The Essential Trinity

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Previously: God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity

What is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith?

Many Protestants, I suspect, would say justification by faith alone. Certainly that was major in the Reformation. Others might say God’s love, forgiveness, or something like that. I could understand others asserting the doctrines of grace as the (5) most important.

I believe that the most important doctrine of the Christian faith is the Trinity as it set the foundations for all other important doctrines… Lose the Trinity, and all is lost.

Now, some questions for you.

What place does the Trinity have in your Christian experience? Is it prominent, or in the background? In your understanding of your faith, how important is it? Is it an essential, or more of an appendix? Could you do without it? How often do you meditate on the doctrine of the Trinity?

In your church, what kind of attention does the Trinity get? Is it emphasized in the preaching and discipleship of the church? Is it a focus of the songs you sing? Is the Trinity clear in the prayers of the church?

How much study have you dedicated to it? How well can you articulate it? Are you familiar with the ecumenical formulation of the Trinity throughout church history? What books or resources have you used to better understand the Trinity? Can you defend this doctrine, to those who don’t believe it? Is the Trinity essential in apologetics?

And finally, is the Trinity a make-it-or-break-it belief? Can someone deny the Trinity, and be a true Christian?

Of all the doctrines of the Christian faith honored in name and neglected in practice by evangelicals, the Trinity probably has no rival. Ask any evangelical if he believes in the Trinity, and you will almost certainly receive a strongly affirmative answer. Ask what difference the doctrine makes, and you might well be greeted by embarrassing silence.

—Carl R. Trueman, “Trinitarianism 101: Evangelical Confusion and Problems

There’s nothing more fundamental than the doctrine of God. Make no mistake: it is no “generic” idea of God. It is the full, complete self-revelation of God given in the Scriptures. The one living and true God. And God is Triune. Understand, there’s not some idea of God that lies “behind” the doctrine of the Trinity. God is Trinity. The Scriptures reveal one true God, and that God is three distinct persons, co-equal and co-eternal. God cannot be reduced down to anything less than the Trinity. There is no general monotheism, and then Trinitarian Christianity (consequently, what does that mean for apologetics?). The Bible presents the Trinity, not a vague monotheism. Christianity by definition is Trinitarian. As G. T. Shedd said,

It is the foundation of theology. Christianity, in the last analysis, is Trinitarianism.

When we present Christianity to people, we are not arguing for some general idea of God and then trying to get them to the Trinity, afterward. Rather, we present God in the fullness of his revelation to us: the Triune God. There simply is no other God but the God who is Trinity.

Without an understanding of God as Triume, you don’t have a Christian understanding of God. You just don’t. Period.

—K. Scott Oliphint

Naturally then, you can see how fundamental this doctrine is to the Christian faith. If the Triune God is the source of “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (the Trinity itself being one of those beliefs), then the Trinity is not an appendix. Take it away, and everything is ruined. You would no longer be believing the real God, and you would no longer be serving the real God.

It is baffling how so many professing Christians could understand so little of this essential tenant. I’m speaking from experience, here. Don’t think I’m pretending to have always understood the importance of the Trinity. No doubt those raised in a church that responsibly catechized them began with the Trinity (as our Standards do) and grew up into fuller understanding. Me? Most of my life has been lived with insufficient appreciation of this doctrine. I distinctly remember asking myself what difference the Trinity makes to Christianity. Why does it matter? Is it just some eccentric feature that makes Christianity different from every other theistic religion? Must be. That was me, forever.

Until, as providence would have it, it was pointed out to me how the Trinity controls and impacts every other doctrine. That was Michael Horton, via Pilgrim Theology. My mind was sufficiently blown, and my understanding of Christianity changed forever. I remember my exact location when it happened. That’s how profound an illumination it was.

There is nothing more basic! This should be among the first things taught to those within the church. Notice the location of the doctrine of God in the Westminster Standards. It’s chapter 2 of the Confession of Faith, the Trinity in section 3. Where is it in the instructional documents? In the Shorter Catechism, questions 4-5, the Trinity in 6; in the Larger Catechism questions 6-8, the Trinity in 9-11.

And yet, how often is such theology put off, sometimes indefinitely, in the instruction of Christians? Assuming of course, there is any instruction. If our Standards are any witness, clearly the doctrine of the Triune God belongs right up front, in the beginning. It provides the foundation for everything that follows! Look for the persons of the Trinity throughout the rest of the doctrines. It’s no problem that there is no chapter on the Holy Spirit in the original version of the Confession. He’s simply woven all over the place throughout the Confession!

Our theology is Trinitarian theology, simply because the Scriptures are Trinitarian.

The doctrine of the Trinity — God as one in essence and three in person — shapes and structures Christian faith and practice in every way, distinguishing it from all world religions.

—Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology loc. 1615

If you are going to start right, you start with the Trinity.

I was talking with a new believer just the other night. Even he understood that the doctrine of the Trinity is the most fundamental doctrine, and if you get the Trinity wrong you get everything else wrong.

Look at the subtitle to James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (it’s a great book, by the way). White calls the Trinity the heart of Christian belief. And indeed it is.

the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of himself to His people. It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths.

—James White, The Forgotten Trinity pg. 14

Redemption

To demonstrate the fundamental nature of the Trinity to the Christian faith, let’s look at God’s plan of redemption.

Notice the Trinity here:

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Westminster Confession of Faith 3.6

The Father elects. Jesus himself said this. Who gave Jesus his sheep? God the Father. Christ said he would lose non that the Father had given him. We see a distinction of persons, here. The Father has not only chosen the people, and the ultimate destiny, but also the means. The means and the ends are foreordained.

How are the elect redeemed? By Christ, God the Son, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. The 2nd Person of the Trinity is one who became man, taking unto himself human nature, to live, suffer, and die for the elect. His work is what reconciles sinners to the Father. And (though not mentioned above) the Son of God continues to intercede for us before the Father, even now.

Finally, the elect are regenerated, called to faith in Jesus Christ by the 3rd Person of the Trinity: God the Holy Spirit. In due time, the Holy Spirit applies the redemptive work of Christ to the individual, who was chosen by the Father since eternity past.

The Father sends the Son to become incarnate, and live and die for the sins of the elect, to reconcile them to the Father. Jesus Christ reveals the Father, and testifies that it is good for him to depart so that a 3rd Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, can come. Christ dies and resurrects, ascends to the right hand of the Father. Then the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit upon the church. The Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work to those the Father has chosen, those for whom Christ died. And the Holy Spirit continually sanctifies believers, and in the end will raise up our bodies. Jesus Christ continually intercedes for us, and in the last day will return bodily to earth.

The plan of redemption is clearly Trinitarian. Now, let’s remove the Trinity, for the sake of argument, and see what happens. Can the plan of salvation remain intact if God is only one person, instead of three?

Who then does the electing? A unipersonal god. He would then naturally give these sheep. But wait, who is he giving them to? Uh oh. We’ve run out of persons. The Son cannot be given anything by the Father, if they are in fact the same person. That doesn’t work.

Who sends the Son? Either the Father or the Son is no longer part of the plan. The Son can be in no way “sent,” he can in no way be doing his Father’s work. It’s just him. All alone. Who is the Father rewarding and exalting? Himself? Ridiculous.

How can Christ’s work be reconciliation, if the Father and the Son are not distinct persons? Is Jesus merely reconciling people to himself? How can Christ be a mediator, a go-between, if he’s not actually between two parties? If the Son is identified with the Father, then he’s not a Mediator, anymore. There should be someone between him and the elect, then! Christ can’t be the only way to the Father if there is no distinction between them. How can Christ intercede for us, if there’s not a distinct person that he intercedes to? It’s just us and a unipersonal god, with no mediator or intercessor in between.

How can the Holy Spirit be “sent” if there is only one person in the Godhead? Same problem. How can the Holy Spirit be said to intercede for us? Same problem. Why did the Son of God have to ascend to heaven, if he is identical with the Holy Spirit? That’s a bit strange. The unipersonal god was already around. How could it be true that Jesus needed to truly leave so that another helper could come? That would not be true, if they were in fact the same person. The Spirit effectually calls the elect to put their faith in who? Not himself, but a distinct person: Christ. Oh, and how can the elect be “adopted” without the Father and Son being distinct, also? Being united to Christ, made co-heirs with him, and being therefore adopted sons of God. But if there’s just one person, all of that is out.

Needless to say, redemption collapses apart from the Trinity. Who’s doing the sending, or being sent? Who’s doing the electing, the dying, and the applying? Who exactly are we reconciled to, and why do we need a mediator? All of these things are left hanging, if God is not three persons.

Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible represents the plan of salvation as a compact or covenant among the persons of the Trinity. Where the doctrine of the Trinity is abandoned, the whole Bible teaching about the plan of salvation must go with it.

—J.G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary loc. 540

That is probably the clear case example to show that the Trinity is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith. Without the Trinity, the plan of redemption given in Scripture doesn’t make sense. Lose the Trinity, and you lose salvation.

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Why did the Mediator need to be man?

What is celebrated on Christmas? The birth of Jesus Christ.

Why is that worth celebrating? Did the birth of the Son of God as a human need to happen? Or is this just an insignificant detail?

See, many people know this is the occasion for Christmas. Christ was born in Bethlehem. But why is that worth celebration?

We need to know why it was necessary that the Mediator, Jesus Christ, was born a human being. Let’s look at the Westminster Larger Catechism, which asks some important questions.

Q. 36. Who is the mediator of the covenant of grace?

A. The only mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

1 Tim. 2:5; John 1:1, 14; John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4; Luke 1:35; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Heb. 7:24-25.

Notice the phrasing of the catechism: who is the mediator of the covenant of grace? How many mediators are there between God and men? Only one!

1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Neither Mary, the saints, nor any other mere human being are mediators. It is quite impossible for a mere human being to be mediator. The mediator must be God and man, as we will see.

Note that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal (not created) Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Same substance and equal with the Father, equal in power and glory. Not similar substance, but the same. He’s not like God, he is God. He’s not part of God, he is fully God; fully equal with God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit).

Colossians 2:9, For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

At the time that God decided, God the Son became man. This is the incarnation: in flesh.

John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God the Son took on human nature. The divine person added human nature, so that he was God in the flesh. What a most amazing miracle. Remember the doctrine of God? God is infinite. Yet here he becomes finite. God is Creator, yet here he enters his own creation and becomes a creature. God so infinitely transcends man, that he would have to infinitely condescend to take on finite human nature. And that is what he did.

God hath exceedingly glorified his power in this work. —It shows the great and inconceivable power of God to unite natures so infinitely different, as the divine and human nature, in one person. If God can make one who is truly God, and one that is truly man, the self-same person, what is it that he cannot do? This is a greater and more marvellous work than creation.

—Jonathan Edwards, “The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation”

I too believe the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the greatest miracle, and even greater work than the creation itself.

One person, Jesus Christ, in two natures (divine and human), forever.

Christ’s divine nature always remains his divine nature; his human nature always remains his human nature; these two cannot be mixed in any way. Christ is not a being halfway between God and man; he is a person who is both God and man at the same time; he is as truly God as if he were not man at all; and he is as truly man as if he were not God at all.

—J.G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary loc. 1274

This incarnation of the Son of God is what we remember at this time of year.

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

John 1:14; Matt. 26:38; Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 42; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 4:15; Heb. 7:26.

The incarnation was a matter of addition, not subtraction. Meaning, God did not stop being God; subtracting his divinity to become human. That wouldn’t work anyway, because God and man are not on the same “scale of being,” with man at the bottom and God at the top. God is infinitely different. The Creator is different from the creature. The point is, God did not become less than God to become man. Rather, he took to himself a human nature.

Neither did the divinity mix or combine with the humanity to form some new kind of being. Jesus Christ is not a demi-god, or divine human. He’s as human as you and I. He also remains fully God, as he eternally has been.

Westminster Confession of Faith 8.2,

So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. (d) Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. (e)

• d. Luke 1:35; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18. • e. Rom 1:3-4; 1 Tim 2:5.

The Son of God took on human nature. Taking to himself a true body and soul.

A human being is body and soul. To be a human being, the divine person was united with his human body and soul. “Reasonable soul” simply means rational.

Important: Jesus Christ is a human being, but not a human person. Jesus Christ has two natures (divine and human), but he’s not two persons. He’s one person, two natures. THe 2nd Person of the Trinity added human nature to his divine person. He took on human nature, not a human person.

How about right now, at this time? Is Jesus Christ still a human being? Is he still two natures, divine and human, united in one person? Yes! And Jesus Christ will continue to be man into eternity. Hebrews 7:24, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

Being conceived not by a human father, but by the Holy Spirit. It was a virgin conception, a miracle. And Jesus was truly the son of Mary, hence the catechism says “of her substance.” He had her DNA. Jesus Christ is truly a human being. Nothing less than human. He became, and still is, as fully human as you or I.

Christ was born of Mary, yet without sin. Wait a minute! Isn’t Christ fully human? How can he be a human being and be without sin?

Sin is not part of being human, it does not belong to human nature. It’s not an essential property of humanity. Sin came by the Fall. Remember that God originally created man without sin. When Christ returns, all Christians will be without sin once again. Sin is abnormal. So Christ being truly human doesn’t mean he has to have sin. Sin is unnatural to humanity. Christ was born without original sin, and never committed sins. His mother Mary was a sinner, so how could her Son, Jesus, be born without a sinful nature? That’s a special miracle.

Now, we need a Mediator. But does our Mediator need to be God? This question is vital, seeing as there are many who like to dream of more than one mediator between God and men.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God?

A. It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Acts 2:24-25; Rom. 1:4; Rom. 4:25; Heb. 9:14; Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:14; Heb. 7:25-28; Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 1:6; Matt. 3:17; Titus 2:13-14; Gal. 4:6; Luke 1:68-69, 71, 74; Heb. 5:8-9; Heb. 9:11-15.

This is important in the face of errors concerning merely human mediators.

A person that is only human could not be mediator between God and men. A mere human would be obliterated under the infinite wrath of God. A mere human being could not overcome the power of death. A mere human being could not give worth to her suffering, obedience, and intercession. Only an infinite person could satisfy the infinite justice of God! A human being has not the ability nor authority to send God the Holy Spirit upon people. A human being cannot conquer all enemies.

To understand the Jesus Christ is 100% God is important. The mediator between God and men must be God himself!

The opposite error: forgetting the humanity of the Mediator. It’s not an incidental detail. “One Mediator, who must be God!” cries the Protestant.

But, is that all we need? Why, oh why is the birth of our fully human Mediator, the Lord Jesus, worth celebrating?

Since it is Christmas, and everybody is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we will turn our attention to the humanity of Christ. God incarnate, taking on human nature, born a true human being in Bethlehem. We may believe that or celebrate it on Christmas. But is it just a nice story? Or was it truly necessary?

This is one of the beauties of the Westminster Larger Catechism. The Shorter Catechism doesn’t address this, and the Confession of Faith only indirectly. This is why we are studying the Larger Catechism, as it asks this important question.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be man?

A. It was requisite that the mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Heb. 2:16; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14; Heb. 7:24-25; Heb. 4:15; Gal. 4:5; Heb. 4:16.
Qualified to satisfy the law in the place of sinful men.

Galatians 4:4-7, But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Does God only require sinlessness? Do we only need our debt cancelled? No, we also need positive righteousness. God requires perfect obedience. The law must be fulfilled. Adam failed to fulfill God’s righteous requirement, and that requirement remains. If paying the death penalty for sin was all that the Mediator needed to do, then why didn’t Christ drop out of heaven a grown man, and die right away? Why did he live his life first? Because the law needed to be obeyed. We are all condemned by the law. That’s why we need a substitute to obey it perfectly for us. By Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners, so we needed one man to obey to make many righteous (see Romans 5:17-19).

The commentary of Vos is most helpful:

Why could the angel Gabriel or some other angel not have become a Mediator to save the human race from sin? The angels are not members of the human race: they do not possess human nature; therefore none of them could be qualified to become the second Adam to undo the wrong done by the first Adam.

—J.G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary loc. 1345

Why was it necessary that the Mediator “partake of flesh and blood,” that is, possess a human nature? Because to redeem the human race, the Mediator must act as the representative of human beings, and in order to be a representative of human beings, he must first of all be a member of the human race. Even in ordinary human organizations, a person cannot be an officer until he is first a member. Christ could not be a Redeemer of the human race unless he was first of all a member of the human race. Since sin and ruin came by man, redemption must come by man too (1 Cor. 15:21: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead”).

—Ibid., 1360

Why must the Mediator perform obedience to the law? Adam and all his posterity had broken the law of God and lived in violation of that law. It was necessary that the second Adam keep the law of God perfectly. God himself is not under the law; he is the lawgiver. Jesus Christ had to be truly human so that he could be truly under the law of God, and thus succeed where Adam failed, in meeting the condition of the covenant of works, namely, a perfect obedience to the law of God.

—Ibid.

The Mediator must be divine, as we already saw. But God is the lawgiver. The law needs to be fulfilled, if God justice is to be satisfied. How then can God be under the law? Be born of woman, as man. Then he is under the law, and can keep the law as our substitute. And because he is also truly God, his obedience has worth and efficacy for his elect that he represents.

As a man, Jesus obeyed the law of God perfectly as if he was nothing but a man.

—John Gerstner

Another reason our Mediator needs to be man is so we can be adopted. The Confession (ch. 12) defines adoption thus:

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption: by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God; have His name put upon them; receive the Spirit of adoption; have access to the throne of grace with boldness; are enabled to cry, Abba, Father; are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

That his people might be made sons and heirs. Son of God, united to human nature, so that Son of God is also Son of man. Thus, all covenant people are lifted up into the relationship of sons of the Father. When you are united to the Son of God, you become a child of God. Christ not only took away your sin, but also earned an inheritance for you. And you can receive that only because of your Elder Brother, Jesus Christ.

Another work of the Mediator is intercession. The Lord Jesus can intercede for us because he was made in our nature.

Hebrews 2:16-17 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 7:24-25 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Clearly, no one else can intercede for us.

What do we see from all this? The humanity of the Mediator is as essential as his divinity. If the Lord Jesus Christ is not as truly human as you and I, then we could not be saved. He could not mediate between God and man. All this is why the birth of Christ as a human being is worth celebrating. The Son of God being born of the virgin Mary is wonderful and amazing news for us, for only then could the office of Mediator be fulfilled!

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God and man in one person?

A. It was requisite that the mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

Matt. 1:21, 23; Matt. 3:17; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 2:6.

So, we get why the work of the mediator requires divinity. And we get that it also requires humanity. Only God can do it, and only man can do it. So, why don’t we have two mediators? Why was it necessary for the mediator to be God and man in one person? That’s an excellent question that I think is easily overlooked.

Why could not God provide two Mediators, one divine and the other human, to accomplish the salvation of his people from sin? Because the relation between the works of each of the two natures required that these two natures be united in one person. A divine Mediator could not experience suffering except through a human nature; a human Mediator could not endure the required suffering, except as sustained by a divine nature. Therefore it was necessary, not only that the Mediator be God and that he be man, but that both natures be united in one person that his work might be a unity.

—J.G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary loc. 1369

Because of this unity, Scripture sometimes refers to one of Christ’s natures what is proper to the other. This is called “community of attributes.” For example, Acts 20:28, the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Does God bleed? No, obviously not. Remember the doctrine of God: God is a spirit, an bodily part. God doesn’t even have blood. Divine nature cannot bleed. So what is the Scripture saying? Blood belongs to Christ’s human nature, yet Scripture refers blood to God, the divine nature.

The unity of Christ’s person permits this reference. For this reason, we should not be afraid of referring to Mary as the mother of God. It is proper to do so, because of the unity of Christ’s person. She is the mother of Jesus in his human nature, but the divine and human are one. It’s okay to say that, if Scripture itself says that God purchased the church with his blood.

The short version: a human being alone can’t do the job. The mediator must be divine, as well as human, and yet one person.

Divinity can bear the infinite wrath of God. But God cannot suffer. A human being can suffer, but not enough. Divinity can overcome death, but not die. A human being can die, but not overcome death. And his death isn’t worth enough. God has infinite worth. A human being can intercede, but not enough. A finite human cannot satisfy the infinite justice of God. The work of the Mediator must have unity. The Mediator, if he is to be the Mediator between God and men, must be fully God and fully man, in one person. Two natures, united in one person.

Q. 41. Why was our mediator called Jesus?

A. Our mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21.

Now let us appreciate the birth of Jesus Christ of the virgin Mary. It means that God miraculously gave a Mediator that could save us, because he was truly as human as you and I, yet without sin.

As John Gerstner emphasized, the Lord Jesus Christ was a human being, a man, in his birth, a man during his life, was a man that died, was a man that resurrected from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father as a man, is seated in session as a man right now, and he will come again to earth as a man to judge evil and bring the fullness of the kingdom of God.

Now, celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus with understanding. It truly is a wonderful truth! See the power and wisdom of God in the incarnation! All of these aspects, coming together in the God-man. Why celebrate Christmas? Because the Mediator must be man! God had to be man. The Son of God, the divine person, needed to unite with human nature to fulfill the office of Mediator. Hopefully we can appreciate the birth of our Savior more, and celebrate Christmas all the more passionately, knowing how vital it is for our redemption.

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Making Men Lords 

Westminster Larger Catechism 105:wlc-vos-cover

Q. What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?

A. The sins forbidden in the first commandment are . . . making men the lords of our faith and conscience. . .

1. What is meant by “making men the lords of our faith and conscience”?

This means making; mere human beings our authority in religion, so that we believe and do what they tell us to believe and do, not because of the teachings of God’s Word, but merely because of the influence or instruction of men. . . .

5. Are members of Protestant churches ever guilty of this sin?

Yes. Undoubtedly there are multitudes of careless Protestants who can give no better reason or higher authority for their faith and practice than the customs or teachings of their church, or the statements of their minister. To accept and obey the customs, teachings, and rules of a church, or the statements of a minister, without satisfying ourselves that they are in accordance with the Word of God, is wrong, for it amounts to making churches and ministers the lords of our faith and conscience. It is every Christian’s duty to search the Scriptures for himself, to learn whether the statements of his church and minister are true or not.

6. Are there Protestant churches that try to exercise authority over people’s faith and conscience?

Yes, there are. It is one of the evil signs of our time’s that some large and influential denominations which formerly regarded God’s Word as the only authority over men’s faith and conscience now are coming, more or less, to regard the voice of the church as equivalent to the voice of God. Such denominations are coining to demand of their ministers, officers, and people an absolute and unquestioning obedience to the decrees of conferences, General Assemblies, church boards, and agencies, and, it would even appear in some cases, to the utterances and orders of individual men who hold high positions in the denomination’s organization. . . This whole tendency is thoroughly perverse and wicked. As the voice of the church becomes more and more important, the Word of God is regarded as less and less important. In reality the voice of the church has weight and authority, to be believed and obeyed, only when it is in accord with the written Word of God.

—Johannes Geerhardus Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (ed. G.I. Williamson) loc. 3695-3712

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False Tolerance and Enemies of Democracy

In 1946-1949, J.G. Vos wrote:

9. Does not the American ideal of “tolerance” imply that one religion, or manner of worship, is as good as another, and that all are equally pleasing to God?

Undoubtedly this is the popular American ideal of “tolerance,” as inculcated by the motion picture industry, the press, the radio, and the “liberal” churches. These powerful influences are molding public opinion to the idea that all religions and all forms of worship are equally good and valuable if only the worshiper is sincere. Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism are to be put on a level and all distinctive features of any of them regarded as unimportant in the interests of ”Americanism” and “tolerance.” This is one of the most vicious and deplorable tendencies of our day, and we should be awake to its menace. If this emphasis on a false ideal of “tolerance” succeeds, true Bible Christianity will be eliminated as a powerful influence in our country, and the day may even come when orthodox Bible Christians will have to suffer persecution as “enemies of democracy.”

—Johannes Geerhardus Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary (ed. G.I. Williamson) loc. 3836

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