[This post was originally published in 2016 on a different blog site, but has since been removed. So that my readers may still have access to this research, I have republished here under a different title.]
[…]the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed, which said that the Son was “begotten of the Father before all ages” and that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Surprisingly, some recent evangelical writings have denied an eternal subordination in role among the members of the Trinity, but it has clearly been part of the church’s doctrine of the Trinity (in Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox expressions), a least since Nicea (A.D 325). (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Ch. 14)
Upon myself being surprised by Wayne Grudem’s “surprise” that Carl Truman and Liam Goligher would publicly accuse his work of not being consistent with Nicene Orthodoxy (see “Whose Position on the Trinity is Really New”), I thought it potentially fruitful, for the interested student, to compile in one place a hearty helping of Pro-Nicene sentiment. As my eloquence does not compare with that of the Cappadocian Fathers or Augustine (or Grudem himself for that matter), I intend to get right to the meat and potatoes and not rehash the controversy or assess it Biblically; many others have ably done this already.
Rather, I have selected 13 points used by Grudem to defend his claim that the Son is and was in a relation of eternal submission to the authority of the Father, and have put them in apposition to many passages from the corpus of the Pro-Necene Fathers (and, of course, Calvin). All of these points are present in his article, “Biblical Evidence for the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father”, though my numbering does not correspond directly with Grudem’s.
I would, though, like to quickly restate Grudem’s overarching claim before listing the 13 points. I will then give some general notes of introduction to the Patristic quotes themselves.
In his own words, from “Biblical Evidence”:
God the Father has eternally had a role of leadership, initiation, and primary authority among the members of the Trinity, and […] the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority.
So zealous is he in this position that he is even careful not to endorse language of fellow travelers that might allow for “the loss of any idea of greater authority belonging to the Father,” or such language that “can too easily be understood in a way that avoids any idea of the Son joyously submitting to the authority of the Father.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
His specific target in the article are those who would claim that Christ’s submission was only in the economy of His flesh, or what he calls the “temporary submission view.” He believes this “temporary submission view” to be inconsistent with the Bible, and more to our purposes, inconsistent with nearly the entire history of orthodoxy, post-Nicea. He writes in, “Whose Position on the Trinity is Really New”,
Do Goligher and Trueman think that the Nicene fathers themselves were advocating belief in ‘a different God’ than that taught in Scripture, and had moved into ‘unorthodoxy,’ and were denying the very Nicene Creed that they authored? This seems highly unlikely, but then they also claim that we deny the very things that we affirm, so it is difficult to know what they would say about the Nicene fathers.
I could go on, but there is no need at this point to multiply quotations from theologians throughout the history of the church and many others more recently. If Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, CBMW, and the Gospel Coalition are outside the bounds of Trinitarian orthodoxy, then so are John Frame, Louis Berkhof, A. H. Strong, Charles Hodge, John Calvin, and even the Nicene fathers themselves! At this point, their accusation simply collapses into nonsense.
That Truman and Gholiger would so plainly contradict the testimony of the Nicene Fathers themselves is truly surprising to Grudem. As I hope to show how utterly surprising his surprise is, given the actual words of the Nicene Fathers, let us move on to the 13 points he uses as evidence for his principle claim.
- The names “Father” and “Son” indicate a relation of authority and submission.
- Prior to Creation and Incarnation, in eternity past, the Son was in obedience to the Father’s authority in the “eternal councils of the Trinity”.
- The Father Created through the Son, therefore the Son was eternally in submission to the authority of the Father.
- The Father sent the Son, therefore the Son was eternally in submission to the authority of the Father.
- That the incarnate Son was in submission to the will of the Father on earth is “part of a larger pattern” of the Son’s eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
- The priestly intercessory work of the Son shows that He is eternally subject to the authority of the Father.
- The Son had to receive authority delegated from the Father in order to send the Spirit, indicating His eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
- The Son received revelation by authority from the Father and relayed it in submission.
- Upon the Son’s ascension, He is seated at the Father’s right hand, a place of secondary authority delegated by the Father.
- The Son receives authority over the Nations only as delegated by the Father, demonstrating His eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
- In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul teaches that the Son will be eternally subjected to the Father, submitting to His authority.
- The works and operations of God are not always indivisible.
- The order of working and operations within the Trinity demonstrates an eternal relation of submission to authority between the Father and the Son.
I have organized the Patristic quotes below around these 13 points, using them as section headers, and have added just below each some quotes from Grudem (in italics) to keep in mind as we read through the Fathers. The Patristic quotes themselves are then sub-ordered such that a critic can easily say, e.g., “hey, quote 5.d. has nothing to do with the subject!” And I can then easily respond.
The reader will note that there is tremendous conceptual and thematic overlap among the quotations from point to point, but this is of course to be expected as the Fathers were not responding to Grudem, but rather their words culled from various and sundry disputations and orations given to their contemporary opponents. To be sure, each block of quotations do speak plainly to the Grudem point at the section’s head, but the reader should see that almost every quote also has relevance to the other points as well and should freely be associated wherever applicable to build the overall picture.
I also presume that the fact that these words are culled from other disputes, not ESS/EFS/ERAS in particular, will be the first bone of contention with this omnibus of quotes; the Fathers, after all, are responding to the likes of the heretic Eunomious, who Grudem clearly is not. But we need only employ the same hermeneutic we use when putting any ancient text in service of our own controversies: we abstract and distill the principle used by the ancient author to combat his ancient opponents. For example, Paul pulls the principle, “the just shall live by faith”, from the prophet Habakkuk who is, in his context, waiting on the word of the Lord and trusting in the coming salvation of God in His righteousness, in opposition to a ruthless king who trusts only in his own strength and might. Paul then uses this principle against the Judaizers (and others) of his day. The Reformers than quote Paul against Rome in their day and we in turn quote Habbakuk, Paul, and the Reformers to combat Gospel opponents today. Habakkuk’s opponent was not Paul’s opponent was not the Reformers opponent was not our opponent, but the distilled principle can be applied to many contexts of controversy.
Another example, Augustine in On the Trinity, Bk 2, opposes those who would say that the Son and the Spirit are created entities. They used as argument that the Son’s glory is derived from the Father and that the Spirit’s glory is derived from the Son; therefore the Father’s glory is greater than either the Son or the Spirit; therefore they are lesser beings than the Father. Augustine counters them by arguing (successfully) that derived glory does not equate to lesser glory when the subjects are one in essence. This is a principle that can plainly be mustered in service of confronting errors other than just that of Augustine’s specific contemporary opponents. I would go even further and argue that after being steeped in the words and concepts of these Fathers, one can even formulate arguments quite in the spirit and style of their own in order to confront concepts of much later origin. I have heard many times that the pactum solutis is ground for assuming that the Father in eternity had the role of initiation, planning, and authority and that the Son submitted in eternity to perform His arranged task within the economy of salvation. In response I can easily imagine the Pro-Nicene Fathers responding with something like, “If the Father proposed the plan, by what wisdom did He propose? By the Wisdom, His Son. By what word did He propose? By the Word, His Son. In short, by what will did He propose? By the will of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
The reader will further notice that the largest section of Patristic quotes falls under point #5, even though Grudem spends the least amount of time on this in his writings. The reason is that the most fundamental principle shot through all of the Pro-Nicene writings is that we must never confuse Scriptural passages which speak of the Son in His flesh as speaking of the Son in His eternal Godhead, or vice versa. This error of confounding, they believed, was the source of the vast majority of Trinitarian errors. In fact, if we come away from these Patristic quotes with nothing more than the clarity of this interpretive distinction impressed upon our minds, we will be in a great position to ameliorate Grudem’s shock and surprise at being questioned on Nicene Orthodoxy. Every mention of submission to authority, obedience to command, subordination, etc., is explicitly connected to the Son in His flesh and rigorously barred from application to the Son in eternity, even after the ascension.
And last, I encourage every reader to please assess these Patristic quotes in their wider context. I have given as much context, I believe, as needed to make sense of the statements; but the full arguments of these great men, from the Scripture and good and necessary consequences, are truly quite convincing in their own right.
All Patristic quotes can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/
All quotes from Chrysostom’s Homilies and Calvin’s Commentaries can be found here: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/
All quotes from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes/
All Grudem quotes, above and below, can be found in the following:
Systematic Theology: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/trinity-wayne-grudem
“Biblical Evidence for the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father”: http://www.waynegrudem.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Biblical-evidence-for-the-eternal-submission-of-the-Son-to-the-Father.pdf
“Whose Position on the Trinity is Really New?”: http://cbmw.org/public-square/whose-position-on-the-trinity-is-really-new/
(1) The names “Father” and “Son” indicate a relation of authority and submission.
“Therefore, what is everywhere true of a father-son relationship in the biblical world, and is not contradicted by any other passages of Scripture, surely should be applied to the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The names ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ represent an eternal difference in the roles of the Father and the Son.”
“The Father has a leadership and authority role that the Son does not have, and the Son submits to the Father’s leadership in a way that the Father does not submit to the Son.”
“The eternal names ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ therefore give a significant indication of eternal authority and submission among the members of the Trinity.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
He quotes approvingly, “Eternal generation …. is the phrase used to denote the inter-Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son as is taught by the Bible. “Generation” makes it plain that there is a divine sonship prior to the incarnation (cf. John 1:18; 1 John 4:9), that there is thus a distinction of persons within the one Godhead (John 5:26), and that between these persons there is a superiority and subordination of order (cf. John 5:19; 8:28). “Eternal” reinforces the fact that the generation is not merely economic (i.e. for the purpose of human salvation as in the incarnation, cf. Luke 1:35), but essential, and that as such it cannot be construed in the categories of natural or human generation.[…]—Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Eternal Generation,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 368).”(“Whose Position”)
“[…]if the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father in role, then the Father is not eternally “Father” and the Son is not eternally “Son.” This would mean that the Trinity has not eternally existed.” (Systematic, Ch. 14)
1.a. Athanasius, Defense of the Nicene Tradition, 5.24
Further, let every corporeal reference be banished on this subject; and transcending every imagination of sense, let us, with pure understanding and with mind alone, apprehend the genuine relation of son to father, and the Word’s proper relation towards God, and the unvarying likeness of the radiance towards the light: for as the words ‘Offspring’ and ‘Son’ bear, and are meant to bear, no human sense, but one suitable to God[…].
1.b. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 2.11
“For it was as the result of being Son, and being begotten, that He has thus shown Himself obedient in words and obedient in acts” [says Eunomius]. Alas, for the brutish stupidity of this doctrine! You make the Word obedient to words, and supposest other words prior to Him Who is truly the Word, and another Word of the Beginning is mediator between the Beginning and the Word that was in the Beginning, conveying to Him the decision. And this is not one only: there are several words, which Eunomius makes so many links of the chain between the Beginning and the Word, and which abuse His obedience as they think good. But what need is there to linger over this idle talk? Any one can see that even at that time with reference to which S. Paul says that He became obedient (and he tells us that He became obedient in this wise, namely, by becoming for our sakes flesh, and a servant, and a curse, and sin)—even then, I say, the Lord of glory, Who despised the shame and embraced suffering in the flesh, did not abandon His free will, saying as He does, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up; and again, No man takes My life from Me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; and when those who were armed with swords and staves drew near to Him on the night before His Passion, He caused them all to go backward by saying I am He, and again, when the dying thief besought Him to remember him, He showed His universal sovereignty by saying, Today shall you be with Me in Paradise . If then not even in the time of His Passion He is separated from His authority, where can heresy possibly discern the subordination to authority of the King of glory?
1.c. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 2.15
He goes on to add, “Neither on the same level with the Father, nor connumerated with the Father (for God over all is one and only Father), nor on an equality with the Son, for the Son is only-begotten, having none begotten with Him”. Well, for my own part, if he had only added to his previous statement the remark that the Holy Ghost is not the Father of the Son, I should even then have thought it idle for him to linger over what no one ever doubted, and forbid people to form notions of Him which not even the most witless would entertain. But since he endeavours to establish his impiety by irrelevant and unconnected statements, imagining that by denying the Holy Spirit to be the Father of the Only-begotten he makes out that He is subject and subordinate, I therefore made mention of these words, as a proof of the folly of the man who imagines that he is demonstrating the Spirit to be subject to the Father on the ground that the Spirit is not Father of the Only-begotten. For what compels the conclusion, that if He be not Father, He must be subject? If it had been demonstrated that “Father” and “despot” were terms identical in meaning, it would no doubt have followed that, as absolute sovereignty was part of the conception of the Father, we should affirm that the Spirit is subject to Him Who surpassed Him in respect of authority. But if by “Father” is implied merely His relation to the Son, and no conception of absolute sovereignty or authority is involved by the use of the word, how does it follow, from the fact that the Spirit is not the Father of the Son, that the Spirit is subject to the Father?
1.d. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, I.33
In our view, the ‘native dignity’ of God consists in godhead itself, wisdom, power, goodness, judgment, justice, strength, mercy, truth, creativeness, domination, invisibility, everlastingness, and every other quality named in the inspired writings to magnify his glory; and we affirm that everyone of them is properly and inalienably found in the Son, recognizing difference only in respect of unoriginateness; and even that we do not exclude the Son from, according to all its meanings
1.e. Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians, 3.4
And so, since they are one, and the Godhead itself one, the same things are said of the Son, which are said of the Father, except His being said to be Father :— for instance , that He is God, ‘And the Word was God John 1:1;’ Almighty, ‘Thus says He which was and is and is to come, the Almighty Revelation 1:8;’Lord, ‘One Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 8:6;’ that He is Light, ‘I am the Light John 8:12;’ that He wipes out sins, ‘that you may know,’ He says, ‘that the Son of man has power upon earth to forgive sins Luke 5:24;’ and so with other attributes. For ‘all things,’ says the Son Himself, ‘whatsoever the Father has, are Mine;’ and again, ‘And Mine are Yours.’
1.f. Athanasius, De Synodis, 3.49
This is why He has equality with the Father by titles expressive of unity, and what is said of the Father, is said in Scripture of the Son also, all but His being called Father…. And in a word, all that you find said of the Father, so much will you find said of the Son, all but His being Father, as has been said.
[B. B. Warfield, “Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity”
It may be very natural to see in the designation “Son” an intimation of subordination and derivation of Being, and it may not be difficult to ascribe a similar connotation to the term “Spirit.” But it is quite certain that this was not the denotation of either term in the Semitic consciousness, which underlies the phraseology of Scripture; and it may even be thought doubtful whether it was included even in their remoter suggestions. What underlies the conception of sonship in Scriptural speech is just “likeness”; whatever the father is that the son is also. The emphatic application of the term “Son” to one of the Trinitarian Persons, accordingly, asserts rather His equality with the Father than His subordination to the Father; and if there is any implication of derivation in it, it would appear to be very distant. The adjunction of the adjective “only begotten” (Jn. i. 14; iii. 16-18; I Jn. iv. 9) need add only the idea of uniqueness, not of derivation (Ps. xxii. 20; xxv. 16; xxxv. 17; Wisd. vii. 22 m.); and even such a phrase as “God only begotten” (Jn. i. 18 m.) may contain no implication of derivation, but only of absolutely unique consubstantiality; as also such a phrase as “the first-begotten of all creation” (Col. i. 15) may convey no intimation of coming into being, but merely assert priority of existence. In like manner, the designation “Spirit of God” or “Spirit of Jehovah,” which meets us frequently in the Old Testament, certainly does not convey the idea there either of derivation or of subordination, but is just the executive name of God — the designation of God from the point of view of His activity – and imports accordingly identity with God; and there is no reason to suppose that, in passing from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the term has taken on an essentially different meaning. It happens, oddly enough, moreover, that we have in the New Testament itself what amounts almost to formal definitions of the two terms “Son” and “Spirit,” and in both cases the stress is laid on the notion of equality or sameness. In Jn. v.18 we read: ‘On this account, therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill him, because, not only did he break the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God.’ The point lies, of course, in the adjective “own.” Jesus was, rightly, understood to call God “his own Father,” that is, to use the terms “Father” and “Son” not in a merely figurative sense, as when Israel was called God’s son, but in the real sense. And this was understood to be claiming to be all that God is. To be the Son of God in any sense was to be like God in that sense; to be God’s own Son was to be exactly like God, to be “equal with God.” Similarly, we read in I Cor. ii. 10,11:’ For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who of men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God.’ Here the Spirit appears as the substrate of the Divine self-consciousness, the principle of God’s knowledge of Himself: He is, in a word, just God Himself in the innermost essence of His Being. As the spirit of man is the seat of human life, the very life of man itself, so the Spirit of God is His very life-element. How can He be supposed, then, to be subordinate to God, or to derive His Being from God? If, however, the subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father in modes of subsistence and their derivation from the Father are not implicates of their designation as Son and Spirit, it will be hard to find in the New Testament compelling evidence of their subordination and derivation.]
(2) Prior to Creation and Incarnation, in eternity past, the Son was in obedience to the Father’s authority in the “eternal councils of the Trinity”.
“Therefore at least seven passages of Scripture indicate that prior to creation the Son was eternally subject to the planning and authority of the Father with regard to our salvation […].
But both of these [Ps. 2:7 and Phil. 2:8] have also been commonly understood to refer to a new kind of obedience that Jesus entered into as the God-man, an “Incarnational” obedience that was consistent with the eternal pattern of obedience that he had shown to his Father for all eternity. Neither of these texts explicitly says that the Son for the first time became obedient. Neither text says that the Son had not previously been obedient to the Father.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
2.a. Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 8.18-20
For through Him [the Son] comes every succour to our souls, and it is in accordance with each kind of care that an appropriate title has been devised. So when He presents to Himself the blameless soul, not having spot or wrinkle, Ephesians 5:29 like a pure maiden, He is called Bridegroom, but whenever He receives one in sore plight from the devil’s evil strokes, healing it in the heavy infirmity of its sins, He is named Physician. And shall this His care for us degrade to meanness our thoughts of Him? Or, on the contrary, shall it smite us with amazement at once at the mighty power and love to man of the Saviour, in that He both endured to suffer with us in our infirmities, and was able to come down to our weakness? For not heaven and earth and the great seas, not the creatures that live in the water and on dry land, not plants, and stars, and air, and seasons, not the vast variety in the order of the universe, so well sets forth the excellency of His might as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death, to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering. The apostle, it is true, says, In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Romans 8:37 But in a phrase of this kind there is no suggestion of any lowly and subordinate ministry, but rather of the succour rendered in the power of his might. Ephesians 6:10 For He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity, and made vessels meet for the Master’s use 2 Timothy 2:21 us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control. Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:12-13 We must not, however, regard the œconomy through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father.
It will follow that we should next in order point out the character of the provision of blessings bestowed on us by the Father through him. Inasmuch as all created nature, both this visible world and all that is conceived of in the mind, cannot hold together without the care and providence of God, the Creator Word, the Only begotten God, apportioning His succour according to the measure of the needs of each, distributes mercies various and manifold on account of the many kinds and characters of the recipients of His bounty, but appropriate to the necessities of individual requirements. Those that are confined in the darkness of ignorance He enlightens: for this reason He is true Light. […]We are not to suppose that He used assistance in His action, or yet was entrusted with the ministry of each individual work by detailed commission, a condition distinctly menial and quite inadequate to the divine dignity. Rather was the Word full of His Father’s excellences; He shines forth from the Father, and does all things according to the likeness of Him that begot Him. For if in essence He is without variation, so also is He without variation in power. And of those whose power is equal, the operation also is in all ways equal. And Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24[….]
When then He says, I have not spoken of myself, John 12:49 and again, As the Father said unto me, so I speak, John 12:50 and The word which you hear is not mine, but [the Father’s] which sent me, John 14:24 and in another place, As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do, John 14:31 it is not because He lacks deliberate purpose or power of initiation, nor yet because He has to wait for the preconcerted key-note, that he employs language of this kind. His object is to make it plain that His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father. Do not then let us understand by what is called a commandment a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do. Let us rather, in a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son. […]And are we to suppose that the wisdom of God, the Maker of all creation, He who is eternally perfect, who is wise, without a teacher, the Power of God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, needs piecemeal instruction to mark out the manner and measure of His operations?
2.b. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, Bk. 5, Ch. XIV.164
But if they think of this as the subjection of the Son, namely, that the Father makes all things in union with His will, let them learn that this is really a proof of inseparable power. For the unity of Their will is one that began not in time, but ever existed. But where there is a constant unity of will, there can be no weakness of temporal subjection. For if He were made subject through His nature, He would always remain in subjection; but since He is said to be made subject in time, that subjection must be part of an assumed office and not of an everlasting weakness: especially as the eternal Power of God cannot change His state for a time, neither can the right of ruling fall to the Father in time. For if the Son ever will be changed in such wise as to be made subject in His Godhead, then also must God the Father, if ever He shall gain more power, and have the Son in subjection to Himself in His Godhead, be considered now in the meantime inferior according to your explanation.
2.c. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, 5.14.178
As, then, He was made sin and a curse not on His own account but on ours, so He became subject in us not for His own sake but for ours, being not in subjection in His eternal Nature, nor accursed in His eternal Nature. “For cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Cursed He was, for He bore our curses; in subjection, also, for He took upon Him our subjection, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, not in the glory of God; so that whilst he makes Himself a partaker of our weakness in the flesh, He makes us partakers of the divine Nature in His power. But neither in one nor the other have we any natural fellowship with the heavenly Generation of Christ, nor is there any subjection of the Godhead in Christ. But as the Apostle has said that on Him through that flesh which is the pledge of our salvation, we sit in heavenly places, though certainly not sitting ourselves, so also He is said to be subject in us through the assumption of our nature.
2.d. Chrysostom, Homilies, Phillipians 2
Ver. 9-11. “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name: that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Let us say against the heretics, If this is spoken of one who was not incarnate, if of God the Word, how did He highly exalt Him? Was it as if He gave Him something more than He had before? He would then have been imperfect in this point, and would have been made perfect for our sakes. For if He had not done good deeds to us, He would not have obtained that honor! “And gave Him the Name.” See, He had not even a name, as you say! But how, if He received it as His due, is He found here to have received it by grace, and as a gift? And that “the Name which is above every name”: and of what kind, let us see, is the Name? “That at the Name of Jesus,” saith He, “every knee should bow.” They (the heretics) explain name by glory. This glory then is above all glory, and this glory is in short that all worship Him! But ye hold yourselves far off from the greatness of God, who think that ye know God, as He knoweth Himself, and from this it is plain, how far off ye are from right thoughts of God. And this is plain from hence. Is this, tell me, glory? Therefore before men were created, before the angels or the archangels, He was not in glory. If this be the glory which is above every glory, (for this is the name that is “above every name,”) though He were in glory before, yet was He in glory inferior to this. It was for this then that He made the things that are, that He might be raised to glory, not from His own goodness, but because He required glory from us! See ye not their folly? see ye not their impiety?
Now if they had said this of Him that was incarnate, there had been reason, for God the Word allows that this be said of His flesh. It touches not His divine nature, but has to do altogether with the dispensation.
2.e. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 30.6
The same consideration applies to another passage, “He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered,
“and to His “strong crying and tears,” and His “Entreaties,” and His “being heard,” and His” Reverence,” all of which He wonderfully wrought out, like a drama whose plot was devised on our behalf. For in His character of the Word He was neither obedient nor disobedient. For such expressions belong to servants, and inferiors, and the one applies to the better sort of them, while the other belongs to those who deserve punishment. But, in the character of the Form of a Servant, He condescends to His fellow servants, nay, to His servants, and takes upon Him a strange form, bearing all me and mine in Himself, that in Himself He may exhaust the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists of earth; and that I may partake of His nature by the blending.
[Herman Witsius, On the Economy of the Covenants, II.iii.6-7
The Son, as precisely God, neither was, nor could be subject to any law, to any superior; that being contrary to the nature of God-head, which we now suppose the Son to have common with the Father. ‘He thought it no robbery to be equal with God’. No subjection, nothing but the high super-eminence can be conceived of the Deity. In this respect he is King of kings and Lord of lords. […] Nor is it any objection against this, that the Son, from eternity, undertook for men, and thereby came under a certain peculiar relation to those that were to be saved. For, as that engagement was nothing but the most glorious act of the divine will of the Son, doing what none but God could do, it implies therefore no manner of subjection: it only imports, that there should be a time, when that divine person, on assuming flesh, would appear in the form of a servant. And by undertaking to perform this obedience, in the human nature, in the proper time, the Son, as God, did no more subject himself to the Father, than the Father with respect to the Son, to the owing that reward of debt, which he promised him a right to claim. All these things are to be conceived of in a manner becoming of God.]
(3) The Father Created through the Son, therefore the Son was eternally in submission to the authority of the Father.
“The Son has always been subject to the authority of the Father: — In creation, as the Father created through the Son. The Father planned and directed and the Son carried out the will of the Father.”
“This is an activity completely distinct from coming to earth to earn our salvation. Yet in this activity the Father is also the one who initiates and leads, and the Son is the one who carries out the will of the Father[…].” (“Biblical Evidence”)
3.a. Gregory of Nyssa, On Not Three Gods
Thus, since among men the action of each in the same pursuits is discriminated, they are properly called many, since each of them is separated from the others within his own environment, according to the special character of his operation. But in the case of the Divine nature we do not similarly learn that the Father does anything by Himself in which the Son does not work conjointly, or again that the Son has any special operation apart from the Holy Spirit; but every operation which extends from God to the Creation, and is named according to our variable conceptions of it, has its origin from the Father, and proceeds through the Son, and is perfected in the Holy Spirit. For this reason the name derived from the operation is not divided with regard to the number of those who fulfil it, because the action of each concerning anything is not separate and peculiar, but whatever comes to pass, in reference either to the acts of His providence for us, or to the government and constitution of the universe, comes to pass by the action of the Three, yet what does come to pass is not three things. We may understand the meaning of this from one single instance. From Him, I say, Who is the chief source of gifts, all things which have shared in this grace have obtained their life. When we inquire, then, whence this good gift came to us, we find by the guidance of the Scriptures that it was from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet although we set forth Three Persons and three names, we do not consider that we have had bestowed upon us three lives, one from each Person separately; but the same life is wrought in us by the Father, and prepared by the Son, and depends on the will of the Holy Spirit. Since then the Holy Trinity fulfils every operation in a manner similar to that of which I have spoken, not by separate action according to the number of the Persons, but so that there is one motion and disposition of the good will which is communicated from the Father through the Son to the Spirit (for as we do not call those whose operation gives one life three Givers of life, neither do we call those who are contemplated in one goodness three Good beings, nor speak of them in the plural by any of their other attributes); so neither can we call those who exercise this Divine and superintending power and operation towards ourselves and all creation, conjointly and inseparably, by their mutual action, three Gods.
[…]Since, then, the character of the superintending and beholding power is one, in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as has been said in our previous argument, issuing from the Father as from a spring, brought into operation by the Son, and perfecting its grace by the power of the Spirit; and since no operation is separated in respect of the Persons, being fulfilled by each individually apart from that which is joined with Him in our contemplation, but all providence, care, and superintendence of all, alike of things in the sensible creation and of those of supramundane nature, and that power which preserves the things which are, and corrects those which are amiss, and instructs those which are ordered aright, is one, and not three, being, indeed, directed by the Holy Trinity, yet not severed by a threefold division according to the number of the Persons contemplated in the Faith, so that each of the acts, contemplated by itself, should be the work of the Father alone, or of the Son peculiarly, or of the Holy Spirit separately
3.b. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 2.4
By the term “of whom” they wish to indicate the Creator; by the term “through whom”, the subordinate agent or instrument; by the term “in whom”, or “in which”, they mean to show the time or place. The object of all this is that the Creator of the universe may be regarded as of no higher dignity than an instrument, and that the Holy Spirit may appear to be adding to existing things nothing more than the contribution derived from place or time.
3.c. Athanasius, Against the Gentiles, 46.4
Wherefore He also persuades us and says , He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created; as the illustrious Moses also at the beginning of his account of Creation confirms what we say by his narrative Genesis 1:20, saying: and God said, let us make man in our image and after our likeness: for also when He was carrying out the creation of the heaven and earth and all things, the Father said to Him Genesis 1:6-11, Let the heaven be made, and let the waters be gathered together and let the dry land appear, and let the earth bring forth herb and every green thing: so that one must convict Jews also of not genuinely attending to the Scriptures. 5. For one might ask them to whom was God speaking, to use the imperative mood? If He were commanding and addressing the things He was creating, the utterance would be redundant, for they were not yet in being, but were about to be made; but no one speaks to what does not exist, nor addresses to what is not yet made a command to be made. For if God were giving a command to the things that were to be, He must have said, Be made, heaven, and be made, earth, and come forth, green herb, and be created, O man. But in fact He did not do so; but He gives the command thus: Let us make man, and let the green herb come forth. By which God is proved to be speaking about them to some one at hand: it follows then that some one was with Him to Whom He spoke when He made all things. 6. Who then could it be, save His Word? For to whom could God be said to speak, except His Word? Or who was with Him when He made all created Existence, except His Wisdom, which says Proverbs 8:27: When He was making the heaven and the earth I was present with Him? But in the mention of heaven and earth, all created things in heaven and earth are included as well. 7. But being present with Him as His Wisdom and His Word, looking at the Father He fashioned the Universe, and organised it and gave it order; and, as He is the power of the Father, He gave all things strength to be, as the Saviour says : What things soever I see the Father doing, I also do in like manner. And His holy disciples teach that all things were made through Him and unto Him; 8. and, being the good Offspring of Him that is good, and true Son, He is the Father’s Power and Wisdom and Word, not being so by participation , nor as if these qualifies were imparted to Him from without, as they are to those who partake of Him and are made wise by Him, and receive power and reason in Him; but He is the very Wisdom, very Word, and very own Power of the Father, very Light, very Truth, very Righteousness, very Virtue, and in truth His express Image, and Brightness, and Resemblance.
3.d. Athanasius, Against the Arians, 2.18.31
But the sentiment of Truth in this matter must not be hidden, but must have high utterance. For the Word of God was not made for us, but rather we for Him, and ‘in Him all things were created Colossians 1:16.’ Nor for that we were weak, was He strong and made by the Father alone, that He might frame us by means of Him as an instrument; perish the thought! It is not so. For though it had seemed good to God not to make things originate, still had the Word been no less with God, and the Father in Him. At the same time, things originate could not without the Word be brought to be; hence they were made through Him—and reasonably. For since the Word is the Son of God by nature proper to His essence, and is from Him, and in Him, as He said Himself, the creatures could not have come to be, except through Him. For as the light enlightens all things by its radiance, and without its radiance nothing would be illuminated, so also the Father, as by a hand, in the Word wrought all things, and without Him makes nothing. For instance, God said, as Moses relates, ‘Let there be light,’ and ‘Let the waters be gathered together,’ and ‘let the dry land appear,’ and ‘Let Us make man ;’ as also Holy David in the Psalm, ‘He spoke and they were made; He commanded and they were created. ‘ And He spoke , not that, as in the case of men, some under-worker might hear, and learning the will of Him who spoke might go away and do it; for this is what is proper to creatures, but it is unseemly so to think or speak of the Word. For the Word of God is Framer and Maker, and He is the Father’s Will. Hence it is that divine Scripture says not that one heard and answered, as to the manner or nature of the things which He wished made; but God only said, ‘Let it become,’ and he adds, ‘And it became;’ for what He thought good and counselled, that immediately the Word began to do and to finish. For when God commands others, whether the Angels, or converses with Moses, or commands Abraham, then the hearer answers; and the one says, ‘Whereby shall I know Genesis 15:8?’ and the other, ‘Send someone else Exodus 4:13;’ and again, ‘If they ask me, what is His Name, what shall I say to them ?’ and the Angel said to Zacharias, ‘Thus says the Lord ;’ and he asked the Lord, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem.’ and waits to hear good words and comfortable. For each of these has the Mediator Word, and the Wisdom of God which makes known the will of the Father. But when that Word Himself works and creates, then there is no questioning and answer, for the Father is in Him and the Word in the Father; but it suffices to will, and the work is done; so that the word ‘He said’ is a token of the will for our sake, and ‘It was so,’ denotes the work which is done through the Word and the Wisdom, in which Wisdom also is the Will of the Father. And ‘God said’ is explained in ‘the Word,’ for, he says, ‘You have made all things in Wisdom;’ and ‘By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made fast.’ and ‘There is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him. ‘
(4) The Father sent the Son, therefore the Son was eternally in submission to the authority of the Father.
“The Father sending the Son into the world implies an authority that the Father had prior to the Son’s humbling himself and becoming a man. This is because to have the authority to send someone means to have a greater authority than the one who is sent. He was first “sent” as Son, and then he obeyed and humbled himself and came. By that action he showed that he was subject to the authority of the Father before he came to earth.”
“But if one sends and the other is sent, then one commands and the other obeys. Yes, the Son represents the Father, but to be sent by the Father is also to be subject to the Father’s authority.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
4.a. Augustine, On the Trinity, 2.5.7
But being proved wrong so far, men betake themselves to saying, that he who sends is greater than he who is sent: therefore the Father is greater than the Son, because the Son continually speaks of Himself as being sent by the Father; and the Father is also greater than the Holy Spirit, because Jesus has said of the Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name; and the Holy Spirit is less than both, because both the Father sends Him
4.b. Augustine, On the Trinity, 2.5.9
He will reply, I suppose, if he has a right sense in these things, Because the will of the Father and the Son is one, and their working indivisible. In like manner, then, let him understand the incarnation and nativity of the Virgin, wherein the Son is understood as sent, to have been wrought by one and the same operation of the Father and of the Son indivisibly; the Holy Spirit certainly not being thence excluded, of whom it is expressly said, She was found with child by the Holy Ghost. For perhaps our meaning will be more plainly unfolded, if we ask in what manner God sent His Son. He commanded that He should come, and He, complying with the commandment, came. Did He then request, or did He only suggest? But whichever of these it was, certainly it was done by a word, and the Word of God is the Son of God Himself. Wherefore, since the Father sent Him by a word, His being sent was the work of both the Father and His Word; therefore the same Son was sent by the Father and the Son, because the Son Himself is the Word of the Father. For who would embrace so impious an opinion as to think the Father to have uttered a word in time, in order that the eternal Son might thereby be sent and might appear in the flesh in the fullness of time? But assuredly it was in that Word of God itself which was in the beginning with God and was God, namely, in the wisdom itself of God, apart from time, at what time that wisdom must needs appear in the flesh. Therefore, since without any commencement of time, the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, it was in the Word itself without any time, at what time the Word was to be made flesh and dwell among us. And when this fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, that is, made in time, that the Incarnate Word might appear to men; while it was in that Word Himself, apart from time, at what time this was to be done; for the order of times is in the eternal wisdom of God without time. Since, then, that the Son should appear in the flesh was wrought by both the Father and the Son, it is fitly said that He who appeared in that flesh was sent, and that He who did not appear in it, sent Him; because those things which are transacted outwardly before the bodily eyes have their existence from the inward structure (apparatu) of the spiritual nature, and on that account are fitly said to be sent. Further, that form of man which He took is the person of the Son, not also of the Father; on which account the invisible Father, together with the Son, who with the Father is invisible, is said to have sent the same Son by making Him visible. But if He became visible in such way as to cease to be invisible with the Father, that is, if the substance of the invisible Word were turned by a change and transition into a visible creature, then the Son would be so understood to be sent by the Father, that He would be found to be only sent; not also, with the Father, sending. But since He so took the form of a servant, as that the unchangeable form of God remained, it is clear that that which became apparent in the Son was done by the Father and the Son not being apparent; that is, that by the invisible Father, with the invisible Son, the same Son Himself was sent so as to be visible. Why, therefore, does He say, Neither came I of myself? This, we may now say, is said according to the form of a servant, in the same way as it is said, I judge no man.
4.c. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 29.18
But in opposition to all these, do you reckon up for me the expressions which make for your ignorant arrogance, such as My God and your God, or greater, or created, or made, or sanctified; Add, if you like, Servant Philippians 2:7 and Obedient Philippians 2:8 and Gave John 1:12 and Learnt, Hebrews 5:8 and was commanded, was sent, can do nothing of Himself, either say, or judge, or give, or will. And further these—His ignorance, Mark 13:32subjection, 1 Corinthians 15:28 prayer, Luke 6:12 asking, John 14:16 increase, Luke 2:52 being made perfect. And if you like even more humble than these; such as speak of His sleeping, hungering, being in an agony, Luke 22:44 and fearing; Hebrews 5:7 or perhaps you would make even His Cross and Death a matter of reproach to Him. His Resurrection and Ascension I fancy you will leave to me, for in these is found something to support our position. A good many other things too you might pick up, if you desire to put together that equivocal and intruded god of yours, Who to us is True God, and equal to the Father. For every one of these points, taken separately, may very easily, if we go through them one by one, be explained to you in the most reverent sense, and the stumbling-block of the letter be cleaned away— that is, if your stumbling at it be honest, and not wilfully malicious. To give you the explanation in one sentence. What is lofty you are to apply to the Godhead, and to that Nature in Him which is superior to sufferings and incorporeal; but all that is lowly to the composite condition of Him who for your sakes made Himself of no reputation and was Incarnate— yes, for it is no worse thing to say, was made Man, and afterwards was also exalted. The result will be that you will abandon these carnal and groveling doctrines, and learn to be more sublime, and to ascend with His Godhead, and you will not remain permanently among the things of sight, but will rise up with Him into the world of thought, and come to know which passages refer to His Nature, and which to His assumption of Human Nature.
(5) That the incarnate Son was in submission to the will of the Father on earth is “part of a larger pattern” of the Son’s eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
“I have put the verses here for the sake of completeness, and because I see them as part of a larger pattern, but I realize that those on the other side of this debate would agree that these verses teach that Jesus was subject to the Father’s authority while on earth.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
5.a. Chrysostom, Homilies, on 1 Corinthians 11:3
“But the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Here the heretics rush upon us with a certain declaration of inferiority, which out of these words they contrive against the Son. But they stumble against themselves. For if “the man be the head of the woman,” and the head be of the same substance with the body, and “the head of Christ is God,” the Son is of the same substance with the Father. “Nay,” say they, “it is not His being of another substance which we intend to show from hence, but that He is under subjection.” What then are we to say to this? In the first place, when anything lowly is said of him conjoined as He is with the Flesh, there is no disparagement of the Godhead in what is said, the Economy admitting the expression…
5.b. Augustine, Tractates on John, XCIX, Ch. XVI.13
And it is on account of this one personality as consisting of two substances, the divine and the human, that He sometimes speaks in accordance with that wherein He is God, as when He says, “I and my Father are one;” and sometimes in accordance with His manhood, as in the words, “For the Father is greater than I;” in accordance with which also we have understood those words of His that are at present under discussion, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge.”
5.c. Augustine, On the Trinity, 2.1.2
Wherefore, although we hold most firmly, concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, what may be called the canonical rule, as it is both disseminated through the Scriptures, and has been demonstrated by learned and Catholic handlers of the same Scriptures, namely, that the Son of God is both understood to be equal to the Father according to the form of God in which He is, and less than the Father according to the form of a servant which He took; in which form He was found to be not only less than the Father, but also less than the Holy Spirit; and not only so, but less even than Himself—not than Himself who was, but than Himself who is; because, by taking the form of a servant, He did not lose the form of God, as the testimonies of the Scriptures taught us, to which we have referred in the former book.
5.d. Augustine, On the Trinity, 1.11.22
Wherefore, having mastered this rule for interpreting the Scriptures concerning the Son of God, that we are to distinguish in them what relates to the form of God, in which He is equal to the Father, and what to the form of a servant which He took, in which He is less than the Father; we shall not be disquieted by apparently contrary and mutually repugnant sayings of the sacred books. For both the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the form of God, are equal to the Father, because neither of them is a creature, as we have already shown: but according to the form of a servant He is less than the Father, because He Himself has said, My Father is greater than I; and He is less than Himself, because it is said of Him, He emptied Himself; and He is less than the Holy Spirit, because He Himself says, Whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven Him. And in the Spirit too He wrought miracles, saying: But if I with the Spirit of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God has come upon you. And in Isaiah He says—in the lesson which He Himself read in the synagogue, and showed without a scruple of doubt to be fulfilled concerning Himself—The Spirit of the Lord God, He says, is upon me: because He has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, etc.: for the doing of which things He therefore declares Himself to be sent, because the Spirit of God is upon Him. According to the form of God, all things were made by Him; according to the form of a servant, He was Himself made of a woman, made under the law. According to the form of God, He and the Father are one; according to the form of a servant, He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. According to the form of God, As the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself; according to the form of a servant, His soul is sorrowful even unto death; and, O my Father, He says, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. According to the form of God, He is the True God, and eternal life; according to the form of a servant, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. — 23. According to the form of God, all things that the Father has are His, and All mine, He says, are Yours, and Yours are mine; according to the form of a servant, the doctrine is not His own, but His that sent Him.
5.e. Augustine, On the Holy Trinity, 9.10
And again, “The head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.” But again, if God is only all three together, how can God be the head of Christ, that is, the Trinity the head of Christ, since Christ is in the Trinity in order that it may be the Trinity? Is that which is the Father with the Son, the head of that which is the Son alone? For the Father with the Son is God, but the Son alone is Christ: especially since it is the Word already made flesh that speaks; and according to this His humiliation also, the Father is greater than He, as He says, “for my Father is greater than I;” so that the very being of God, which is one to Him with the Father, is itself the head of the man who is mediator, which He is alone.
5.f. Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians, 3.26.29
Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,— it contains a double account of the Saviour; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father’s Word and Radiance and Wisdom ; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary Bearer of God , and was made man. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me .’ But lest I should exceed in writing, by bringing together all the passages on the subject, let it suffice to mention as a specimen, first John saying, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made not one thing ;’ next, And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of one Only-begotten from the Father ;’ and next Paul writing, Who being in the form of God, thought it not a prize to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion like a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross .’
5.g. Ambrose, On the Christian Faith, Book 4.31-33
Let God, then, be the Head of Christ, with regard to the conditions of Manhood. Observe that the Scripture says not that the Father is the Head of Christ; but that God is the Head of Christ, because the Godhead, as the creating power, is the Head of the being created. And well said [the Apostle] “the Head of Christ is God;” to bring before our thoughts both the Godhead of Christ and His flesh, implying, that is to say, the Incarnation in the mention of the name of Christ, and, in that of the name of God, oneness of Godhead and grandeur of sovereignty.
But the saying, that in respect of the Incarnation God is the Head of Christ, leads on to the principle that Christ, as Incarnate, is the Head of man, as the Apostle has clearly expressed in another passage, where he says: “Since man is the head of woman, even as Christ is the Head of the Church;” whilst in the words following he has added: “Who gave Himself for her.” After His Incarnation, then, is Christ the head of man, for His self-surrender issued from His Incarnation.
The Head of Christ, then, is God, in so far as His form of a servant, that is, of man, not of God, is considered. But it is nothing against the Son of God, if, in accordance with the reality of His flesh, He is like unto men, whilst in regard of His Godhead He is one with the Father, for by this account of Him we do not take aught from His sovereignty, but attribute compassion to Him.
5.h. Chrysostom, Homilies, John 5:18-21
Ver. 18. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
But they who will not receive these words in a right mind assert, that “Christ made not Himself equal to God, but that the Jews suspected this.” Come then let us go over what has been said from the beginning. Tell me, did the Jews persecute Him, or did they not? It is clear to every one that they did. Did they persecute Him for this or for something else? It is again allowed that it was for this. Did He then break the Sabbath, or did He not? Against the fact that He did, no one can have anything to say. Did He call God His Father, or did He not call Him so? This too is true. Then the rest also follows by the same consequence; for as to call God His Father, to break the Sabbath, and to be persecuted by the Jews for the former and more especially for the latter reason, belonged not to a false imagination, but to actual fact, so to make Himself equal to God was a declaration of the same meaning.
And this one may see more clearly from what He had before said, for “My Father worketh, and I work,” is the expression of One declaring Himself equal to God. For in these words He has marked no difference. He said not, “He worketh, and I minister,” but, “As He worketh, so work I”; and hath declared absolute Equality.
[…]”But,” saith some one, “to remove this very thought Christ has added,
Ver. 19. “The Son can do nothing of Himself.'”
Man! He doth the contrary. He saith this not to take away, but to confirm, His Equality. But attend carefully, for this is no common question. The expression “of Himself” is found in many places of Scripture, with reference both to Christ and to the Holy Ghost, and we must learn the force of the expression, that we may not fall into the greatest errors; for if one take it separately by itself in the way in which it is obvious to take it, consider how great an absurdity will follow. He said not that He could do some things of Himself and that others He could not, but universally,
[4.] “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” I ask then my opponent, “Can the Son do nothing of Himself, tell me?” If he reply, “that He can do nothing,” we will say, that He hath done of Himself the very greatest of all goods. As Paul cries aloud, saying, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6, 7.) And again, Christ Himself in another place saith, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again”: and, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (c. x. 18.) Seest thou that He hath power over life and death, and that He wrought of Himself so mighty a Dispensation? And why speak I concerning Christ, when even we, than whom nothing can be meaner, do many things of ourselves? Of ourselves we choose vice, of ourselves we go after virtue, and if we do it not of ourselves, and not having power, we shall neither suffer hell if we do wrong, nor enjoy the Kingdom if we do right.
What then meaneth, “Can do nothing of Himself”? That He can do nothing in opposition to the Father, nothing alien from, nothing strange to Him, which is especially the assertion of One declaring an Equality and entire agreement.
But wherefore said He not, that “He doeth nothing contrary,” instead of, “He cannot do”? It was that from this again He might show the invariableness and exactness of the Equality, for the expression imputes not weakness to Him, but even shows His great power; since in another place Paul saith of the Father, “That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18): and again, “If we deny Him — He abideth faithful,” for “He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:12, 13.) And in truth this expression, “impossible,” is not declaratory of weakness, but power, power unspeakable. For what He saith is of this kind, that “that Essence admitteth not such things as these.” For just as when we also say, “it is impossible for God to do wrong,” we do not impute to Him any weakness, but confess in Him an unutterable power; so when He also saith, “I can of Mine own Self do nothing” (v. 30), His meaning is, that “it is impossible, nature admits not, that I should do anything contrary to the Father.” And that you may learn that this is really what is said, let us, going over what follows, see whether Christ agreeth with what is said by us, or among you. Thou sayest, that the expression does away with His Power and His proper Authority, and shows His might to be but weak; but I say, that this proves His Equality, His unvarying Likeness, (to the Father,) and the fact that all is done as it were by one Will and Power and Might. Let us then enquire of Christ Himself, and see by what He next saith whether He interpreteth these words according to thy supposition or according to ours. What then saith He?
“For what things soever the Father doeth these also doeth the Son likewise.”
Seest thou how He hath taken away your assertion by the root, and confirmed what is said by us? since, if Christ doeth nothing of Himself, neither will the Father do anything of Himself, if so be that Christ doeth all things in like manner to Him. If this be not the case, another strange conclusion will follow. For He said not, that “whatsoever things He saw the Father do, He did,” but, “except He see the Father doing anything, He doeth it not”; extending His words to all time; now He will, according to you, be continually learning the same things. Seest thou how exalted is the idea, and that the very humility of the expression compelleth even the most shameless and unwilling to avoid groveling thoughts, and such as are unsuited to His dignity? For who so wretched and miserable as to assert, that the Son learneth day by day what He must do? and how can that be true, “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail”? (Psalm 102:27), or that other, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made” (c. i. 3); if the Father doeth certain things, and the Son seeth and imitateth Him? Seest thou that from what was asserted above, and from what was said afterwards, proof is given of His independent Power?
[…]Ver. 21. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”
Yet “can do nothing of Himself” is opposed to “whom He will”: since if He quickeneth “whom He will,” He can do something “of Himself,” (for to “will” implies power,) but if He “can do nothing of Himself,” then He can not “quicken whom He will.” For the expression, “as the Father raiseth up,” showeth unvarying resemblance in Power, and “whom He will,” Equality of Authority. Seest thou therefore that “cannot do anything of Himself” is the expression of One not taking away His (own) authority, but declaring the unvarying resemblance of His Power and Will (to those of the Father)?
5.i. Leo The Great, Sermon XXIII, On the Feast of Nativity, III.2
The Arians could not comprehend the union of God and man. This union, dearly beloved, whereby the Creator is joined to the creature, Arian blindness could not see with the eyes of intelligence, but, not believing that the Only-begotten of God was of the same glory and substance with the Father, spoke of the Son’s Godhead as inferior, drawing its arguments from those words which are to be referred to the “form of a slave,” in respect of which, in order to show that it belongs to no other or different person in Himself, the same Son of God with the same form, says, “The Father is greater than I ,” just as He says with the same form, “I and my Father are one .” For in “the form of a slave,” which He took at the end of the ages for our restoration, He is inferior to the Father: but in the form of God, in which He was before the ages, He is equal to the Father. In His human humiliation He was “made of a woman, made under the Law :” in His Divine majesty He abides the Word of God, “through whom all things were made .” Accordingly, He Who in the form of God made man, in the form of a slave was made man. For both natures retain their own proper character without loss: and as the form of God did not do away with the form of a slave, so the form of a slave did not impair the form of God . And so the mystery of power united to weakness, in respect of the same human nature, allows the Son to be called inferior to the Father: but the Godhead, which is One in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, excludes all notion of inequality. For the eternity of the Trinity has nothing temporal, nothing dissimilar in nature: Its will is one, Its substance identical, Its power equal, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God ; because it is a true and inseparable unity, where there can be no diversity. Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was His own, complete in what was ours. And by “ours” we mean what the Creator formed in us from the beginning, and what He undertook to repair. For what the deceiver brought in, and man deceived committed, had no trace in the Saviour; nor because He partook of man’s weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults. He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine: for that “emptying of Himself,” whereby the Invisible made Himself visible, was the bending down of pity, not the failing of power.
5.j. Leo The Great, Sermon LXXVII, Whitsuntine, III.5
Christ as Man is less than the Father, as God co-equal.
The Lord Jesus does, indeed, say to His disciples, as was read in the Gospel lection, “if ye loved Me, ye would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I ;” but those ears, which have often heard the words, “I and the Father are One ,” and “He that sees Me, sees the Father also ,” accept the saying without supposing a difference of Godhead or understanding it of that Essence which they know to be co-eternal and of the same nature with the Father. Man’s uplifting, therefore, in the Incarnation of the Word, is commended to the holy Apostles also, and they, who were distressed at the announcement of the Lord’s departure from them, are incited to eternal joy over the increase in their dignity; “If ye loved Me,” He says, “ye would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father:” that is, if, with complete knowledge ye saw what glory is bestowed on you by the fact that, being begotten of God the Father, I have been born of a human mother also, that being invisible I have made Myself visible, that being eternal “in the form of God” I accepted the “form of a slave,” “ye would rejoice because I go to the Father.” For to you is offered this ascension, and your humility is in Me raised to a place above all heavens at the Father’s right hand. But I, Who am with the Father that which the Father is, abide undivided with My Father, and in coming from Him to you I do not leave Him, even as in returning to Him from you I do not forsake you. Rejoice, therefore, “because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.” For I have united you with Myself, and am become Son of Man that you might have power to be sons of God. And hence, though I am One in both forms, yet in that whereby I am conformed to you I am less than the Father, whereas in that whereby I am not divided from the Father I am greater even than Myself. And so let the Nature, which is less than the Father, go to the Father, that the Flesh may be where the Word always is, and that the one Faith of the catholic Church may believe that He Whom as Man it does not deny to be less, is equal as God with the Father.
5.k. John Calvin, Institutes, 1.13.26:
Thus, when he says to the apostles, “It is expedient for you that I go away,” “My Father is greater than I,” he does not attribute to himself a secondary divinity merely, as if in regard to eternal essence he were inferior to the Father; but having obtained celestial glory, he gathers together the faithful to share it with him. He places the Father in the higher degree, inasmuch as the full perfection of brightness conspicuous in heaven, differs from that measure of glory which he himself displayed when clothed in flesh. … Accordingly, John, declaring that he is the true God, has no idea of placing him beneath the Father in a subordinate rank of divinity.
5.l. John Calvin, Commentary on John 5:19
Jesus therefore answered. We see what I have said, that Christ is so far from vindicating himself from what the Jews asserted, though they intended it as a calumny, that he maintains more openly that it is true. And first he insists on this point, that the work which the Jews cavilled at was a divine work, to make them understand that they must fight with God himself, if they persist in condemning what must necessarily be ascribed to him. This passage was anciently debated in various ways between the orthodox Fathers and the Arians. Arius inferred from it that the Son is inferior to the Father, because he can do nothing of himself The Fathers replied that these words denote nothing more than the distinction of the person, so that it might be known that Christ is from the Father, and yet that he is not deprived of intrinsic power to act. But both parties were in the wrong. For the discourse does not relate to the simple Divinity of Christ, and those statements which we shall immediately see do not simply and of themselves relate to the eternal Word of God, but apply only to the Son of God, so far as he is manifested in the flesh.
Let us therefore keep Christ before our eyes, as he was sent into the world by the Father to be a Redeemer. The Jews beheld in him nothing higher than human nature, and, therefore, he argues that, when he cured the diseased man, he did it not by human power, but by a Divine power which was concealed under his visible flesh. The state of the case is this. As they, confining their attention to the appearance of the flesh, despised Christ, he bids them rise higher and look at God. The whole discourse must be referred to this contrast, that they err egregiously who think that they have to do with a mortal man, when they accuse Christ of works which are truly divine. This is his reason for affirming so strongly that in this work, there is no difference between him and his Father.
5.m. John Calvin, Commentary on John 14:28:
For the Father is greater than I. This passage has been tortured in various ways. The Aryans, in order to prove that Christ is some sort of inferior God, argued that he is less than the Father The orthodox Fathers, to remove all ground for such a calumny, said that this must have referred to his human nature; but as the Aryans wickedly abused this testimony, so the reply given by the Fathers to their objection was neither correct nor appropriate; for Christ does not now speak either of his human nature, or of his eternal Divinity, but, accommodating himself to our weakness, places himself between God and us; and, indeed, as it has not been granted to us to reach the height of God, Christ descended to us, that he might raise us to it. You ought to have rejoiced, he says, because I return to the Father; for this is the ultimate object at which you ought to aim. By these words he does not show in what respect he differs in himself from the Father, but why he descended to us; and that was that he might unite us to God; for until we have reached that point, we are, as it were, in the middle of the course. We too imagine to ourselves but a half-Christ, and a mutilated Christ, if he do not lead us to God.
There is a similar passage in the writings of Paul, where he says that Christ
“will deliver up the Kingdom to God his Father, that God may be all in all,”
(1 Corinthians 15:24.)
Christ certainly reigns, not only in human nature, but as he is God manifested in the flesh. In what manner, therefore, will he lay aside the kingdom? It is, because the Divinity which is now beheld in Christ’s face alone, will then be openly visible in him. The only point of difference is, that Paul there describes the highest perfection of the Divine brightness, the rays of which began to shine from the time when Christ ascended to heaven. To make the matter more clear, we must use still greater plainness of speech. Christ does not here make a comparison between the Divinity of the Father and his own, nor between his own human nature and the Divine essence of the Father, but rather between his present state and the heavenly glory, to which he would soon afterwards be received; as if he had said, “You wish to detain me in the world, but it is better that I should ascend to heaven.” Let us therefore learn to behold Christ humbled in the flesh, so that he may conduct us to the fountain of a blessed immortality; for he was not appointed to be our guide, merely to raise us to the sphere of the moon or of the sun, but to make us one with God the Father.
5.n. John Calvin Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3:
Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
(6) The priestly intercessory work of the Son shows that He is eternally subject to the authority of the Father.
“To ‘intercede’ (entygchanō) for someone means to bring requests and appeals on behalf of that person to a higher authority, such as a governor, king, or emperor (cf. Acts 25:24 which uses the same verb to say that the Jews “petitioned” the Roman ruler Festus). Thus Jesus continually, even today, is our great high priest who brings requests to the Father who is greater in authority[…].” (“Biblical Evidence”)
6.a. Chrysostom, Homilies, Romans 8:34
For, “It is Christ,” he says, “that died, yea rather, that is risen from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us.”
For though seen now in His own dignity, He hath not left caring for us, but even “maketh intercession for us,” and still keepeth up the same love. For He was not contented with being put to death alone. And this is a sign for the most part of very great love, to be doing not only what falls to His lot, but also to address Another on this behalf. For this is all he meant to signify by the interceding, using a way of speaking better suited to man, and more condescending, that he might point out love. Since unless we take the words, “He spared not,” also with the same understanding, many inconsistencies will come of it. And that you may see that such is the point he is aiming at, after first saying, that He “is at the Right Hand,” he next proceeds to say, that He “maketh intercession for us,” when he had shown an equality of honor and rank, so that hence it may appear that the Intercession is not a sign of inferiority, but of love only. For being Life itself (autozoe) (Psalm 36:9.), and a Well of good things of every kind, and with the same power as the Father, both to raise up the dead and to quicken them, and do all besides that He doth, how could He need to be a suppliant in order to help us? (John 5:19, 21, 36.) He that of His own power set free those who were given over and condemned, even from that condemnation; and made them righteous, and sons, and led them to the very highest honors, and brought to pass things which had never been hoped for: how should He, after having achieved all this, and having shown our nature on the King’s throne, require to be a suppliant to do the easier things? (Acts 7:55; Hebrews 10:12; Revelation 7:17.) You see how it is shown by every argument, that there is no other reason for his having mentioned intercession, save to show the warmth and vigorousness of His love for us….
6.b. Chrysostom, Homilies, Hebrews 81-2
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest; who is set down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens: a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.”
[1.] Paul mixes the lowly things with the lofty, ever imitating his Master, so that the lowly become the path to the lofty, and through the former we are led to the latter, and when we are amid the great things we learn that these [lowly ones] were a condescension. This accordingly he does here also. After declaring that “He offered up Himself,” and showing Him to be a “High Priest,” what does he say? “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an High Priest who is set down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty.” And yet this is not [the office] of a Priest, but of Him whom the Priest should serve.
[…]”Now” (he says) “of the things which we have spoken this is the sum.” By “the sum” is always meant what is most important. Again he brings down his discourse; having said what is lofty, henceforward he speaks fearlessly.
[2.] In the next place that thou mayest understand that he used the word “minister” of the manhood, observe how he again indicates it: “For” (ver. 3) (he says) “every high priest is ordained to offer both gifts and sacrifices, wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.”
Do not now, because thou hearest that He sitteth, suppose that His being called High Priest is mere idle talk. For the former, viz. His sitting, belongs to the dignity of the Godhead, but this to His great lovingkindness, and His tender care for us. On this account he repeatedly urges this very thing, and dwells more upon it: for he feared lest the other [truth] should overthrow it. Therefore he again brings down his discourse to this: since some were enquiring why He died. He was a Priest. But there is no Priest without a sacrifice. It is necessary then that He also should have a sacrifice.
6.c. John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:34
Who intercedes, etc. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
6.d. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 30.14
Ninthly, they allege, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for us. O, how beautiful and mystical and kind. For to intercede does not imply to seek for vengeance, as is most men’s way (for in that there would be something of humiliation), but it is to plead for us by reason of His Mediatorship, just as the Spirit also is said to make intercession for us. For there is One God, and One Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus. For He still pleads even now as Man for my salvation; for He continues to wear the Body which He assumed, until He make me God by the power of His Incarnation; although He is no longer known after the flesh -I mean, the passions of the flesh, the same, except sin, as ours. Thus too, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, not indeed prostrating Himself for us before the Father, and falling down before Him in slavish fashion … Away with a suspicion so truly slavish and unworthy of the Spirit! For neither is it seemly for the Father to require this, nor for the Son to submit to it; nor is it just to think it of God. But by what He suffered as Man, He as the Word and the Counsellor persuades Him to be patient. I think this is the meaning of His Advocacy.
(7) The Son had to receive authority delegated from the Father in order to send the Spirit, indicating His eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
“After his ascension to heaven, after his earthly ministry was over, after God highly exalted him, he still did not have the authority on his own to pour forth the Holy Spirit in new power on the church. He waited until he received that authority from the Father, and then he sent forth the Holy Spirit in his new, more powerful work.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
7.a. John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 2:33
Furthermore, whereas it is said that he obtained it of the Father, it is to be applied to the person of the Mediator. For both these are truly said, that Christ sent the Spirit from himself and from the Father. He sent him from himself, because he is eternal God; from the Father, because in as much as he is man, he receiveth that of the Father which he giveth us. And Peter speaketh wisely according to the capacity of the ignorant, lest any man should move a question out of season concerning the power of Christ. And surely forasmuch as it is the office of Christ to direct us unto his Father, this is a most apt form of speaking for the use of godliness, that Christ being placed, as it were, in the midst between God and us, doth deliver unto us with his own hand those gifts which he hath received at the hands of his Father. Furthermore, we must note this order that he saith, that the Spirit was sent by Christ after that he was exalted.
(8) The Son received revelation by authority from the Father and relayed it in submission.
“The Father’s authority and the Son’s submission in Christ’s receiving revelation from the Father and giving it to the church[…].” (“Biblical Evidence”)
8.a. Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians, 3.25.14
But what God speaks, it is very plain He speaks through the Word, and not through another. And the Word, as being not separate from the Father, nor unlike and foreign to the Father’s Essence, what He works, those are the Father’s works, and His framing of all things is one with His; and what the Son gives, that is the Father’s gift. And he who has seen the Son, knows that, in seeing Him, he has seen, not Angel, nor one merely greater than Angels, nor in short any creature, but the Father Himself. And he who hears the Word, knows that he hears the Father; as he who is irradiated by the radiance, knows that he is enlightened by the sun.
(9) Upon the Son’s ascension, He is seated at the Father’s right hand, a place of secondary authority delegated by the Father.
“To sit at the LORD’s right hand is not a position of equal authority, for “the LORD” (Yahweh) is still the one commanding, still the one subduing enemies. But it is a position of authority second only to the LORD, the king and ruler of the entire universe.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
9.a. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 5.3
But though they think fit to make this a subject for their insolence, though they make the dispensation of the Cross a reason for partitioning off the Son from equality of glory with the Father, we believe, as those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered to us by the Holy Scriptures, that the God who was in the beginning, afterwards, as Baruch says, was seen upon the earth, and conversed with men Baruch 3:37, and, becoming a ransom for our death, loosed by His own resurrection the bonds of death, and by Himself made the resurrection a way for all flesh , and being on the same throne and in the same glory with His own Father, will in the day of judgment give sentence upon those who are judged, according to the desert of the lives they have led.
9.b. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, Ch. 6.15
If they really conceive of a kind of degradation of the Son in relation to the Father, as though He were in a lower place, so that the Father sits above, and the Son is thrust off to the next seat below, let them confess what they mean. […]Now, to omit all proof of the ignorance of those who predicate place of incorporeal things, what excuse can be found for their attack upon Scripture, shameless as their antagonism is, in the passages Sit on my right hand and Sat down on the right hand of the majesty of God? The expression right hand does not, as they contend, indicate the lower place, but equality of relation; it is not understood physically, in which case there might be something sinister about God, but Scripture puts before us the magnificence of the dignity of the Son by the use of dignified language indicating the seat of honour. It is left then for our opponents to allege that this expression signifies inferiority of rank. Let them learn that Christ is the power of God and wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24 and that He is the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15 and brightness of his glory, Hebrews 1:3 and that Him has God the Father sealed, John 6:27 by engraving Himself on Him.
Now are we to call these passages, and others like them, throughout the whole of Holy Scripture, proofs of humiliation, or rather public proclamations of the majesty of the Only Begotten, and of the equality of His glory with the Father? We ask them to listen to the Lord Himself, distinctly setting forth the equal dignity of His glory with the Father, in His words, He that has seen me has seen the Father; John 14:9 and again, When the Son comes in the glory of his Father; Mark 8:38 that they should honour the Son even as they honour the Father; John 5:23 and, We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; John 1:14 and the only begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father.
We have only touched cursorily on these proofs, because our object is to pass on to other points. You at your leisure can put together the items of the evidence, and then contemplate the height of the glory and the preeminence of the power of the Only Begotten. […]What shall we say? What just defence shall we have in the day of the awful universal judgment of all-creation, if, when the Lord clearly announces that He will come in the glory of his Father; Matthew 16:27 when Stephen beheld Jesus standing at the right hand of God; Acts 7:55 when Paul testified in the spirit concerning Christ that he is at the right hand of God; Romans 8:34 when the Father says, Sit on my right hand; when the Holy Spirit bears witness that he has sat down on the right hand of the majesty Hebrews 8:1 of God; we attempt to degrade him who shares the honour and the throne, from his condition of equality, to a lower state? […] Moreover, the place on the right hand indicates in my judgment equality of honour. Rash, then, is the attempt to deprive the Son of participation in the doxology, as though worthy only to be ranked in a lower place of honour.
9.c. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 2.6
But to say that the Son has no part in His Father’s royal throne argues an extraordinary amount of research into the oracles of God on the part of Eunomius, who, after his extreme devotion to the inspired Scriptures, has not yet heard, Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God Colossians 3:1, and many similar passages, of which it would not be easy to reckon up the number, but which Eunomius has never learned, and so denies that the Son is enthroned together with the Father. […]if, I say, it has been demonstrated that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit alike are in a position of power to do what They will, it is impossible to see what sense there can be in the phrase having lot in His power. For the heir of all things, the maker of the ages, He Who shines with the Father’s glory and expresses in Himself the Father’s person, has all things that the Father Himself has, and is possessor of all His power, not that the right is transferred from the Father to the Son, but that it at once remains in the Father and resides in the Son.
Mark, I pray you, the absurdity and childishness of this grovelling exposition of his articles of faith. What! He Who upholds all things by the word of His power Hebrews 1:3, Who says what He wills to be done, and does what He wills by the very power of that command, He Whose power lags not behind His will and Whose will is the measure of His power (for He spoke the word and they were made, He commanded and they were created ), He Who made all things by Himself, and made them consist in Himself , without Whom no existing thing either came into being or remains in being—He it is Who waits to obtain His power by some process of allotment! […]For He is the one and only God, the Almighty, he says. If by the title of Almighty he intends the Father, the language he uses is ours, and no strange language[…]. But all that belongs to the Father certainly belongs also to the Son. And Lord of Lords. The same account will apply to this. And Most High over all the earth. Yes, for whichever of the Three Persons you are thinking of, He is Most High over all the earth, inasmuch as the oversight of earthly things from on high is exercised alike by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. So, too, with what follows the words above, Most High in the heavens, Most High in the highest, Heavenly, true in being what He is, and so continuing, true in words, true in works. Why, all these things the Christian eye discerns alike in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. If Eunomius does assign them to one only of the Persons acknowledged in the creed, let him dare to call Him not true in words Who has said, I am the Truth , or to call the Spirit of truth not true in words, or let him refuse to give the title of true in works to Him Who does righteousness and judgment, or to the Spirit Who works all in all as He will. For if he does not acknowledge that these attributes belong to the Persons delivered to us in the creed, he is absolutely cancelling the creed of Christians
9.d. Gregory Nanzianzen, Oration XL on Holy Baptism, XLII
For as these low earthly minds make the Son subject to the Father, so again is the rank of the Spirit made inferior to that of the Son, until both God and created life are insulted by the new Theology. No, my friends, there is nothing servile in the Trinity, nothing created, nothing accidental, as I have heard one of the wise say.
(10) The Son receives authority over the Nations only as delegated by the Father, demonstrating His eternal submission to the authority of the Father.
“The Father’s authority over the Son is seen in how he delegates to the Son authority over the nations[…].” (“Biblical Evidence”)
10.a. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 30.9
Fifthly, let it be alleged that it is said of Him that He receives life, judgment, inheritance of the Gentiles, or power over all flesh, or glory, or disciples, or whatever else is mentioned. This also belongs to the Manhood; and yet if you were to ascribe it to the Godhead, it would be no absurdity. For you would not so ascribe it as if it were newly acquired, but as belonging to Him from the beginning by reason of nature, and not as an act of favour.
(11) In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul teaches that the Son will be eternally subjected to the Father, submitting to His authority.
“Here is an indication of what will happen after the final judgment, when all enemies are destroyed and we enter into the eternal state. Just to be sure that there is no misunderstanding, Paul specifies that it was always the Father who always had ultimate authority, for it was the Father who “put all things in subjection” to the Son – all things, that is, but of course not the Father! Paul explicitly says, “He is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.” The Father has never been subject to the Son. “He is excepted.” And then Paul specifies that once every enemy has been conquered and even death has been destroyed, the submission of the Son to the Father will not cease even at that time, for even then, “the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (v. 28). The Son has been subject to the authority of the Father since before the foundation of the world, and here Paul specifies that the Son will continue to be subject to the authority of the Father forever.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
11.a. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, 5.14.174
But since the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of one Nature, the Father certainly will not be in subjection to Himself. And therefore the Son will not be in subjection in that in which He is one with the Father; lest it should seem that through the unity of the Godhead the Father also is in subjection to the Son. Therefore, as upon that cross it was not the fulness of the Godhead, but our weakness that was brought into subjection, so also will the Son hereafter become subject to the Father in the participation of our nature, in order that when the lusts of the flesh are brought into subjection the heart may have no care for riches, or ambition, or pleasures; but that God may be all to us, if we live after His image and likeness, as far as we can attain to it, through all.
11.b. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, 5.14.176
And that thou mightest know that when he says: “That God may be all in all,” he does not separate Christ from God the Father, he also says to the Colossians: “Where there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” So also saying to the Corinthians: “That God may be all and in all,” he comprehended in that the unity and equality of Christ with God the Father, for the Son is not separated from the Father. And in like manner as the Father worketh all and in all, so also Christ worketh all in all. If, then, Christ also worketh all in all, He is not made subject in the glory of the Godhead, but in us. But how is He made subject in us, except in the way in which He was made lower than the angels, I mean in the sacrament of His body? For all things which served their Creator from their first beginning seemed not as yet to be made subject to Him in that.
11.c. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, 5.14.178
As, then, He was made sin and a curse not on His own account but on ours, so He became subject in us not for His own sake but for ours, being not in subjection in His eternal Nature, nor accursed in His eternal Nature. “For cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Cursed He was, for He bore our curses; in subjection, also, for He took upon Him our subjection, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, not in the glory of God; so that whilst he makes Himself a partaker of our weakness in the flesh, He makes us partakers of the divine Nature in His power. But neither in one nor the other have we any natural fellowship with the heavenly Generation of Christ, nor is there any subjection of the Godhead in Christ. But as the Apostle has said that on Him through that flesh which is the pledge of our salvation, we sit in heavenly places, though certainly not sitting ourselves, so also He is said to be subject in us through the assumption of our nature.
11.d. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 30.5
Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject the Son to the Father. What, you say, is He not now subject, or must He, if He is God, be subject to God? You are fashioning your argument as if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this manner: that as for my sake He was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who takes away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto Him on the one hand by acknowledgment of Him, and on the other by a reformation, then He Himself also will have fulfilled His submission, bringing me whom He has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father’s Will. But as the Son subjects all to the Father, so does the Father to the Son; the One by His Work, the Other by His good pleasure, as we have already said. And thus He Who subjects presents to God that which he has subjected, making our condition His own.
11.e. St. Hilary of Poitiers, On The Trinity, Bk. XI.30
As to the subjection, there are other facts which come to the help of our faith, and prevent us from putting an indignity on Christ upon this score, but above all this passage contains its own defence. First, however, I appeal to common reason: is the subjection still to be understood as the subordination of servitude to lordship, weakness to power, meanness to honour, qualities the opposite of one another? Is the Son in this manner subjected to the Father by the distinction of a different nature? If, indeed, we would think so, we shall find in the Apostle’s words a preventive for such errors of the imagination. When all things are subjected to Him, says He, then must He be subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself; and by this then’ he means to denote the temporal Dispensation. For if we put any other construction on the subjection, Christ, though then to be subjected, is not subjected now, and thus we make Him an insolent and impious rebel, whom the necessity of time, breaking as it were and subduing His profane and overweening pride, will reduce to a tardy obedience. But what does He Himself say? I am not come to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me : and again, Therefore hath the Father loved Me because I do all things that are pleasing unto Him : and, Father, Thy will be done . Or hear the Apostle, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death. Although He humbled Himself, His nature knew no humiliation: though He was obedient, it was a voluntary obedience, for He became obedient by humbling Himself. The Only-begotten God humbled Himself, and obeyed His Father even to the death of the Cross: but as what, as man or as God, is He to be subjected to the Father, when all things have been subjected to Him? Of a truth this subjection is no sign of a fresh obedience, but the Dispensation of the Mystery, for the allegiance is eternal, the subjection an event within time. The subjection is then in its signification simply a demonstration of the Mystery.
[…]It is thus that God shall be all in all: according to the Dispensation He becomes by His Godhead and His manhood the Mediator between men and God, and so by the Dispensation He acquires the nature of flesh, and by the subjection shall obtain the nature of God in all things, so as to be God not in part, but wholly and entirely. The end of the subjection is then simply that God may be all in all, that no trace of the nature of His earthly body may remain in Him. Although before this time the two were combined within Him, He must now become God only; not, however, by casting off the body, but by translating it through subjection; not by losing it through dissolutions, but by transfiguring it in glory: adding humanity to His divinity, not divesting Himself of divinity by His humanity.
11.f. Chrysostom, Homilies, on 1 Corinthians 15:27-28
Ver. 28. “And when all things have been subjected unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected unto Him that did subject all things unto Him.”
How then is it? for in truth there are many questions following one upon another. Well, give me then your earnest attention; since in fact it is necessary for us first to speak of the scope of Paul and his mind, which one may find everywhere shining forth, and then to subjoin our solution: this being itself an ingredient in our solution.
[…]What then is Paul’s mind, and what is his custom? He speaks in one way when he discourses of the Godhead alone, and in another when he falls into the argument of the economy. Thus having once taken hold of our Lord’s Flesh, he freely thereafter uses all the sayings that humiliate Him; without fear as though that were able to bear all such expressions. Let us see therefore here also, whether his discourse is of the simple Godhead, or whether in view of the incarnation he asserts of Him those things which he saith: or rather let us first point out where he did this of which I have spoken. Where then did he this? Writing to the Philippians he saith, “Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore hath God highly exalted Him.” (Philip. ii. 6-9.)
Seest thou how when he was discoursing of the Godhead alone, he uttered those great things, that He “was in the form of God” and that He “was equal with” Him that begat Him, and to Him refers the whole? But when He showed Him to thee made flesh, he lowered again the discourse. For except thou distinguish these things, there is great variance between the things spoken. Since, if He were “equal with God,” how did He highly exalt one equal with Himself? If He were “in the form of God,” how “gave” He Him “a name?” for he that giveth, giveth to one that hath not, and he that exalteth, exalteth one that is before abased. He will be found then to be imperfect and in need, before He hath received the “exaltation” and “the Name;” and many other absurd corollaries will hence follow. But if thou shouldest add the incarnation, thou wilt not err in saying these things. These things then here also consider, and with this mind receive thou the expressions.
[…][9.] Since then he referred all to Him, the “abolishing rule and authority,” the perfecting of His kingdom, (I mean the salvation of the faithful, the peace of the world, the taking away of evils, for this is to perfect His kingdom,) the putting an end to death; and he said not, “the Father by Him,” but, “Himself shall put down, and Himself shall put under His feet,” and he no where mentioned Him that begat Him; he was afraid afterward, lest on this account among some of the more irrational persons, either the Son might seem to be greater than the Father, or to be a certain distinct principle, unbegotten. And therefore, gently guarding himself, he qualifies the magnitude of his expressions, saying, “for He put all things in subjection under His feet,” again referring to the Father these high achievements; not as though the Son were without power. For how could He be, of whom he testified so great things before, and referred to Him all that was said? But it was for the reason which I mentioned, and that he might show all things to be common to Father and Son which were done in our behalf. For that Himself alone was sufficient to “put all things in subjection under Him,” hear again Paul saying, (Philip. iii. 21.) “Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself.”
Then also he uses a correction, saying, “But when He saith, all things are put in subjection, it is evident that He is excepted who did subject all things unto Him,” testifying even thence no small glory to the Only-Begotten. For if He were less and much inferior, this fear would never have been entertained by him. Neither is he content with this, but also adds another thing, as follows. I say, lest any should doubtingly ask, “And what if the Father hath not been put under Him?’ this doth not at all hinder the Son from being the more mighty;” fearing this impious supposition, because that expression was not sufficient to point out this also, he added, going very much beyond it, “But when all things have been subjected unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected;” showing His great concord with the Father, and that He is the principle of all other good things and the first Cause, who hath begotten One so great in power and in achievements.
[…]And that thou mayest learn that this is the reason of the things spoken, I would ask thee this question: Doth an additional “subjection” at that time befal the Son? And how can this be other than impious and unworthy of God? For the greatest subjection and obedience is this, that He who is God took the form of a servant. How then will He be “subjected?” Seest thou, that to take away the impious notion, he used this expression? and this too in a suitable though reserved sense? For he becomes a Son and a divine Person, so He obeys; not humanly, but as one acting freely and having all authority. Otherwise how is he co-enthroned? How, “as the Father raiseth up, even so He, whom He will?” (John 5:21.) How are “all things that the Father hath His,” and all that He hath, the Father’s? (John 16:15.) For these phrases indicate to us an authority exactly measured by that of Him that begat Him.
11.g. Augustine, On the Trinity, 1.10.20
Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, will so deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, Himself not being thence excluded, nor the Holy Spirit, when He shall bring believers to the contemplation of God, wherein is the end of all good actions, and everlasting rest, and joy which never will be taken from us. For He signifies this in that which He says: I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man takes from you. Mary, sitting at the feet of the Lord, and earnestly listening to His word, foreshowed a similitude of this joy; resting as she did from all business, and intent upon the truth, according to that manner of which this life is capable, by which, however, to prefigure that which shall be for eternity. For while Martha, her sister, was cumbered about necessary business, which, although good and useful, yet, when rest shall have succeeded, is to pass away, she herself was resting in the word of the Lord. And so the Lord replied to Martha, when she complained that her sister did not help her: Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. He did not say that Martha was acting a bad part; but that best part that shall not be taken away. For that part which is occupied in the ministering to a need shall be taken away when the need itself has passed away. Since the reward of a good work that will pass away is rest that will not pass away. In that contemplation, therefore, God will be all in all; because nothing else but Himself will be required, but it will be sufficient to be enlightened by and to enjoy Him alone. And so he in whom the Spirit makes intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered, says, One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to contemplate the beauty of the Lord. For we shall then contemplate God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, when the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, so as no longer to make intercession for us, as our Mediator and Priest, Son of God and Son of man; but that He Himself too, in so far as He is a Priest that has taken the form of a servant for us, shall be put under Him who has put all things under Him, and under whom He has put all things: so that, in so far as He is God, He with Him will have put us under Himself; in so far as He is a Priest, He with us will be put under Him. And therefore as the [incarnate] Son is both God and man, it is rather to be said that the manhood in the Son is another substance [from the Son], than that the Son in the Father [is another substance from the Father]; just as the carnal nature of my soul is more another substance in relation to my soul itself, although in one and the same man, than the soul of another man is in relation to my soul.
11.h. John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15
27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
All things put under him, except him who put all things under him. He insists upon two things — first, that all things must be brought under subjection to Christ before he restores to the Father the dominion of the world, and secondly, that the Father has given all things into the hands of his Son in such a way as to retain the principal right in his own hands. From the former of these it follows, that the hour of the last judgment is not yet come — from the second, that Christ is now the medium between us and the Father in such a way as to bring us at length to him. Hence he immediately infers as follows: After he shall have subjected all things to him, then shall the Son subject himself to the Father. “Let us wait patiently until Christ shall vanquish all his enemies, and shall bring us, along with himself, under the dominion of God, that the kingdom of God may in every respect be accomplished in us.”
This statement, however, is at first view at variance with what we read in various passages of Scripture respecting the eternity of Christ’s kingdom. For how will these things correspond — Of his kingdom there will be no end, (Daniel 7:14, 27; Luke 1:33; 2 Peter 1:11,) and He himself shall be subjected? The solution of this question will open up Paul’s meaning more clearly. In the first place, it must be observed, that all power was delivered over to Christ, inasmuch as he was manifested in the flesh. It is true that such distinguished majesty would not correspond with a mere man, but, notwithstanding, the Father has exalted him in the same nature in which he was abased, and has
“given, him a name, before which every knee must bow,” etc. (Philippians 2:9, 10.)
Farther, it must be observed, that he has been appointed Lord and highest King, so as to be as it were the Father’s Vicegerent in the government of the world — not that he is employed and the Father unemployed (for how could that be, inasmuch as he is the wisdom and counsel of the Father, is of one essence with him, and is therefore himself God?) But the reason why the Scripture testifies, that Christ now holds dominion over the heaven and the earth in the room of the Father is — that we may not think that there is any other governor, lord, protector, or judge of the dead and living, but may fix our contemplation on him alone. We acknowledge, it is true, God as the ruler, but it is in the face of the man Christ. But Christ will then restore the kingdom which he has received, that we may cleave wholly to God. Nor will he in this way resign the kingdom, but will transfer it in a manner from his humanity to his glorious divinity, because a way of approach will then be opened up, from which our infirmity now keeps us back. Thus then Christ will be subjected to the Father, because the vail being then removed, we shall openly behold God reigning in his majesty, and Christ’s humanity will then no longer be interposed to keep us back from a closer view of God.
(12) The works and operations of God are not always indivisible.
“Of course it is true that both the Father and the Son are involved in sending the Spirit into the world and in judging the world. But this simply proves that some activities are done by more than one person. It does not prove that all activities are done by all the persons at the same time…. For example, the Father sends the Son into the world. But this is not an activity where we could say that all three persons do these actions.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
12.a. Basil, Letter CLXXXIII, To the Senate of Samosata, 6
But they contend that this title sets forth the nature of that to which it is applied; that the nature of the Spirit is not a nature shared in common with that of Father and of Son; and that, for this reason, the Spirit ought not to be allowed the common use of the name. It is, therefore, for them to show by what means they have perceived this variation in the nature. If it were indeed possible for the divine nature to be contemplated in itself; could what is proper to it and what is foreign to it be discovered by means of visible things; we should then certainly stand in no need of words or other tokens to lead us to the apprehension of the object of the enquiry. But the divine nature is too exalted to be perceived as objects of enquiry are perceived, and about things which are beyond our knowledge we reason on probable evidence. We are therefore of necessity guided in the investigation of the divine nature by its operations. Suppose we observe the operations of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost, to be different from one another, we shall then conjecture, from the diversity of the operations that the operating natures are also different. For it is impossible that things which are distinct, as regards their nature, should be associated as regards the form of their operations; fire does not freeze; ice does not warm; difference of natures implies difference of the operations proceeding from them. Grant, then, that we perceive the operation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be one and the same, in no respect showing difference or variation; from this identity of operation we necessarily infer the unity of the nature.
12.b. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Spirit
If, then, we see that the operations which are wrought by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit differ one from the other, we shall conjecture from the different character of the operations that the natures which operate are also different. For it cannot be that things which differ in their very nature should agree in the form of their operation: fire does not chill, nor ice give warmth, but their operations are distinguished together with the difference between their natures. If, on the other hand, we understand that the operation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, differing or varying in nothing, the oneness of their nature must needs be inferred from the identity of their operation. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit alike give sanctification, and life, and light, and comfort, and all similar graces. And let no one attribute the power of sanctification in an especial sense to the Spirit, when he hears the Saviour in the Gospel saying to the Father concerning His disciples, “Father, sanctify them in Thy name .” So too all the other gifts are wrought in those who are worthy alike by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: every grace and power, guidance, life, comfort, the change to immortality, the passage to liberty, and every other boon that exists, which descends to us.
12.c. Augustine, On the Trinity, 2.1.3
It remains, therefore, that these texts are so expressed, because the life of the Son is unchangeable as that of the Father is, and yet He is of the Father; and the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible, and yet so to work is given to the Son from Him of whom He Himself is, that is, from the Father; and the Son so sees the Father, as that He is the Son in the very seeing Him. For to be of the Father, that is, to be born of the Father, is to Him nothing else than to see the Father; and to see Him working, is nothing else than to work with Him: but therefore not from Himself, because He is not from Himself. And, therefore, those things which He sees the Father do, these also does the Son likewise, because He is of the Father. For He neither does other things in like manner, as a painter paints other pictures, in the same way as he sees others to have been painted by another man; nor the same things in a different manner, as the body expresses the same letters, which the mind has thought; but whatsoever things, says He, the Father does, these same things also does the Son likewise. He has said both these same things, and likewise; and hence the working of both the Father and the Son is indivisible and equal, but it is from the Father to the Son. Therefore the Son cannot do anything of Himself, except what He sees the Father do. From this rule, then, whereby the Scriptures so speak as to mean, not to set forth one as less than another, but only to show which is of which, some have drawn this meaning, as if the Son were said to be less. And some among ourselves who are more unlearned and least instructed in these things, endeavoring to take these texts according to the form of a servant, and so misinterpreting them, are troubled. And to prevent this, the rule in question is to be observed whereby the Son is not less, but it is simply intimated that He is of the Father, in which words not His inequality but His birth is declared.
Gregory of Nyssa, On Not Three Gods
But in the case of the divine nature we do not learn that the Father does anything by himself in which the Son does not work conjointly, or again that the Son has any special operation apart from the Holy Spirit.
(13) The order of working and operations within the Trinity demonstrates an eternal relation of submission to authority between the Father and the Son.
He quotes Bruce Ware approvingly: “We agree that the actions of any one divine person involve the other Trinitarian persons in corresponding ways. But whenever Scripture specifies actions that occur between two or more members of the Trinity, the position of greater authority is always held by the Father, while the position of submission to that authority is always held by the Son and the Spirit. This principle is simply inviolable in Scripture.” (“Whose Position”)
“Here is the same pattern: All things (that is, the entire universe) come “from” the Father (who directs and initiates) and “through” the Son (who carries out the will of the Father). This was the pattern in planning salvation prior to creation, and this is also the pattern in the process of creating the world.” (“Biblical Evidence”)
“Each member of the Trinity has distinct roles or functions. Differences in roles and authority between the members of the Trinity are thus completely consistent with equal importance, personhood, and deity.” (Systematic, Ch. 14)
13.a. Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 5.8
But if our adversaries oppose this our interpretation, what argument will save them from being caught in their own trap? For if they will not grant that the three expressions “of him” and “through him” and “to him” are spoken of the Lord, they cannot but be applied to God the Father. Then without question their rule will fall through, for we find not only “of whom,” but also “through whom” applied to the Father. And if this latter phrase indicates nothing derogatory, why in the world should it be confined, as though conveying the sense of inferiority, to the Son? If it always and everywhere implies ministry, let them tell us to what superior the God of glory and Father of the Christ is subordinate. They are thus overthrown by their own selves, while our position will be on both sides made sure. Suppose it proved that the passage refers to the Son, “of whom” will be found applicable to the Son. Suppose on the other hand it be insisted that the prophet’s words relate to God, then it will be granted that “through whom” is properly used of God, and both phrases have equal value, in that both are used with equal force of God. Under either alternative both terms, being employed of one and the same Person, will be shewn to be equivalent.
13.b. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 6.13
The Son, according to them, is not together with the Father, but after the Father. Hence it follows that glory should be ascribed to the Father “through him”, but not “with him”; inasmuch as “with him” expresses equality of dignity, while “through him” denotes subordination. They further assert that the Spirit is not to be ranked along with the Father and the Son, but under the Son and the Father; not coordinated, but subordinated; not connumerated, but subnumerated.
13.c. Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 18.47
They on the other hand who support their sub-numeration by talking of first and second and third ought to be informed that into the undefiled theology of Christians they are importing the polytheism of heathen error. No other result can be achieved by the fell device of sub-numeration than the confession of a first, a second, and a third God. For us is sufficient the order prescribed by the Lord.
13.d. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Trinity
The Lord, in delivering the saving Faith to those who become disciples of the word, joins with the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit also; and we affirm that the union of that which has once been joined is continual; for it is not joined in one thing, and separated in others. But the power of the Spirit, being included with the Father and the Son in the life-giving power, by which our nature is transferred from the corruptible life to immortality, and in many other cases also, as in the conception of Good, and Holy, andEternal, Wise, Righteous, Chief, Mighty, and in fact everywhere, has an inseparable association with them in all the attributes ascribed in a sense of special excellence. And so we consider that it is right to think that that which is joined to the Father and the Son in such sublime and exalted conceptions is not separated from them in any. For we do not know of any differences by way of superiority and inferiority in attributes which express our conceptions of the Divine nature, so that we should suppose it an act of piety (while allowing to the Spirit community in the inferior attributes) to judge Him unworthy of those more exalted. For all the Divine attributes, whether named or conceived, are of like rank one with another, in that they are not distinguishable in respect of the signification of their subject.
13.e. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 17.43
Do you maintain that the Son is numbered under the Father, and the Spirit under the Son, or do you confine your sub-numeration to the Spirit alone? If, on the other hand, you apply this sub-numeration also to the Son, you revive what is the same impious doctrine, the unlikeness of the substance, the lowliness of rank, the coming into being in later time, and once for all, by this one term, you will plainly again set circling all the blasphemies against the Only-begotten. To controvert these blasphemies would be a longer task than my present purpose admits of; and I am the less bound to undertake it because the impiety has been refuted elsewhere to the best of my ability. If on the other hand they suppose the sub-numeration to benefit the Spirit alone, they must be taught that the Spirit is spoken of together with the Lord in precisely the same manner in which the Son is spoken of with the Father. The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost Matthew 28:19 is delivered in like manner, and, according to the co-ordination of words delivered in baptism, the relation of the Spirit to the Son is the same as that of the Son to the Father. And if the Spirit is co-ordinate with the Son, and the Son with the Father, it is obvious that the Spirit is also co-ordinate with the Father. When then the names are ranked in one and the same co-ordinate series, what room is there for speaking on the one hand of connumeration, and on the other of sub-numeration? Nay, without exception, what thing ever lost its own nature by being numbered? Is it not the fact that things when numbered remain what they naturally and originally were, while number is adopted among us as a sign indicative of the plurality of subjects? For some bodies we count, some we measure, and some we weigh; those which are by nature continuous we apprehend by measure; to those which are divided we apply number (with the exception of those which on account of their fineness are measured); while heavy objects are distinguished by the inclination of the balance. It does not however follow that, because we have invented for our convenience symbols to help us to arrive at the knowledge of quantity, we have therefore changed the nature of the things signified. We do not speak of weighing under one another things which are weighed, even though one be gold and the other tin; nor yet do we measure under things that are measured; and so in the same way we will not number under things which are numbered. And if none of the rest of things admits of sub-numeration how can they allege that the Spirit ought to be subnumerated? Labouring as they do under heathen unsoundness, they imagine that things which are inferior, either by grade of rank or subjection of substance, ought to be subnumerated.
13.f. Gregory of Nyssa, The Holy Spirit
We, for instance, confess that the Holy Spirit is of the same rank as the Father and the Son, so that there is no difference between them in anything, to be thought or named, that devotion can ascribe to a Divine nature. We confess that, save His being contemplated as with peculiar attributes in regard of Person, the Holy Spirit is indeed from God, and of the Christ, according to Scripture , but that, while not to be confounded with the Father in being never originated, nor with the Son in being the Only-begotten, and while to be regarded separately in certain distinctive properties, He has in all else, as I have just said, an exact identity with them.
[…]But in a Divine nature, as such, when once we have believed in it, we can recognize no distinctions suggested either by the Scripture teaching or by our own common sense; distinctions, that is, that would divide that Divine and transcendent nature within itself by any degrees of intensity and remission, so as to be altered from itself by being more or less. Because we firmly believe that it is simple, uniform, incomposite, because we see in it no complicity or composition of dissimilars, therefore it is that, when once our minds have grasped the idea of Deity, we accept by the implication of that very name the perfection in it of every conceivable thing that befits the Deity.
[…]For the plea will not avail them in their self-defence, that He is delivered by our Lord to His disciples third in order, and that therefore He is estranged from our ideal of Deity. Where in each case activity in working good shows no diminution or variation whatever, how unreasonable it is to suppose the numerical order to be a sign of any diminution or essential variation! It is as if a man were to see a separate flame burning on three torches (and we will suppose that the third flame is caused by that of the first being transmitted to the middle, and then kindling the end torch ), and were to maintain that the heat in the first exceeded that of the others; that that next it showed a variation from it in the direction of the less; and that the third could not be called fire at all, though it burnt and shone just like fire, and did everything that fire does. But if there is really no hindrance to the third torch being fire, though it has been kindled from a previous flame, what is the philosophy of these men, who profanely think that they can slight the dignity of the Holy Spirit because He is named by the Divine lips after the Father and the Son?
[…]Since, then, it has been affirmed, and truly affirmed, that the Spirit is of the Divine Essence, and since in that one word Divine every idea of greatness, as we have said, is involved, it follows that he who grants that Divinity has potentially granted all the rest—the gloriousness, the omnipotence, everything indicative of superiority.
[…]You see the revolving circle of the glory moving from Like to Like. The Son is glorified by the Spirit; the Father is glorified by the Son; again the Son has His glory from the Father; and the Only-begotten thus becomes the glory of the Spirit. For with what shall the Father be glorified, but with the true glory of the Son: and with what again shall the Son be glorified, but with the majesty of the Spirit? In like manner, again, Faith completes the circle, and glorifies the Son by means of the Spirit, and the Father by means of the Son.
13.g. Athanasius, On Luke 10:22, S:6
For what is nearer [God] than the Cherubim or the Seraphim? And yet they, not even seeing Him, nor standing on their feet, nor even with bare, but as it were with veiled faces, offer their praises, with untiring lips doing nought else but glorify the divine and ineffable nature with the Trisagion. And nowhere has any one of the divinely speaking prophets, men specially selected for such vision, reported to us that in the first utterance of the word Holy the voice is raised aloud, while in the second it is lower, but in the third, quite low,— and that consequently the first utterance denotes lordship, the second subordination, and the third marks a yet lower degree. But away with the folly of these haters of God and senseless men. For the Triad, praised, reverenced, and adored, is one and indivisible and without degrees (aschematistos). It is united without confusion, just as the Monad also is distinguished without separation. For the fact of those venerable living creatures (Isa. vi.; Rev. iv. 8) offering their praises three times, saying Holy, Holy, Holy,’ proves that the Three Subsistences are perfect, just as in saying Lord,’ they declare the One Essence. They then that depreciate the Only-begotten Son of God blaspheme God, defaming His perfection and accusing Him of imperfection, and render themselves liable to the severest chastisement. For he that blasphemes any one of the Subsistences shall have remission neither in this world nor in that which is to come. But God is able to open the eyes of their heart to contemplate the Sun of Righteousness, in order that coming to know Him whom they formerly set at nought, they may with unswerving piety of mind together with us glorify Him, because to Him belongs the kingdom, even to the Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
13.h. Aquinas, Summa, 1.108.1
Hence it is clear that those err and speak against the opinion of Dionysius who place a hierarchy in the Divine Persons, and call it the “supercelestial” hierarchy. For in the Divine Persons there exists, indeed, a natural order, but there is no hierarchical order[…].
13.i. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 31.14
What is our quarrel and dispute with both? To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceeds from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. For one is not more and another less God; nor is One before and another after; nor are They divided in will or parted in power; nor can you find here any of the qualities of divisible things; but the Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided in separate Persons; and there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other. When then we look at the Godhead, or the First Cause, or the Monarchia, that which we conceive is One; but when we look at the Persons in Whom the Godhead dwells, and at Those Who timelessly and with equal glory have their Being from the First Cause—there are Three Whom we worship.
13.j. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 43, 30
[…]But we recognize one glory of the Father, the equality of the Only-begotten; and one glory of the Son, that of the Spirit. And we hold that, to subordinate any of the Three, is to destroy the whole.
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