Authority in the Trinity?

Hello everyone,

Trinity question. Is there an authority structure in the Trinity? To be specific the Son submits to the Father’s authority and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son’s authority. Thoughts? Thanks in advance.

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

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Great question Ryan. This is one the church fathers grappled with both in concept and how to express it. I think the Athanasian Creed really helped me to wrap my head around the Trinity. Based on this creed, the answer to your question would seem to be no if by structure of authority you are meaning a hierarchy of power.

Yet as one reads scripture one clearly has a sense of roles within the community of the Trinity that from human eyes seems to suggest a dynamic similar to an earthly father and son, one having authority over the other. Perhaps these roles within the Trinity are not so much a hierarchy but the model of love and obedience (submission) to one another. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

Here’s the Athanasian Creed (shown statement by statement):

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

  2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

  3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

  4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

  5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

  6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

  7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

  8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

  9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

  10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

  11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

  12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

  13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

  14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

  15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

  16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

  17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

  18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

  19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

  20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

  21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

  22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

  23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

  24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

  25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

  26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

  27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

  28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

  29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

  31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

  32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

  33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

  34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

  35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

  36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

  37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

  38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

  39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

  40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

  41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

  42. and shall give account of their own works.

  43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

  44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

[Note: The term “catholic” (with a lower case “c”) did not and does not refer to any specific denomination or group of Christians. The term, etymologically, comes from two Greek words that together mean, “throughout the whole.” “Catholic” in a single word, both means throughout all time and places and points to the essential unity or wholeness of the church in Christ. No one English term captures that dual sense of this ancient Greek word quite as well as “catholic.” So when the creed states, “I believe in the holy catholic church,” it refers to the wholeness of the whole church in all times and places rather than to any specific branch of Christianity.]

The early church grappled with a lot of heresies and the creeds developed in response to this wrong thinking. Even today, with so many denominations and non-denominational churches, a point of agreement is the Apostles Creed as the foundation for orthodoxy…a.k.a right thinking.

The Athanasian Creed focuses on right thinking concerning the Trinity, trying to add clarity where subtle heresies were creeping into the church. I find that the creeds are very formative in my faith and a great source for prayer.

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While I can try to wrap my head around the concepts I also don’t need to because of faith and experience! Personally to me the trinity is an experience in it self of three states which I’ve experienced in my commune with the Lord! I think personally Christ & the Holy Spirit is the key influencers in my life… I know it’s kind of ignorant to say it but I feel more attuned to them than to the lord the father… I hope I’m not sounding stupid or trying to create confusion but even when I Pray the lord the father is the father of my Patriarchs, Christ is more my personal saviour and friend and the HolySpirit is what guides me Day to day! Does anyone else have this personal feeling? Just curious and want to know…?

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@Gihan,
Praise God when we can KNOW by faith that which is true.

If you don’t mind me being personal in asking, what was your relationship like with your earthly father? Please ignore that question if you are not inclined to answer. For persons who’ve had a rough or even non-existent relationship with their earthly father, they can have a challenging time relating to their heavenly Father. If a father is a strict disciplinarian, their view of God the Father can reflect those same attributes. Or if their father was remote, they can see God as far off and uncaring. It can take a lifetime of healing to fully enjoy that God the Father does perfectly all the desire of the heart that their earthly father never fulfilled.

It’s natural to feel a more personal relationship with Jesus who saved us and calls us brother/sister. I think many of us feel that kinship much more deeply.

I heard a lecturer once discuss the fullness of faith that one experiences when you begin to hold in your head and heart the trinity in balance. I found it takes a real intentionality to keep that focus. I feel I am joining in their communion and worshipping them in their unity and diversity. I believe the Holy Spirit enables us to abide in Christ and in Christ we become community with the church and the Trinity. I’ve often pictured myself inside a circle of the Trinity holding hands around me, trying to take in the fullness of that love.

Well I think I have a really Good relationship with my Dad and he was/is a kind and a very open hearted man who’s probably lived a really colourful life affecting many people and I only wish I’m able to affect as many as he does in my lifetime! Also my point was than in my Christian(day today) life I don’t quite hear my self calling upon the lord the father apart from when I thank him for his son but hear myself calling mostly upon Jesus & the Holy Spirit! And was wondering if this is just me…

also another thought that crossed my mind was if there was any reference of the triune in the Old Testament? Would like to know if there are any reference for same or the concept of the trinity was a singularity that occurred post to God becoming Man!?

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The word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. But the concept appears many places, including the OT. Let me get some references together when I’m off the clock later. Great question.

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Also meant to say that I’m glad you were blessed with a wonderful father.

This may not be a good parallel, but given how wonderful your father is, don’t you think it means a lot to him that you spend time with him and esteem him so highly. Our Heavenly Father is the same. He wants to walk with us in the garden in the cool of the evening and just be with us. That’s how our life with Him was designed to be.

@Jennifer_Judson Thank you so much for your gracious reply. I will probably need a bit to think about the creed, and if you don’t mind ask questions so I’m sure that I am properly understanding the terminology. The Trinity is an important doctrine to me and I want to have a correct understanding of it.

Regarding “hierarchy of power” I think we are on the same page. I would define God’s power as follows:
God can do anything:

  1. Physically possible (An example is Jesus walking from point A to point B)
  2. Physically impossible (An example is God raising Jesus from the dead, or any other miracle)
  3. Logically possible (An example is God always telling the truth because He can not lie)
  4. But not logically impossible (God telling a lie, because He has said He can’t lie)

Is that how you are understanding power? I would understand all three members of the Trinity to be equal in their power as I have described.

Thanks!

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

@RyanMelcher
On your #1 and #2, I think I might reword that to be “naturally possible” and “supernaturally possible”, but that could be semantics.

I agree with you that these items represent the parameters for understanding God’s/Trinity’s power, but I’m not quite sure on using the term “hierachy.” I think of that term as meaning a scale of superiority in structure, position, power, etc. Perhaps we’re not quite connecting on that term.

Going back to your original post, concerning “submission.” With what we see in scripture and how some scripture is worded the concept of submission is very logical. This is way over my head, but in their “oneness” of mind, their synchronicity, is it really a matter of harmony rather than submission? (Sometimes my brain gets turned inside out trying to think through this stuff!)

Jesus had to have been able to NOT do the Father’s will when fully man in order to satisfy justice (which certainly means he submitted to the Father’s will on the cross), but in His divinity is it possible for him to “do his own thing” apart from the Father’s will. I don’t think so, but what are your thoughts?

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@Gihan Sorry I was not able to get back to you last night concerning some references to the Trinity in the OT. My time has been limited and unfortunately by reply will reflect that.

Look at Genesis 1:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
… >

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

The “us” is believed to be the union of the Trinity.

Another key story where the Trinity is implied is in the sacrifice of Isaac. God the Father speaks to Abraham and instructs him to sacrifice the son he waited so long for.

From Genesis 22:
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrified it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.

This event foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus for our salvation. It is easy to see the Father and the Son represented in this story, but there are those who believe it was the Holy Spirit that enabled Abraham to be obedient to the Father. We believe that here in the OT because it is told to us many times in the NT that this is the work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do the will of the Father.

A few years back I read through the Chronological Bible In One Year. I read it out loud with a friend every night over the phone. That experience helped me see the God’s story of/with mankind much more fully and I was amazed at how much of Jesus I saw in the OT. It was an experience that helped shape my understanding and the depth of my faith. It was like seeing a tapestry fully together rather than just individual threads. I recommend it. I do think the out loud part made a difference as well, as I was both reading and hearing, with two senses engaged.

Does any of this help?

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Thanks Jennifer
Yep I get the references as well as the parallel to the trinity thru these worses, and I think it’s wonderful you were able to realise the big picture and actually live it thru readings with your friend! I think that’s surely something I would like to try as well to see if a connection clicks! Thank you for sparing your time and sharing your experience may God Bless You!!
Cheers

Hi @Jennifer_Judson, I have come across this paper that is addressing my question:

http://www.waynegrudem.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Biblical-Evidence-for-the-Eternal-Submission-of-the-Son-to-the-Father.pdf

I think I am good and am getting the answer I need. Thank you for the dialogue.

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

Very interesting discussions on Trinity and I have learned a lot on the subject from this discussions, I come from a Protestant background and was not very clear about the Holy Spirit and the giftings of Holy Spirit until i went through Born again experience. I relate Trinity to the state of a substance, for example water in solid state is Ice Cubes and natural state is liquid and steam in gaseous state and i think Trinity acts the same way on Children of God depending on what they need physically, emotionally and spiritually. Also as bible says when we pray to Lord the Father, Jesus the Son intercedes continually on our behalf and we can feel the peace of God in our hearts and minds and i think Holy Spirit brings that to us…which means all the three faces of trinity works in tandem

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