Blog 23: 1.13.13 - 1.13.17

Rick Phillips

In the opening section, Calvin concludes his defense of Christ's deity.  This last assertion of deity arises from Christ's miracles.  He takes it as self-evident that the miracles display the deity of Christ.  Therefore, the bulk of the section is devoted to responding to anticipated quibbles and objections.  For instance, one might point out that the prophets and apostles also did miracles, but they are not divine.  The difference, Calvin argues, is that "they distributed the gifts of God by their ministry, but he showed forth his own power."  He further points out that the apostles' miracle-working power is specifically ascribed to Christ having dispensed to them those gifts.  Calvin's entire defense of Christ's deity shows our immense debt to heresy: orthodox theologians typically do their best work and most deeply mine the Scriptures when under the need to respond to false teaching.  Calvin is certainly no exception to this rule.

Starting in section 14, Calvin turns to the deity of the Spirit.  It is not for nothing that he is known as "the theologian of the Holy Spirit."  Mirroring his approach to Christ, Calvin begins with the place and role of the Spirit in the original creation.  Specifically, he argues, the role of the Spirit is to impart life, which only God can do: "in transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing into them essence, life, and movement, he is indeed plainly divine."  To this he adds an overwhelming array of texts that ascribe divine power and nature to the Spirit.  Not only does Calvin's biblical survey prove the deity of the Spirit, but also displays the full scope of the Spirit's activity in creation and redemption.  Further arguments for the deity of the Spirit include the ascription of the name "God" to him and the Bible's numerous attributions to the Spirit interchangeably with God (1.13.15).  As ever, Calvin marshals an overwhelming array of Scriptural evidences to support and shape his position.

Having proved the deity of the Son and of the Spirit, Calvin turns back to the Trinity.  1.13.16 makes the essential point of the unity of the Godhead in three persons.  For this Calvin appeals to Christ's institution of the sacrament of baptism, in which the one God into which believers are baptized is named Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The fact that there is but one faith (Eph. 4:5) proves that there is but one God.  And this one God is known in three persons, between whom there are clear distinctions.  Quoting Gregory of Nazianzus (one of the early church theologians whose writings brought consensus on the doctrine of the Trinity), Calvin asserts that we thus should always think of the one God whenever we think of the three persons, and of the three persons whenever we think of the one God.  Our calling is to ascribe actions appropriate to each of the three persons of he Godhead, while realizing that in all instances it is God who acts.