December 18, 2017

Order in the Home and in the Godhead (1)

David Potter

This is the first of two parts • Part Two

A dispute over practical matters of the Christian life in which one side is absolutely right and the other side absolutely wrong is rare. On the other hand, although theology involves balance (i. e. divine sovereignty, human responsibility), theology is also a realm where we can deal with absolute certainties (i. e. the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, etc.). The convergence of theology and practical living allows us to shed the light of certainty on disputed matters.

Understanding God’s order in marriage is just the kind of issue that I am talking about. “[T]he head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11:3) is a flashpoint for the issue of Evangelical Feminism, regardless of one’s views on head coverings (the subject of the section). Paul ties male headship in marriage to the headship of the Father in the Trinity.

We can start our discussion by dismissing the lame canard that the metaphorical meaning of “head” in Koine Greek is source rather than leader (see Judges 11:11 LXX, for instance). Paul explains the implications of the husband’s headship as requiring the wife to submit herself to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24) as the church submits to Christ. Arguing over whether that submission is voluntary is pointless, because submission relates to the roles of husband and wife, not to the relative worthiness or abilities of either.

Understanding the personal relationship between Father and Son in the godhead will illuminate God’s intended order for husbands and wives. The key theological term in this regard is taxis, which means order, succession, position or nature. In the church, all things should “be done decently and in order” (I Cor. 14:40). Theologians have employed this term when discussing the order in the Trinity from the times of the early Trinitarian debates. Taxis is the root of the verb submit (hypotasso), found in Ephesians 5. In the active voice, the verb means to put into subjection. In the passive it can mean either be put into subjection or to subject oneself.

What is the order within the Trinity? In addition to the classic formulation in Matthew 28:19, the Scripture mentions all three members of the Trinity in many passages, using every possible order. Here are a few samples:

  • Father, Son, Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
  • Father, Spirit, Son (I Peter 1:2).
  • Son, Father, Spirit (II Corinthians 13:14).
  • Spirit, Father, Son (Jude 20-21).
  • Son, Spirit, Father (Ephesians 2:18).
  • Spirit, Son, Father (Ephesians 4:4-6).

These references are just part of the mound of evidence that the members of the godhead are co-equal. We can draw the same conclusion from logic. Only God can be equal to God. Therefore, if Father, Son and Spirit are God, they must be equal to each other.

On the other hand, theologians have inferred that the Trinity has an order. The Father is the First Person, the Son is the Second Person, and the Spirit is the Third Person. In view of the above, is this order—or taxis—correct? Consider the Persons of the godhead in connection with the verb “send.” The Father always sends, the Spirit is always sent and the Son sends the Spirit and is sent by the Father. Most of the references to sending occur in the writings of John. Here are a few examples.

  • The Father sends the Son (Galatians 4:4, I John 4:14, etc.).
  • The Father sends the Spirit (Galatians 4:6; John 14:26). The Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26).
  • The Son sends the Spirit (John 15:26; 16:7).

Theologians distinguish two types of relationships within the godhead: those that relate to the carrying out of God’s plan, which are temporary, and those that relate to the eternal interactions of the godhead, which are permanent.[1] Almost all (or perhaps all) of the references above are to the temporary relationships necessary for carrying out God’s plan. The submission of the Son to the Father involves their respective roles, which helps to explain passages like John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 12:50. If God the Son can submit Himself to the Father in order to carry out God’s program of creation and redemption, why cannot a woman submit herself to her husband in order to fulfill God’s purpose for the home?

What if we press the comparison to the eternal relationship of Father to Son in the godhead? That is the subject of my next post.

David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.

[1] Theologians call the temporary relationships economic and the permanent relationships ontological or essential.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.