Compiled by Prof. Ronald Cammenga

In explaining the reward of the saints as an inheritance, Calvin says, “First, let us be heartily convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven is not servants’ wages but sons’ inheritance, which only they who have been adopted as sons by the Lord shall enjoy, and that for no other reason than this adoption.” (Institutes, 3.1.2; 1:822)

Commenting on Colossians 1:12, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” Calvin says: “But for what kindness does [the apostle] give thanks to God? For having made him and others meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. For we are born children of wrath, exiles from God’s Kingdom. It is God’s adoption alone that makes us meet. Now, adoption depends on [God’s] free election.”

Explaining the opening address of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” Calvin says, “Who would not break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor 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 the benefit of adoption.” (Institutes, 3.20.36; 2:899)

Concerning the word “church,” Calvin explains, “[B]y the term “church” [Scripture] means that which is actually in God’s presence, into which no persons are received but those who are children of God by grace of adoption and true members of Christ by sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” (Institutes, 4.1.7; 2:1021)

In interpreting the expression in Romans 11:2, “God did not cast off his people,” Calvin teaches, “The effect, however, of His adoption is not found in all the children of the flesh, because His secret election precedes adoption.”

In commenting on the first part of Philippians 2:15, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,” Calvin says, “For God’s adoption of us ought to be a reason for a blameless life, that we may in some degree resemble our Father.”

Reflecting on I John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God,” Calvin writes: “It was no common honour … that the heavenly Father bestowed on us in adopting us as His children. This great favour should kindle in us a desire for purity, so that we may be conformed to Him. Nor can one who acknowledges himself to be one of God’s children fail to purify himself.”

Commenting on the next verse, I John 3:2, and the expression “we shall be like him,” Calvin says, “For the apostle wanted to show us briefly that the ultimate aim of our adoption is that what has, in order, come first to Christ, shall at last be completed in us.”

Explaining “the promise of reward” that God sets before His children, Calvin says, “But otherwise, just as estrangement from God is eternal death, so when man is received into grace by God to enjoy communion with him and be made one with him, he is transported from death to life—something done by the benefit of adoption alone.” (Institutes, 3.18.3; 1:824)

In a section in which he is setting forth Christ’s witness concerning election, Calvin says: “To sum up: by free adoption God makes those whom he wills to be his sons; the intrinsic cause of this is in himself, for he is content with his own secret good pleasure.” (Institutes, 3.22.7; 2:941)

In the first section in which he treats eternal election, Calvin writes, “We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all unto the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others.” (Institutes, 3.21.1; 2:921)

John the Baptist says in John 3:29 that “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom.” In the course of his explanation of these words, Calvin refers to “the holy bond of adoption by which [God] unites us with Himself.”