The Institutes (21)

Book 1 Chapter 13 Sections 7-13

Do you ever wonder about the deity of Christ? Why must we believe that Jesus is God to be considered an orthodox Christian? The standard answers from my Systematic classes come to mind: He would not have been sinless had He not been God. He could not have done some of the miracles in His own power if He were not God. Etc. And while true, each of these are founded upon one underlying truth. Christ must be God because the Scriptures demand that He is. This isn’t nebulous: over and over again, implicitly and explicitly, this man Himself asserts or is declared to be God by His followers.

Springing from the last section, where Calvin took to task those who denied the Trinity, he now goes about systematically (surprise) proving that Christ is indeed Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.

Right near the beginning of his argument, Calvin implies that the personification of wisdom in Proverbs is actually Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24 apparently connects back to this). I’m not so sure that I buy this implication, simply because there is nothing explicit to connect the two texts. Maybe this needs to be investigated more… I can certainly see how all the things that wisdom calls herself in Proverbs could be true of Christ. There’s just not a good connection.

When Calvin moves into arguing that the Word is signified to be deity, he’s on much stronger ground. “[W]e see the Word understood as the order or mandate of the Son, who is himself the eternal and essential Word of the Father.” He appeals to the Word’s introduction in John 1 and identification with Christ, and the same chapter’s insistence that the Word is God, followed by the eternality of Christ found in John 17. Not to mention that Jesus says that He shared the glory of the Father.

In the Old Testament, Yahweh is declared to be coming, and the New Testament identifies the one “coming in the wilderness” to be Yahweh Himself. This is the very same Christ Who came in the wilderness. He is labeled “Yahweh our righteousness” throughout the OT, and confirmed as such in the NT. Additionally, the “angel of the Lord” in the OT takes names and worship for Himself that normally only God would. Although we delve into implication rather than explication, Calvin believes (and I would agree) that the instances of the “angel of the Lord” in the OT are indeed God showing Himself. Many argue that these are Christophanies (pre-incarnate appearances of Christ).

In the New Testament, there is ample evidence that Christ is Yahweh. Besides the aforementioned passages in John, Calvin points out so many additional verses to make the question of deity a non-issue. In fact, this is probably the best section in all the Institutes up until this point. From Paul, Peter, James, John… everyone is unanimous, both implicitly and explicitly, that Jesus is the Christ, Who is at the same time Yahweh. You can read the section here. Calvin continues with what he considers to be the coup de grace on the matter: salvation can only come from God.

… why should we search out more testimonies of Scripture concerning this matter, when we come so often upon this sentence: “He who believes in me has eternal life”? Now the prayer that depends upon faith is also due Christ, yet it specially belongs to the divine majesty, if anything else does belong to it. For the prophet says: “Whosoever will call upon the name of Jehovah will be saved.” Another: “The name of Jehovah is a very strong tower: the righteous will flee to it and be saved.” But the name of Christ is invoked for salvation; therefore it follows that he is Jehovah.

He is Jehovah. Through the miracles that He worked by His own power, through the claims that He made concerning His ability to forgive sins, through the whole of the apostles’ testimony of Who He was and is… we know that Christ is God in the flesh, even now at the right hand of God, the promise that redeemed humanity would someday join Him there. Praise God!

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