Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Trinity, Part IV - Christ, The Spirit, Oneness, and Threeness

The reading plan I adapted for my use from another reading plan breaks down daily reading by length rather than content.  I wish that I read ahead yesterday to complete the section on the divinity of Christ.  Today would have been a shorter read about the deity of the Holy Spirit.  Tomorrow would have been a longer read about oneness, threeness, and more.

As a final proof of Christ's divinity, Calvin quickly examines the miracles performed by Christ.  Calvin examines the source of Christ's power to perform miracles in contrast to the source for the apostles and prophets who also performed miracles.  "Even though I confess that both the prophets and the apostles performed miracles equal and similar to his, yet in this respect there is the greatest of differences: they distributed the gifts of God by their ministry, be he showed forth his own power... Moreover, they so used that sort of ministry as to show sufficiently that the power came from none other than Christ.  'In the name of Jesus Christ,' says Peter, '...arise and walk.' [Acts 3:6]".

To me, an even greater example of his divinity comes next.  Calvin writes, "Moreover, if apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life, yet Christ contains all these in himself, God is certainly revealed. And let no one object to me that life and salvation have been infused into Christ by God, for Christ is not said to have received salvation, but to be salvation itself."  Christ is salvation therefore Christ is God.

Calvin moved on to the deity of the Holy Spirit.  He used OT Scripture to show that the Spirit has existed forever.  Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Spirit was hovering over the waters.  OT prophets like Isaiah distinguish between the Father and the Spirit.  Isaiah writes, "And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, with his Spirit" (Isaiah 48:16b).  Isaiah also speaks of "The Lord of Hosts" which Paul explains later that this is the Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25-26.  Calvin discusses the fact that our bodies are a temple to the Spirit because the Spirit dwells within us.  He quotes Augustine, "If we are bidden to make a temple for the Spirit out of wood and stone, because this honor is due to God alone, such a command would be clear proof of the Spirit's divinity.  Now, then, how much clearer is it that we ought not to make a temple for him, but ought ourselves to be that temple?"  Calvin uses several other examples to prove the Spirit's divinity, including how blasphemy against the Spirit is the unforgivable sin.

The next few sections of chapter 13 discuss the distinction and unity of the Trinity.  First, Calvin speaks of the oneness of the three Persons.  Paul speaks of one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  Each of these is one.  When we are baptized, Christ commanded that it is in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This is one baptism in three names.  Yes, they are three Persons, but they are of one essence.  Our faith is in one God which is represented by this one baptism.  Since we believe in one God, the Son and Holy Spirit must be of the same essence as the Father.  Calvin touches on the arguments brought forth by Arius and the Macedonians during those conflicts.

Gregory of Nazianzus "vastly delights" Calvin with this quote, "I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one."  We have one God.  In this God are three distinct Persons with distinct characteristics.  Calvin makes clear that these are distinctions, not divisions within the Godhead.  He cites passages showing that the Father is with the Son, therefore they are not the same Person.  He also cites passages where the Son is sending the Spirit, therefore they are not the same Person.

It is clear throughout Scripture that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are eternally distinct, but as Calvin pointed out we should observe that there is no division between them.

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