Monday, March 5, 2018

John Calvin on the Unity and Distinction of the Trinity

"The Scriptures demonstrate that there is some distinction between the Father and the Word, the Word and the Spirit; but the magnitude of the mystery reminds us of the great reverence and soberness which ought to be employed in discussing it.  It seems to me, that nothing can be more admirable than the words of Gregory Nazianzen: 'I cannot think of the unity without being irradiated by the Trinity: I cannot distinguish between the Trinity without being carried up to the unity.'  Therefore, let us beware of imagining such a Trinity of persons as will distract our thoughts, instead of bringing them instantly back to the unity.  The words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit certainly indicate a real distinction, not allowing us to suppose that they are merely epithets by which God is variously designated from his works.  Still they indicate distinction only, not division.  The passages we have already quoted show that the Son has a distinct subsistence from the Father, because the Word could not have been with God unless he were distinct from the Father; nor but for this could he have had his glory with the Father.  In like manner, Christ distinguishes the Father from himself when he says that there is another who bears witness of him (John 5:32; 8:16).  To the same effect is it elsewhere said, that the Father made all things by the Word.  This could not be, if he were not in some respect distinct from him.  Besides, it was not the Father that descended to the earth, but he who came forth from the Father; nor was it the Father that died and rose again, but he whom the Father sent.  This distinction did not take its beginning at the incarnation: for it is clear that the only Begotten Son previously existed in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18).  For who will dare to affirm that the Son entered his Father's bosom for the first time, when he came down from heaven to assume human nature?  Therefore, he was previously in the bosom of the Father, and had his glory with the Father.  Christ intimates the distinction between the Holy Spirit and the Father, when he says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and between the Holy Spirit and himself, when he speaks of him as another as he does when he declares that he will send another Comforter; and in many other passages besides (John 14:6; 15:26; 14:16)" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.17).

Thursday, March 1, 2018

John Calvin on One God, One Faith, and One Baptism

"As God has manifested himself more clearly by the advent of Christ, so he has made himself more familiarly known in the three persons.  Of many proofs let this one suffice.  Paul connects together these three, God, faith, and baptism, and reasons from the one to the other, i.e., because there is one faith he infers that there is one God; and because there is one baptism he infers that there is one faith. Therefore, if by baptism we are initiated into the faith and worship of one God, we must of necessity believe that he into whose name we are baptized is the true God.  And there cannot be a doubt that our Savior wished to testify, by a solemn rehearsal, that the perfect light of faith is now exhibited, when he said, 'Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' (Matt 28:19), since this is the same thing as to be baptized into the name of the one God, who has been fully manifested in the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  Hence it plainly appears, that the three persons, in whom alone God is known, subsist in the divine essence.  And since faith certainly ought not to look hither and thither, or run up and down after various objets, but to like, refer, and cleave to God alone, it is obvious that were there various kinds of faith, there behooved also to be various gods.  Then, as the baptism of faith is a sacrament, its unity assures us of the unity of God.  Hence also it is proved that it is lawful only to be baptized into one God, because we make a profession of faith in him in whose name we are baptized.  What, then, is our Savior's meaning in commanding baptism to be administered in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, if it be not that we are to believe with one faith in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Hoy Spirit?  But is this anything else than to declare that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God?  Wherefore, since it must be held certain that there is one God, not more than one, we conclude the the Word and Spirit are of the very essence of God" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.16).

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

John Calvin on the Holy Spirit as the True Jehovah

"Nor does the Scripture, in speaking of [the Holy Spirit], withhold the name of God.  Paul infers that we are the temple of God, from the fact that 'the Spirit of God dwelleth in us' (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; and 2 Cor 6:16).  Now it out not to be slightly overlooked, that all the promises which God makes of choosing us to himself as a temple, receive their only fulfillment by his Spirit dwelling in us.  Surely, as it is admirably express by Augustine (Epist. 66 ad Maximinum), 'were we ordered to make a temple of wood and stone to the Spirit, inasmuch as such worship is due to God alone, it would be a clear proof of the Spirit's divinity; how much clearer a proof in that we are not to make a temple to him, but to be ourselves that temple.'  And the apostle says at one time that we are the temple of God, and at another time, in the same sense, that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Peter, when he rebukes Ananias for having lied to the Holy Spirit, said, that he had not lied unto men, but unto God.  And when Isaiah had introduced the Lord of Hosts as speaking, Paul says, it was the Holy Sprit that spoke (Acts 28:25, 26).  No, words uniformly said by the prophets to have been spoken by the Lord of Hosts, are by Christ and his apostles ascribed to the Holy Spirit.  Hence it follows that the Spirit is the true Jehovah who dictated the prophecies" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.15).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

John Calvin on the Divinity of the Holy Spirit

"The best proof to us [of the divinity of the Spirit] is our familiar experience.  For nothing can be more alien from a creature, than the office which the Scriptures ascribe to him, and which the pious actually feel him discharging - his being diffused over all space, sustaining, invigorating, and quickening all things, both in heaven and on the earth.  The mere fact of his not being [defined] by any limits raises him above the rank of creatures, while his transfusing vigor into all things, breathing into them being, life, and motion, is plainly divine.  Again, if regeneration to incorruptible life is higher, and much more excellent than any present quickening, what must be thought of him by whose energy it is produced?  Now, many passages of Scripture show that he is the author of regeneration, not by a borrowed, but by an intrinsic energy; and not only so, but that he is also the author of future immortality.  In short, all the peculiar attributes of the Godhead are ascribed to him in the same way as to the Son.  He searches the deep things of God, and has no counselor among the creatures; he bestows wisdom and the faculty of speech, though God declares to Moses (Exod 4:11) that this is his own peculiar province.  In like manner, by means of him we become partakers of the divining nature, so as in a manner to feel his quickening energy within us.  Our justification is his work; from him is power, sanctification, truth, grace, and every good thought, since it is from the Spirit alone that all good gifts proceed.  Particular attention is due to Paul's expression that though there are diversities of gifts, 'all these [are empowered by] one and the self-same Spirit' (1 Cor 12:11), he being not only the beginning or origin, but also the author; as is even more clearly expressed immediately after in these words 'dividing to every man severally as he will.'  For were he not something subsisting in God, will and arbitrary disposal would never be ascribed to him.  Most clearly, therefore, does Paul ascribe divine power to the Spirit, and demonstrate that he dwells [fundamentally] in God" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.14).

Monday, February 19, 2018

John Calvin on Christ as Eternal God

"If [outside] of God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life, Christ, having all these in himself, is certainly God.  Let no one object that life or salvation is transfused into him by God.  For it is said not that he received, but that he himself is salvation.  And if there is none good but God, how could a mere man be pure, how could he be, I say not good and just, but goodness and justice?  Then what shall we say to the testimony of the evangelist, that from the very beginning of creation 'in him was life, and this life was the light of men'?  Trusting to such proofs, we can boldly put our hope and faith in him, though we know it is blasphemous [irreverence] to confide in any creature.  'Ye believe in God,' says he, ' believe also in me' (John 14:1).  And so Paul (Rom 10:11 and 15:12) interprets two passages of Isaiah, 'Whoso believeth in him shall not be confounded' (Isa 28:16); and, 'In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for [a banner] of the people; to it shall the gentiles seek' (Isa 11:10).  But why adduce more passages of Scripture on this head, when we so often meet with the expression, 'He that believeth in me has eternal life'?" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.13).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

John Calvin on Christ's Eternal Godhead (Part 2 of 2)

"It was [Jesus Christ] who arose and pitied Zion - he who claimed for himself dominion over all nations and islands.  And why should John have hesitated to ascribe the majesty of God to Christ, after saying in his preface that the Word was God? (John 1:14).  Why should Paul have feared to place Christ on the judgment-seat of God (2 Cor 5:10), after he had so openly proclaimed his divinity, when he said that he was God over all, blessed for ever? And to show how consistent he is in this respect, he elsewhere says that 'God was manifest in the flesh' (1 Tim 3:16).  If he is God blessed forever, he therefore it is to whom alone, as Paul affirms in another place, all glory and honor is due.  Paul does not disguise this, but openly exclaims, that 'being in the form of God (he) thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation' (Phil 2:6).  And lest the wicked should clamor and say that he was a kind of spurious God, John goes farther, and affirms, 'This is the true God, and eternal life.'  Though it ought to be enough for us that he is called God, especially by a witness who distinctly testifies that we have no more gods than one, Paul says, 'Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lord many), but to us there is but one God' (1 Cor 8:5,6).  When we hear from the same lips that God was manifest in the flesh, that God purchased the church with his own blood, why do we dream of any second God, to whom he makes not the least allusion?  And there is no room to doubt that all the godly entertained the same view.  Thomas, by addressing him as his Lord and God, certainly professes that he was the only God whom he had ever adored (John 20:28)" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.11).

Monday, February 12, 2018

John Calvin on Christ's Eternal Godhead (Part 1 of 2)

"Though the apostles spoke of [Jesus] after his appearance in the flesh as Mediator, every passage which I deduce will be sufficient to prove his eternal Godhead.  And the first thing deserving of special observation is that predictions concerning the eternal God are applied to Christ, as either already fulfilled in him, or to be fulfilled at some future period.  Isaiah prophesies, that 'the Lord of hosts' shall be 'for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense' (Isa 8:14).  Paul asserts that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ (Rom 9:33), and therefore declares that Christ is that Lord of Hosts.  In like manner, he says in another passage, 'We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.'  Since in Isaiah God predicts this of himself (Isa 45:23), and Christ exhibits the reality fulfilled in himself, it follows that he is the very God, whose glory cannot be given to another.  It is clear also, that the passage from the psalms (Ps 68:19) which he quotes in the Epistle to the Ephesians, is applicable only to God, 'When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive' (Eph 4:8).  Understanding that such an ascension was shadowed forth when the Lord exerted his power, and gained a glorious victory over heathen nations, he intimates that what was thus shadowed was more fully manifested in Christ.  So John testifies that it was the glory of the Son which was revealed to Isaiah in a vision (John 12:41; Isa 6:4), though Isaiah himself expressly says that what he saw was the majesty of God.  Again, there can be no doubt that those qualities which, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, are applied to the Son, are the brightest attributes of God, 'Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, ' etc., and, 'Let all the angels of God worship him' (Heb 1:6).  And yet he does not pervert the passages in thus applying them to Christ, since Christ alone performed the things which these passages celebrate" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.13.11).

John Calvin on the Unity and Distinction of the Trinity

"The Scriptures demonstrate that there is some distinction between the Father and the Word, the Word and the Spirit; but the magnitude ...