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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
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@ogundipeTaiwo Hence the source of my question. –  Richard Jul 25 '13 at 11:49

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 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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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
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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 Stratton Nov 26 '13 at 0:47

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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There is functional subordination or inequality in role within the Three persons.

Functional subordination in the immanent Trinity

The Father is the "Daddy" of the Son and the Son is the "only offspring"of the Father. The Holy Spirit is their "life"( John 1:18, 5:18, Matthew 28:19).

Functional subordination in the economic Trinity

The Father sent the Son. The Son became human to die off on the cross for the elect. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the saints. (John 3:16, 1 Peter 1:2).

They are all ontologically equal, consubstantial i.e. equal in nature and power but not in authority and role.

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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
    
Oh, I am kinda busy to search for that amd anyways, I just remember everything i read about it. Well, thanks! H.S. TY! –  Radz Matthew Co Brown Jul 31 '13 at 11:29
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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

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