John Calvin on the Fatherhood of God Over All People

See Also 

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Fatherhood of God

John Calvin on God’s Love for Mankind

John Calvin Quotes on Common Grace

John Calvin on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel



Commentary on Amos 3:2

God then brings forward here his benefits, of which we noticed yesterday a similar instance, that he might enhance the more the sin of the people, in returning the worst recompense to God, by whom they had been so liberally and so kindly treated; he says, I have loved you only; It is indeed true, that the Israelites, as we have in other places often observed, gloried in their privileges; but the Prophet seems not to have this in view. God then expostulates with them for being so ungrateful: You only, he says, have I known. It is indeed certain that God’s care is extended to the whole human race, yea even to oxen and asses, and to the very sparrows. Even the young of ravens cry to him, and the smallest bird is fed by him. We hence see that God’s providence extends to all mortal beings; but yet not in an equal degree. God has ever known all men so as to give what is needful to preserve life. God has, therefore, made his sun to rise on all the human race, and has also made the earth to produce food. Then as to the necessaries of life, he performs the office of a Father towards all men.  But he has known his chosen people, because he has separated them from other nations, that they might be like his own family. Israel, then, is said to be known, because God favored them alone with a gratuitous adoption, and designed them to be a peculiar people to himself.



Commentary on Psalm 24:2

Now, as from the creation of the world, God extended his fatherly care to all mankind, the prerogative of honor, by which the Jews excelled all other nations, proceeded only from the free and sovereign choice by which God distinguished them.



Commentary on Psalm 92:9

When staggered in our own faith at any time by the prosperity of the wicked, we should learn by his example to rise in our contemplations to a God in heaven, and the conviction will immediately follow in our minds that his enemies cannot long continue to triumph. The Psalmist tells us who they are that are God’s enemies. God hates none without a cause; nay, so far as men are the workmanship of his hand, he embraces them in his fatherly love. But as nothing is more opposed to his nature than sin, he proclaims irreconcilable war with the wicked. It contributes in no small degree to the comfort of the Lord’s people, to know that the reason why the wicked are destroyed is, their being necessarily the objects of God’s hatred, so that he can no more fail to punish them than deny himself.



Commentary on John 3:16,17

“For God so loved the world.” …So we must see from where Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior.  Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish


Commentary on 1 Tim. 2:5

Accordingly, whatever diversity might at that time exist among men, because many ranks and many nations were strangers to faith, Paul brings to the remembrance of believers the unity of God, that they may know that they are connected with all, because there is one God of all — that they may know that they who are under the power of the same God are not excluded for ever from the hope of salvation.

And one Mediator between God and men.  This clause is of a similar import with the former; for, as there is one God, the Creator and Father of all, so he says that there is but one Mediator, through whom we have access to the Father; and that this Mediator was given, not only to one nation, or to a small number of persons of some particular rank, but to all; because the fruit of the sacrifice, by which he made atonement for sins, extends to all.  More especially because a large portion of the world was at that time alienated from God, he expressly mentions the Mediator, through whom they that were afar off now approach.


Commentary on Acts 17:26

26. And He hath made of one blood.  Paul does now show unto the men of Athens to what end mankind was created, that he may by this means invite and exhort them to consider the end of their life.  This is surely filthy unthankfulness of men, seeing they all enjoy the common life, not to consider to what end God hath given them life…  Thereupon it follows, that they be revolted from nature who disagree so much in religion and the worship of God; because, wheresoever they be born, and whatsoever place [clime] of the world they inhabit, they have all one Maker and Father, who must be sought of all men with one consent.  And surely neither distance of places, nor bounds of countries, nor diversity of manners, neither any cause of separation among men, does make God unlike to Himself.  In sum, he meant to teach that the order of nature was broken, when as religion was pulled in pieces among them, and that that diversity, which is among them, is a testimony that godliness is quite overthrown, because they are fallen away from God the Father of all, upon whom all kindred depends



Calvin’s First Catechism, 1538

As translated into English by Ford Lewis Battles and published in 1997 by I. John Hesselink, in Calvin’s First Catechism: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox Publishing), being reprinted in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17thCenturies in English Translation, Vol. 1, 152-1552, compiled with introductions by James T. Dennison, Jr. (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008).  The page number is to Dennison’s volume.

p. 419

12.  By Faith We Grasp Christ

Just as our merciful Father offers us his Son by the word of the gospel, so by faith we embrace Him, and as it were recognize Him given.  Indeed the very word of the gospel calls us all to share in Christ…



Commentary on Psalm 24:1 

We will find in many other places the children of Abraham compared with all the rest of mankind, that the free goodness of God, in selecting them from all other nations, and in embracing them with his favor, may shine forth the more conspicuously. The object of the beginning of the psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them.



Commentary on Psalm 31:19

It is more probable, however, that it should be understood of a treasure which God has set apart and laid up in store for them, unless perhaps we choose to refer it to the experience of the saints, because they alone, as I have said, experience in their souls the fruit of divine goodness; whereas brutish stupidity hinders the wicked from acknowledging God as a beneficent Father, even while they are devouring greedily his good things.  And thus it comes to pass, that while the goodness of God fills and overspreads all parts of the world, it is notwithstanding generally unknown. But the mind of the sacred writer will be more clearly perceived from the contrast which exists between the faithful and those who are strangers to God’s love. As a provident man will regulate his liberality towards all men in such a manner as not to defraud his children or family, nor impoverish his own house, by spending his substance prodigally on others; so God, in like manner, in exercising his beneficence to aliens from his family, knows well how to reserve for his own children that which belongs to them as it were by hereditary right; that is to say, because of their adoption. 


Commentary on Psalm 145:15

The eyes of all hope in thee. David adduces an additional proof of God’s goodness, in giving food to all living creatures, and thus showing himself in the character of the father of a family. Some interpreters, led by the term hope, which is employed, restrict the application to men, as being endued with reason and intelligence, to seek their food from their heavenly father, while the beasts seek it only in a gross manner, by sight or smell. But although not endued with the exercise of reason, leading them to depend upon God’s providence, necessity itself forces even them, by a certain hidden instinct, to seek their food, so that they may very properly be said to hope in God, as elsewhere the young ravens are said to cry unto him (Psalm 147:9).  Besides, those who would restrict the words to man, still leave them open to the charge of impropriety; for the wicked have no regard to the fatherly care of God, more than the ox or the ass. 



Sermons on Deuteronomy

Sermon 91, 33:1-3, p. 1188-9

The meaning of Moses is then easy enough, namely that albeit God loves all people, yet that his Saints are in his charge or protection, yea even those whom he has chosen. Unless a man will refer these words, “the People”, to the twelve tribes: but that were hard and constrained. Moses then does here compare all men and all the Nations of the earth with the lineage of Abraham which God had chosen: as if he should say, that God’s grace is spread out everywhere, as we ourselves see, and as the Scripture also witnesses in other places. And not only men are partakers of this goodness of God, and are fed and maintained by his liberality: but he does also show himself bountiful even to brute beasts. Even thither does his mercy extend according to this saying of the Psalm, Who makes the fields and mountains to bring forth grass for the feeding of cattle, but God who has a care of them?  Seeing that GOD vouchsafes to have so merciful regard of the beasts which he has created, as to given them food; it is more to be thought that he will be a foster father to men, whom he has made and shaped after his own image, which approaches nearer unto him, and which have a thing far excelling above all other creatures: God then does love all people. Yea, but yet not in comparison to his Church. And why? For all the children of Adam are enemies unto God by reason of the corruption that is in them. True it is that God loves them as his creatures: but yet he must needs hate them, because they be perverted and given to all evil. And that is the cause why the Scripture tells us that God repented him that ever he made man, considering that he is so marred. And in the same respect also is it said, that we be banished out of God’s kingdom, that we be his enemies, that he shakes us off and disclaims us, that he abhors us, that we be the children of wrath, and that we be so corrupted, as there remains nothing but utter confusion upon our heads. When the Scripture speaks so, it is to show us that although God for his part be favorable and merciful to us, for so much as we be his creatures: yet notwithstanding we deserve well to be disclaimed and hated at his hand, and that he should not vouchsafe to have a care of us. Now then, whereas God loves us, let us understand that he overcomes our naughtiness with his goodness, which is infinite. Albeit, as I have touched already is nothing in comparison to those whom he has chosen and whom he acknowledges for his children. Now then, does he love all people? Yet we are his hand: that is to say, he will show that we be far nearer to him, and that he has much more familiar acquaintance with us beyond all comparison, than he has with all the rest of the world. For he has called us unto his house, he dwells among us, he will be known to be our Father, he will have us to call upon him with full trust and liberty, so as we need not to doubt but that his power is spread out to defend us. Lo how Moses meant to magnify God’s goodness in this place, after the manner that he has made himself to be felt in his Church and to his Flock…

We see how brute beasts are sustained by his hand: and therein we ought to consider what his goodness is. Again, as touching the wicked which despise him, and do nothing else but provoke his wrath; when yet for all that, we see the sun shine upon them to give them light, they eat and drink, and they be maintained at God’s cost, and by his liberality: let us consider that although men deserve to be utterly forsaken; yet notwithstanding God spares them and bears with them, and overcomes their wickedness with his goodness, in that he roots them not out at the first, but vouchsafes to foster them still, and to show a fatherly care towards them.



Commentary on Ezekiel 18:1-4

We now see why an oath is interposed, while he pronounces that he will take care that the Jews should not ridicule any longer. Behold, says he, all souls are mine; as the sole of the son so the soul of the father, all souls are mine; the soul, therefore, which has sinned it shall die. Some interpreters explain the beginning of the verse thus: that men vainly and rashly complain when God seems to treat them too severely, since the clay does not rise against the potter. Since God is the maker of the whole world, we are his workmanship: what madness, then, to rise up against him when he does not satisfy us: and we saw this simile used by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 18:6)  The sentiment, then, is true in itself, that all souls are under God’s sovereignty by the right of creation, and therefore he can arbitrarily determine for each whatever he wishes; and all who clamor against him reap no profit: and this teaching it is advantageous to notice. But this passage ought to be understood otherwise; namely, that nothing is more unworthy than that God should be accused of tyrannizing over men, when he rather defends them, as being his own workmanship. When, therefore, God pronounces that all souls are his own, he does not merely claim sovereignty and power, but he rather shows that he is affected with fatherly love towards the whole human race since he created and formed it; for, if a workman loves his work because he recognizes in it the fruits of his industry, so, when God has manifested his power and goodness in the formation of men, he must certainly embrace them with affection. True, indeed, we are abominable in God’s sight, through being corrupted by original sin, as it is elsewhere said, (Psalm 14:1, 2;) but inasmuch as we are men, we must be dear to God, and our salvation must be precious in his sight. We now see what kind of refutation this is: all souls are mine, says he: I have formed all, and am the creator of all, and so I am affected with fatherly love towards all, and they shall rather feel my clemency, from the least to the greatest, than experience too much rigor and severity.


Commentary on Hubakkuk 1:14

We now see what the Prophet means that God would, as it were, close his eyes, while the Assyrians wantonly laid waste the whole world: and when this tyranny should reach the holy land, what else could the faithful think but that they were forsaken by God? And there is nothing, as I have already said, more monstrous, than that iniquitous tyranny should thus prevail among men; for they have all, from the least to the greatest, been created after God’s imageGod then ought to exercise peculiar care in preserving mankind; his paternal love and solicitude ought in this respect to appear evident: but when men are thus destroyed with impunity, and one oppresses almost all the rest, there seems indeed to be no divine providence. For how will it be that he will care for either birds, or oxen, or asses, or trees, or plants, when he will thus forsake men, and bring no aid in so confused a state? We now understand the drift of what the Prophet says.

Sermons on Psalm 119

Sermon 7, 119:57-64

And therefore we ought the better to note the reason, which David setteth first down, For the earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy. As if he should have said, thou O Lord spreadest abroad thy fatherly goodness over all creatures: we see how of thy mercy thou feedest the beasts of the field, we see the trees flourish, the earth bring forth her increase, thy goodness spreadeth through heaven and earth, and how is it then possible, that thou shouldest not do good unto thy children? I am one of that number which call on thee, and that put their trust in thee. Seeing thou art so loving and merciful to all creatures, thou shalt not forsake me.


Commentary on Psalm 144:15 

“Happy the people, etc.” He thus concludes that the divine favor had been sufficiently shown and manifested to his people. Should any object that it breathed altogether a gross and worldly spirit to estimate man’s happiness by benefits of a transitory description, I would say in reply that we must read the two things in connection, that those are happy who recognize the favor of God in the abundance they enjoy, and have such a sense of it from these transitory blessings as leads them through a persuasion of his fatherly love to aspire after the true inheritance. There is no impropriety in calling those happy whom God blesses in this world, provided they do not show themselves blinded in the improvement and use which they make of their mercies, or foolishly and supinely overlook the author of them. The kind providence of God in not suffering us to want any of the means of life is surely a striking illustration of his wonderful love. What more desirable than to be the objects of God’s care, especially if we have sufficient understanding to conclude from the liberality with which he supports us he is our Father?


Commentary on Acts 14:17

“Filling with meat and gladness.” The ungodliness of men is more convict in that, if they knew not God, because he cloth not only set before their eyes testimonies of his glory in his works, but doth also appoint all things for their use. For why doth the sun and stars shine in the heavens, save only that they may serve men? Why doth the rain fall from heaven? Why doth the earth bring forth her increase, save only that they may minister food to men? Therefore, God hath not set man upon earth that he may be an idle beholder of his work, as being set upon a theater, but to exercise himself in praising the liberality of God, whilst that he enjoyeth the riches of heaven and earth. And now, is it not more than filthy forwardness [depravity] not to be moved with so great goodness of God in the manifold abundance of things? To fill the hearts with meat, doth signify nothing else but to give food which may satisfy the desires of men. By this word gladness, Paul and Barnabas do mean that God doth give more to men, according to his infinite goodness, than their necessity doth require; as if it had been said, that men have meat given them not only to refresh their strength, but also to make their hearts merry. If any man do object that it falleth out so oftentimes that men do rather mourn, being hungry, then rejoice, being full; I answer, that that cometh to pass contrary to the order of nature; namely, when the Lord shutteth his hand because of the sins of men. For the liberality of God should flow unto us abundantly of his [its] own accord, as it is here described by Paul and Barnabas, unless it were kept back by the lets of our vices. And yet there was never so great barrenness wherein the blessing of God in feeding men did quite wither away. It was, indeed, well said of the prophet, Open thy mouth, and I will fill it, (Psalm 81:10,) that we may know that we be hungry through our own fault, whilst that we do not admit the goodness of God. But how unworthy soever we be and straight, yet the fatherly love of God breaketh through even unto the unworthyEspecially the generality of mankind doth testify that the benefits of God do never cease, wherein he appeareth to be our Father.


Commentary on Eph. 4:6

6. One God and Father of all

This is true indeed, in a general sense, not only of all men but of all creatures.  “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)  And again, “Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” (Jeremiah 23:24)  But we must attend to the connection in which this passage stands.  Paul is now illustrating the mutual relation of believers, which has nothing in common either with wicked men or with inferior animals.  To this relation we must limit what is said about God’s government and presence.  It is for this reason, also, that the apostle uses the word Father, which applies only to the members of Christ. 


Commentary on Isa. 19:24

24. In that day shall Israel…

In a word, the blessing of God dwelt solely in Judea, but He says that it will be shared with the Egyptians and Assyrians, under whose name He includes also the rest of the nations.  He does not mention them for the purpose of shewing respect, but because they were the constant enemies of God, and appeared to be more estranged from Him and farther removed from the hope of favor than all others.  Accordingly, though He had formerly adopted none but the children of Abraham, He now wished to be called, without distinction, “The father of all nations.” (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6)


Commentary on Romans 3:12

12. It is added, There is no one who doeth kindness.  By this we are to understand, that they had put off every feeling of humanity.  For as the best bond of mutual concord among us is the knowledge of God, (as He is the common Father of all, He wonderfully unites us, and without Him there is nothing but disunion,) so inhumanity commonly follows where there is ignorance of God, as every one, when he despises others, loves and seeks his own good.


Institutes of the Christian Religion


Indeed, as I pointed out a little before, God himself has shown by the order of Creation that he created all things for man’s sake.  For it is not without significance that he divided the making of the universe into six days [Genesis 1:31], even though it would have been no more difficult for him to have completed in one moment the whole work together in all its details than to arrive at its completion gradually by a progression of this sort.  But he willed to commend his providence and fatherly solicitude toward us in that, before he fashioned man, he prepared everything he foresaw would be useful and salutary for him. How great ingratitude would it be now to doubt whether this most gracious Father has us in his care, who we see was concerned for us even before we were born! How impious would it be to tremble for fear that his kindness might at any time fail us in our need, when we see that it was shown, with the greatest abundance of every good thing, when we were yet unborn! 


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But we ought in the very order of things diligently to contemplate God’s fatherly love toward mankind in that he did not create Adam until he had lavished upon the universe all manner of good things. For if he had put him in an earth as yet sterile and empty, if he had given him life before light, he would have seemed to provide insufficiently for his welfare. Now when he disposed the movements of the sun and stars to human uses, filled the earth, waters, and air with living things, and brought forth an abundance of fruits to suffice as foods, in thus assuming the responsibility of a foreseeing and diligent father of the family he shows his wonderful goodness toward us. If anyone should more attentively ponder what I only briefly touch upon, it will be clear that Moses was a sure witness and herald of the one God, the Creator. I pass over what I have already explained, that he there not only speaks of the bare essence of God, but also sets forth for us His eternal Wisdom and Spirit; that we may not conjure up some other god than him who would have himself recognized in that clear image.



The Confession of the Congregation at Geneva  1556

According to James Dennison, Jr., “Calvin gave his imprimatur to the English confession which appears to have been written by William Whittingham.”

Reformed Confessions Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 2, 1552-1566, edited by James Dennison, p. 96

I. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

I believe and confess (Rom. 10:10) my Lord God eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, and invisible (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 63:1; 90:2; 139:1-16; 1 Tim. 1:17), one in substance (Deut. 6:4; Eph. 4:6) and three in persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Gen. 1:26; Matt 3:16,17; 28:19; 1 John 5:7): who by His almighty power and wisdom (Heb. 1:2; Prov. 8:22-30) has not only of nothing created heaven and earth, and all things therein contained (Gen. 1:1; Jer. 32:16; Ps. 33:6,7), and man after His own image (Gen. 1:26; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), that He might in him be glorified (Prov. 16:4; John 17:1; 1 Cor. 6:20), but also by His fatherly providence governs, maintains, and preserves the same (Matt 6:26-32; Luke 12:24-30; 1 Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:6), according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11).