Tuesday, October 31, 2017

John Calvin on Asserting the Divinity of Christ

"When it is said in Ps 45, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,' the Jews quibble that the name Elohim is applied to angels and sovereign powers.  But no passage is to be found in Scripture, where an eternal throne is set up for a creature.  For he is not called God simply, but also the eternal Ruler.  Besides, the title is not conferred on any man, without some addition, as when it is said that Moses would be a God to Pharaoh (Exod 7:1).  Some read as if it were in the genitive case, but this is too [anemic].  I admit, that anything possessed of singular excellence is often called divine, but it is clear from the context, that this meaning here is harsh and forced, and totally inapplicable.   But if their perverseness still refuses to yield, surely there is no obscurity in Isaiah, where Christ is introduced both as God, and as possessed of supreme power, one of the peculiar attributes of God, 'His name shall be called the might God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace' (Isa 9:6).  Here, too, the Jews object, and invert the passage thus: This is the name by which the mighty God, the everlasting Father, will call him; so that all which they leave to the Son is, 'Prince of Peace.'  But why should so many epithets be here accumulated on God the Father, seeing the prophet's design is to present the Messiah with certain distinguished properties which may induce us to put our faith in him?  There can be no doubt, therefore, that he who a little before was called Immanuel, is here called the mighty God.  Moreover, there can be nothing clearer than the words of Jeremiah,

     'This is the name whereby he shall be called,
     "The lord our righteousness"' (Jer 23:6)" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.9).

Monday, October 30, 2017

John Calvin on Proving the Divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit

"When the word of God is set before us in the Scriptures, it were certainly most absurd to imagine that it is only a fleeting and [imperceptible] voice, which is sent out into the air, and comes forth beyond God himself, as was the case with the communications made to the patriarchs, and all the prophecies.  The reference is rather to the wisdom ever dwelling with God, and by which all oracles and prophecies were inspired.  For, as Peter testifies (1 Pet 1:11), the ancient prophets spoke by the Spirit of Christ just as did the apostles, and all who after them were ministers of the heavenly doctrine.  But as Christ was not yet manifested we necessarily understand that the Word was begotten of the Father before all ages.  But if that Spirit, whose [agent] the prophets were, belonged to the Word, the inference is irresistible, that the Word was truly God.  And this is clearly enough shown by Moses in his account of the creation, where he places the Word as intermediate.  For why does he distinctly narrated that God, in creating each of his works, said, let there by this - let there be that, unless that the unsearchable glory of God might shine forth in his image?  I know prattlers would easily evade this, by saying that 'Word' is used for order or command; but the apostles are better expositors, when they tell us that the worlds were created by the Son, and that he sustains all things by his mighty word (Heb 1:2).  For we here see that 'word' is used for the nod or command of the Son, who is himself the eternal and essential Word of the Father.  And no man of sane mind can have any doubt as to Solomon's meaning, when he introduces wisdom as begotten by God, and presiding at the creation of the world, and all other divine operations (Prov 8:22).  For it were trifling and foolish to imagine any temporary command at a time when God was pleased to execute his fixed and eternal counsel, and something more still mysterious.  To this our Savior's words refer, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work' (John 5:17).  In thus affirming, that from the foundation of the world he constantly worked with the Father, he gives a clearer explanation of the what Moses simply touched.  The meaning therefore is, that God spoke in such a manner as left the Word his peculiar part in the work, and thus made the operation common to both.  But the clearest explanation is given by John, when he states that the Word - which was from the beginning, God and with God, was, together with God the Father, the maker of all things.  For he both attributes a substantial and permanent essence to the Word, assigning to it a certain peculiarity, and distinctly showing how God spoke the world into being.  Therefore, as all revelations from heaven are duly designated by the title of the word of God, so the highest place must be assigned to that substantial Word, the source of all inspiration, which, as being liable to no variation, remains forever one and the same with God, and is God" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.7)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

John Calvin on the Distinction of Persons in the Trinity

"By person, then, I mean a subsistence [a state of existence] in the divine essence [inward nature]- a subsistence which, while related to the other two [that is, the other two persons of the Trinity], is distinguished from them by incommunicable properties.  By subsistence we wish something else to be understood than essence.  For if the Word [Jesus] were God simply and had not some property peculiar to himself, John could not have said correctly that he had always been with God.  When he adds immediately after, the the Word was God, he calls us back to the one essence.  But because he could not be with God without dwelling in the Father, hence arises that subsistence, which, though connected with the essence by an indissoluble tie, being incapable of separation, yet has a special mark by which it is distinguished from it.  Now, I say that each of the three subsistences while related to the others is distinguished by its own properties.  Here relation is distinctly expressed, because, when God is mentioned simply and indefinitely the same belongs not less to the Son and Spirit than to the Father.  But whenever the Father is compared with the Son, the peculiar property of each distinguishes the one from the other.  Again, whatever is proper to each I affirm to be [incapable of being shared], because nothing can apply or be transferred to the Son which is attributed to the Father as a mark of distinction.  I have no objections to adopt the definition of Tertullian, provided it is properly understood, 'That there is in God a certain arrangement or economy, which makes no change on the unity of essence.' -Tertullian, Adversus Praxeam" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.6).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

John Piper on the Duty of Worship

"The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or do the liturgy.  It is the inward duty, the command: 'Delight yourself in the LORD!' (Psalm 37:4).  'Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11).

"The reason this is the real duty of worship is that it honors God, while the empty performance of ritual does not.  If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, 'Why you do this?' the answer that honors her most is 'Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you.'

"'It's my duty' is a dishonor to her.

"'It's my joy' is a honor.

"How shall we honor God in worship?  By saying, 'It's my duty'?  Or by saying, 'It's my joy'?

"Worship is a way of reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.  Now we see that the mirror the catches the rays of His radiance and reflects them back in worship is the joyful heart.  Another way of saying this is to say, 'The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever'"  (John Piper, Desiring God).

Monday, October 23, 2017

John Calvin on the Use of Words to Fight Heresy



"The early Christians, when harassed with the disputes which heresies produced, were forced to declare their sentiments in terms most scrupulously exact in order that no indirect [deception] might remain to ungodly men, to whom [double meaning] of expression was a kind of hiding-place.  Arius confessed that Christ was God, and the Son of God; because the passages of Scripture to this effect were too clear to be resisted, and then, as if he had done well, pretended to concur with others.  But, meanwhile, he ceased not to give out that Christ was created, and had a beginning like other creatures.  To drag this man of wiles out of his lurking-places, the ancient church took a further step, and declared that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, and consubstantial (of one and the same substance, essence, or nature) with the Father.  The [heresy] was fully disclosed when the Arians began to declare their hatred and utter detestation of the term ὁμοούσιος (homoousios).  Had their first confession, i.e., that Christ was God, been sincere and from the heart, they would not have denied that he was consubstantial with the Father.  Who dare charge those ancient writers as men of strife and contention, for having debated so warmly, and disturbed the quiet of the church for a single word?  That little word distinguished between Christians of pure faith and the blasphemous Arians.  Next Sabellius arose, who counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as almost nonentities; maintaining that they were not used to mark out some distinction, but that they were different attributes of God, like many others of a similar kind.  When the matter was debated, he acknowledged his belief that the Father was God, the Son God, the Spirit God; but then he had the evasion ready, that he had said nothing more than if he had called God powerful and just and wise.  Accordingly, he sang another note, i.e., that the Father was the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without order or distinction.  The worthy doctors who then had the interests of piety at heart, in order to defeat this man's dishonesty, proclaimed that three subsistences were to be truly acknowledged in the one God.  That they might protect themselves against tortuous craftiness by the simple open truth, they affirmed that a Trinity of person subsisted in the one God, or (which is the same thing) in the unity of God" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

John Piper on Worship as an End in Itself

"A non-treasured Christ is a nonsaving Christ.  Faith has in it this element of valuing, embracing, prizing, relishing Christ.  It is like a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and 'from joy' sells all his treasures to have that field (Matthew 13:44). . . The locomotive of fact is not headed for heaven if it is not followed by a faith that treasures Christ and if it is not pulling a caboose-load of new, though imperfect, affections.

"Now what does this imply about the feast of worship?  Surprisingly, it implies that worship is an end in itself.  We do not eat the feast of worship as a means to anything else.  Happiness in God is the end of all our seeking.  Nothing beyond it can be sought as a higher goal.  John Calvin put it like this: 'If God contains the fullness of all good things in himself like an inexhaustible fountain, nothing beyond him is to be sought by those who strike after the highest good and all the elements of happiness.'

"If what transforms outward ritual into authentic worship is the quickening of the heart's affections, then true worship cannot be performed as a means to some other experience.  Feelings are not like that.  Genuine feelings of the heart cannot be manufactured as stepping stones to something else" (John Piper, Desiring God).

Monday, October 2, 2017

John Calvin on the Use of Words Not Found in Scripture

"Though heretics may snarl and the excessively [demanding and critical unreasonably find fault] at the word person as inadmissible, in consequence of its human origin, since they cannot displace us from our position that three are named, each of whom is perfect God, and yet that there is no plurality of gods, it is most uncandid to attack the terms which do nothing more than explain what the Scriptures declare and sanction.  'It were better,' they say, 'to confine not only our meanings but our words within the bounds of Scripture, and not scatter about foreign terms to become the future seed-beds of brawls and dissensions.  In this way, men grow tired of quarrels about words; the truth is lost in altercation, and charity melts away amid hateful strife.'  If they call it a foreign term, because it cannot be pointed out in Scripture in so many syllables, they certainly impose an unjust law - a law which would condemn every interpretation of Scripture that is not composed of other words of Scripture.  But if by foreign they mean that which, after being idly devised, is superstitiously defended - which tends more to strife than edification - which is used either out of place, or with no benefit which offends pious ears by its harshness, and leads them away from the simplicity of God's word, I embrace their soberness with all my heart.  For I think we are bound to speak of God as reverently as we are bound to think of him.  As our own thoughts respecting him are foolish, so our own language respecting him is absurd.  Still, however, some medium must be observed.  The unerring standard both of thinking and speaking must be derived from the Scriptures: by it all the thoughts of our minds, and the words of our mouths, should be tested.  But in regard to those parts of Scripture which, to our capacities, are dark and intricate, what forbids us to explain them in clearer terms - terms, however, kept in reverent and faithful subordination to Scripture truth, used sparingly and modestly, and not without occasion?  Of this we are not without many examples.  When it has been proved that the church was impelled, by the strongest necessity, to use the words Trinity and person, will not he who still [vehemently attacks] against novelty of terms be deservedly suspected of taking offense at the light of truth, and of having no other ground for his [violent denunciation], than that the truth is made plain and transparent?"  (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

John Calvin on Asserting the Divinity of Christ

"When it is said in Ps 45, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,' the Jews quibble that the name Elohim is applied to angel...