Before we seek to answer this question, let us remind ourselves that we are on “holy ground” in speaking of the subject of God’s Being. We must confess our limitations in understanding (for we are “finite” beings) and yet with Scripture in hand we will attempt an answer to this weighty question.

First of all, let’s be clear that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are indeed EQUAL in nature and all three share the Divine attributes of Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence. In the very first book of the Bible we see their equality in Genesis 1:1 & 26, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness’” (NKJV). The work of the original creation and later of man was done by all three Persons who make up the Godhead. Thus in the work of Creation there is no thought of “subordination within the Trinity.”

Having said that, there are verses which do indeed imply that there are different ROLES within the Trinity where One Person is subject to another Person, and this is especially true after sin entered the world and God provided salvation for lost and guilty man. We read in 1st John 4:14, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” We read in Hebrews 10:7 of the Son’s obedience to the Father, “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do your will, O God’.” While Jesus walked on earth on His way to the Cross, He was always obedient to His Father. We see this in John 8:29, “I always do those things which please the Father.” And shortly before Jesus laid down His life for sinners He said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. THIS COMMAND I HAVE RECEIVED FROM MY FATHER” (John 10:17-18). These verses all teach us that when the Son became a Man He became a Servant, and was subject to the Father’s will. This was His ROLE in the salvation plan and it was one of subordination. It is in this context that Jesus could say, “I am going to the Father, for MY FATHER IS GREATER THAN I” (John 14:28).

The Holy Spirit has also assumed a ROLE where He is subordinate to the Father and the Son. In John 14:26 we read, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, He will teach you all things.” Like the Son, HE WAS SENT, and like the Lord Jesus He came in humble obedience. One of His greatest missions on earth is seen in John 16:13-14: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for HE WILL NOT SPEAK ON HIS OWN AUTHORITY, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. HE WILL GLORIFY ME, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” It is the Holy Spirit’s delight to bring glory to the Son, by speaking the words that the Father gives Him to speak. So, in this passage we have the Trinity revealed, and yet we see the subordinate ROLE that the Holy Spirit has willingly taken to bring glory to the Son. Notice, even though He is obeying the Father by speaking the words He gives Him to speak, He isn’t bringing attention to the Father, but to the Son. We could cite other examples where He seeks to bring glory to both the Father and the Son, and does not draw any attention to Himself. What grace! What humility! For the Holy Spirit is God, coequal to both the Father and the Son, yet in grace He has taken a ROLE as a Servant in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for man.

We will close by quoting a passage that reveals that the Lord Jesus will always remain in a “subordinate role.” 1st Corinthians 15:24 & 28 declares: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power…Now when all things are made subject to Him [the Lord Jesus], then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him [the Father] who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” After the Millennium Kingdom of Christ has ended and all things have been brought into subjection to God, the Lord Jesus will deliver up His kingdom to the Father. The ages of time are over and eternity begins, and throughout eternity the Son will remain in a “subordinate role” as the Head over the creation He has redeemed. Yet we read that in doing so, “God may be all in all.” What does that mean? I believe it means that with sin banished from God’s universe God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) will, as H. A. Ironside puts it, “maintain it in righteousness throughout all eternity.” Sin will never break out again, for there will be “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2nd Peter 3:13). The holy Trinity will then be given the place of honor and worship they deserve, for all men will see that they are truly EQUAL in nature and in power.  (223.7)  (DO)