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The three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in an undivided Trinity, in which all are equal in stature, according to orthodox trinitarian Christianity. Given that our language is linear, it is clear that there are six ways that we could list these three persons. In fact, the order of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is overwhelmingly the dominant one - in the liturgy, especially for baptism (Mt 28:19), in creeds*, and so on. At a distant second is the Son-Father-Spirit order of 2 Corinthians 13:14,

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. NRSV

which admittedly sees a lot of liturgical use, though still less than Father-Son-Spirit. I do not think that any other orders are used at all.

Why are other permutations of the three persons not used liturgically? Is there a theological reason why the standard order is the best one (aside from simple Scriptural precedent), or conversely is there some reason (aside from surprise) why a novel order would be wrong?

(I am looking for answers from 'mainstream' trinitarian Christianity.)

* e.g. the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, Reformation confessions (Augsburg, Belgic, Second Helvetic, Thirty-Nine Articles, Westminster), and more recent statements of belief like Baptist Faith and Message

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1 Answer 1

up vote 26 down vote accepted

I believe one reason for the order is because of the Great Commission, in which it is written (Matt. 28:19),

Therefore, go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

Ontologically, the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, but the Father is neither begotten nor proceeding.

In the creed established at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D., the Lord Jesus Christ is described as "he who was begotten of the Father" (τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα), while the Holy Spirit is described as "the one who proceeds from the Father" (τὸ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον).

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (cp. John 15:26). Thus, the Father would be listed first, the Son would be listed second, followed by the Holy Spirit.

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A good scripturally and theologically sound Christian answer. +1 – svidgen Feb 9 '13 at 21:08
yeah kudus for that one! anyone could understand that! – Nikos May 1 '13 at 22:19

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