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Davenant on the Work of the Trinity in the Work of Redemption

December 30, 2008

Davenant:

1) But here it is proper to advise by the way. That when we assert that Christ our Lord is to be extolled in hymns, we do not exclude the Father or the Holy Spirit, nay, we call them into a participation of the same honor: for he who extols Christ the Redeemer, at the same time extols both the Father, who sent him to redeem the world; and the Holy Spirit, who renders this redemption efficacious to all the elect and believers. John Davenant, An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 2:143. [Italics original, some reformatting, underlining mine.]

2) In many other places the work of reconciliation is ascribed to God the Father: But that remarkable one, 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, contains the sum of them all, God hath reconciled us himself: God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. Although, therefore, (as we shall presently shew) the work of reconciliation is attributed to Christ, as the proximate and immediate agent; yet it is proper to ascribe it to God the Father; and, by consequence, to the whole Trinity, as the primary cause: For the whole Trinity, which foresaw from eternity the fall of the human race, pre-ordained this way of effecting reconciliation by Christ, and inspired the man Christ Jesus with the will to suffer for the redemption of mankind. So it is said in Isaiah xlii. 6, I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, &c. In which place the prophet teaches us, that Jehovah himself had ordained and called Christ to this work of reconciliation, and strengthened and upheld him during his whole accomplishment of human salvation. It is evident, therefore, that God was the primary author of this reconciliation, and was induced to devise this plan of our redemption entirely from his own good pleasure, and from free love. The Apostle here employs this particular term ‘eudokese. It pleased him well. And in Jeremiah xxxi. 3, we read, I have loved thee with an everlasting love. And in all parts of Scripture, this gratuitous love of God is declared to be the cause why the Father sent his Son into the world to obtain salvation for us, John iii. 16, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. And in Ephes. ii. 4, 5, For his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us, &c.  John Davenant, An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 1:235-236. [Italics original, underlining mine.]

[Note: It has always seemed strange why someone would insist that if the moderate and classic Calvinist position be true, it must be true that the persons of the Trinity are in a state of conflict or division, as if, for example, the Father elects and so desires the salvation of the elect alone, yet the Son seeks and obtains a sufficient redemption for all, and desires the salvation of all. Sometimes this argument expresses itself by asserting that the classic Calvinist position posits conflicting intentions within the Godhead.  We see these sorts of objections time and time again. The problem is, on the terms of the moderate and classic Calvinist, such a set of conditions or states of affairs would never apply.  For example, I do not know of any one, even within the broadest scope of the Reformed tradition, who has argued that the Son desired the salvation of any one, or sought the salvation of any one, contrary to the wishes of the Father.  Rather, then, the argument is a caricature, having only argumentative force if undergirded by the theological assumptions and constructions of the opposing paradigm. It is never wise to posit a rebuttal (unless your aim is only to speak to the choir), which can only be sustained on your terms, and never on the assumed terms of your opponent.

What it also interesting is that these objections are also proposed by opponents of common grace and general love, by positing the same idea of internal Trinitarian conflict, such as the Son loves men, whom the Father does not love, and so forth. The answer to this would be, and is the same answer to the previous set of objections. This should all be common sense: see for example Daniel’s response to this proposed dilemma.]

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