerity of heart in our worship and reliance on Him.