Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 13
(... continued from part 12) 
Chapter 12. 
12. Christ, to perform the office of Mediator, behoved to become 
    The two divisions of this chapter are, I. The reasons why our 
Mediator behoved to be very God, and to become man, see. 1-3. II. 
Disposal of various objections by some fanatics, and especially by 
Osiander, to the orthodox doctrine concerning the Mediator, sec. 4- 
1. Necessary, not absolutely, but by divine decree, that the 
    Mediator should be God, and become man. Neither man nor angel, 
    though pure, could have sufficed. The Son of God behoved to 
    come down. Man in innocence could not penetrate to God without 
    a Mediator, much less could he after the fall. 
2. A second reason why the Mediator behoved to be God and man, viz., 
    that he had to convert those who were heirs of hell into 
    children of God. 
3. Third reason, that in our flesh he might yield a perfect 
    obedience, satisfy the divine justice, and pay the penalty of 
    sin. Fourth reason, regarding the consolation and confirmation 
    of the whole Church. 
4. First objection against the orthodox doctrine: Answer to it. 
    Conformation from the sacrifices of the Law, the testimony of 
    the Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, and even Christ himself. 
5. Second objection: Answer: Answer confirmed. Third objection: 
    Answer. Fourth objection by Osiander: Answer. 
6. Fifth objection, forming the basis of Osiander's errors on this 
    subject: Answer. Nature of the divine image in Adam. Christ the 
    head of angels and men. 
7. Sixth objection: Answer. Seventh objection: Answer. Eighth 
    objection: Answer. Ninth objection: Answer. Tenth objection: 
    Answer. Eleventh objection: Answer. Twelfth objection: Answer. 
    The sum of the doctrine. 
    1. It deeply concerned us, that he who was to be our Mediator 
should be very God and very man. If the necessity be inquired into, 
it was not what is commonly termed simple or absolute, but flowed 
from the divine decree on which the salvation of man depended. What 
was best for us, our most merciful Father determined. Our 
iniquities, like a cloud intervening between Him and us, having 
utterly alienated us from the kingdom of heaven, none but a person 
reaching to him could be the medium of restoring peace. But who 
could thus reach to him? Could any of the sons of Adam? All of them, 
with their parents, shuddered at the sight of God. Could any of the 
angels? They had need of a head, by connection with which they might 
adhere to their God entirely and inseparably. What then? The case 
was certainly desperate, if the Godhead itself did not descend to 
us, it being impossible for us to ascend. Thus the Son of God 
behoved to become our Emmanuel, the God with us; and in such a way, 
that by mutual union his divinity and our nature might be combined; 
otherwise, neither was the proximity near enough, nor the affinity 
strong enough, to give us hope that God would dwell with us; so 
great was the repugnance between our pollution and the spotless 
purity of God. Had man remained free from all taint, he was of too 
humble a condition to penetrate to God without a Mediator. What, 
then, must it have been, when by fatal ruin he was plunged into 
death and hell, defiled by so many stains, made loathsome by 
corruption; in fine, overwhelmed with every curse? It is not without 
cause, therefore, that Paul, when he would set forth Christ as the 
Mediator, distinctly declares him to be man. There is, says he, "one 
Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Tim. 2: 5.) 
He might have called him God, or at least, omitting to call him God 
he might also have omitted to call him man; but because the Spirit, 
speaking by his mouth, knew our infirmity, he opportunely provides 
for it by the most appropriate remedy, setting the Son of God 
familiarly before us as one of ourselves. That no one, therefore, 
may feel perplexed where to seek the Mediator, or by what means to 
reach him, the Spirit, by calling him man, reminds us that he is 
near, nay, contiguous to us, inasmuch as he is our flesh. And, 
indeed, he intimates the same thing in another place, where he 
explains at greater length that he is not a high priest who "cannot 
be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all 
points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," (Heb. 4: 15.) 
    2. This will become still clearer if we reflect, that the work 
to be performed by the Mediator was of no common description: being 
to restore us to the divine favour, so as to make us, instead of 
sons of men, sons of God; instead of heirs of hell, heirs of a 
heavenly kingdom. Who could do this unless the Son of God should 
also become the Son of man, and so receive what is ours as to 
transfer to us what is his, making that which is his by nature to 
become ours by grace? Relying on this earnest, we trust that we are 
the sons of God, because the natural Son of God assumed to himself a 
body of our body, flesh of our flesh, bones of our bones, that he 
might be one with us; he declined not to take what was peculiar to 
us, that he might in his turn extend to us what was peculiarly his 
own, and thus might be in common with us both Son of God and Son of 
man. Hence that holy brotherhood which he commends with his own 
lips, when he says, "I ascend to my Father, and your Father, to my 
God, and your God," (John 20: 17.) In this way, we have a sure 
inheritance in the heavenly kingdom, because the only Son of God, to 
whom it entirely belonged, has adopted us as his brethren; and if 
brethren, then partners with him in the inheritance, (Rom. 8: 17.) 
Moreover, it was especially necessary for this cause also that he 
who was to be our Redeemer should be truly God and man. It was his 
to swallow up death: who but Life could do so? It was his to conquer 
sin: who could do so save Righteousness itself? It was his to put to 
flight the powers of the air and the world: who could do so but the 
mighty power superior to both? But who possesses life and 
righteousness, and the dominion and government of heaven, but God 
alone? Therefore, God, in his infinite mercy, having determined to 
redeem us, became himself our Redeemer in the person of his only 
begotten Son. 
    3. Another principal part of our reconciliation with God was, 
that man, who had lost himself by his disobedience, should, by way 
of remedy, oppose to it obedience, satisfy the justice of God, and 
pay the penalty of sin. Therefore, our Lord came forth very man, 
adopted the person of Adam, and assumed his name, that he might in 
his stead obey the Father; that he might present our flesh as the 
price of satisfaction to the just judgement of God, and in the same 
flesh pay the penalty which we had incurred. Finally, since as God 
only he could not suffer, and as man only could not overcome death, 
he united the human nature with the divine, that he might subject 
the weakness of the one to death as an expiation of sin, and by the 
power of the other, maintaining a struggle with death, might gain us 
the victory. Those, therefore, who rob Christ of divinity or 
humanity either detract from his majesty and glory, or obscure his 
goodness. On the other hand, they are no less injurious to men, 
undermining and subverting their faith, which, unless it rest on 
this foundation, cannot stand. Moreover, the expected Redeemer was 
that son of Abraham and David whom God had promised in the Law and 
in the Prophets. Here believers have another advantage. Tracing up 
his origin in regular series to David and Abraham, they more 
distinctly recognise him as the Messiah celebrated by so many 
oracles. But special attention must be paid to what I lately 
explained, namely, that a common nature is the pledge of our union 
with the Son of God; that, clothed with our flesh, he warred to 
death with sin that he might be our triumphant conqueror; that the 
flesh which he received of us he offered in sacrifice, in order that 
by making expiation he might wipe away our guilt, and appease the 
just anger of his Father. 
    4. He who considers these things with due attention, will 
easily disregard vague speculations, which attract giddy minds and 
lovers of novelty. One speculation of this class is, that Christ, 
even though there had been no need of his interposition to redeem 
the human race, would still have become man. I admit that in the 
first ordering of creation, while the state of nature was entire, he 
was appointed head of angels and men; for which reason Paul 
designates him "the first-born of every creature," (Col. 1: 15.) But 
since the whole Scripture proclaims that he was clothed with flesh 
in order to become a Redeemer, it is presumptuous to imagine any 
other cause or end. We know well why Christ was at first promised, 
viz., that he might renew a fallen world, and succour lost man. 
Hence under the Law he was typified by sacrifices, to inspire 
believers with the hope that God would be propitious to them after 
he was reconciled by the expiation of their sins. Since from the 
earliest age, even before the Law was promulgated, there was never 
any promise of a Mediator without blood, we justly infer that he was 
destined in the eternal counsel of God to purge the pollution of 
man, the shedding of blood being the symbol of expiation. Thus, too, 
the prophets, in discoursing of him, foretold that he would be the 
Mediator between God and man. It is sufficient to refer to the very 
remarkable prophecy of Isaiah, (Is. 53: 4, 5,) in which he foretells 
that he was "smitten for our iniquities;" that "the chastisement of 
our peace was upon him;" that as a priest "he was made an offering 
for sin;" "that by his stripes we are healed;" that as all "like 
lost sheep have gone astray," "it pleased the Lord to bruise him, 
and put him to grief," that he might "bear our iniquities." After 
hearing that Christ was divinely appointed to bring relief to 
miserable sinners, whose overleaps these limits gives too much 
indulgence to a foolish curiosity. 
    Then when he actually appeared, he declared the cause of his 
advent to be, that by appeasing God he might bring us from death 
unto life. To the same effect was the testimony of the Apostles 
concerning him, (John 1: 9; 10: 14.) Thus John, before teaching that 
the Word was made flesh, narrates the fall of man. But above all, 
let us listen to our Saviour himself when discoursing of his office: 
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that 
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting 
life." Again, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall 
hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." "I 
am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he 
were dead, yet shall he live." "The Son of man is come to save that 
which was lost." Again, "They that be whole need not a physician." I 
should never have done were I to quote all the passages. Indeed, the 
Apostles, with one consent, lead us back to this fountain; and 
assuredly, if he had not come to reconcile God, the honour of his 
priesthood would fall, seeing it was his office as priest to stand 
between God and men, and "offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins," 
(Heb. 5: 1;) nor could he be our righteousness, as having been made 
a propitiation for us in order that God might not impute to us our 
sins, (2 Cor. 5: 19.) In short, he would be stript of all the titles 
with which Scripture invests him. Nor could Paul's doctrine stand 
"What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, 
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for 
sin, condemned sin in the flesh," (Rom. 8: 3.) Nor what he states in 
another passage: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation has 
appeared to all men," (Tit. 2: 11.) In fine, the only end which the 
Scripture uniformly assigns for the Son of God voluntarily assuming 
our nature, and even receiving it as a command from the Father, is, 
that he might propitiate the Father to us by becoming a victim. 
"Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer;" - "and 
that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his 
name." "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my 
life, that I might take it again." - "This commandment have I 
received of my Father." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the 
wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." "Father, save 
me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, 
glorify thy name." Here he distinctly assigns as the reason for 
assuming our nature, that he might become a propitiatory victim to 
take away sin. For the same reason Zacharias declares, (Luke 1: 79,) 
that he came "to perform the mercy promised to our fathers," "to 
give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of 
death." Let us remember that all these things are affirmed of the 
Son of God, in whom, as Paul elsewhere declares, were "hid all the 
treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and save whom it was his 
determination "not to know any thing," (Col. 2: 3; 1 Cor. 2: 2.) 
    5. Should any one object, that in this there is nothing to 
prevent the same Christ who redeemed us when condemned from also 
testifying his love to us when safe by assuming our nature, we have 
the brief answer, that when the Spirit declares that by the eternal 
decree of God the two things were connected together, viz., that 
Christ should be our Redeemer, and, at the same time, a partaker of 
our nature, it is unlawful to inquire further. He who is tickled 
with a desire of knowing something more, not contented with the 
immutable ordination of God, shows also that he is not even 
contented with that Christ who has been given us as the price of 
redemption. And, indeed, Paul not only declares for what end he was 
sent, but rising to the sublime mystery of predestination, 
seasonably represses all the wantonness and prurience of the human 
mind. "He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, 
that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having 
predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to 
himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise 
of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the 
Beloved: In whom we have redemption through his blood," (Eph. 1: 
4-7.) Here certainly the fall of Adam is not presupposed as anterior 
in point of time, but our attention is directed to what God 
predetermined before all ages, when he was pleased to provide a cure 
for the misery of the human race. If, again, it is objected that 
this counsel of God depended on the fall of man, which he foresaw, 
to me it is sufficient and more to reply, that those who propose to 
inquire, or desire to know more of Christ than God predestinated by 
his secret decree, are presuming with impious audacity to invent a 
new Christ. Paul, when discoursing of the proper office of Christ, 
justly prays for the Ephesians that God would strengthen them "by 
his Spirit in the inner man," that they might "be able to comprehend 
with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and 
height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," 
(Eph. 3: 16, 18;) as if he intended of set purpose to set barriers 
around our minds, and prevent them from declining one iota from the 
gift of reconciliation whenever mention is made of Christ. 
Wherefore, seeing it is as Paul declares it to be, "a faithful 
saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into 
the world to save sinners," (1 Tim. 1: 15,) in it I willingly 
acquiesce. And since the same Apostle elsewhere declares that the 
grace which is now manifested by the Gospel "was given us in Christ 
Jesus before the world began," (2 Tim. 1: 9,) I am resolved to 
adhere to it firmly even to the end. This moderation is unjustly 
vituperated by Osiander, who has unhappily, in the present day, 
again agitated this question, which a few had formerly raised. He 
brings a charge of overweening confidence against those who deny 
that the Son of God would have appeared in the flesh if Adam had not 
fallen, because this notion is not repudiated by any passage of 
Scripture. As if Paul did not lay a curb on perverse curiosity when 
after speaking of the redemption obtained by Christ, he bids us 
"avoid foolish questions," (Tit. 3: 9.) To such insanity have some 
proceeded in their preposterous eagerness to seem acute, that they 
have made it a question whether the Son of God might not have 
assumed the nature of an ass. This blasphemy, at which all pious 
minds justly shudder with detestation, Osiander excuses by the 
pretext that it is no where distinctly refuted in Scripture; as if 
Paul, when he counted nothing valuable or worth knowing "save Jesus 
Christ and him crucified," (I Cor. 2: 2,) were admitting, that the 
author of salvation is an ass. He who elsewhere declares that Christ 
was by the eternal counsel of the Father appointed "head over all 
things to the church," would never have acknowledged another to whom 
no office of redemption had been assigned. 
    6. The principle on which Osiander founds is altogether 
frivolous. He will have it that man was created in the image of God, 
inasmuch as he was formed on the model of the future Messiah, in 
order to resemble him whom the Father had already determined to 
clothe with flesh. Hence he infers, that though Adam had never 
fallen from his first and pure original, Christ would still have 
been man. How silly and distorted this view is, all men of sound 
judgement at once discern; still he thinks he was the first to see 
what the image of God was, namely, that not only did the divine 
glory shine forth in the excellent endowments with which he was 
adorned, but God dwelt in him essentially. But while I grant that 
Adam bore the image of God, inasmuch as he was united to God, (this 
being the true and highest perfection of dignity,) yet I maintain, 
that the likeness of God is to be sought for only in those marks of 
superiority with which God has distinguished Adam above the other 
animals. And likewise, with one consent, acknowledge that Christ was 
even then the image of God, and, accordingly, whatever excellence 
was engraven on Adam had its origin in this, that by means of the 
only begotten Son he approximated to the glory of his Maker. Man, 
therefore, was created in the image of God, (Gen. 1: 27,) and in him 
the Creator was pleased to behold, as in a mirror, his own glory. To 
this degree of honour he was exalted by the kindness of the only 
begotten Son. But I add, that as the Son was the common head both of 
men and angels, so the dignity which was conferred on man belonged 
to the angels also. For when we hear them called the sons of God, 
(Ps. 82: 6,) it would be incongruous to deny that they were endued 
with some quality in which they resembled the Father. But if he was 
pleased that his glory should be represented in men and angels, and 
made manifest in both natures, it is ignorant trifling in Osiander 
to say, that angels were postponed to men, because they did not bear 
the image of Christ. They could not constantly enjoy the immediate 
presence of God if they were not like to him; nor does Paul teach 
(Col. 3: 10) that men are renewed in the image of God in any other 
way than by being associated with angels, that they may be united 
together under one head. In fine, if we believe Christ, our felicity 
will be perfected when we shall have been received into the heavens, 
and made like the angels. But if Osiander is entitled to infer that 
the primary type of the image of God was in the man Christ, on the 
same ground may any one maintain that Christ behoved to partake of 
the angelic nature, seeing that angels also possess the image of 
    7. Osiander has no reason to fear that God would be found a 
liar, if the decree to incarnate the Son was not previously 
immutably fixed in his mind. Even had Adam not lost his integrity, 
he would, with the angels, have been like to God; and yet it would 
not therefore have been necessary that the Son of God should become 
either a man or an angel. In vain does he entertain the absurd fear, 
that unless it had been determined by the immutable counsel of God, 
before man was created, that Christ should be born, not as the 
Redeemer, but as the first man, he might lose his precedence, since 
he would not have been born, except for an accidental circumstance, 
namely, that he might restore the lost race of man; and in this way 
would have been created in the image of Adam. For why should he be 
alarmed at what the Scripture plainly teaches, that "he was in all 
points tempted like as we are, yet without sin?" (Heb. 4: 15.) Hence 
Luke, also, hesitates not to reckon him in his genealogy as a son of 
Adam, (Luke 3: 38.) I should like to know why Christ is termed by 
Paul the second Adam, (1 Cor. 15: 47,) unless it be that a human 
condition was decreed him, for the purpose of raising up the ruined 
posterity of Adam. For if in point of order, that condition was 
antecedent to creation, he ought to have been called the first Adam. 
Osiander confidently affirms, that because Christ was in the purpose 
of God foreknown as man, men were formed after him as their model. 
But Paul, by calling him the second Adam, gives that revolt which 
made it necessary to restore nature to its primitive condition an 
intermediate place between its original formation and the 
restitution which we obtain by Christ: hence it follows, that it was 
this restitution which made the Son of God be born, and thereby 
become man. Moreover, Osiander argues ill and absurdly, that as long 
as Adam maintained his integrity, he would have been the image of 
himself, and not of Christ. I maintain, on the contrary, that 
although the Son of God had never become incarnate, nevertheless the 
image of God was conspicuous in Adam, both in his body and his soul; 
in the rays of this image it always appeared that Christ was truly 
head, and had in all things the pre-eminence. In this way we dispose 
of the futile sophism put forth by Osiander, that the angels would 
have been without this head, had not God purposed to clothe his Son 
with flesh, even independent of the sin of Adam. He inconsiderately 
assumes what no rational person will grant, that Christ could have 
had no supremacy over the angels, so that they might enjoy him as 
their prince, unless in so far as he was man. But it is easy to 
infer from the words of Paul, (Col. 1: 15,) that inasmuch as he is 
the eternal Word of God, he is the first-born of every creature, not 
because he is created, or is to be reckoned among the creatures, but 
because the entire structure of the world, such as it was from the 
beginning, when adorned with exquisite beauty had no other 
beginning; then, inasmuch as he was made man, he is the first-born 
from the dead. For in one short passage, (Col. 1: 16-18,) the 
Apostle calls our attention to both views: that by the Son all 
things were created, so that he has dominion over angels; and that 
he became man, in order that he might begin to be a Redeemer. Owing 
to the same ignorance, Osiander says that men would not have had 
Christ for their king unless he had been a man; as if the kingdom of 
God could not have been established by his eternal Son, though not 
clothed with human flesh, holding the supremacy while angels and men 
were gathered together to participate in his celestial life and 
glory. But he is always deluded, or imposes upon himself by this 
false principle, that the church would have been "akefalon" - 
without a head - had not Christ appeared in the flesh. In the same 
way as angels enjoyed him for their head, could he not by his divine 
energy preside over men, and by the secret virtue of his Spirit 
quicken and cherish them as his body, until they were gathered into 
heaven to enjoy the same life with the angels? The absurdities which 
I have been refuting, Osiander regards as infallible oracles. Taking 
an intoxicating delight in his own speculations, his wont is to 
extract ridiculous plans out of nothing. He afterwards says that he 
has a much stronger passage to produce, namely, the prophecy of 
Adam, who, when the woman was brought to him, said, "This is now 
bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," (Gen. 2: 23.) But how does 
he prove it to be a prophecy? Because in Matthew Christ attributes 
the same expression to God! as if every thing which God has spoken 
by man contained a prophecy. On the same principle, as the law 
proceeded from God, let Osiander in each precept find a prophecy. 
Add, that our Saviour's exposition would have been harsh and 
grovelling, had he confined himself to the literal meaning. He was 
not referring to the mystical union with which he has honoured the 
Church, but only to conjugal fidelity, and states, that the reason 
why God declared man and wife to be one flesh, was to prevent any 
one from violating that indissoluble tie by divorce. If this simple 
meaning is too low for Osiander, let him censure Christ for not 
leading his disciples to the hidden sense, by interpreting his 
Father's words with more subtlety. Paul gives no countenance to 
Osiander's dream, when, after saying that "we are members of his 
body, of his flesh, and of his bones," he immediately adds, "This is 
a great mystery," (Eph. 5: 30-32.) For he meant not to refer to the 
sense in which Adam used the words, but sets forth, under the figure 
and similitude of marriage, the sacred union which makes us one with 
Christ. His words have this meaning; for reminding us that he is 
speaking of Christ and the Church, he, by way of correction, 
distinguishes between the marriage tie and the spiritual union of 
Christ with his Church. Wherefore, this subtlety vanishes at once. I 
deem it unnecessary to discuss similar absurdities: for from this 
very brief refutation, the vanity of them all will be discovered. 
Abundantly sufficient for the solid nurture of the children of God 
is this sober truth, that "when the fulness of the time was come, 
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to 
redeem them who were under the law," (Gal. 4: 4, 5.) 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 13
(continued in part 14...)

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