1.13: In this section, John Calvin shows us the unity of the divine essence in three persons taught in Scripture from the foundation of the world.
Scripture teaches that the essence of God is immense and spiritual. In this one essence are three persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the simple essence of God divided. "While God proclaims his unity, He distinctly sets it before us as existing in three persons.”
To us, this is does not sit well with human logic. How we can reconcile such a truth as one essence in three persons? I think paul gives us our answer in Romans 9 when he says," Who are you oh man to answer back to God?" It doesnt make sense, yet we do not have the privilege of even asking that question. He is God and we are not. Part of faith is trusting in his divinity while some things do not make sense to us in the here and now.
However, I think that Athanasius offers us a beautiful picture of the paradigm that is the trinity:
Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally. Now this is the catholic faith:That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal. What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty,the Holy Spirit is almighty. Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being.Thus the Father is God, the Son is God,the Holy Spirit is God.Yet there are not three gods;there is but one God.Thus the Father is Lord,the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord.Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone. The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son. Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other. So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity.
If Athanasius does not give us enough ammunition to stir our hearts toward God the trinity, John 1:1-3 offers us more encouragement. Calvin says this about John's words here:
"if the Word 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, that the Word was God, he calls us back to the one essence."
1 Peter 1:11 is another that Calvin uses in showing the divnity of Jesus as equal to the Father:"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,who [used the prophets], belonged to the Word, the inference is irresistible, that the Word was truly God."
Think about this for a moment. John tells us in 5:17 that in the same way the Father is working He is working. "From the foundation of the world he constantly worked with the Father." Jesus has always been God and will always be God.
Now, there are objections to this belief historically, namely that the Word began to be when the creating God spoke. However, Calvin argues with Scripture that this cannot be so.
Using James 1:17 to prove that the nature of God is unchangeable and without variation, he says,"Nothing, therefore, is more intolerable than to 'fancy' a beginning to that Word which was always God, and afterwards was the Creator of the world." John 17:5 says that He shared in the glory of his Father before creation seeming to be implying an eternal aspect to Jesus.
Furthermore, the New Testament proves the Son is acknowledged to be the Lord of Hosts, the Judge of the world, the God of glory, the Creator of the world, the Lord of angels, the King of the Church, the eternal , God blessed for ever, God manifest in the flesh, the equal of God, the true God and eternal life, the Lord and God of all believers; therefore, the Eternal God.
"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 offence,” (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, says 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 all nations, he intimates that what was [fore]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."
Christ is also the Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Searcher of hearts; therefore, the Eternal God. Isaiah 43:25 partnered with Mt. 9:6 prove that Jesus is the God who forgives sins, a responsilbity that the true God would never give to another to perform. "The Lord proclaims by his prophets“I, even I, am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake,” (Is. 43:25). When, in accordance with this declaration, the Jews thought that injustice was done to God when Christ forgave sins, he not only asserted, in distinct terms, that this power belonged to him, but also proved it by a miracle (Mt. 9:6). We can now see that he possessed in himself not the ministry of forgiving sins, but the inherent power which the Lord declares he will not give to another."
To continue in proof from Scripture the divinity of Jesus Christ, we see that, by his own inherent power, Jesus wrought miracles, and bestowed the power of working them on others. When the apostles walked in the power to heal the sick, pray bold prayers of faith that resulted in divine intervention in their lives, they did these things in the "name of Jesus." However, Jesus did his miracles in His own power because He is God. There is no name that has the authority above His. He is truly God.
Out of the Eternal God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life. All these are in Christ. Christ, consequently, is the Eternal God. He in whom we believe and hope, to whom we pray, whom the Church acknowledges as the Saviour of the faithful, whom to know is life eternal, in whom the pious glory,and through whom eternal blessings are communicated, is the Eternal God. All these Christ is, and, therefore, he is God.
Calvin is also concerned with the Divinity of the Spirit revealed to us in Scripture. We tend to think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force when, in fact, he is equally God with the Father and Jesus and is deserving of our worship. Here are just a few ways that we see his divinity in scripture: He is the Creator and Preserver of the world; He sent the Prophets; He quickens all things; He is everywhere present; He renews the saints, and fits them for eternal life; all the offices of deity belong to him.
Gen. 1:2 shows us "The Spirit hovered over the waters." He played a role in creation just as God the Father did. Isaiah 48:16 shows us that just as the Father sends so does the Spirit. And Calvin says about 1 Cor 3:16 that "Nor does the Scripture, in speaking of [the Spirit], withhold the name of God. Paul infers that we are the temple of God, from the fact that “the Spirit of God dwells in us,” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; and2 Cor. 6:16). Now it ought not to be slightly overlooked, that all the promises which God makes of choosing us to himself as a temple, receive their only fulfilment by his Spirit dwelling in us." Paul in his language here essentially makes the Spirit and the Father interchangeable with one another though they maintain their own personhood.
As we think about the trinity and its implications for us in this life, I think that it is appropriate to leave us with Jesus' words to us in Matthew 28:19; what we have come to know as the Great Commission for those in Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Jesus words here prove to us that baptism into the trinity is baptism into the One God. Let us go forth in confidence that we serve a triune God, and in the power of God the Holy Spirit let us make known among all the nations God the Father's plan for redemption through the saving work revealed to us in God the Son.