Saturday, February 12, 2011


Being clear on the Trinity let’s us know Jesus.

In previous postings we have seen that the Trinity lets us make sense of the:
In this posting we look farther into his life and death of obedience by considering his submission to his Father. The Trinity lets us see the reality of his submission.

Suppose there were no Trinity. Suppose “Father” and “Son” were just different titles for the same person as in the error Modalism. What would it mean to say that Jesus submitted to his Father? Is there any such thing as submission with only one person?

Prayer in Gethsemane

Shortly before his death on the cross, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:38-39)

If God were a one-person god, Jesus would be talking only to Himself. He would not be submitting to anyone but Himself. He would not be giving up His will for the will of His Father. He would be only self-willed.

Because the Son and the Father are different persons, one person is speaking to another. Prayer is real. It is not psychological self-talk. When Jesus says to His Father, “Let this cup pass from me,” one person is speaking to another. The Father wants the Son to go to the cross. The Son does not want to go. There is a conflict of wills. The Son says, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

The language “not as I will, but as You will” reveals the conflict clearly: “I will” versus “You will”. The I and the You are real. “I” refers to one Person. “You” refers to another Person. The conflict of wills shows the distinction of the Persons of the Trinity. They are different enough to experience this conflict of wills.

This conflict of wills was resolved by submission. The Son submitted to the Father. In Gethsemane we are not viewing melodrama. Because of the Trinity, both the conflict and the submission are real.

Submission Should be More Unpopular

Submission is not popular. Its unpopularity is easy to illustrate. Consider this text: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Eph 5:22). This cuts against the grain of our human nature.

Let’s be clear why it does. It cuts against our grain because this is the submission of one person to another. The words “wife” and “husband” are not just two titles for one person, even though in marriage husband and wife are one flesh. They really refer to different persons. That’s what makes submission real, and that’s what makes submission unpopular. If somehow submission let one person follow his or her own will, the unpopularity would evaporate.

Part of the unpopularity arises from our human nature being fallen. That is a topic for another time. Another part of the unpopularity, however, arises for a legitimate reason. Submission can be distorted into slavery. In a servile type of submission, a slaver, a pusher, a driver lords it over another who is subjugated.

Slavery and subjugation should be unpopular. I say, they should be more unpopular than they are. That fact is that everyone who accepts a one-person god has accepted slavery and subjugation. Without the Trinity, submission is something god never does. Without the Father and the Son, submission is something god demands from man but never lifts a finger himself to do.

Islam: Submission to a god who never submits

Ironically, Islam provides a handy way to show the senselessness of the submission of Christ without the Trinity. “Islam” means “submission.”

A “Muslim” is “one who submits” or “one who commits himself to Islam.”  The word Islam [comes from a word] meaning “to accept,” “to submit,” “to commit oneself,” and means “submission” or “surrender.” (John B. Noss, Man’s Religions, p. 507 (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York 1974).

In Islam, Allah asks people to submit. Does Allah submit? To whom might he? Perhaps he could submit to people or angels. The Koran never shows Allah submitting to people or angels. Since Allah is a one-person god, there is no one else to whom he could submit.

Islam presents the strange situation of a religion asking people to do something its god does not do. Allah only does his own will. He is self-willed, never submitting to anyone.

Divine Submission, Divine Companionship

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he really is a leader.  He has gone before us. He is not asking us to do what He himself never would do. Christ is ahead of us, submitting to his Father, and asking us to submit with him. His name is Immanuel, God with us. When we submit to the Father, Jesus is our companion in submission.

During World War II, a general gave his army a command to march a great distance in a blizzard. The march involved hard suffering. Think of the grumbling. During the march, the general was seen in the line, trudging in the snow and leaning into the freezing wind. There was less grumbling than there would have been otherwise. This general did not ask his soldiers to do what he himself never would do.

Because of the Trinity, submission is divine. Submission is something God does. When God asks us to submit, he is asking no more than he does himself.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1-2)



  1. Bravo T.R. I enjoy your blogs. They are insightful and thought provoking.

  2. It took me awhile to post this word of thanks, because I was astonished. Thank you for such kinds words. You make the labor lighter.