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It seems that there is some form of hierarchy within the Trinity.

For example, these passages seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit is subservient to the Father and Jesus:

John 14:26 (NIV)
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 15:26 (NIV)
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

Also, it seems that the Father has control over Jesus:

Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

My understanding is that the Trinity is three persons in one God. Therefore, each person in the Trinity is equal to the other two. Yet, the verses above seem to indicate that there's a hierarchy.

Is there a hierarchy (and my previous understanding flawed) or is there a deeper understanding of what's going on in those verses above?

I'm seeking a Mainstream Protestant exegesis and viewpoint on this issue.

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The father, the son and the holy spirit is one. As Jesus of said i lives in my father and he lives in me. The trinity is one. – ogundipe Taiwo May 3 '12 at 16:01
@ogundipeTaiwo Hence the source of my question. – Richard Jul 25 '13 at 11:49
up vote 12 down vote accepted

It's a role-delineation, not a "hierarchy" (at least, not in the way it is used in common English).

God has distinct persons making up His one self - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

They have distinct roles, as revealed in the Bible (more I'm sure can be added):

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Yes. There is a hierarchy in the Trinity.

Bible scholars distinguish the relationship of the Trinity between ontology (nature, attributes) and function (role, job).


The three persons are not equal in function.

John 13:16 (ISV)

Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, a servant isn't greater than his master, and a messenger isn't greater than the one who sent him.

1 John 4:14 (ISV)

We have seen for ourselves and can testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

John 15:26 (ISV)

"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father— the Spirit of Truth, who comes from the Father—he will testify on my behalf.


The three persons are equal in nature.

Matthew 28:19 (ISV)

19 Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Philippians 2:6-11 (ISV)

6 In God’s own form existed he, and shared with God equality, deemed nothing needed grasping. 7 Instead, poured out in emptiness, a servant’s form did he possess, a mortal man becoming. In human form he chose to be, 8 and lived in all humility,


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This could really use some external sources showing the link to mainstream protestant interpretations. Other than that, good effort. – wax eagle Jul 30 '13 at 15:53
Welcome to Christianity.SE, Radz Matthew Co Brown. I echo @waxeagle's comment - this might make for a start of an answer, but where are you sourcing from? How does this add to the already given (and accepted) answer on the question? – warren Jul 31 '13 at 14:33
I think there are two users named Radz Matthew Co Brown. I assumed that they belong to the same person, so I accepted the edit made by Radz Matthew Co Brown. If the latter is a different person, then I'd have rejected the edit, because it'd be an attempt to radically change the original answer. – Double U Feb 14 '15 at 15:04
@DoubleU Yes. I am also the same user. I already contacted CSE to merge the two to become one. – Radz Matthew Brown Feb 14 '15 at 16:17

There is NOT a heierchy to the trinity. This is considered a heresy known as Subordinationsim by both the Roman Catholic and Evangelical churches. This was discussed and determined to be a heresy in the 3rd century A.D. and is considered to be a type of Semi-Arianism which was denounced by the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea.

The reasoning for that is this: In order for a member of the trinity to be subordinate or lesser-than another member, they must not be of the "same substance" as another member. Were they of the "same substance" then there would be no hierarchy because the members of the trinity would equal.

The debate in the 3rd century largely centered around what kind of "substance" God and Jesus were. Arius started out stating that Jesus was of a "different substance" than the father (That Jesus was not God). Many church fathers posited a similar argument that Jesus was not of the "same substance" but of a "similar substance" (This was Semi-Arianism which included, but was not limited to the Subordinationists).

Ultimately, the council decided for numerous reasons that Jesus needed to be of the same substance in order to be savior and messiah. One important reason is that if another member is less than God the Father (for example) who is perfect or just or merciful, then by virtue of being subordinate to or lesser than God the father, Jesus would be less than perfect, less than just or less than merciful (for example) and this led to the council's consensus after exhaustive discussion.

There is however a type of subordination called "relational subordination" a type of mutual submission in which one member of the trinity yields or defers to the other not out of a lesser status or some sort of hierarchy, but out of respect as a peer (for lack of a better word) having equivalent status.

We have this sense of respectfully deferring to a colleague when we value their experience and have a high respect or regard for that person. Similarly, we may defer to the will of our spouse out of love and respect for our wives, and the deferment of wills you cited in Matthew and John are simply relational subordination or mutual submission.

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Hierarchy does reference order but it does not reference value. The value of each person of the trinity is equal. What the Bible reflects is unique characteristics and relational contingencies within the Trinity. For example Jesus says:

John 5:19 ....Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me

John 15:26 … the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father…

Because of these relational dynamics we have access to God:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him (Jesus Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father

Value within the Eternal Economy is significantly different than the World’s Economy:

Matthew 5:3-11 Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are they that mourn…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are the pure in heart…Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness…Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

If in hierarchy we mean order, then there is an order within the Trinity. If subjectivity through a hierarchy denotes lesser value then this is not true within the Godhead.
This is illustrated within the marriage union. While a wife is subject to the husband this does not hold that a wife or a mother is of lower value than a husband or father:

Ephesians 5:22-25 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

Here we see the one that is subject (wife) is worth the husbands life!

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It seems that most of us echo the teachings that have been passed on through the ages.I feel that scripture points to a definite hierachy within the Trinity.Scripture points to the fact that Jesus was sent to draw us back to the Father.Our worship is to the Father and our prayers should be addressed to Him as when Jesus taught His disciples - "Our Father which art in heaven.Hallowed be THY name.THY kingdom come, THY will be done ..." The death on the cross was Jesus being obedient to the will of the Father -"Father remove this cup of suffering from Me - not My will but THY will be done." The decision was made by the Father and the Son was obedient to the will of the Father. Jesus Himself says, " For the Father is greater than I am." The Holy Spirit seems to take instruction from the Son - " I will send the Holy Spirit." The oneness of the Trinity is a oneness of thought and mind.

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Welcome! Scripture shows we can also pray to Jesus. – Wikis Nov 25 '13 at 16:44
This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Nov 26 '13 at 0:47

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