I can say some things about God from a “Trinitarian” perspective but I’m not competent to say much that clears up the “mystery” or the “difficulties” associated with the doctrine. But, then again, I don’t know anyone who is competent to do that. I say that as half an excuse for not dealing with the questions that are always asked and never answered. I’d like to say something that is more descriptive than explanatory. (Since God is not a male or a female or an “it” and since I believe He is a personal being I’m going to follow the established use of “He” when speaking of Him.)
The God revealed to us in the Bible and in the New Testament in particular is presented as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is to say, whatever God is “made of” (so to speak)—whatever it is that makes “God” to be “God” is equally shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The claim that “the Father” is God is never disputed.
The Spirit is a “personal” being (Acts 13:2 would serve for now). He is presented as distinct from the Father (John 14:16-17, 25) but is spoken of as “God’s Spirit” (Romans 8:9, 11, 14) He is not less than God because, obviously, God’s Spirit cannot be a created thing.
I wish to shelve the issue of “eternal Sonship”—that is, whether Jesus who is “The Word” and God—John 1:1-2—was eternally “the Son of God” or if He became “the Son” at the incarnation. That’s of interest but not here and now. The One we know as Jesus is the One of whom John 1:1-2 and 14 speaks. Jesus is God being a man. He is distinct from the Father and from the Spirit. Texts above.
This biblical revelation of the One True God speaks of God only as He has revealed Himself in relation to the human family and whatever truths that tells us about Him it doesn’t reveal anything about the essence of God or how the Persons of the Godhead together constitute one God. (Does that sound correct?)
My claim so far is the common knowledge claim of millions down the ages: There are three who constitute one God.
In the NT witness The Father does the sending. The Spirit doesn’t send the Father—He sends the Spirit and does His will through the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:14, 16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and texts above.)
The Son doesn’t send the Father—He sends the Son (38 times in John)! The Spirit and the Son bring people to the Father (Romans 8:15, 26; Hebrews 7:25; John 14:6, passim).
The Spirit and the Son do the will of the Father. They speak only what they hear and do not speak on their own authority and they work as the instruments of the Holy Father’s will and on His authority (texts above and elsewhere). It remains true, of course, that the Father, Son and Spirit have one purpose and one mind in the matter of creation and redemption.
Permit me to say it again, God acts in relation to creation and in redemption the one we know as the Father functions as the ultimate authority; the Spirit and the Son are subject to Him. It’s as if all three had a conference and agreed one with another and as One and each said: “I will function this way, and I in this way, and I in this way.” The way each one functions says nothing about inequality in essence. That free and glad subjecting to one another is what we see in the NT if indeed we believe in a Trinitarian understanding of God.
Taking the above to be true, we honor the one we know as Jesus when we speak of Him as subject to the Holy Father (even a casual reading of the book of John places that beyond any reasonable doubt and then there’s John 14:28). We don’t dishonor Him by speaking of Him that way—He eternally chose that as His place to function in the self-revelation of the Godhead. Philippians 2:5-11.
Again, taking the above to be true, we honor the one we know as the Holy Spirit when we speak of Him as subject to the Holy Father and the Holy Son. He Himself teaches us that He does not speak of His own authority and that He is “sent” to so work in and with Jesus so that Jesus is given the central place in the self-disclosure of God and of God’s love of humankind. He enables the Holy Son to fulfill the Father’s wishes to redeem humans and bring them to eternal glory. That self-revealing in which the Holy Spirit chooses to subject Himself makes the Incarnation of God in and as Jesus the fundamental act of God which leads to God taking up into the divine experience the experience of humanness.
If the above is essentially correct, has the “divine order” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit—1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:2; Matthew 28:19) any significance for believers? Does God’s self-revelation that speaks of subjection among equals have anything to say to humans and to the Church in particular? Or is it just an interesting topic for discussion but has no “message”? “Fancy that—all three were essentially equal but they chose to function in the arena of human creation and redemption as subject one to another. Yes, quite interesting.” That should be our response?
That foundational truth has no shaping value in our living out our faith in God before the world? Does it matter that the Holy Spirit teaches us that He is subject to the Father and the Son? Does it matter that the Holy Father is repeatedly said to be the “God…of Jesus Christ”? (Colossians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3; John 20:17, bearing in mind 20:28 and John 14:28.)
“Even Christ did not please Himself…”
(Holy One in three Persons, will we your children ever…?
Help us we pray for we have no other. This prayer in the Lord Jesus.)