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The Distinct Roles of the Trinity

Categories Theology Systematic Theology

In both creation and redemption the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all had distinct roles. It was the Father who directed and sent both the Son and the Spirit. And it was the Son who, along with the Father, sent the Spirit. The Son was obedient to the Father, and the Spirit was obedient to both the Father and the Son. And while both the Son and the Spirit have and continue to carry out their roles in equal deity with the Father, they do so in submission to the Father.

These different functions and roles are simply the outworking of the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. They do not diminish the deity, attributes, or essential nature of the Father, Son, or Spirit. The distinction is simply in the ways they relate to each other and to the creation. This is far different from our own experience where every person is a different being as well. But somehow God’s being is so different from ours that it can be both undivided and can unfold itself into interpersonal relationships among three distinct persons. This is far different from anything we have ever experienced, will experience, or can fully understand.

Yet the unity and diversity within the Trinity provide a wonderful basis for the unity and diversity we experience in everyday life. In marriage, for example, two distinct persons come together, and through marriage they become “one flesh” (Eph. 5:31). As husband and wife they have equal standing, value, and personhood before God, but they also have distinct roles. Just as the Father has authority over the Son, so in marriage the husband has authority over the wife. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Even though it may be difficult at times to figure out just how the roles of husband and wife are to be specifically defined, the Bible makes it clear that the relationship within the Trinity provides the model for the relationship of marriage.

Another example of unity and diversity is seen in the church, which has “many members” all with different skills but “one body” with one purpose (1 Cor. 12:12). It is also seen in the ethnic makeup of the church — which includes members “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9). This diversity adds a complexity that shows us the wisdom of God in allowing both unity and diversity to exist within his world. The unity and diversity that exists in this world is simply a reflection of the unity and diversity that exists within the Trinity.

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