“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
More Trinitarian Heresies Refuted
Some people think that when the term “God” is used by itself, only the Father is meant. This is wrong. They way they quote Scripture betrays a deep inconsistency. The name “Son” occurs in those verses by way of contrast demonstrating that the term “God” is used to mean Father. This view can be disposed of in a single word. If the Father was the only true God, he would be, they say, his own Father.
There is nothing wrong with the term God being applied to the Father who begat his own wisdom and is also God of the Mediator. Ever since Christ was revealed in the flesh, he is called the Son of God. He is called this not only because he was begotten of the Father, or that he was the Eternal Word before all worlds were ever made. But also because he become our Mediator so that we would united us to God.
They are so bold to exclude the Son from honoring him as God. I want them to answer this question: when Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone” (Luke 18:19). does he deprive himself of goodness? I’m not speaking of Jesus’ human nature. Otherwise, they might object and say that his goodness was a gift from God. I ask this: Was the eternal Word of God good? Yes or no? If they say no, then their heresy is clear. If they say yes, they refute themselves.
When Christ seems to distance himself from the name “good,” this actually confirms our view. Goodness is a property of God alone. Yet, in the story, the title of “good” was applied to Christ as an ordinary greeting. His rejection of false honor indicates that his own goodness is God’s own.
In 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul says that God alone is “immortal,” “wise and true.” Is he reducing Christ to being mortal, foolish, and false? Isn’t Christ immortal? He had given immortal life to the angels. Isn’t Christ the eternal wisdom of God? Isn’t he truth himself?
I also want to know whether they think Christ should be worshipped. If they claim that every knee will bow to him, it follows that he is God. Yet, God in the Law forbade worship to be given to anyone but himself. If they insist on applying to the Father Isaiah’s words, “I am first and I am the last, and besides me there is none else” (Isaiah 44:6), I can turn the passage against them. Every property of God is attributed to God.
There is no room for the idea that Christ was merely a human who then was exalted when all power was given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The glory of the King and Judge extends to the whole person of the Mediator. Yet, had he not been God manifested in the flesh, he could not have been exalted to such a height without colliding with God! This dispute is settled by Paul when he declares that he was equal with God before he humbled himself and assumed the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7).
Moreover, how could such equality exist if Christ were not the God whose name is Yahweh who rides upon the cherubim, is King of all the earth, and King of ages? Christ cannot be robbed of the honor described by Isaiah, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited” (Isaiah 25:9). These words describe the coming God the Redeemer, who was not only going to bring the people back from exile but also restore the Church and make her completely perfect.
Sometimes they will try to say that Christ was God in his Father. With respect to order in the Trinity, the beginning of divinity is in the Father. But he is the not one who makes Christ to be God. In this heresy, either God has many “essences” or Christ is God in name only. If they admit that the Son is God but in subordination to the Father, the essence which in the Father is unformed and unbegotten will in Christ be formed and begotten.
I know that many people would ridicule me for seeing a distinction between the persons of the Trinity from Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our own image.” If there were not different persons within the Godhead, Moses’ words would be ridiculous. God was not speaking inwardly to himself but must have been addressing other outward architects. There is a single passage which will dispose of these two objections. The declaration of Christ that “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) cannot be confined to the Father only as if the Word were not spirit. If the name Spirit applies equally to the Father and the Son, then the infinite name of God the Son is included. He immediately adds, that the only worshippers approved by the Father are those who worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore, I also infer that because Christ performs the office of a teacher under an authority. He applies the name of God to the Father, not for the purpose of destroying his own divinity, but for the purpose of raising us up!