Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino
Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.
Question #57 – What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “My Father Is Greater than I”?
Indeed a critical question does arise where Jesus says that the Father is greater than He is (Jn. 14:28) because it appears on surface to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity. “Subordination does not necessarily imply inferiority. This is why in the Trinity we have a distinction among the persons of the Godhead.”
This is why the church has always confessed a doctrine called the subordination of Christ (notice it is not called the inferiority of Christ).
Subordination does not necessarily imply inferiority. This is why in the Trinity we have a distinction among the persons of the Godhead.
In the economy (plan) of redemption and even of creation we see certain works attributed to the Father, others to the Son and others to the Holy Spirit.
The Son is subordinate to the Father in the work of redemption (thus He prayed to the Father) and the Holy Spirit is subordinate to both the Father and the Son.
But that does not mean inequality of being or dignity or divine attributes, as all three persons are fully God in essence.
Christ is also called God in the New Testament in John 1:1,18; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:30; (and in the Old Testament in Isaiah 9:6); yet is distinct from the Father in Psalm 2:7; Matthew 27:46; and John 5:32,37. “The Son is subordinate to the Father in the work of redemption (thus He prayed to the Father) and the Holy Spirit is subordinate to both the Father and the Son.”
Moreover, we read in Colossians 2:9, For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the significant “I AM” statements in John (especially John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I AM,” and John 10:30 “I and my Father are one”); He performed miracles; His birth was supernatural; He rose from the dead; He said He was the very manifestation of the Father in John 14:9; Jesus was the Creator of all, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” as we read in John 1:3, and He accepted worship of Himself.
Were Jesus not God He could not be our redeemer since biblically no man can redeem another with God.
But, perhaps the most ringing endorsement of all is where God refers to Jesus as Son and as God in Hebrews 1:8, “But unto the Son He (God) says, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;” the Father clearly calls the Son “God” in this verse.“Were Jesus not God He could not be our redeemer since biblically no man can redeem another with God.”
In summary, in the Trinity while we have equal ultimacy or unity in that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; we also have diversity or distinctiveness of the three-ness in that the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son.
Anything less results in super-subordinationism or monarchianism.
Recognizing that the orthodox Trinitarian position has its limitations due to human thought and language in describing the ineffable mystery of “three in oneness” the Trinity remains as the only view that sets forth the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as co-equal and co-eternal in the Godhead with regard to both divine essence and function.
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