Heresies all around us – Subordinationism

Heresies all around us – Subordinationism

Part 9 – Subordinationism

We read in the Bible that Jesus voluntarily placed Himself under the authority of the Father. But could it be that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are subordinate in terms of their nature and in essence? This is what we are going to discuss today.


Subordinationism teaches that Jesus (and thus also the Holy Spirit) are subordinate to the Father in everything. In other words, they believe that Jesus is actually less powerful than the Father. The word ‘Subordinationism’ is difficult to translate into normal words. It could be something like ‘dependentionism,’ or ‘subservientism.’ But that just doesn’t sound right.


Yet, subordination does exist. First let us see what the Bible teaches us about Jesus’ so-called subordination to the father.

The Bible teaches that there is a relational subordination (also called ‘economic subordination’ or ‘functional subordination’) within the Trinity. The three Persons of the triune God voluntarily submit to each other. They do so in relation to their role in creation and the work of redemption.

This is how the Father sent the Son into the world:

1 John 4:10

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins

Nowhere in the Bible do we see that it is the other way around. Jesus the Son never sends the Father. But Jesus does send the Spirit:

John 14:26

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26

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

Ultimately, the Holy Spirit will always refer to Jesus:

John 16:13-14

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

And to complete the circle, we see the Father exalting the Son so that the Son can exalt the Father.

John 17:1

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee

What Does this Mean?

All three Persons of the Godhead are absolutely equal in nature. God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit all have the same divine nature and divine attributes.

There is one God who exists eternally in three fully equal Persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all three equally powerful and equally God and completely one with each other.

Ontological Subordination?

Now we come to this so-called Subordinationism. Contrary to what some religious groups (who adhere to Subordinationism) say, the Bible does not teach that there is an ontological subordination in the triune God. That sounds very complicated. Let me explain. In philosophy, the ontological doctrine talks about the ‘being,’ or the ‘nature’ of things. So, if people believe that there is an ontological subordination within the Triune God, they mean that Jesus is substantially less than God the Father—then Jesus would be less powerful because His nature would not be equivalent to that of the Father. That would suggest that the Trinity consist of greater and lesser gods or greater and lesser persons.

The Pure Doctrine

I mentioned earlier that there does exist a relational subordination within the Trinity. This relationship exists between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This is also called economic or functional subordination. This interrelationship refers to what God does. To put it somewhat irreverently, it involves a kind of division of labour.

This is diametrically opposed to the idea of Subordinationism. This idea, thus also called with a difficult word ‘ontological subordinationism,’ deals directly with who God is. But since we want to stick to orthodox teachings, we can do nothing but reject Subordinationism.

Again, the Bible teaches us that all three Persons of the Trinity have the same essence, nature and glory, but each has different roles, or activities when it comes to how God relates to the world

Our salvation is founded on the love and power of the Father:

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life

Our salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus:

1 John 2:2

and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world

And ultimately, our regeneration and sealing is the work of the Holy Spirit:

Titus 3:4-5

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost

Ephesians 4:30

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption

These various works are a perfect collaboration between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It shows us how wonderful and great God is in essence. The perfect Eternal relationship in action!

This eternal ‘functional’ subordination of the Son is the doctrine established by the Church Fathers at the Council of Nicea. This doctrine is accepted as orthodox in the creeds of the Church to this day. Theologians throughout the ages have also recognized this teaching as correct. While subordinationism holds that the Son is inferior in nature to the Father, the Church Fathers believed that the Son was subordinate in function within the Godhead, but in no way inferior in nature, being God of God.

In conclusion

The issue of subordination within the Trinity is not always an easy topic. Sometimes it is difficult to determine where the distinction should be made.

For centuries, there have been considerable discussions about the limits of subordination in relation to the Incarnation of Christ. That in itself can do no harm, but we must be careful not to fall into the idea that there would be discord in the triune God. Nor can it be that one person within the deity is less god or less powerful.

Be it all as it may! This is where I have to stop, it is already complicated enough … Just let me know what you think in the comments. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video or on my website. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to receive a notification every time I upload a new video!

I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please have a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.

God bless you, thank you for watching, and, Lord willing, we’ll see each other in the next video!

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