Distinct Actions of the Persons of the Trinity

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;” 1 Peter 1:17 NASB

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,” John 5:22 NASB

Here we read from Peter, firstly, that the Father judges men impartially; then we read from John, that the Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son. Is there disagreement between Peter and John? Does scripture contradict itself? Not at all; but rather, the difficulty is resolved when we read “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31 NASB; and, “And He [the Son] commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42 NASB

What we have then, is this: scripture says that God, the Father, judges all men; and yet, in another place, it says He judges no one at all. Unless we will say that these statements contradict one another, we must acknowledge each to be speaking in a different sense; one speaks of God judging all men indirectly through Christ, through Whom are all things 1 Cor 8:6. The Father is the ultimate Cause of all judgement, and all judgment is according to His will and command, although it is executed through the Son. And so the Son said “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30 NASB. The Father then may truly and rightly be said to “impartially judge according to each one’s work”, because He so judges mediately, through the Son, Who judges not on His own initiative, but according to the will and command of the Father.

On the other hand, the Son has all judgement given to Him by the Father, and the Father judges no one, in this second sense, in reference to immediate action, since the Father immediately judges no one, but all immediate judgment is given to the Son. For the Son clearly says that He does not judge according to His own initiative but according to the will of the Father; and so the Father judges through the Son, and so, Himself truly judges all- not immediately and directly, but mediately, through the Son, the one Mediator between God and man. Meanwhile the Son alone judges immediately and directly. Since all things from God through Son, so God judges through Son, the Son judging according to the will and command of the Father. The Son alone, however, judges immediately, and in that immediate sense, God judges no one.

We can apply this same sort of logic reasonably to all things that God does through His Son. So there is shown a significant difference between the actions of God and of His Son towards creation; the Father acts towards creation mediately, the Son both immediately, and through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit only acts immediately towards the universe, never through another person of the Trinity. So the actions of the persons are not entirely identical, but each acts towards creation differently and distinctly. This shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct individual beings, or persons.

In all this we still see that the persons are united in their actions; the one God, the Father, works through His only-begotten Son, and the Son through the Holy Spirit. This is the pattern of all God’s great works toward the universe: all things are from Him, through His Son. “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NKJV. God created the universe through His Son; God upholds the existence of the universe through His Son; God rules over all things through His Son; God reconciles all things to Himself through His Son; and as we read above, God judges the world through His Son. In the immediate and most high sense, as being the Supreme Cause and Instigator of all these things, the Father is the one Creator, the one Sustainer, the Only Ruler, the Only Savior, and the one Judge of the universe; performing all these actions through the mediation of His Son.

And in the same manner as that judgement was spoken of, we might reasonably speak of any of these acts of God; God, the Father, alone in truth performing all these actions, not immediately and directly, but through the mediation of His only-begotten Son, Who acts upon the universe directly and immediately, according to the will and command of the Father. And so the Son, and not the Father, is the immediate Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Judge of the universe; in this immediate sense the Father creates no one, sustains no one, saves no one, and judges no one, in the whole of the universe that is through His Son. And so, we see the distinct roles of each person; and we see that although God acts through His Son, and His Son acts on His behalf, and according to His will and command, the roles, and so, the actions, of each person, within these greater works are distinguished from one another.

We cannot speak of the Father as the immediate worker of any of those works; nor can we speak of the Son as the ultimate cause of any of those works. The Father alone is the one from Whom are all things; and the Son alone the one through Whom are all things. Therefore the actions of the persons are shown to be distinct and different; the one working mediately and indirectly, the other working immediately and directly on the universe. As mentioned earlier, this distinction in action proves that God and His Son are distinct persons; the Father, the one God, and His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are two distinct rational individual beings, not one and the same. Otherwise, if They were the same, one could not be said to do something through the other; and one could not be said to be the one from which an action was, the other the one through Whom an action was performed, unless They are two really distinct persons.

“I will not share my glory with another” Isa 42:8

“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” Isaiah 42:8 NASB

This verse is sometimes cited by those who wish to deny the real distinct existence of the Son. If He is another individual being, or person, besides the Father, they say, then how can He be called “God”, be credited with the work of creation, and in short, be glorified and worshipped with such honor as would otherwise properly belong to God alone. How is He called by the name LORD, when God does not share this glory with another? Haven’t you read that God does not share His glory with anyone else, they ask? Therefore, they conclude, since the Son is so glorified, He cannot be another, but must be the same individual being as the Father; and so they falsely declare that the Son is Himself the only true God, the Supreme Being, Whose Son He actually is.

The context of the passage actually shows, however, that the person quoting it to such an end is either being deceitful, or is simply ignorant of its context. For if we read it with what comes before, the true meaning of the text becomes clear:

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, 6 “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” (Isa 42:5-8 NASB)

In context, then, it should be clear to anyone familiar with the New Testament that the Son is in fact in view here: it is the Son Who God has given as a covenant to the people and a light to the nations; the Son Who opens the blind eyes of men’s hearts, and frees men from bondage to sin and death. It is this one, the Christ of God, Who God glorifies mightily, even with that name that is above all names (Phil 2); and besides this one, He will not give His glory to another. That is, He will not share His glory with any other but His Son, through Whom He redeems men from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue With Trypho, a Jew, dealt with this text as well:

“And Trypho said, “Being shaken by so many Scriptures, I know not what to say about the Scripture which Isaiah writes, in which God says that He gives not His glory to another, speaking thus ‘I am the Lord God; this is my name; my glory will I not give to another, nor my virtues.'”

And I answered, “If you spoke these words, Trypho, and then kept silence in simplicity and with no ill intent, neither repeating what goes before nor adding what comes after, you must be forgiven; but if[you have done so] because you imagined that you could throw doubt on the passage, in order that I might say the Scriptures contradicted each other, you have erred. But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext[for saying] that it is contrary[to some other], since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself. With what intent, then, you have brought forward the difficulty, God knows. But I shall remind you of what the passage says, in order that you may recognise even from this very[place] that God gives glory to His Christ alone. And I shall take up some short passages, sirs, those which are in connection with what has been said by Trypho, and those which are also joined on in consecutive order. For I will not repeat those of another section, but those which are joined together in one. Do you also give me your attention.[The words] are these:’Thus saith the Lord, the God that created the heavens, and made them fast, that established the earth, and that which is in it; and gave breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them who walk therein: I the Lord God have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will strengthen Thee; and I have given Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out them that are bound from the chains, and those who sit in darkness from the prison-house. I am the Lord God; this is my name: my glory will I not give to another, nor my virtues to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass; new things which I announce, and before they are announced they are made manifest to you. Sing unto the Lord a new song: His sovereignty from the end of the earth.[Sing], ye who descend into the sea, and continually sail[on it]; ye islands, and inhabitants thereof. Rejoice, O wilderness, and the villages thereof, and the houses; and the inhabitants of Cedar shall rejoice, and the inhabitants of the rock shall cry aloud from the top of the mountains: they shall give glory to God; they shall publish His virtues among the islands. The Lord God of hosts shall go forth, He shall destroy war utterly, He shall stir up zeal, and He shall cry aloud to the enemies with strength.’ ” And when I repeated this, I said to them, “Have you perceived, my friends, that God says He will give Him whom He has established as a light of the Gentiles, glory, and to no other; and not, as Trypho said, that God was retaining the glory to Himself?”

Then Trypho answered, “We have perceived this also; pass on therefore to the remainder of the discourse.”” (Ch 65)

So far then is this passage from in any way denying the Son, then, that it rather proclaims Him as the one Whom God glorifies with a glory far above all else, as His beloved Son, the Christ He has anointed to rule the nations. And were the Son not another besides the Father, and distinct from Him, God could give Him no glory; for were the Son the Supreme Being, the only true God Himself, He would have all glory already, and could not receive more than He has. But God glorifies His only-begotten Son, His Christ, with the name above all names, the most holy name of God.

The Martyrdom of Valentine Gentile

Classical trinitarian views can be found throughout church history, sometimes in positions of prominence, and sometimes persecuted falsely as heresy. Biblical trinitarianism was the orthodoxy of the ante-nicene era, the ecumenical dogma of Christianity for some 20 years from 360 to 381, and the conviction of the Homoians for centuries following that, among the Gothic, Gepid, Vandal, Bergundian, and other barbarian nations of Europe and North Africa as the established doctrine of their churches, and within the bounds of the shrinking Roman Empire, as a persecuted minority. When the Germanic nations, over the course of centuries, one by one either fell to conquest, or their kings, for political and worldly gain, converted to the Roman religion and began persecuting those who held to the faith once delivered to the saints, those who remained committed to a biblical view of the Trinity were forced into secrecy by the harsh persecution of the Roman church.

When the Protestant Reformation came, however, with it, in some places, came a greater degree of liberty; and among Protestants a professed interest in believing what scripture teaches. Therefore it should not be any surprise that we once again see classical trinitarianism re-emerge in this era. It was, for example, one view among several to be found within the Polish Ecclesia Minor, an offshoot of Polish Calvinist churches. However, the magisterial reformers showed themselves to have less interest in what the Bible teaches than in appearing orthodox on the Trinity to the Roman Catholics, and to one another, and they, not without great hypocrisy, put to death, when they could, those who applied sola scriptura not only where is was convenient for them to do so to break with Rome, but to all areas of Christian doctrine, including the Trinity. Such was the case for Valentine Gentile, a former participant in the Polish Ecclesia Minor, who had been forced, with the rest, into exile by government persecution. Upon coming to the Protestant city of Berne, he was put to death for supposedly espousing heresy.

Its noteworthy that Gentile’s doctrine was far from radical from a historical perspective; there was a wide range of views among dissenters within this era, including true Arians, and Socinians, who had revived the heresy of Ebion; and these were quite common. But Valentine Gentile was no such heretic, as he affirmed both the eternal pre-existence of the Son from before the ages, and even went as far as to join in that speculation that the Son was begotten from the substance of the Father, and was of the same substance as Him. But since he affirmed, with so many fathers, only a generic unity of substance, and not a numerical or individual (Sabellian) unity of substance, he, a man seemingly holding no view except that of the ante-nicene and even pro-nicene fathers, was put to death on the false pretense of being an Arian:

“Valentine Gentile, an Italian exile who had to flee Geneva in 1558 to escape suffering the same fate that had befallen Servetus there, only to be executed for his beliefs at Berne in 1567, was present at a synod in Pinczow in 1562, where he affirmed the belief that ‘God in the breadth of eternity had created a certain most excellent spirit, which afterwards in the fulness of time became incarnate’. The language is once again not entirely explicit, but from our knowledge of Gentile’s earlier teaching it seems likely that he is envisaging, as Gonesius had not done in 1556, the existence of a second, distinct but subordinate, pre-existent divine being. Moreover, he himself sees his position on that issue as in agreement with the ante-Nicene writers, particularly Justin Martyr and Lactantius. They, he recognized, had been a source of the teaching of Arius. But the fault with Arius lay not with his kinship with them but in his construction of a dogmatic superstructure on that basis which went far beyond anything that could be justified by Scripture. Despite Gentile’s explicit differentiation of his own position from that of Arius, Aretius, one of those involved in his execution, argues for a significant similarity between the two. He acknowledges that Gentile asserts that ‘the Word was begotten of the substance of the Father, and is consubstantial with him’, whereas Arius describes the Son as ‘made out of nothing’. But both, he argues, are agreed that ‘as to his substance the Son is numerically distinct from the Father’. In this respect, and also in their understanding of the Son’s generation as belonging to the temporal order, the two can, he claims, be said to share the same, wholly unacceptable view. Protestant orthodoxy shared with its Catholic counterpart a strong urge to associate any heretic in the area of Trinitarian doctrine with the name Arius.” (Wiles, Achetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries, pgs 58-59.)

And so we have an example before our eyes of a man martyred for holding no other view than that of the ante-nicene fathers, and expressing it, from what we know, in no other terms than they did. We see something here of the hypocrisy of the early magisterial protestants, who wished to change some things, as they liked and chose, to be more in accordance with the scriptures, while leaving other things unaltered from what they had received from the pope himself, the very man they claimed was the antichrist. If ever one may wonder what the ante-nicenes would have said about the Protestant Reformation, or on which side of things they might have fallen, could they have seen it, let us keep in mind the martyrdom of Valentine Gentile, as an example of how both sides would have dealt with those holy men of the first three centuries.

Against Generic Co-essentiality

Having dealt a lot with the heretical doctrine of numerical or individual coessentiality in past articles, I want to address in this post the doctrine of generic or natural co-essentiality. This doctrine differs enormously from the former; while the former teaches that the Father and Son are the same individual substance, that is, the same individual being or person, the latter which we shall address here pertains to the notion that the Father and Son, as two genuinely distinct individual beings, or persons, share one and the same generic nature.

This idea was the view which prevailed, thanks to Emperor Theodosius, within the Roman Empire at the close of the fourth century, becoming the official dogma of the Eastern churches under Byzantine rule (the Western churches only very briefly, if at all, held to this view, instead embracing the Sabellian doctrine of numerical coessentiality). Such notable Homoousians as Athanasius and Basil the Great held and promoted this doctrine of generic coessentiality, which to this day, despite modalistic influence, has a continued following in Eastern Christianity and among some Protestants.

The idea of generic co-essentiality is that of a shared nature, genus, or species; Basil summed it up as “The distinction between οὐσία [essence] and ὑπόστασις [person] is the same as that between the general and the particular ; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man.” (Letter 236); Athanasius said “Even this is sufficient to dissuade you from blaming those who have said that the Son was coessential with the Father, and yet let us examine the very term ‘Coessential,’ in itself, by way of seeing whether we ought to use it at all, and whether it be a proper term, and is suitable to apply to the Son. For you know yourselves, and no one can dispute it, that Like is not predicated of essence, but of habits, and qualities; for in the case of essences we speak, not of likeness, but of identity. Man, for instance, is said to be like man, not in essence, but according to habit and character; for in essence men are of one nature. And again, man is not said to be unlike dog, but to be of different nature. Accordingly while the former [men] are of one nature and coessential, the latter are different in both.”

The idea, then, is of a nature shared among multiple distinct persons or individual beings (hypostases); just as three men share a common human nature, a set of communicable ontological properties possessed by all men, which define a given being as “human”, so the persons of the Trinity, these fathers taught, share a common nature which makes them ontologically identical. The Son in comparison to the Father is often summed up, in this view, to be ‘everything that the Father is, except that He is begotten, not unbegotten’. He is then equal to and identical to the Father in all attributes, except the causal relation of having been begotten by the Father, rather than being unbegotten, as the Father is.

This doctrine simply does not work; it contradicts the holy scriptures, our divine, inspired source of knowledge in such matters.

The holy scriptures teach us that God (the one God, the Father) is omniscient; He knows all things perfectly and unchangingly. “God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” 1 John 3:20 NASB. “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” Psalm 147:5 NASB. The Son, on the other hand, evidently did not know all things when He said “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matthew 24:36 NASB. Someone might object that the Son only said this in reference to His human nature, and that while His human nature did not know, His divine nature did; to this I respond that natures do not know anything, nor do they possess any consciousness or mind of their own, but rather, persons do. So long then, as it is acknowledged that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is one person, not two, it must be admitted that He, that is, the person Himself, did not know all things, while the Father in His own person always does know all things.

The holy scriptures also teach us to believe that God is immutable; He does not change. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6 NASB. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NASB. The Son, however, has often changed since the foundation of the world, although He has now come to change no more, as having been perfected. For the Son changed to take on various forms to appear to men in the Old Testament, as the Angel (that is, Messenger) of the Lord. He appeared as a man to Abraham; He appeared in fire to Moses at the burning bush; in the form of man He again wrestled with Jacob; and in the form of God He was seen by Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel on Sinai, and again, in that same glory, by Isaiah. But more on these appearances later. And at last, He took on human flesh from the virgin Mary, and in that flesh grew, and matured, and died, and rose from the dead.

Surely no thinking man can regard such actions as not involving change in the Son’s own person; who will be so insane as to say that He is the same, and unchanged, after He has taken a human body into the unity of His person, as He was before, when he had no flesh? One might respond that the Logos Himself, considered in His capacity as Logos specifically, did not suffer change in taking on flesh. To which I say, such may well be the case; yet when we consider not merely the part of Him that was the Logos, but His person on the whole, it cannot be avoided that, as a person, to go from having no body, to having a body, is a change. The Son then, was capable of changing, and did so, only upon His perfection coming finally to the state of immutability of which it is said that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrew 13:8 NASB.

The Father then, is entirely unchanging and immutable, always and eternally being the same without any change or alteration; while the Son indeed, having first been begotten by the Father before the world was, changed into various forms to appear to men, and then for our salvation even took human flesh into the unity of His person, finally coming to change no more once He had risen from the dead. The Father, as being unchanging, would never have appeared to men under various forms, nor would He have taken on flesh; and so there is manifestly a great difference in the attributes of God and His Son shown here by the holy scriptures.

We may also note that the scriptures reveal that the Father is invisible; “Who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.” 1 Tim 6:16 NASB. “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” 1 John 1:18 NASB. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17 NASB. The Son, the only-begotten God, on the other hand, as we have already mentioned above, was often seen by men; He is the visible Image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). As the Angel of the Lord He was the one by Whom God spoke with Abraham (Gen 18), Who rained fire from His Father on Sodom and the surrounding cities (Gen 19:24), Who wrestled with Jacob (Gen 32:22-40), Who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex 3:2), and from the pillar of cloud and of fire (Num 14:14), Who appeared to Joshua as the Captain of the Lord’s hosts (Josh 5:13-15), Who spoke to Hagar (Gen 16:7-14), Gideon (Jud 6:22), Manoah (Jud 13:9-23), and other saints of old (Jud 2:1-6), the Word of the Lord Who came to the prophets and spoke with them (1 Kings 9:9, Isa 38:4, Jer 1:1-2, Ezek 1:3), Whose glory was seen by Isaiah (Isa 6, John 12:41). He was seen then, not only in His incarnation, and after His resurrection, but also beforehand. There is a clear difference then between the Father and the Son, that the one, no one can see or has seen, and the other was seen at many times under different forms, and finally, when He took on flesh for our salvation.

The Father, we read in the scriptures, is absolutely Almighty; the term ‘Almighty’ only ever being used for Him in the whole New Testament, and meaning, literally ‘Ruler over all’ (Gr. ‘Pantokrator’). He is “the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4:8). He, the living God, the Father of His people, is alone Almighty; “For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 NASB. And it is clear from the very nature of things, that only one person, one individual being, can be Ruler over all, Almighty, absolutely. For if that one had an equal, neither one having higher authority than the other, and so, neither one ruling over the other, neither would be found Almighty, since neither would truly rule over all, and there would be no supreme Ruler over all at all. If then it is acknowledged that the Father alone is Almighty absolutely, as having dominion not only over the whole universe, but even over the Son (1 Cor 11:3, 1 Cor 15:28), then the Son is not equal to Him in this respect, but subject to Him as to His own God and Father (Rom 15:6). And while the Son, as sharing in the Father’s dominion over the universe, may even be said to be ‘almighty’ in that lesser respect, as He, subordinate to the Father, rules over the universe according to the Father’s will and on His behalf, yet only one of Them is Almighty absolutely, as ruling over all things without exception, namely, the Father, and so, this is shown to be a difference between the Father and the Son also.

We may also note that the scriptures declare that the Father is the one from Whom are all things, as He is the supreme uncaused Cause of all things. “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NASB. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36 NASB. Yet all things are not from the Son in this same way, but are through Him. For the Father is the supreme Cause of all things, having made all things through the Son. Their functions, then, are clearly distinct; the Father acts towards the universe through the mediation of the Son, and not the other way around.

Scripture further reveals to us that God (the Father) is infinite. To be infinite is to be without external bound or limitation; and as God is, as we have said above, the Supreme Ruler over all, and further, the Supreme Cause of all. If then, He is entirely uncaused, and simply eternally and unchangingly is, and is absolutely sovereign over all, it follows that God is subject to no external bound or limitation whatsoever, in either His ontological being, nor in His actions. That He is not bound by anything external to Him in His being and attributes necessarily follows from the fact that as the Cause of all else that exists, He Himself is uncaused; thus no one ever determined what God’s attributed and being would be. He was not made, caused, or begotten according to the will or design of another, but rather He simply is, and is as He is, eternally and unchangingly, without any cause, source, or origin. This is a respect in which God is totally unique compared to everything else in existence, for everything else, including His own Son, does owe its cause and origin, and thus, its being and attributes, to Him. All that God caused has its being and attributes according to His will. Likewise, since God is sovereign over all, there is nothing external to Him binding His actions; He is not subject to another, so as to have anything required of Him by another, but is totally free. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.” Psalm 135:6 NASB. There is none to place Him under obligation or law; His future is not predestined by another.

God’s absolute freedom and infinitude in these respects is unique to Him, as we have said, and so, is not shared by His Son. While of the Father is is written “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Psalm 115:3 NASB, the Son declares “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 NASB. He says, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30 NASB. The Son clearly teaches us to believe that He is limited by the Father’s will. In this the Son clearly stands in contrast to the Father then, that while the Father is absolutely free and infinite, not bound or subject to the will of another, the Son is indeed limited by the Father, as respects both His being and attributes, which He has from the Father, and as respects His actions.

What more shall we say? Scripture teaches that the Father is alone good (Mark 10:18), alone holy (Rev 15:4), “the only wise God” (Rom 16:27), “the blessed and only Sovereign” (1 Tim 6:15), “the only true God” (Jn 17:3). It says these things on account the the surpassing and incomparable greatness of God, for in contrast to all else which is good, and holy, and wise, and which possesses sovereignty, and divinity, it is as though He alone is such things, and that all else is as nothing in these things, in comparison to Him Who is incomparably greater than all. Not only does the Son declare that His Father is “greater than all” (Jn 10:29), and “greater than I” (Jn 14:28), but even declares Him to be incomparably greater than all; for He says to the Father in the Psalm “There is none to compare with You” Psalm 40:5 NASB. God then has no equal, and the Son is not equal to Him in these attributes, as He is greater than the Son in goodness, and holiness, and wisdom, and sovereignty, and divinity -not that the Son is not very great in all these things- but His Father is still greater, as being incomparably greater than all, even greater than His Son. For as the Son says “There is none to compare with You.” Psalm 40:5 NASB. And God testifies Himself, saying “To whom then will you liken Me, That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25 NASB, and “To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?” Isaiah 46:5 NASB.

Who then will make the Son equal with the Father, in contradiction to the words of both the Father and the Son, Who both testify to the truth that God has no equal, but is incomparably greater than all? Where is this teaching that there is another Who is identical to God and equal with Him in all respects and in all attributes, except that He is begotten while God the Father is unbegotten? Who can read these things and not recognize that rightly did Ulfilas characterize this a “devilish invention and doctrine of demons”, on account of how blasphemous these things are to God? For in supposing that they exalt the Son with this doctrine, really, they give the Son a false and empty honor (as no honor not founded in truth has any weight to it) and rather blaspheme the one the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to call “the only true God”, by making Him Who is incomparably greater than all out to merely be one of two or three of a kind.

The doctrine of generic co-essentiality, then, that ‘the Son is identical to the Father in all His attributes, except that He is begotten rather than unbegotten’, is shown to be quite unbiblical, and ultimately, quite blasphemous. I do not say that it is heresy, for it does not violate that ancient rule of faith; but it is a false and harmful doctrine, nonetheless, and one quite clearly opposed to the teaching of the scriptures themselves.

The Incomparable Greatness of God

“Thus God the Father, the Founder and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning, invisible, infinite, immortal, eternal, is one God; to whose greatness, or majesty, or power, I would not say nothing can be preferred, but nothing can be compared;” (Novatian, On the Trinity, Ch 31).

“Concerning Him, therefore, and concerning those things which are of Himself, and are in Him, neither can the mind of man worthily conceive what they are, how great they are, and what they are like; nor does the eloquence of human discourse set forth a power that approaches the level of His majesty. For to conceive and to speak of His majesty, as well all eloquence is with reason mute, as all mind poor. For He is greater than mind itself; nor can it be conceived how great He is, seeing that, if He could be conceived, He would be smaller than the human mind wherein He could be conceived. He is greater, moreover, than all discourse, nor can He be declared; for if He could be declared, He would be less than human discourse, whereby being declared, He can both be encompassed and contained. For whatever could be thought concerning Him must be less than Himself; and whatever could be declared must be less than He, when compared in respect of Himself. Moreover, we can in some degree be conscious of Him in silence, but we cannot in discourse unfold Him as He is. For should you call Him Light, you would be speaking of His creature rather than of Himself — you would not declare Him; or should you call Him Strength, you would rather be speaking of and bringing out His power than speaking of Himself; or should you call Him Majesty, you would rather be describing His honour than Himself. And why should I make a long business of going through His attributes one by one? I will at once unfold the whole. Whatever in any respect you might declare of Him, you would rather be unfolding some condition and power of His than Himself. For what can you fittingly either say or think concerning Him who is greater than all discourses and thoughts? Except that in one manner — and how can we do this? How can we by possibility conceive how we may grasp these very things?— we shall mentally grasp what God is, if we shall consider that He is that which cannot be understood either in quality or quantity, nor, indeed, can come even into the thought itself. For if the keenness of our eyes grows dull on looking at the sun, so that the gaze, overcome by the brightness of the rays that meet it, cannot look upon the orb itself, the keenness of our mental perception suffers the same thing in all our thinking about God, and in proportion as we give our endeavours more directly to consider God, so much the more the mind itself is blinded by the light of its own thought. For — to repeat once more — what can you worthily say of Him, who is loftier than all sublimity, and higher than all height, and deeper than all depth, and clearer than all light, and brighter than all brightness, more brilliant than all splendour, stronger than all strength, more powerful than all power, and more mighty than all might, and greater than all majesty, and more potent than all potency, and richer than all riches, more wise than all wisdom, and more benignant than all kindness, better than all goodness, juster than all justice, more merciful than all clemency? For all kinds of virtues must needs be less than Himself, who is both God and Parent of all virtues, so that it may truly be said that God is that, which is such that nothing can be compared to Him. For He is above all that can be said. For He is a certain Mind generating and filling all things, which, without any beginning or end of time, controls, by the highest and most perfect reason, the naturally linked causes of things, so as to result in benefit to all.” (Novatian, On the Trinity, Ch 22)

The Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to believe that the one God, His Father, is “greater than all” (Jn 10:29); and this “all” did not exclude Himself, for He also said “the Father is greater than I.” (Jn 14:28). It is well established then that the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the only one Christ teaches us to believe to be “the only true God” (Jn 17:3), is greater than all.

But if we may ask “how much greater than all is God?”, scripture answers us, “incomparably greater than all”:

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:5 NASB

Here the scripture, declaring God’s greatness, proclaims that He is so great that there is none to compare with Him. This incomparability to all is absolute; there is in some real sense, none Who compares with God- even His Son; for these words are spoken from the person of the Son Himself. We know this because in the New Testament, Hebrews quotes from this Psalm as Christ speaking to His Father:

“5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
7 “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
(In the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 NASB)

These last lines are directly quoted from Psalm 40:6-8, and so, we can most appropriately see Psalm 40 as a prayer of the Son to the Father; a prayer in which, in proclaiming the glory and greatness of God, the Son declares that there is none who compares with Him.

This is not to say that there is literally no comparison to be made between God and His creatures; scripture is full of comparisons for our benefit, and even man is said to be made in the image and likeness of God, and we are commanded to imitate God -to be like Him- to His glory. Rather it is to say that if we compare God with all else, God is so much greater than all else, that it is as though, in comparison to Him, all else is nothing and less than nothing:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
18 To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?” Isaiah 40:12-18 NASB

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24 Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
25 “To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:21-25 NASB

These are important truths scripture reveals about God. Scripture declares God’s glory- God proclaims His own glory- in terms of His being incomparably greater than all; so much greater is He than all else, that in comparison, even the greatest nations are as nothing and less than nothing in contrast to Him. This is something to be grasped and believed by faith as revealed by God; this is something to worship God for, as His own Son also did, Who has taught us to follow His example.

This truth about God is not one readily accepted by many professing Christians. In the name of the entirely unbiblical concept of a “co-equal” Trinity, it is professed that God is not truly incomparably greater than all; instead, it is taught, in contradiction to scripture, that there are two others Who may so closely be compared to God, that They may be proclaimed His equals. But God makes the point, especially in contrast to idols, the gods of the ancient world that men attempted to rival Him with, that He has no equal:

“To whom would you liken Me
And make Me equal and compare Me,
That we would be alike?
6 “Those who lavish gold from the purse
And weigh silver on the scale
Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
They bow down, indeed they worship it.
7 “They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there.
It does not move from its place.
Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress.

8 “Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
9 “Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” Isaiah 46:5-10 NASB

God then has no equal, and the prevailing doctrine that God is merely one of three of a kind is shown a blasphemous lie; we are forced to choose if we will believe the very words of the Son to the Father, “There is none to compare with You” (Ps 40:5), or the extra-biblical traditions of men, of Whom God declared “But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matt 15:9 NASB).

We see this same truth of God’s incomparable greatness taught in the New Testament so many times as well; for so many of God’s glorious attributes, are attributed to Him exclusively:

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:4 NASB)

“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18 NASB)

“which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” (1 Timothy 6:15 NASB)

“who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:16 NASB)

“to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27 NASB)

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17 NASB)

We read that God (the one God, the Father) is alone holy, good, wise, immortal, sovereign, and God; these things are spoken of in this way, not to exclude these descriptors to all other beings, but to declare the incomparable greatness of God in these things. For God Himself declared all creation to be good; the Temple of Solomon was holy, as are the saints; Solomon was wise; men are blessed by God with immortality; and even the judges of Israel were called “gods”; it is absurd, then, to suppose that such qualities being ascribed to God alone, then, are meant to declare all other beings void of them. Rather, we must understand that God alone is holy, good, wise, immortal, sovereign, and God, inasmuch as in all these things, He is incomparably greater than all others; and so, when contrasted to all others, it is as though God alone is these things. For the goodness, the wisdom, the holiness, etc, of all else, however great it may be, in comparison with that of God Himself, is as nothing and less than nothing; and so, by way of this incomparable contrast, it is as though God alone is these things.

For God is what He is originally, absolutely, and supremely; while all else that exists is from God, participating in such qualities, which properly and originally belong to God, according to God’s grace and will. God simply is, and is as He is, eternally, and unchangingly, without cause, source, or origin; while all other beings which possess such qualities receive them from God Himself. God’s divinity, for instance, His dominion over all things, He possesses originally, as having it from Himself and no other; absolutely, as there is no exception or qualification to God’s divinity or dominion over all things; and supremely, as God alone is Most High over all, having supreme dominion over all. And so God is “the only God” in contrast to all others, even while others, and especially His only-begotten Son, are also properly called “God” on account of the divinity they have from Him.

Such exclusive language then, is indicative of the same thing taught elsewhere by scripture, that God is incomparably greater than all, such that all else in contrast to Him is as nothing; and so in contrast to all else that is good, and holy, and god, He alone is good, and holy, and God, as being incomparably greater than all else in such things, than whatever else may be described by such terms. For as the Son says of Him “There is none to compare with You.” (Ps 40:5).

One may then reasonably ask, what of the Son of God? Is He not like the Father? Indeed, He is; He is the Son of this one Who is incomparably greater than all; He is the Image of that Invisible God, the exact representation of His person, the brightness of His glory, His Word, and Wisdom, and only-begotten Son; God over, and greater than, everything else in the universe, but Himself having the Father, the one God, as His God, and confessing Him as greater than Himself. He is not equal to the Father, but subordinate to the Father; He does not make the Father one of several equal beings, but as the beloved and obedient Son and Image of the one Supreme Being, the only true God, makes His Father’s glory known, Himself being properly like the Father, but not equal with Him.

Would you desire to know the wisdom of the only wise God? Look to His Son, Who is His Wisdom, created by Him as the beginning of His ways for His works (Prov 8:22). Would you desire to know His goodness? Behold the good Word He begat (Ps 45:1), the Good Shepherd of His sheep (Jn 10:11). Would you desire to see His character, His actions, His dominion, His will? Look to the Son and you will see them in Him Who is the Image of the Invisible God, through Whom God performs His great works of creating, sustaining, ruling, redeeming, and judging the universe, for the Father and He are one in the unity of their actions toward the universe, the unity of Their will, and in the moral likeness to the Father which the Son shares (Jn 10:30).

And in this very expression “the Image of the Invisible God” (Col 1:15) we see at once the Son’s likeness to the Father, and subordination to the Father; for certainly to be the Image of Father, He must bear the Father’s likeness; and yet, there is an obvious inequality between a thing and its image, the image being derived from the original, and serving to reflect the original, not the other way around. And in the case of Christ we see this difference also, that obviously, as Image, He is visible; for nothing which cannot be seen is properly regarded as an Image, and we have testimony from the scriptures that not only was He seen by men when He took on flesh, but also prior to this, as the Messenger of the LORD. Yet the one God, Whose Image He is, the “the invisible God”, “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16 NASB) is invisible, and mortal men are wholly incapable of viewing Him except through the mediation of this one Who is His visible Image, His Son. And so the Son declares “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9 NASB). For by seeing that glorious being Who is the Son of the one and only God, and His proper Image, we behold the incomprehensible glory of the invisible only true God, in and through His Son.

The Son then is truly like the Father; but not so as to deny the very thing which He praises the Father for, that He is “greater than all”, and “greater than I”, and “There is none to compare with You”; He shows Himself to be good, and wise, and holy, and far greater and better than the universe which He has made at the will and command of the Father, yet never to the denial that His Father is alone good, is alone holy, is the only wise God, is alone sovereign, and that the His Father is “the only true God”, but rather He declares the incomparable greatness of His Father.

John 10:30 Commentary

I and my Father are one – John 10:30

He intended to meet the jeers of the wicked; for they might allege that the power of God did not at all belong to him, so that he could promise to his disciples that it would assuredly protect them. He therefore testifies that his affairs are so closely united to those of the Father, that the Father’s assistance will never be withheld from himself and his sheep. The ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is (ὁμοούσιος) of the same essence with the Father. For Christ does not argue about the unity of substance, but about the agreement which he has with the Father, so that whatever is done by Christ will be confirmed by the power of his Father.

Source: Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible

The great question here is, whether these words are to be understood of the unity of the Father and Son, as to their same monadical essence, or (as many of the Ante-Nicene Fathers did interpret them) of an unity in will, design, affection and concord? That they could not be intended to declare an unity of their individual essence, seems highly probable, both from the context; from the like expressions in the Scripture; and from the very nature of the thing. First, from the context; for there our Savior saith, “The works that I do in my Father’s name”–that is, by his authority and power imparted to me–”bear witness of me” (ver. 25); which words are evidently repugnant to a numerical unity of essence in them both; since where the essence is one, the actions must be one, and done by the same authority and power. To which add, that the words, “I and my Father,” are words plainly importing two persons; for the word Father is personal, and the word I is a pronoun personal; so that if these two are one and the same God by virtue of this text, they must be one in person as well as essence. Moreover (ver. 29), “My Father which gave them me” (saith Christ) “is greater than all;” which again destroys the numerical unity of essence betwixt both; since no one essence can give any thing to itself, and much less a divine and all-perfect essence. Nor can one essence be greater than itself; whereas our Lord expressly saith, “My Father is greater than I” (John xiv. 28). Secondly: This will be farther evident from the parallel expressions used by our Lord in the same Gospel, where he prays that his disciples “may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they might be made perfect in one:” and yet, doubtless, he could not pray that his disciples might be one in essence with the Father and Son, but only that they might be one by having the Spirit of the Father and Son dwelling in them. In which sense, Athenagoras says the Father and Son are one, viz. ἐνότητι τοũ πνεύματος, by unity of the Spirit. Thus Origin interprets this verse. For, having cited these words, “I and my Father are one,”– If any one, saith he, is disturbed at these expressions, as if we favoured the opinion of the Noetians, who deny the Father and the Son to be δύο ὑποστάσεις, two singular existences, let him consider this text (Acts iv. 34), “All that believed were of one heart and one soul,” and then he will understand this, “I and my Father are one thing:” we serve, therefore, ὡς ἀποδεδώκαμεν, as we formerly explained it, one God the Father, and the Son; we worship the Father of the truth, and also the Son, who is the truth, being indeed two things in subsistence, but in agreement and consent and sameness of will, they are one. Here, indeed, he only saith we worship the Father of the truth, and the Son, who is the truth and wisdom; but in his comment on John (p. 70), he adds, that the Father is πλείων, μείζων ἀλήθεια, a fuller and greater truth, and, being the Father of wisdom, is greater and more excellent, as he is Wisdom, than the Son. Then he proceeds (p. 387) to shew, that among the multitude of believers, some, differing from the rest, rashly affirmed, as the Noetians did, that our Saviour was the God over all; which, saith he, we Christians, or we of the church, do not believe, as giving credit to the same Saviour, who said, “My Father is greater than I.” And, lastly, he saith (p. 38), We Christians manifestly teach, that the Son is not stronger than the Father, who is the Creator of the world, ἀλλ’ ὑποδεέστερος, but inferior in power to him; which words afford the clearest demonstration, that the church of that age did not believe that our Saviour was ὁ ἐπὶ πᾶσι Θεὸς, the supreme God, or one of the same numerical essence with the Father; and therefore could not interpret those words of such an unity, but only of an unity of concord, mind and will. Hence, in his comment upon St. John (p. 227), he saith, that this unity of will is the cause of why Christ said, “I and my Father are one;” and in his next page adds, that the will which is in Christ is the image of the first will, and the divinity which is in Christ is the image of the true divinity. Novatian is, if possible, still more express in this interpretation: for, in answer to the objection of the Sabellians from this place, he saith, that unum, being here put in the neuter gender, denotes not an unity of person, but a concord of society between them; they being deservedly styled one, by reason of their concord and love, and because whatsoever the Son is, he is from the Father. The apostle, saith he, knew this unity of concord with the distinction of persons, by writing to the Corinthians thus: “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” For who understands not that Paul is one person and Apollos another? and that they had divers offices, one to plant and another to water? And yet the apostle Paul saith of these two, ἔν εἰσι, “they are one,” though, as to the distinction of persons, they are two; with other things of like nature. And here it is to be observed, that Pamelius’s note upon these words is this: Nempe in hoc loco, non satis accurate scribere Novatianum, quod nullam essentiœ Patris, et Filii communicationem adferat, sed exemplum ab apostolo unitati essentiœ veluti contrarium; in quo certe hallucinatum fuisse auctorem non vereor dicere, quum postea ecclesia in diversis conciliis, diversum definiverit. That is, Novatian did not write accurately in this place, as making no mention of the communion of the essence betwixt the Father and the Son, but introducing an example from the apostle, as it were, contrary to it; in which thing I doubt not to pronounce him erroneous, seeing the church afterwards in divers councils defined the contrary. And yet it is certain that many of the Ante-Nicene fathers in effect said the same thing: for Justin pronounces the Son to be ἕτερος ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἀριθμῷ οὐ γνώμῃ, another from the Father in number, but not in consent. And his reason follows thus, because he never would do any thing but what ὁ τὸν κόσμον ποιήσας, ὑπὲρ ὃν ἄλλος οὐκ ἔστι θεὸς, βεβόληται καὶ πρᾶξαι καὶ ὁμιλῆσαι, the Maker of the world would have him do and speak. Where, first, this God the Father is plainly styled another in number from him that made the world; and, secondly, the Son is represented as one not doing his own will, but being in all things subservient to, and delivering the words of that God, from whom he is thus distinguished. Lactantius saith, that the Father and Son are one, quia unanimes incolunt mundum, because they unanimously dwell in the world. Eusebius pronounces the Father and Son to be one, οὐ καθ’ ὑπότασιν ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν κοινωνίαν τῆς δόξης, not as to the essence, but as to communion of glory. And lastly, the council of Antioch pronounceth the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be τρία μὲν ὑποστάσει τῆ δὲ συμϕωνίᾳ ἓν, that is, three in subsistence, but one only in consent or concord. Terullian declares, in answer to this objection of the Sabellians, that these words, “I and the Father,” duorum esse significationem, signify two; and then adds, that unum neutrali verbo non pertinet ad singularitatem, sed ad unitatem, ad similitudinem, ad conjunctionem, ad delectionem Patris qui Filium diligit; et ad obsequium Filii qui voluntatis Patris obsequitur: which last words shew that it is impossible that this text should be interpreted of the numerical essence or unity of the Father and Son; seeing one and the same essence cannot be obsequious or obedient to itself. And yet there is nothing more common among the Ante-Nicene fathers, than to say with Novatian, who having affirmed that the Son, obedierit Patri, et obediat, always did and always doth obey the Father, thence make this inference–Quid tam evidens esse ptest hunc non Patrem esse, sed Filium, quam quod obediens Patri Deo proponitur? What more evidently shews that Christ is not the Father, but the Son, than this, that Christ is obedient to the Father? (Cap. xxiii.) And again (Cap. xxx.), Filius nihil ex arbitrio suo gerit, nec ex concilio suo fecit, nec a se venit; sed imperiis paternus omnibus, et preceptis obedit, ut quamvis probet illum nativitas Filium, tamen morigera obedientia asserat ipsum paternæ voluntatis, ex quo est, ministrum. Ita dum se Patri in omnibus obtemperantem reddit, quamvis fit et Deus, unum tamen Deum Patrem de obedientia sua ostendit, ex quo et traxit, originem; that is, in short, the Son of God,  by his dutiful obedience to all his Father’s commands, and to his will (he doing nothing by his own will and counsel), by this demonstrated, that though he was God, yet the Father, from whom he came forth, and whom he obeyed, was the one God, even that one God, of whom he saith, Nos scimus et legimus et credimus et tenemus, unum esse Deum, qui fecit eælum pariter ac terram, quoniam nec alterum novimus, aut noscere (cum multus sit) aliquando poterimus; that is, we Christians know, believe and hold, that there is one only God, the Creator of heaven and earth; nor know we, nor can we know any other, because there is no other. And again, God the Father is unus Deus, cujus neque magnitudini, neque majestati, neque virtuti quicquam non dixerim præfferri, sed nec cimparari potest; that is, that one god, to whose greatness, majesty and power, nothing can be compared (Cap. xxx.). And indeed all the Greek fathers, from Justin to Eusebius inclusive, do frequently inform us that the Son did ὑπηρετεῖν τῷ θελήματι τοῦ Πατρὸς, obey the will of the Father, that he did ὑπουργεῖν, διακονεῖν, ὑπηρετεῖν, minister, and was subservient to him. And all that writ in Latin, from Tertullian to Lactantius inclusively, that he did Patris voluntati administrare, administer to the will of the Father; that he did obedire in omnibus Patri, obey the Father in all things; that the Son voluntati Patris fidelitur paret nec unquam faciat aut fecerit, nisi quod Pater aut voluit aut jussit, faithfully obeyed the will of his Father, and never doth or would do any thing but what the Father willed or ordered him to do (Lb. iv. C. xxix.). It being therefore certain, that one and the same essence can have but one and the same will, and that one singular and numerical essence cannot administer to the will, obey, and be subservient to the will and commands of another; hence it is demonstratively evident that he who does so, cannot have the same numerical essence and will with the Father.

Source: The Last Thoughts of Dr. Whitby

A Homoian Sermon

The following sermon or discourse dates from the late fourth or early fifth century, and was preserved among the writings of Augustine of Hippo, who wrote a work against the sermon. This may have served as a tract or catechism of sorts used by Homoians, and provides a fairly detailed account of their very scriptural understanding of the Trinity. This post is not an endorsement of everything the sermon says, however; read with discernment, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21 NKJV).


  1. “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten God, the firstborn of all creation,
  2. was established before all ages by the will of his God and Father.
  3. At the Father’s will and command, but by his own power, he made heavenly and earthly things, visible and invisible things, bodies and spirits, to exist out of non-existing things.
  4. Before he made all things, he was established as God and Lord, King and Creator of all things that were going to be. In his nature, he had foreknowledge of all things that were going to be, and awaited the order of the Father for every detail in making them. At the will and command of the Father, he came down from heaven and came into this world. As he said, “I have not come on my own, but he has sent me (Jn 8:42).
  5. Among all the spiritual and rational grades of being, human beings were obviously inferior, on account of the fragile condition of their body, for they were made a little less than the angels. So that they would not regard themselves as without value and despair of their salvation, the Lord Jesus honored what he had made and deigned to assume human flesh, and show that human beings are not without value, but precious. As scripture says, “A human being is great, and a man is precious (Prov 20:6 LXX). And therefore, he deigned to make human beings alone heirs to his Father and his coheirs so that they might have more in honor, though they had received less in their nature.
  6. “When the fulness of time came”, it says, “God sent his Son born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). He, who at the will of the Father assumed flesh, lived in the body at the will and command of the Father. As he said, “I came down from heaven, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:38). At the will of the Father he was baptized at thirty years of age, and he was revealed by the voice and testimony of the Father. At the will and command of the Father, he preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven. As he said, “I must preach the good news to other cities, since I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:43), and “he gave me a command as to what I should say or what I should speak”(Jn 12:49). Thus, at the will and command of the Father, he hurried toward his suffering and death. As he said, “Father, let this chalice pass from me, but not what I want, but what you want” (Mt 26:39). And as the apostle states, “He became obedient to the Father even to death, death upon the cross” (Phil 2:8).
  7. While hanging upon the cross, at the will and command of the Father, he also abandoned into the hands of men the human flesh which he assumed from the holy virgin, Mary, and commended his divinity into the hands of his Father, saying “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). For Mary gave birth to the body which was destined to die, but the immortal God begot the immortal Son. Hence, the death of Christ is not a lessening of his divinity, but the laying aside of the body. For, just as his generation from the virgin did not mean the corruption of his divinity, but the assumption of a body, so in his death his divinity did not suffer and fail, but only was separated from his flesh. For, just as one who tears a garment injures its wearer, so those who crucified his flesh offended his divinity.
  8. He, who at the will and command of the Father fulfilled the whole plan of salvation, raised his own body from the dead at the will and command of the Father, as he was taken up by the Father into glory with his body, as a shepherd with his sheep, as a priest with his sacrifice, as a king with his purple, as God with his temple.
  9. He, who at the will and command of the Father came down and ascended, at the will and command of the Father is seated at his right hand. He hears the Father saying to him, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet” (Ps 109:1). He, who at the will and command of the Father is seated at his right hand, will come at the end of the world at the will and command of the Father. As the apostle cries out and says, “At the word of command, at the word of an archangel, and at the trumpet of God, the Lord will come down from heaven” (1 Thes 4:15). He, who will come at the will and command of the Father, will judge the whole world with justice at the will and command of the Father. And he will repay individuals in accord with their faith and works. As he says, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son” (Jn 5:22). So too, he says, “As I hear, so I judge, and my judgement is true, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30). Hence, in judging he gives first place to the Father and ranks his own divine honor and power second, when he says, “Come, blessed ones of my Father” (Mt 25:34). Hence, the Son is the just judge. Honor and authority belong to the one who judges; the imperial laws belong to the Father. Just as solicitous intercession and consolation belong to the Holy Spirit, so the dignity of the just judge belongs to the only-begotten God.
  10. Hence, the Son was born of the Father; the Holy Spirit was made through the Son.
  11. The Son proclaims the Father; the Holy Spirit makes known the Son.
  12. The first and principle work of the Son is to reveal the glory of the Father; and the first and principle work of the Holy Spirit is to disclose the dignity of Christ to the souls of human beings.
  13. The Son is witness to the Father; the Spirit is witness to the Son.
  14. The Son is sent by the Father; the Spirit is sent by the Son.
  15. The Son is the minister of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the minister of the Son.
  16. The Son receives orders from the Father; the Holy Spirit receives orders from the Son.
  17. The Son is subject to the Father; the Holy Spirit is subject to the Son.
  18. The Son does what the Father orders; the Holy Spirit speaks what the Son commands.
  19. The Son adores and honors the Father; the Holy Spirit adores and honors the Son. The Son himself says, “Father, I have honored you on earth; I have completed the task you gave me” (Jn 17:4). Of the Holy Spirit he says, “He will honor me, because he will receive from what is mine and announce it to you” (Jn 16:14).
  20. The Son can do nothing by himself, but awaits a sign from the Father fro every detail. The Spirit does not speak on his own, but awaits the Son’s command for everything. “He will not speak on his own”, he says, “But will speak whatever he will hear, and he will announce to you what is to come” (Jn 16:13).
  21. The Son pleads for us with the Father; the Spirit petitions the Son on our behalf.
  22. The Son is the living and true, proper and worthy image of the whole goodness and wisdom and power of God; the Spirit is the manifestation of the whole wisdom and power of the Son.
  23. The Son is not a part or a portion of the Father, but the proper and beloved, perfect and full, only-begotten Son. Nor is the Spirit a part or portion of the Son, but the first and principal work of the Son before all the others.
  24. The Father is greater than his Son; the Son is incomparably greater and better than the Spirit.
  25. The Father is God and Lord for his Son; the Son is God and Lord for the Spirit.
  26. The Father by his will begot the Son without changing or being changed; the Son made the Spirit by his power alone without toil or weariness.
  27. As priest, the Son adores his God, and he is adored by all as God and Creator of all. The Father alone adores no one, because he has no one greater or equal to adore; he thanks no one, because he has received a benefit from no one. Out of his goodness he has given being to all things; he has received his being from no one. There is, then, a distinction of the three substances, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and there is a difference of three realities, the unbegotten God, the only-begotten God, and the advocate Spirit. The Father is God and Lord for his Son and over all the things which by his will have been made through the power of the Son. The Son is the minister and high priest of his Father, but he is Lord and God of all his works, because that is what the Father wills.
  28. As no one can pass to the Father without the Son, so no one can adore the Son in truth without the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Son is adored in the Holy Spirit.
  29. The Father is glorified through the Son.
  30. The work and concern of the Holy Spirit is to make holy and protect the holy –to make holy, not merely rational beings, as some suppose, but also man beings lacking reason. It is to recall those who have fallen through their own negligence to their former state, to teach the ignorant, to admonish the forgetful, to rebuke sinners, to rouse the lazy to think of and to have concern for their salvation, to bring back the straying to the path of truth, to cure the sick, to check bodily weakness with strength of soul, to strengthen all in the love of piety and chastity, and to enlighten all. It is, above all, to bestow faith and charity on individuals in accord with their desire and concern, in accord with their simplicity and sincerity of mind, in accord with the measure of faith and the merit of their way of life; it is to distribute grace as it is needed and to place each individual in the work and vocation for which he is suited.
  31. He is different from the Son in nature and condition, rank and will, dignity and power, virtue and activity, just as the Son, the only-begotten God, is different from the Unbegotten in nature and condition, rank and will, divine dignity and power.
  32. Hence, the same one cannot be both Father and the Son, the one who generates and the one who is born, the one to whom witness is given and the one who gives witness, the greater and the one who confesses that he is greater. The same one cannot be the one who sits or stands at the right and the one who bestows the honor of that place, the one who was sent and the one who sent. The same one cannot be disciple and teacher, as he himself taught when he said, “As the Father has taught me, so I speak” (Jn 8:28). The same one cannot be both like and the one to whom he is like, the imitator and the one whom he imitates, the one who prays and the one who hears prayers, the one who gives thanks and the one who blesses, the one who receives the command and the one who gave the command, the minister and the commander, the supplicant and the sovereign, the subject and the superior, the only-begotten and the unbegotten, the priest and God.
  33. But God without beginning had foreknowledge that he was going to be the Father of the only-begotten God, his Son. He never had foreknowledge that he himself was going to be God, because he is unbegotten and never began to have foreknowledge or knowledge. What is foreknowledge but knowledge of what is going to be? Because he generated the Son, he was called Father by the Son, and because the Son has revealed him, he is known by all Christians as the God and Father of the only-begotten God, and he had been revealed as greater than the great and better than the good God.
  34. The Homoousians say that it was out of humility that our Savior said all these things concerning the foreknowledge of the Father and concerning his own subjection. We Christians believe that he said all these things because the Father commanded him and the Son obeyed. We state and prove that the heretics are refuted and trapped by their own statements. For if he humbled himself, this humility of his proves his obedience, while the obedience shows that the one tower above and that the other stands beneath and in subjection. As the apostle says, “He humbled himself, having become obedient even to death” (Phil 2:8). His humility is the truth, not a pretense. Is any wise man ever content to humble himself, unless he has someone greater and better whom he is anxious to please by his humility? He says, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29). He was born once before all ages by the will of the Father and does all things at his will. Heaven forbid that he humbled himself and lied! If the Truth lied -which is impossible- where may one look for the truth? But the Truth neither lied, nor does he change who came for the purpose of teaching the truth. He is not an instructor in ignorance, but the teacher of truth, as he said, “Do not allow yourselves to be called teachers on earth; you have one teacher, Christ” (Mt 23:10). But if they say that, in humbling himself on earth on account of his incarnation, he spoke these things on account of human beings, we shall show them that there are testimonies found in the scriptures concerning the subjection of the Son that are greater and stronger than those found in the gospel. After all, if he humbled himself on earth on account of human beings and did not, as the obedient and submissive Son, obey his Father with incomparable love and thanksgiving, why did he obey when commanded before he assumed flesh? After all, he is as humble in obedience as he is lofty in power. Why, now that he is sitting at the right hand of God, does he make intercession on our behalf? And why, when he was in the body on earth did he promise that he would in heaven ask the Father, saying “I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate” (Jn 14:16)? And if on all these points, on account of the hardness and blindness of their heart, they are still unwilling to believe, but dare to say that all these things were done out of humility, why would he humble himself after the end of the world when humility is not necessary on account of human beings, unless he knew that he was subject and obedient by nature and will? After the end of the world, all things will be subject to him, since even now all things are subject to him by nature, as creation is subject to the Creator, but we see that all things are not subject to him on account of free choice. Then, however, on the day of judgement, when at the name of Jesus every knee will bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father, all things will without end be subject to him both by will and by nature. And after all things are subject to him, he himself will remain in that subjection and love in which he always is, and as the Son he will be subject to him who has made all things subject to him [1 Cor 15:28]. No Christian who hears this can fail to know it, because faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Thus God will be all things in all things, ever having monarchy and power over all. To him be glory and honor, praise and thanksgiving through his only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, in the Holy Spirit, now and for age upon age. Amen.”


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