De Moor V:17: New Testament Testimonies for the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 1
In the third place, follow the most illustrious Testimonies of the New Testament. Among which the History of the Baptism of Christ, Matthew 3:16, 17, is remarkable. Formerly the History of the Baptism of Christ related here was objected against the Arians by the Orthodox, saying: Go, O Arian, to Jordan, and thou shalt see the Trinity. With sufficient clarity here appear:
α. The Three distinct Persons: the Father, who speaks from heaven in such a way that the argument of this speech is not able to be attributed to the other Persons: the Son, who visibly comes up from the Jordan: the Holy Spirit, who in the visible appearance of a Dove descends from heaven upon the Son, and remains upon Him. For, not the Properties of God are said to descend from heaven upon anyone, but this is a personal action: neither are mere qualities said to assume some corporeal and visible appearance; but this belongs to the Persons, representing themselves under a visible appearance of this sort.
Nor ought it to be excepted, that the Spirit did not appear here under the visible appearance of a Dove, but that the ὡσεὶ/like, in καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν, descending like a dove, is to be referred only to the manner of the descent of the Spirit, as if it were said, He glided down slowly and gently, as the Dove is wont to do, not with impetus, like the hawk intent on its prey. But, contrariwise, under the assumed visible form of a Dove the Spirit descends, so that by this symbol His character might also be indicated. And indeed, 1. not only Christ, Matthew 3:16, but also John the Baptist, John 1:32, 33, saw the Spirit descending and remaining upon Christ; the Spirit must have descended, and so also have appeared, under a corporeal and visible form. But now, since a Dove is expressly mentioned in the text, it is better to believe that the Spirit descended under the form of a Dove, than to devise some other form. Nevertheless, even that very Exception, He descended slowly, gently, as the Dove is wont to do, makes an assumed corporeal form necessary: for otherwise it was not able suitably to be said concerning the omnipresent divine Spirit, that He slowly, gently, peacefully, descends. 2. That under the form of a Dove the Spirit appeared, Luke wanted expressly to signify to us, Luke 3:22, Ἐγένετο—καταβῆναι τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν, and it came to pass…that the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him: see also below, Chapter XXI, § 8; our AUTHOR’S Exercitation XXVII, Part III, Exercitationibus Textualibus, § 6-12; BECMANN’S Exercitationes Theologicas, XI, pages 146-148; LAMPE’S Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, volume II, Disputation III, chapter II, § 13, 14, pages 116-118.
β. The Deity of these Persons here is no less sufficiently evident. Concerning the Father speaking from heaven, there is no controversy. Concerning Him upon whom the Spirit descended, it had been said to John the Baptist, that He was going to baptize with the Spirit, John 1:33; but this is a divine work. Also, to be proclaimed from heaven to be τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, the Son of God, in the singular, κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, par excellence, τὸν ἀγαπητὸν, the beloved, in a singular manner above all others, argues Him to be the Proper and Only-begotten Son of God, ὁμοούσιον/homoousios/consubstantial with the Father: especially when it is added to show in Him the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα, in whom I am well pleased, because of the Mediatorial work, to be administrated by Him for the salvation of the elect according to the will of the Father, which was requiring a divine Person. But, to descend upon such a Person and to abide with His gifts, it belongs to the divine work and honor both: and so this, ascribed to the Holy Spirit in this history, also argues the Divinity of this Person.
The Institution of our Baptism, Matthew 28:19, is also to be mentioned. Here, the Three Persons are found distinctly enumerated, whose Unity, Dignity, and Authority are noted as perfectly the same, when we are commanded to be Baptized εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, into the name, the one Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: not into the Names; nor into the Name of the Father, into the Name of the Son, and into the Name of the Holy Spirit. But, to be Baptized into one’s Name, since it is to be initiated, to be consecrated to his worship, and to be altogether given unto fiath, obedience, and vassalage to him, see Chapter XXX, § 11; it belongs to divine honor, which is only applicable to Persons truly divine, 1 Corinthians 1:13: compare ARNOLDI’S Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, chapter I, de Cognitione Dei, questions 32, 33, 35, § CXXXVI, CXXXVII, CXLVIII-CLV, pages 136-138, 143-145.
Neither ought it to be Excepted, 1. that Moses, a human Minister, Exodus 14:31, is joined with God; and that faith is attributed to him, as well as to God.
I Respond: α. that in Matthew 28:19, the Son and the Spirit are not simply joined with the Father; but, that equal Dignity is ascribed to the three, is evident from the one Name attributed to all. β. In Exdous 14:31, Moses is distinguished from God with clarity enough, when the epithet עַבְדּוֹ, His servant, is added to his name: the text signifies, therefore, that They Believed God and Moses, as His servant, that is, they, having been instructed by experience, held as certain, that Moses, as a faithful servant of God, in the name of that God spoke all that he had proclaimed to them.
2. That the Israelites were baptized εἰς τὸν Μωσῆν, unto Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2.
I Respond: α. Not εἰς ὄνομα Μωσέως, unto the name of Moses; but, β. either by/through Moses, as in Acts 7:53, εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, by the disposition of angels, as the Syriac here has it, ביד מושׁא, by the hand of Moses: or, γ. into the doctrine of Moses, for confirmation of the doctrine delivered by Moses; as Moses is often used in the place of the Law or doctrine delivered by Moses, John 5:45, 45; etc.: compare below, Chapter XXX, § 11: and carefully consider those urging and vindicating from Exceptions this argument for the Trinity out of Matthew 28:19, BECMANN, Exercitationibus Theologicis, XVII, pages 250-262; and HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, tome 1, book II, chapter V, section II, pages 436-438; then SPANHEIM, DecadumTheologicarum IV, § 4, opera, tome 3, columns 1209-1212; add ARNOLDI, Refutatione Catecheseos Racovianæ, chapter I, de Cognitione Dei, where in § CXL-CXLVII, pages 139-142, he powerfully enervates the Exception set forth in question 34, from the Persons and things joined with God, in such things that are no less divine than Baptism, which nevertheless in no way pertain to the essence of God, 1 Samuel 12:18; Exodus 14:31; Acts 20:32; Ephesians 6:10; and on questions 35, 36, § CLVI-CLXII, pages 145-148, he similarly resolved the other Exception, taken from the Israelites baptized εἰς τὸν Μωσῆν, unto Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2, and from the Ephesian disciples baptized in the baptism of John, Acts 19:3. With respect to the text mentioned among others in the former Exception, namely, Acts 20:32, our AUTHOR, Exercitationibus Textualibus XXXVII, Part III, § 4, judges that this is best explained concerning the substantial Λόγῳ/Logos/Word: see also LAMPE, Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, volume II, Disputation III, chapter II, § 1, 2, pages 109-112.
By no means to be passed by are the Sayings of Christ, in which He speaks of the Father, Himself, and the Spirit, as Another, but as a partaker with Him of Divine Power, John 14:16, 17; 15:26; 16:13, 15, in which passages Three Persons are set forth distinctly enough, and are distinguished from each other as One and Another: at the same time they are also conjoined as of the same Divine Power, authority, and virtue among themselves, and concurring economically for the fulfillment of the work of Redemption. In these passages there is no injury to the consummate Deity, 1. either of the Spirit, because He is sent by the Father and the Son, and does not speak of Himself. Since this pertains to the order of operation among the equal, divine Persons, which follows the mode of subsistence; and to the economic and voluntary distribution of the work of Redemption. 2. Or of the Son, because He is said to ask of the Father, since He is less than the Father, as it is said in John 14:28: since a humble supplication differs much from a petition and request with authority, by comparison with John 17:24; neither does the voluntary subordination of the Son, as Mediator and Man, to the Father, remove His perfect equality with the Father as God: while the Son declares that He also is going to send the Spirit according to His own power, John 15:26; 16:7: compare EPIPHANIUS, Hæresi LXV, § 5, 6, opera, tome I, pages 612, 613.
By no means to be neglected is the Benediction; α. both of Paul, 2 Corinthians 13:14, in which the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are invoked equally with God the Father, and thus these three are handle with common divine Honor: but at the same time they are also contemplated in the divine blessing as distinct Bestowers of grace. For, from the Father and the Son it is not asked that these in their grace and love might will to bestow the communion of the Holy Spirit upon the faithful, with the Spirit holding Himself passively, as it were, in that communication: but the Spirit is no less contemplated and invoked as the Active principium of His Communion, than the Son Himself is considered as the bestower of His own Grace, and the Father of His own Love: as Paul had also already alleged for the Spirit this active bestowal and distribution of His communion and gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:11: compare BECMANN, Exercitationibus Theologicis, XI, pages 155 at the end, 156; LAMPE, Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, volume II, Disputation III, chapter II, § 1, 3.
β. And of John, Revelation 1:4-6. Here again, the Three are distinguished among themselves with sufficient clarity, and at the same time are considered as partakers of true Deity, since they are magnified with the equal, divine honor of Invocation; just as also to Jesus Christ is also assigned a divine work, of our Washing in His blood: compare BECMANN, Exercitationibus Theologicis, II, pages 20, 21.
Certainly BEZA and others on this passage by the Seven Spirits incorrectly understand Seven created Angels, and maintain that they are adjoined to the Majesty of God as close attendants. 1. For, it cannot be concealed that the honor of Invocation is equally attributed to the Seven Spirits here, as to the other Persons, which honor is not applicable to any creature. Just as, 2. the Triune God is also the Bestower of Grace and Peace, the distribution of which gifts is not wont to be assigned to Angels. 3. Neither would Angels have been set before the Lord Jesus, a divine Person, in comparison with 1 Timothy 5:21: while in the case of equal divine Persons this order is more flexible; and perhaps the Spirit is here set before the Son, because John by inspiration had decided to stick for a longer time to the description of the latter Person, and of His offices, benefits, and works. 4. But John speaks of the One Spirit under the name of τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων, the seven Spirits, α. on account of the perfection of the various Gifts of this Spirit, and, β. the sufficiency of the same with respect to the seven Churches of Asia, unto which John particularly writes; indeed, with respect to the whole Church; γ. represented formerly by the symbol of the Lampstand, furnished with seven Candlesticks: indeed, represented to God under the same symbol in the Emblematic vision of the seven Candlesticks, which are expounded of the seven Spirits, Revelation 4:5. Whence it is not strange, that John in this initial Benediction invokes the Spirit of God under the name of the Seven Spirits; because the denomination was also sought out of the Emblematic Visions to be set down in this book, and was especially intended for the increase of the consolation and joy of the seven Churches, to which John was writing. Therefore, the Spirit is sevenfold operatively, not personally.
It is not the case, as Beza Objects,
1. That the seven Candlesticks, which are the seven Spirits of God, are said to be καιόμεναι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου, burning before the throne, Revelation 4:5, as here in Revelation 1:4, those seven Spirits are also said to be ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ, before His throne: while the Holy Spirit as God ought also to be set upon the throne, no less than Christ, who sits by the Father on the throne.
I Respond: With respect to Nature the Spirit also sits upon the throne of God, but, considered economically as the παράκλητος/ Parakletos/Advocate/Comforter, who is sent by God the Father and the Son to the Church, is able also to be represented before the throne.
2. The ministerial representation of these seven Spirits, Revelation 5:6, where they are set forth as the seven Horns and seven Eyes of the Lamb.
I Respond: α. With respect to His Person, the Spirit is of the same Essence with Christ, the Son of God, and of equal Dignity. β. But the Son of God as Mediator and slain Lamb merited the Spirit with respect to His various gifts and operations for the good of the Church: which gifts and operations of the Spirit are able to be compared to Horns, because He is the Spirit of Glory and Might, 1 Peter 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:7, and to Eyes, because He is the Spirit of Wisdom and Prudence, Isaiah 11:2. And thus, with respect to the various gifts merited, the slain Lamb is rightly said to have these Spirits, through which He see and works, as through Eyes and Horns; and who by Him is sent economically into all the earth, with the ἰσότητι/equality of the Spirit with the Father and the Son remaining intact; while the Spirit Himself proves Himself to be very God through His operations and divine efficacy in Christ and believers.
3. Finally, in vain do they add that these seven Spirits are seven Angels, which go under that name in Revelation 8:2.
I Respond: There is no agreement between the two passages, except of the septenary Number: while, α. here Spirits are mentioned, but there Angels; β. here divine honor and work come together, attributed to the seven Spirits; there merely ministerial work is assigned to those Angels; so that that passage is rashly cited as a parallel to ours: compare MARESIUS’ Systematem Theologicum, locus XII, § 23, note b; SPANHEIM the Elder’s Disputationes Anti-Anabaptisticas VIII, § 31-33; LAMPE’S chapter IV, de Spiritu Sancto, § 19-24, Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, volume II, Disputation V, pages 162-167.
 Exodus 14:31: “And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses (וַיַּֽאֲמִ֙ינוּ֙ בַּֽיהוָ֔ה וּבְמֹשֶׁ֖ה עַבְדּֽוֹ׃).”