Story of the Reformer: Guillaume Farel


1489-1565

When we think of the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland, Calvin is the reformer who has received all the credit. However, there was an earlier reformer who, if he had not be so bull headed in a conversation with John Calvin, Calvin's Geneva would have never been. That reformed pastor's name was Guillaume Farel.

Guillaume was born to a faithful Catholic family in 1489 near the French Alps. He attended the University of Paris. While in Paris, Farel Was excited by the splendor of the Catholic Church and he held to his Catholic faith with conviction. While attending the University he was a student of Humanist professor Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples. Impressed by his professors faith in Christ, he became discontent Catholic answers. As he studied Theology and Philosophy and read scripture vigorously, he became increasingly convinced of the Church's errors. With the help of his faithful professor, Farel began to teach at the Collège Cardinal Lemoine in Paris.

While working as a professor, Farel was introduced to the writings of Luther and the reformed movement in Germany. Fully convinced of the need for church reform, Farel resigned from teaching to accept an invitation from Guillaume Briçonnet. He traveled to Meaux and joined the reformation. Afterwards he traveled France and Switzerland preaching reformed truth, eventually settling in Geneva.

In Geneva, Farel found am eager community who, soon after his arrival, officially and politically chose Protestantism. Farel was known as a brilliant scholar and a great preacher, but the growth of the Geneva's church exposed his lack of clerical skills. He got word that the young reformed writer John Calvin had stopped in Geneva on his way to Strasburg. Farel sought Calvin out and requested his help to organize the rapidly expanding church. Calvin refused until Farel called the judgement of God down on Calvin if he didn't accept the pastor's invitation. Calvin was finally persuaded and joined Farel in the mission at Geneva. Their work in Geneva is reformation legend; John Knox once called Calvin and Farel's church, "the most perfect school of Christ that was ever on earth since the days of the apostles."

In 1538, Farel and Calvin were run out of Geneva because of a disagreement with the magistrates. Calvin would return a few years later, while Farel moved to Neuchâtel and joined the reformation movement there. He and Calvin continued to partner with each other from afar, corresponding and encouraging each other. Farel continued to be on the move as a preacher, but found a home in Neuchâtel and ministered there until his death in 1565.

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