THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
The Roles of the Trinity
By Bill Brenner
We cannot recognize false gods without first knowing the true God and the three persons of the Trinity. We can rise no higher than what we believe to be the highest, and we become what we admire the most. The reason this issue becomes difficult is because the Trinity is a mystery that men are incapable of completely comprehending. What we know is only what God has revealed to us, and in terms that we partially grasp but not entirely since there is no one like God. When we look at passages and attempt to isolate one of the three persons from the Godhead, we must keep in mind that all three persons are always present and operating at the same time and in the same place:
I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord [Father] has done for us...and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence [Son] saved them. In his love and mercy, he redeemed them…Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit [Spirit]. Isaiah 63:7-10Paul used all three names together in 2 Corinthians 13:14: "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Son], and the love of God [Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [Spirit] be with you all." And Jesus in Matthew 28:19: "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
As soon as Jesus [Son] was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God [Spirit] descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven [Father] said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17
We can see that there are three distinct persons who exist and operate as one, sharing the same essence or nature. This is not modalism that claims that God appears in the forms of different persons but are all one God. This is a mystery of three persons, separate and distinct, but all the same God, not parts of God.
Which person was present at the creation of the world? All three. Who spoke to Moses and allowed His shadow to pass by him? All three. Psalm 110:1 says, "The Father says to my Lord [Son] sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Jesus used this passage to indicate His own deity in Mathew 22:41-46. Then how can it be that the Father speaks to the Son and the Son prays to the Father, and so on? These passages are actually biblical evidence of the Tri-unity in God, evidence that each Person of the Trinity is not one and the same person. Yet God is also indivisible. God has many attributes, but He is only one being. Do these all mean the same thing? No. A stone is solid, may it be round, and heavy. These attributes refer to only one stone. So different attributes can be attributed to one God. The Bible affirms that God is one, not multiple beings. Isaiah 45:18 says, "I am the Lord, and there is no other." Mark 12:29 says, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." But if the persons are different, how can God be one? The answer is that we must not confuse person with essence. Early creeds were careful to distinguish the persons in the Godhead without dividing His essence. Relationships between the three persons exist, but these distinctions do not negate His oneness. The many things God does come from the single being that He is.
When God held a close relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden, they knew it was God walking with them, even though they did not see Him as a person. Some believe this was the pre-incarnate form of Christ. Other passages that speak of angels are also said to be forms of the pre-incarnate Christ. There is good reason to say that the Angel of the Lord is the second person of the Trinity, the Son. Once the Son came in His incarnate form as Jesus, never again does the Angel of the Lord appear in Scripture. No angel that commands or accepts worship or claims to be God ever appears again.
All members of the Trinity are identical in essence, but they have different roles. The role of the Father is superior to that of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is said to be the Source, and planner of salvation. The Son is the one sent to achieve our salvation. The Father planned it, and the Son accomplished it on the cross. So it is false to claim that the Father suffered on the cross. Only the Son suffered and died. The Holy Spirit is said to "proceed" from the Father, but the Father never proceeds from the Holy Spirit or the Son. The Father sends the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman Catholics split over this view.
So who did Moses actually experience on Mt. Sinai? We saw that all three persons were present, but in terms of God's roles, would you say that it was — planner, accomplisher, or applier of our salvation? Since no one has seen the face of God, and Moses was only shown His backside, I would say that the role described is God the Father. Believers once saw the face of the Son, and even the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. Whose role was in place during creation? God is the source and sustainer of creation, and His Word is the means. I can certainly say all three Persons were involved, but the role as accomplisher of our salvation after God planned it was Jesus, in His eternal form, the Son of God. Who later appeared to the apostles at Pentecost after Christ's ascension and also at the Baptism of Jesus? Those passages seem clear that it was the Holy Spirit enacting His power.
This is not an easy topic to cover fully in a single response, but I do hope that this will shed some light on the ways that the Trinity relates to us in God's three persons. Theists confirm that there is a multiplicity in God as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, it would be an error to think that only one of these persons would be involved in any divine action. They operate in complete unity.
Image Credit: Michael2029; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | God-Father | Jesus-Christ
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