John Calvin (1509-1564) on God’s Hatred of Sin and Sinner

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Divine Hatred

[C.f. Calvin on General Love.]


all men under divine wrath:


1) For the Apostle testifies the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to us and leads us to God to be reconciled to him, whereas we are naturally children of wrath. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 1:1-3, p., 14.

2) For, by nature, we can do nothing else but provoke God’s wrath; wickedness will always reign in us; and we are held down under the bonds and tyranny of Satan. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 1:1-3, p., 33.

3) It is true that our father Adam was created after the image of God [Gen 1:26] and that he was excellent in his first estate, but after the coming in of sin we all became utterly helpless, so that even Adam did not have any strength in himself, and his free will that was given him served him to no other purpose but to make him the more inexcusable. For he fell wilfully and through his own malice. But by this we see that sort of constancy he had in him, for having been created with utmost care he fell, and ruined himself, and ourselves with him. Now, then we are all born children of wrath and cursed of God. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 1:4-6, p., 41.

4) Who are you O wretched creature? For you see you are separated from your God even from your birth. Look, you are his enemy and inheritor of his wrath, and furthermore, there is nothing in yourself which does not tend to evil and perverseness. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 1:7-10, p., 63.

all men hated by God:


1) And why is Jesus Christ called God’s well-beloved, as he is termed in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew [v.5] and in other places, and also is shown to be so in the prophet Isaiah? [Isa 43:4]. It is thereby shown us that God justly hates us and abhors us so long as we remain in our own natural state… For (as I have said already) we are hated… Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians, 1:4-6, p., 45.

2) We have shown already that we cannot be loved by God, but by means of his only Son. For if the angels of heaven are not worthy to be taken for God’s children except through a head and mediator, what shall become of us who do not cease daily to provoke God’s wrath by our iniquities? [Isa 59:2]. In fact, we fight against him! God, then, must of necessity look upon us in the person of his own Son, or else he is bound to hate us and abhor us. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 1:7-10, p., 50.


1) There seems to be an allusion in the word, hilasterion, as I have said, to the ancient propitiatory; for he teaches us that the same thing was really exhibited in Christ, which had been previously typified. As, however, the other view cannot be disproved, should any prefer it, I shall not undertake to decide the question. What Paul especially meant here is no doubt evident from his words; and it was this, that God, without having regard to Christ, is always angry with us, and that we are reconciled to him when we are accepted through his righteousness. God does not indeed hate in us his own workmanship, that is, as we are formed men; but he hates our uncleanness, which has extinguished the light of his image. When the washing of Christ cleanses this away, he then loves and embraces us as his own pure workmanship. Calvin Commentary on Romans 3:25.

all men cursed by God:


1) For since by nature we are unclean, and utterly rejected and cursed by God, in the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ we are reconciled to God his Father, and through him we are called to the glory of heaven and renewed by the power of his Holy Spirit. Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, 4:1-5, p., 331.

2) Truth it is, that the poverty of itself, to be driven from country to country, to be destitute of friends and parents, to be afflicted and molested, to be tormented and injuried, to be pointed at with fingers and mocked, all these things are of their own nature adversities (as men term them) and proceed from the curse that god has laid upon all mankind for sin… Calvin, Sermons on Timothy and Titus, Sermon 33, 4:9-11, pp., 401.


1) as to general election, there is the same difficulty to satisfy the judgment of men: for as we have already said, there is no difference between men but what arises from hidden election. They indeed imagine in this case a foreknowledge as the mother of election: but the notion is extremely foolish and puerile. They then say, that some are elected by God and some are rejected, because God, to whom nothing is hid, foresees what every one will be. But I now ask, Whence is it that one is virtuous, while another is vicious? If they say, from free-will, doubtless creation is anterior to free-will: this is one thing. Then we know that in Adam all men were created alike; for how is it that we are all exposed to eternal death, and that the vengeance of God extends over us all, and at this day prevails through the whole world? How is this, except that the condition of us all originally is one and the same? It follows then, that if Adam stood upright, all men would be alike in their integrity. I do not now speak of special gifts: for there would have been, I allow, a difference of endowments had nature remained perfect; but as to eternal life the condition of all would have been the same. Now after the fall of Adam we are all lost. What can then be more foolish and absurd than to imagine that there is some virtue in man by which he excels others, since we are all equally accursed in the person of Adam? For who hath made thee to excel, saith Paul? He proves that there is no excellency in man, except what proceeds from the bounty of God only, and as I have stated, the reason is quite manifest. Calvin, Commentary on Malachi, 1:2-6.

curse removed:

1) Thus in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are advanced above the old Fathers. For his death and passion was the everlasting sacrifice, whereby we are quit from all our offences, the wrath and curse of God is upon us no more, because he contented himself with one payment: We have his blood which was shed to purge us: Therefore when w have all these things, we see how that which was promised in old time, is at this day fully revealed to us, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Calvin, Sermons on Titus, Sermon 2, 1:1-4, p., 1043.

men loved and hated:


1) But yet notwithstanding, herewithal Saint Paul brings us always back to the will of God, to show that when our Lord Jesus Christ did in that wise perform all that belonged to our salvation, it was no lett but that God in the meanwhile uttered his mercy in the same, according as it is said in another text, (John 3:16) that God so loved the world, that he spared not his only son, but delivered him to death for us. To the intent therefore that we should not think that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to pacify God his father, was after such a sort that he persuaded him to alter his purpose, (as men are inclined to such gross and earthly imaginations:) Saint Paul (to show us that God was not reconciled unto us after the manner of men) tells us expressly that the cause why Jesus Christ was delivered for our sins, was for that God had so ordained it…

How then? God (as hath been touched not long since) did both hate us and love us before the reconciliation [was made.] And why loved he us? Because we be his creatures. And again, although he saw we were so wretched, and utterly forlorn and damned folk by reason of sin: yet notwithstanding he had pity upon us, and would not have mankind to perish utterly. Thus ye see how God loved us, notwithstanding that in the person of Adam we were fallen away from him and utterly corrupted. Therewithal he did also hate us, even because he is the wellspring of all righteousness. Therefore he abhorred the naughtiness that was in us by reason whereof there needed an atonement to be made in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the sacrifice which he offered.

But yet must not that benefit be fathered upon any other than God. Ye see then how it was God’s doing to send his only son, and to give him over unto death for us. And why? To the end that all hatred between him and us should be done away. This in effect is the thing that ought to be understood of Saint Paul’s words, when he saith that Jesus Christ gave himself to the death for our sins, and yet notwithstanding that the same came not to pass without the will of God, who had determined the same aforehand in his own everlasting purpose. Here first of all we have to magnify the mercy that was showed us, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. For if God had [but] proclaimed a pardon, and told us that he would take us to mercy though we were unworthy of it: that had been very much, yea and it had been impossible for us to magnify such a gracious goodness as it deserves. But seeing he hath lent us such a gauge of his love as his own son, and giveth himself to us in his person, [thereby] showing himself to be our father: it so far passes all that we have said, that if all our wits were employed to wondering at such a goodness, yet should we never come to the fullness thereof.

Thus ye see what we have to mark in the first place, when Saint Paul speaks to us of God’s will. [Howbeit] let us understand, that even from the time that God had just cause to hate us, and to abhor us, yea and [even from the time] that we were his enemies (as the Scripture saith) (Romans 5:10) in very deed he never ceased to have some regard of us, and to extend his pity so far forth, as he would not have us to abide in our destruction: insomuch that he hath not thought it enough to declare the same by word of mouth, but also hath given us such a pledge as we see, that is to wit, that his own son hath answered for it. Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:3-5, pp., 34-35/23-24,


1) It has been said above, that manna had been given them in the greatest abundance, but here it is intended expressly to censure their gluttony, in which they gave manifest proof of their unbridled appetite. God promises, in Psalm 145:19, as a peculiar privilege to those who fear him, that “he will fulfill their desire;” but it is in a different way that he is here said to have yielded to the perverse desires of the people, who had cast off all fear of him; for that which his favor and loving-kindness would have led him to refuse, he now granted them in his wrath. This is an example well worthy of our attention, that we may not complain if our desires are frowned upon and crossed by the secret providence of God when they break forth beyond bounds. God then truly hears us, when, instead of yielding to our foolish inclinations, he regulates his beneficence according to the measure of our welfare; even as in lavishing upon the wicked more than is good for them, he cannot, properly speaking, be said to hear them: he rather loads them with a deadly burden, which serves to cast them down headlong into destruction. Calvin, Psalms, 78:26.

2) But the Apostle seems here to be inconsistent with himself; for if the death of Christ was a pledge of the divine love towards us, it follows that we were already acceptable to him; but he says now, that we were enemies. To this answer, that as God hates sin, we are also hated by him his far as we are sinners; but as in his secret counsel he chooses us into the body of Christ, he ceases to hate us: but restoration to favor is unknown to us, until we attain it by faith. Hence with regard to us, we are always enemies, until the death of Christ interposes in order to propitiate God. And this twofold aspect of things ought to be noticed; for we do not know the gratuitous mercy of God otherwise than as it appears from this—that he spared not his only-begotten Son; for he loved us at a time when there was discord between him and us: nor can we sufficiently understand the benefit brought to us by the death of Christ, except this be the beginning of our reconciliation with God, that we are persuaded that it is by the expiation that has been made, that he, who was before justly angry with us, is now propitious to us. since then our reception into favor is ascribed to the death of Christ, the meaning is, that guilt is thereby taken away, to which we should be otherwise exposed. Calvin, Romans 5:10.


1) I shall quote a passage of Augustine where the very thing is taught: “God’s love,” says he, “is incomprehensible and unchangeable. For it was not after we were reconciled to him through the blood of his Son that he began to love us. Rather, he has loved us before the world was created, that we also might be his sons along with his only-begotten Son before we became anything at all. The fact that we were reconciled through Christ’s death must not be understood as if his Son reconciled us to him that he might now begin to love those whom he had hated. Rather, we have already been reconciled him who loves us, with whom we were enemies on account of sin. The apostle will testify whether I am speaking the truth: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ [Romans 5:8]. Therefore, he loved us even when we practiced enmity toward him and committed wickedness. Thus in a marvelous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us for what we were that he had not made; yet because our wickedness had not entirely consumed his handiwork, he knew how, at the same time, to hate in each one of us what we had made, and to love what he had made.” These are Augustine’s words. Calvin, Institutes 2.16.4.

2) For, in some ineffable way, God loved us and yet was angry toward us at the same time, until he became reconciled to us in Christ… The explanation of this mystery is to be sought in the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. There, after Paul has taught us that we were chosen in Christ, he adds at the same time that we acquired favor in the same Christ [Ephesians 1:4-5]. How did God begin to embrace with his favor those whom he had loved before the creation of the world? Only in that he revealed his love when he was reconciled to us by Christ’s blood. God is the fountainhead of all righteousness. Hence man, so long as he remains a sinner, must consider him an enemy and a judge. Therefore, the beginning of love is righteousness, as Paul describes it: “For our sake he made him to be sin who had done no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. This means: we, who “by nature are sons of wrath” [Ephesians 2:3, cf. Vg.] and estranged from him by sin, have, by Christ’s sacrifice, acquired free justification in order to appease God. Calvin, Institutes 2.17.2.

[to be continued…]

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