An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity
We confess the one true and living God, Creator of everything and Ruler over the entire creation. He has uniquely revealed himself in the living Word, Jesus Christ, and in the written Word, the Bible, as One Triune God—three coeternal and coequal Persons. Each Person is distinct, yet there is only one essence or Being who is God, not three separate Gods. Each Person of the One Triune God shares equally in honor, glory, worship, power, authority, and rank. The Bible never suggests that any one Person of the Trinity has eternal superiority or authority over the others, or that one is in eternal subordination to another. The Son’s submission and obedience to the Father were voluntary and related specifically to the time during which he humbled himself, took on human nature, and dwelled among us as a servant.
The biblical1 testimony
Isaiah prophesied, and it was fulfilled through Mary, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son whose name would be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” This son was also given the name Jesus, meaning “the LORD saves” (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:20–23).
Jesus, the eternal Word, already existed in the beginning. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” This same Word “became flesh” in the person of Jesus and “made his dwelling among us.” In the incarnate Word, humankind saw the “glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father” (John 1:1–14).
Christ Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. . . . He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:5–11).”
The Son did not divest himself of his deity, but the text does say that he had equality with God that he gave up by taking the very nature of a servant during the time of his Incarnation. He voluntarily humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross. A servant is one who does the bidding of another, and the very fact that the Son took on the very nature of a servant suggests that, before the Son came in human likeness, he was not a servant or one who subjected himself to another’s will. After the Son’s earthly ministry as the obedient servant, the Father exalted him to the highest place so that all creation bows before him and acknowledges him as God. Similarly, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth,” the Son was reverently submissive, and, “Son though he was, he learned obedience,” again suggesting that obedience was something unusual or unexpected from God’s Son (Heb 5:7–8). Peter and Paul also affirm that the risen Son is now at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33; Col 3:1), and Jesus told his disciples that “all authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him (Matt 28:18). The evidence seems clear—the Son’s subordination to the Father was temporary, not eternal, and related only to the time of his earthly ministry.
Some actions of God are more frequently attributed to one Person of the Trinity in particular. Nevertheless, many times within Scripture, actions that are attributed to one member of the Trinity are also attributed to another member of the Trinity.2 These too are evidence that there is full and eternal equality among the Persons of the Trinity and no eternal subordination or rigid hierarchy of roles.
- Creation. Both the Father and the Son are the agents in the Creation (Gen 1 and 2; John 1:2–3, 10; Col 1:16; Heb 1:10).
- Choosing. Both the Father and the Son are involved in predestination or choosing (Rom 8:29; 1 Pet 1:2; John 6:70; 13:18; Acts 1:2, 24; 9:15; Matt 11:27).
- Sending the Spirit. Both the Father and the Son are associated with the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
- Biblical quotations are from the New International Version [↩]
- I wish to express my indebtedness to the work of Millard J. Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2009), especially chapter 4, “The Biblical Evidence,” 109–38. [↩]
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