Calvin on calling God ‘Father’

Here’s an quote from John Calvin, Institutes, 3.20.36-37.

With what confidence would anyone address God as ‘Father’? Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honour of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ? He, while he is the true Son, has of himself been given us as a brother that what he has of his own by nature may become ours by benefit of adoption if we embrace this great blessing with sure faith. Accordingly, John says that power has been given to those who believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God, that they too may become children of John (John 1:12) …

But a son cannot give himself over to the safekeeping of a stranger and an alien without at the same time complaining either of his father’s cruelty or want. Thus, if we are his sons, we cannot seek help anywhere else than from him without reproaching him for poverty, or want of means, or cruelty and excessive rigour…

But because the narrowness of our hearts cannot comprehend God’s boundless favour, not only is Christ the pledge and guarantee of our adoption, but he moves the Spirit as witness to us of the same adoption, through whom with free and full voice we may cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15). Therefore, whenever any hesitation shall hinder us, let us remember to ask him to correct our fearfulness, and to set before us that Spirit that he may guide us to pray boldly.

My book, co-authored with Michael Reeves, Why the Reformation Still Matters, can be bought from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.


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