This post is part of our group read of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.
This section 1.13 as a whole, I still believe is one of my favorites within the Institutes. Of course our continued reading will put that claim to the test. One reason I think may be that so much of what Calvin wrestles with here has quite a testimony in other writings. I gave an example of Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy in a previous post. As well as Grudem's Systematic Theology, and Schaff's History of the Christian Church. The history surrounding the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, etc. have bearing on the material Calvin presents to us in this entire section. Most of all though - these truths which we are now focusing call me to worship God who is glorious beyond all knowing.
I love the summary of the chapter headings - you can refresh yourself quickly on how the subject matter was treated, the truth set forth, the error refuted from a reading of just the section headings. For example when proving the divinity of the Spirit we see this outline:
1.13.14 - 1.13.15
- The Divinity of the Spirit proved.
I. He is the Creator and Preserver of the world.
II. He sent the Prophets.
III. He quickeneth all things.
IV. He is everywhere present.
V. He renews the saints, and fits them for eternal life.
VI. All the offices of Deity belong to him.
- The Divinity of the Spirit continued.
VII. He is called God.
VIII. Blasphemy against him is not forgiven.
I. Gen 1:2
II. Isa 48:16
III. Job 33:4
IV. Psa 139:7
V. Joh 3:5-8
VI. 1Co 2:10; 1Co 12:10-11; Isa 40:13; Rom 11:34
VII. Act 28:25-26;Psa 33:6; 1 Cor. 3: 16; 6: 19; 2 Cor. 6: 16
1.13.16 And these three are ONE "ONENESS"
Proving from Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
and comparing with Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
We read the proper conclusion: "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."
1.13.17 And yet these three are distinct "THREENESS"
I love this demonstration, if the son in Joh 1:18 was in the bosom of the Father -- then he is not the Father. There is a distinction. Jesus can say I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter, then there is distinction intended between Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Somehow in my own past studies I arrived at this method of understanding and proving a Trinity of Persons in one divine essence - perhaps it was Calvin's Institutes - but certainly it is the authority of Holy Scripture that teaches this:
There is One God Mk 12:29; Deut 6:4
Jesus is God John 1:1; John 1:14; 1Ti 3:16
The Father is God Luk 10:21
The Spirit is God 1Co 3:16
Jesus is not the Father John 14:16
The Father is not the Spirit John 14:16
The Spirit is not Jesus John 14:16
This is a trinity of persons in the one Godhead. One divine essence. 1Jo 5:7
The verses could be and should be multiplied for our proper understanding at each point. I hope this outline though simplistic yet does follow scriptural truth and also agrees with Calvin's own setting forth of the same in the whole of 1.13 - He asserts and proves the divinity of the Son, and of the Spirit. He asserts and proves a oneness of essence in the Godhead. He asserts and proves a distinction of persons in the Godhead. So what is above says simply the same. I write it down though with some trembling as I do believe this is a matter to believe and not explain as though fully comprehended. To teach but not to simplify. To glorify God by knowing this is yet of an incomprehensible depth, Holy Ground and Precious Truth.
"I am not sure whether it is expedient to borrow analogies from human affairs to express the nature of this distinction. The ancient fathers sometimes do so, but they at the same time admits that what they bring forward as analogous is very widely different. And hence it is that I have a great dread of any thing like presumption here, lest some rash saying may furnish an occasion of calumny to the malicious, or of delusion to the unlearned."
These three sentences really arrested my attention. A great dread of presumption, and the danger in borrowing analogies from human affairs. I thought here, of how many explanations there are which were drawn from creation and have been used to describe how there can be a Trinity of persons in the one Godhead, ie: Water, Ice, Steam; Sun, Light, Photosynthesis; another one having to do with concentric circles. Should we have a dread also how we use these things if we use them at all - which lead to a wrong view, or rob God of due Majesty and reverence and godly fear.
1.13.22 Sound advice and a proper concluding of the previous scriptural aruguments:
"But if we hold, what has already been demonstrated from Scripture, that the essence of the one God, pertaining to the Father, Son, and Spirit, is simple and indivisible, and again, that the Father differs in some special property from the Son, and the Son from the Spirit, the door will be shut against Arius and Sabellius, as well as the other ancient authors of error."
For a Bible Study on the doctrine of the Trinity with fuller scriptural testimony, and additional comments by John Gill, John Calvin and Matthew Henry, click here. Within the Bible Study, the section on the Trinity is introduced as follows:
"As we tread on this most holy ground of thought - the being and nature of our God I pray that we will carefully consider what God has revealed of himself and not proceed beyond the scriptures and not confuse this revelation. We must be careful that we do not think God is like US. God is not a man though often times we hear scripture reveal himself to us with terms of human anatomy -- not to LIMIT GOD but to help us in our feeble gropings after him -- that we can understand him in terms and words suitable to our own minds. Oh the mystery and majesty of our Great and incomprehensible GOD!
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE God, and yet the Father is not the Son nor is the Son the Spirit. They are one God yet three persons. There are NOT three Gods only one. A trinity of persons in Unity in the Godhead. The Father is NOT the Spirit nor is the Son the Father. There is difficulty of using the term "person" and "trinity" as they are not expressly taught in this language yet we will try to show that this is precisely the teaching of the scripture."Closing with this quote from A. W. Tozer:
"The doctrine of the Trinity is Truth for the Heart." [Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer, p20]
Let me know what you think.