The Relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit
In Christianity, the Trinity is fundamental. Without the Trinity, there is no salvation. We know that in the Trinity the three persons are Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but how are these three related?
Now, we get into some difficult, but important, terminology.
To start with the simplest, the three Persons are called the first, second and third persons. The Father is the first, the Son is the second, and the Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. That terminology of number may be misleading.
The persons are equal. We use three words beginning with “co-“ to explain this—coeternal, coequal and coessential (or consubstantial). That the persons are coeternal means, that none is “before” or “after” the other. Each of them is exactly that—eternal, with no beginning or ending. That the persons are coequal means, that none is “greater” or “higher in rank” than the other. They are equal in power and glory, and the whole Trinity is to be worshipped. That the persons are coessential (or consubstantial) means, that each of them is equally God. They are of the same essence or substance. The Son is not a lesser god than the Father, for example. “The Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1).
The names of the persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are also significant. The Father begets the Son. To beget is not the same as to create. The Father does not create the Son. If He did, the Son would have a beginning. Rather, the Father brings forth the Son in an eternal act of love, but without the need of a “mother.” There is no mother in the Trinity. Thus, the Son stands in a unique relationship to the Father. The Bible calls Him “the only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The Father and the Son together breathe forth the Holy Spirit. To breathe forth is not the same as to create or to beget. The Spirit is not created. If He was created, the Spirit would have a beginning. Nor is the Spirit begotten. The theological word is the “procession” of the Spirit—the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
The Bible reveals these truths about God so that we might know the relationship within God’s very being. God is a God of friendship. We call that friendship the covenant. God is the covenant God. Because He is the covenant God, He is able to enter into friendship with His creatures. That covenant—to know God in love—is the very essence of salvation. Happy is that man who knows the Triune God in Jesus Christ! Do you?