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Relational Language in John 14-16:
Implications for the Doctrine of the Trinity
Harold F. Carl, Ph.D.
Berry College, Mt. Berry, GA



The doctrine of the Trinity continues to be an issue in the Christian Church and on the campuses of "Christian" theological seminaries. Several prominent scholars who hold less-than-Trinitarian views of the doctrine of God, continue to be influential in the thought of the church.[1]

Along with this, pseudo-Christian cults who deny the deity of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, or some other aspect of the triune nature of God, are growing exponentially.[2] These factors point to the necessity of more discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity and the relationship between the persons of the Godhead. This paper, intends to take the relational language of John 14-16 and apply it to the doctrine of the Trinity in that way.

"Relational language" is language which implies a relationship or discloses some aspect of the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It may come in the form of names and titles, prepositional, directional or spacial language, oneness motifs or reciprocity statements, personal, reflexive and possessive pronouns, or parallel language used in describing two or more of the persons of the Trinity. This study intends to demonstrate that the relational language used in John 14-16 discloses the unity and oneness of God in will, mind, action and essence. At the same time, it also implies equality, distinction and interaction between three distinct personal subsistences within the Godhead.

The scope of the use of "relational language" in this study will be limited to some of the more revealing passages of John 14-16. This block of text comprises the heart of the farewell discourse (13:1-17:26). These words are spoken by Jesus to the disciples, and not to the casual listener. They follow after the prediction of his death. In these chapters, more is said about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit than in any other place in the New Testament. On the other hand, Chapter 17, the High Priestly Prayer, is spoken to the Father. While it has tremendous didactic implications, it is not primarily the teaching of Jesus to the disciples as chapters 14-16 are. Much of what is said in Chapter 17 implies relationships already discussed in the previous section.

For the sake of order, this discussion is organized under two major headings. The Relationship Between Jesus and The Father and The Relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These are not perfect categories. Like all discussions of the Trinity, there are areas of fluidity and overlap. But they help to systematize the discussion somewhat.



Proper Names

Of primary concern when considering the relationship between Jesus and the Father are the proper names "Father" and "Son." The significance of the Father/Son relationship in Johannine literature can hardly be over estimated. One commentator calls it "one of the most constitutive and significant features of Johannine theology."[3] The sheer frequency of use of the terms pathr and o uion in John indicate the importance of the relationship between the Father and the Son for him.[4] The terms "Father" and "Son" have been historically understood to communicate two concepts: equality and differentiation. Augustine reasoned that the Son is not the Father, but that the Son in no respect disagrees with the Father in likeness. There is an "all-sided likeness subsisting between the Father and the Son."[5] C. K. Barrett writes that sonship in John involves a metaphysical relationship between Father and Son. John brings out more clearly than the synoptists the meaning of sonship: "both moral likeness and essential identity."[6] Tertullian argued in Against Praxeas that a Father must have a Son to be a Father and vice-versa. The two terms are "reciprocally related" and therefore imply differentiation and relationship.[7]

Even more revealing is Jesus' use of the phrase "my Father."[8] Significant for the understanding of this phrase is John 5:17-18. The Jews clearly understood what Jesus was implying. By calling God specifically his own Father, he was claiming equality with God the Father.[9] This unique relationship of equality between the Son and the Father is also expressed in the identification of Jesus as God's "one-and-only (monogenhn) Son."[10] Because the Son belongs to the Father (is from the Father) he is what the Father is.[11]


Prepositional/Directional/Spacial Language

Also important in the discussion about the relationship between the Father and the Son is the type of language that may be labeled prepositional/directional/spacial language. This is language that implies relationship by using analogies of movement toward or agency by which one is reached through the other.

The most important of these may be John 14:6. "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me."[12] Here it is by means of (di) the Son that one reaches the Father. He is the one who has come down from heaven and "he alone is the link between God and men (cf. 1:51), and there is no access to God independent of him."[13] Bruce comments that it is because Jesus is the embodiment of God's self-revelation that he can say this.[14] It is because the Son reflects the very nature of the Father that he is the only way to the Father and that to see him is to see the Father. Hence the solidarity of their relationship in terms of being and nature is indicated here.

A second use of this type of language is Jesus repeated promise to the disciples that he is "going [or returning] to the Father."[15] Part of John's introductory narrative to the farewell discourse is the remark that Jesus knew that he had come from the Father and was returning to the Father (13:3).[16] Statements of Jesus' heavenly origin and destination pervade these chapters. And they are related to much of his future activity.[17] One striking example of this is John 16:28. Here, in a single verse are the preexistence, humiliation and exaltation of Christ. But these are couched in relational language which uses spacial imagery with reference to the Father. Orthodoxy does not permit one to say that the Son was in any way "separated" from the Father during the humiliation.[18] Nor does one wish to say that Jesus speaks here primarily of his human nature, which did not come down from the Father. Therefore, one must explain this spacial imagery as relating to the states of Christ. It is primarily a change of position and bearing. It is a condescension from glory and a return to glory. The Logos, the person of Immanuel, whom the disciples have known in Jesus Christ, who came from the Father, is now returning to the Father. The visible manifestation of glory of God among them, in Him, will cease and a new manifestation of God's glory will begin. A key to understanding the nature of the Incarnation in John is understanding it in the context of the Son's relationship to the Father as the one who comes from the Father and the one who returns to the Father. It is couched in relational language from start to finish in every respect.[19] This is another way Jesus asserts his equality with the Father.[20]


Reciprocity Statements

Mark Appold defines "reciprocity statements" as statements in reciprocal form describing the relationship between Jesus and the Father or between Jesus and Believers. In John they all appear in the words of Jesus. They all emanate from Jesus toward the Father, but what is said draws one's attention back to him. Most of them point to the oneness between the Father and the Son.[21] There are several of these statements in Chapters 14-16.

Exemplary of these types of statements is Jesus' response to Philip's request that Jesus show them the Father in John 14:9 "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." At the very least one must be willing to say that Jesus says this on the basis that he perfectly reveals the character of the Father.[22] But this does not seem to say enough. Jesus reveals the Father because he shares the Father's nature. Jesus is capable of perfectly revealing God because he is God. To see the Son is to see the otherwise invisible God incarnate.[23]

On the other hand the modalist wants to confuse person and nature and make Jesus into the Father. Nowhere does Jesus ever say "I am the Father." And to make Jesus the Father makes nonsense of the verses which follow (vs 10-13).[24] Jesus reveals the Father by sharing in the Father's nature and there by revealing God to humankind. He does the Father's will and works, and speaks the Father's words perfectly because he shares the Father's nature. That is what is implied in John 14:9.

In the immediate context of the preceding verse, is a second reciprocity statement which is first spoken by Jesus in verse 10 as a question expecting a positive response, and then repeated in verse 11 as a statement of fact. "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." Here Jesus describes what Morris calls the "mutual interpenetration" of the Father and the Son.[25] One sees the Father when one sees the Son because of this interpenetration. One may ascribe particular works to any of the persons in the Trinity. However, the unity of substance and nature, not to mention the solidarity of will and purpose, between the persons of the Trinity accounts for a mutual participation of all the persons of the Godhead in the specific actions of each individual to some extent.[26] Especially in this context, the words, works and miracles of Jesus are revelational of the Father, given of the Father, directed by the Father, and are therefore his.[27]

Perhaps the most difficult statement within the chapters under consideration is that found in John 14:28 "The Father is greater than I." This phrase must first be taken in the larger context of all that is said in the Gospel of John regarding the oneness and equality of the Father and the Son, and what has been said in the immediate context of verses 10 and 11. The undercurrent of Christ's obedience to the Father in the immediate context and throughout the Gospel must also be taken into consideration.[28] Here, Jesus is describing his return to the Father. He speaks from the perspective of his incarnate state of humiliation.[29] He looks toward the final state of exaltation, which is a return to the glory he had from all eternity.[30] These words are part of Christ's words of encouragement that the cross and the grave are not the failure of his ministry, but part of the Father's will which move him toward the exaltation. They are part of the obedience of Christ to every command of the Father (vs 31). When Jesus says that the Father is greater than he, he speaks from the perspective of the one who has taken on the servant form.[31] He is the one who will be exalted to the "highest place" and given a name "above every name" (Phil. 2:9).

Some see implied here an eternal subordination of role among the members of the Trinity.[32] Others prefer to see this subordination "officially, and for a limited time." It is covenantally and voluntarily entered into for the sake of creation and redemption. When these works cease, the subordination ceases.[33]

Two related reciprocity statements regard those who either hate Jesus, and therefore hate the Father and those who love Jesus and consequently are loved by the Father. "He who hates me hates my Father as well." "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."[34] Appold remarks that this reciprocity of love is only possible because of the oneness between the Father and the Son.[35] It is because the Father and Son share in the divine nature, that the divine love relationship exists between them. As believers "receive" the divine Spirit of Christ, they too share in the love relationship.

With regard to Jesus’ statement about those who hate him in John 15:23, both "me" and "my Father" are emphatic. The Father and the Son are seen in the closest possible connection.[36] To hate Jesus is to hate God, because Jesus' words and works are God's.[37]

As there is direct correspondence between loving and hating the Son, and loving and hating the Father, there are parallels between knowing the Son and knowing the Father. In John 16:3, after describing the persecution the disciples will face, Jesus says "They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me."[38] To be ignorant of who Jesus is, is to be ignorant of the Father. To know Jesus is to Know the Father. They are so closely connected that one cannot claim knowledge of the one if one fails to acknowledge both. Since Jesus is the revelation of the Father, the world ought to have seen the Father in Jesus.

A final reciprocal statement of note is John 14:23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."[39] The response to the loving obedience of any follower of Christ is the divine presence in his or her heart. By speaking of himself in direct parallel with the Father, Jesus clearly implies his equality with the Father in his ability to indwell the believer with the Father.[40] Bernard comments on the parallel as a claim to equality.


Here the singular ercomai pron uman (v. 18) is replaced by the plural eleusomeqa, marking the claim of equality with the Father which is prominent throughout the Fourth Gospel. Cf. 10.30 en esmen. In both passages the reference is to that Divine Advent in the disciple's heart which is mediated by the Spirit.[41]



Proper Names/Titles

As one comes to the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, one major issue is the understanding of the meaning of the term Paraclete.[42] In his first discussion about the Holy Spirit in the farewell discourse, Jesus describes the Spirit as allon paraklhton.[43] At the outset it may be noted that, unlike pneuma, which is neuter, paraklhton is masculine. Some have suggested that the grammatical form alone removes the Spirit from the impersonal and abstract sphere into that of personality.[44]

But the meaning of the term paraklhton in these passages is a topic of great discussion among the commentators.[45] It is difficult to see in the word's purest forensic sense, that the Holy Spirit is advocate or defense attorney of the believer.[46] The NIV's "counselor" is helpful, if it is not understood in terms of legal counsel, but one who continues to counsel after the manner of Jesus. "Comforter," with its modern connotations of consolation also falls short of the perceived intent and fails to harmonize with the rest of the descriptions of the Spirit in this section.[47]

Several clues point toward a resolution of what has been called the "Paraclete problem." One is John's reinterpretation of terms which have a large amount of meaning already invested in them.[48] John seems to have taken a term here which largely means "advocate" or "defense counsel" in secular use, and used it in another way. He has invested it with additional meaning.

Key to the understanding of the Paraclete is the fact that he is first introduced as allon paraklhton, "another Paraclete," indicating that his work and character parallels that of another, namely Christ.[49] In the "paraclete passages" which follow, Christ's descriptions of the future work of the Paraclete clearly disclose these parallels of activity.[50] The Paraclete continues and interprets the ministry of Jesus.[51] He is the continued presence of God with the disciples. It will be necessary to review these contexts before the meaning of Paraclete can be clearly ascertained.

Jesus also calls the Paraclete the Spirit of truth.[52] This always occurs in close proximity to the title Paraclete. Jesus is "full of grace and truth" and "the truth" (14:6; 1:14, 17). Those associated with Jesus are associated with truth in various ways. Believers must worship God in spirit and "in truth" (4:23) and will know the truth (8:32). God's word is "truth" (17:17). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who reveals all truth (16:13). As the Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus and continues his ministry, in his character, he is the Spirit of truth.[53]

Once Jesus calls the Spirit the Holy Spirit.[54] Morris suggests that the absolute nature of the form used here stresses the Spirit's character.[55] As God the Father and God the Son are holy, God the Spirit is holy as well. Here Jesus stresses his solidarity with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit whom the Father and Son will send will be holy like them.


Personal/Reflexive/Possessive Pronouns

A number of pronouns used in connection with the Spirit are revealing concerning the personal status given the Spirit. No mention is made by most commentators concerning the use of the neuter auto to refer to the Spirit in John 14:17. These two personal pronouns, which are here in agreement with the neuter pneuma, seem out of place given the rest of what is done in the farewell discourse developing the personhood of the Spirit.[56]

There are a number of uses of the pronoun ekeinon related to the Spirit which are worth noting.[57] In nearly every context the use of ekeinon is telling. In John 14:26 ekeinon is not grammatically necessary and follows the neuter pneuma.[58] In 15:26 the neuter is in closer proximity than. The gender changes to the masculine ekeinon[59] in 16:13 & 14 paraklhton is not found in the immediate context and only the neuter to pneuma thn alhqeian is used.[60] There is no argument for simple grammatical agreement here. Ekeinon has been purposely used to indicate the personal nature of the Holy Spirit.[61]


Prepositional/Directional/Spacial Language Related to the Spirit

In the farewell discourses, Jesus uses a variety of language to describe the Holy Spirit's coming. In 14:16 he is said to be given by the Father at Jesus's request. In verse 26 the Father is said to send the Holy Spirit in Jesus's name. In 15:26 Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father and he precedes from the Father. In 16:7 Jesus simply says "I will send him to you." Barrett and others believe that no significant difference is intended between these expressions.[62] Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the sum of the statements reveals the whole truth concerning the interaction between the three. Jesus and the Father agree to send the Spirit. He is sent in Jesus name, continuing the ministry of Jesus, but both the Father and the Son cooperate in sending him.[63]

Of special interest is the meaning of the phrase "who goes out from the Father" in John 15:26.[64] This has historically been a key passage for the doctrine of the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father.[65] Theologians ancient[66] and modern[67] have argued from John 15:26, 16:7 and 20:22 that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son. This is strengthened by the idea that the Spirit always speaks for the Son and takes from the Son and gives to the believer (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15). However, many modern commentators urge caution in building the doctrine of filioque, the dual procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, directly from John 14-16.[68] They argue that what is in view here is the Spirit's temporal mission and not the eternal relations within the Trinity.[69] Grudem takes the somewhat moderating position that if the Father and Son send the Spirit into the world temporally, this may be the eternal situation.

"by analogy it would seem appropriate to say that this reflects eternal ordering of their relationships. This is not something that we can clearly insist on based on any specific verse, but much of our understanding of the eternal relationships among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes by analogy from what Scripture tells us about the way they relate to the creation in time.[70]

However, there are a few factors which seem to have been overlooked here. Para is not exclusively used in a temporal sense related to sending for mission in John. In John 6:46 Jesus says that no one has seen God, "except the one being from God."[71] Here those arguing the use of para most forcefully agree that this phrase speaks of a present and intimate relationship, and not merely of one being sent on a mission.[72] It should also be noted that, in John 15:26, Jesus shifts from future tenses in the surrounding clauses, to the present active indicative in the clause in question. o para tou patros ekporeuetai may very well be an aside from Jesus concerning the eternal origin of the Spirit of Truth. He certainly makes those kinds of statements concerning his own eternal origin and relationship to the Father. It would not be out of place to expect such statements regarding the Holy Spirit as well. This appears to be strong evidence for the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father, however it does not strengthen the case for the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Son. That must be inferred from other passages.

A further point of some discussion is the phrase in John 14:18. Immediately after specifying some of the details of the Spirit's presence with believers, Jesus says "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." At issue is precisely which "coming" is meant by this statement, the resurrection, the second coming, or the presence of Christ with believers in the person of the Spirit. For a number of reasons many commentators believe that these verses refer primarily to the post-resurrection appearances.[73] Others see the meaning of Christ's "coming" here as polyvalent, referring to all phases of his coming without distinction.[74] This would certainly fit John's love of language which appears to have multiple meanings.

Context determines a great deal here. Jesus has spoken about going away to the Father (vs 2, 3, 4, 12). He has promised to return. At issue here is the potential that the disciples may feel abandoned (orphaned). So Christ has promised the eternal presence of the Paraclete with and in the disciples (vs 16-17). It is in this context that he promises his presence with them. They will not be orphaned. Jesus is coming to them.[75] The present active indicative has a ring of permanence to it. The Father and the Son will come and abide with them (vs 23). John 14:18 may initially refer to the resurrection, but its ultimate fulfillment is in the personal indwelling through the Spirit.[76] The coming of the Spirit is the coming of Jesus. The indwelling of the Spirit is the indwelling of Jesus. The divine advent in the disciples hearts is mediated by the Spirit, so that Augustine writes "The triune God, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, come to us while we are coming to Them.[77]

Parallels Between The Son and the Holy Spirit

A striking number of parallels between the Son and the Holy Spirit become apparent in these chapters. We are indebted to Gary Burge for his exhaustive list of parallels in John in The Anointed Community.[78] Related to the passages just discussed, both Jesus and the Spirit are sent from (para) the Father.[79] Gordon Fee believes that a similar parallel found in the Pauline corpus at the very least presupposes the distinct personhood of the Spirit.[80] The same may be said in John. Jesus is from God, given, and sent without any loss of personhood. One need not infer that the Spirit is less than personal because he is the object of the Father's sending.[81]

Some have argued that, because the Son is "sent" and the Father "sends", the Son is subordinate to the Father. Yet this seems foreign to the reciprocal and relation language of the rest of the Gospel. To see the Son is to see the Father. The Father and the Son are one. The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. To love one is to love the other and to hate one is to hate the other. The Son speaks the words and does the works of the Father. The sending motif must be understood in the light of the oneness motif.[82] The same must be said of the Spirit. Even though much of the oneness and reciprocal language found between the Father and the Son is absent, it will be demonstrated that the Spirit's work parallels the work of the Son on many levels that he is seen as another who continues the ministry of Jesus.

Helpful in this light is the fact that Jesus comes in the "name" of the Father (5:43) and works in the Father's name (10:25). In parallel fashion the Spirit Comes in the "name" of Jesus (14:26). If Jesus' coming in the name of the Father points to Jesus' revealing the essence and character of God the Father as his equal, then the Spirit's coming in the name of Jesus must have similar implications of the Spirit's equality with the Son.[83] This adds an important dimension of equality to the sending of Son in the Father's name and the sending of the Spirit in the Son's name.

Another parallel can be seen in that Jesus has borne witness (marturew) concerning the Father, and the Spirit will bare witness concerning Jesus (15:26). Through his words and works Jesus has borne witness to the grace and truth of the Father which he has seen first hand.[84] Likewise the Spirit will take up the duty of witness. He will witness to the truth by witnessing concerning Jesus.[85] In the immediate context this witnessing is connected to the witnessing of the disciples (15:27), but it is also closely related to the whole scope of the Spirit's convicting work in the world (16:8-11). As Jesus convicted men for their unbelief, so the Spirit will continue this work of indictment for unbelief.

The Spirit's competence to continue the ministry of Jesus rests on the common source or resource from which the Spirit draws. This brings to light another parallel between the Son and the Spirit. Jesus makes it clear that he does only what he sees the Father doing (5:19) and speaks only what he has heard (akouw)(8:26, 40). He has spoken nothing of himself. His words are not his own, but the Father's (14:10, 24). However, Jesus makes it clear that there is an equality of resources between the Father and the Son. Whatever the Father does, the Son does. And the Father shows the Son all he does (5:19-20). All that belongs to the Father, belongs to Jesus (16:15).

Likewise the Spirit will not speak on his own. He will only speak what he hears (akouw). The Spirit takes from the unlimited resources of the Son, and makes things known to the disciples (16:13-15). The work of the Spirit is Christocentric. But Burge rightly points out that this revelatory work is two-fold. There is both reiteration (14:26) and revelation (16:12-13), tradition (anamnesis) and inspiration, all under the control of the source.[86] The reason the disciples can trust the Spirit's leading is that the Spirit only speaks the words of the Son, which are the words of the Father. This should not be seen as a chain of information in which the details degrade with each link. The Spirit's ability to continue Jesus' ministry rests on the reality that he has at his disposal the very resources that the Son and the Father have.

By doing his revelatory work the Spirit brings glory to the Son (16:14). As the Son has glorified the Father in all he has done by revealing him (13:31; 14:13; 17:4), the Spirit glorifies the Son by revealing him. In the glorification of the Son, the Father is glorified.

A final important point can be made by the kinds of verbs applied to the Son and Spirit. Fee points to a long list of verbs in the Pauline Corpus, of which the Spirit is the subject, which demand a personal agent.[87] Such a list enlightens John's view of the Spirit as well, especially where those verbs parallel those applied to Jesus. The Spirit remains (14:17), teaches (14:26), reminds (14:26), comes (15:26; 16:7-8, 13), witnesses (15:26), reproves (16:8), guides (16:13), speaks (16:13), announces (16:13-15), glorifies (16:14) and receives (16:15).[88] What Fee says about Paul usage can be applied to the language of John "Whatever else, this is the language of personhood, presuppositionally so, and not that of an impersonal influence or power."[89]

However in John there are further implications. The activity of the Spirit parallels the activity of the Son on so many levels one can not escape the conclusion that the Spirit is an equal who carries on the work of Jesus after he returns to his glory.


The relational language of John 14-16 reveals a great deal about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The names Father and Son communicate the essential identity and likeness of being between the first and second persons of the Trinity. Prepositional/directional/spacial language likewise implies their solidarity in terms of being and nature as well as the divine origin of the Son who is from the Father. Reciprocal statements show their mutual interpenetration. They show that the Son is capable of revealing the Father because of his likeness to the Father. While there may be temporary subordination of role during the state of humiliation, it is clear from these passages that the Father and Son remain equal in being and essence even during the incarnation. They are so closely related that knowledge, love or hate of one is tantamount to knowledge, love or hate toward the other.

The names and pronouns related to the Spirit show not only his personal nature, but his essential equality of character with the Father and the Son. He is the Spirit of Truth because he reveals the truth and shares in the character of Truth. Directional/Spacial language concerning the Spirit reveals his eternal origin from the Father and his sending by the Father and the Son need not imply subordination of essence. The Spirit's coming and indwelling in the believer is none other than the coming and indwelling of the Father and the Son mediated by the Spirit. The many parallels between the activity of Jesus and the Spirit demonstrate that he is "another" of the same kind who continues the ministry of Jesus.

Having discussed the parallels between Jesus and the Spirit it is now possible to define the meaning of "another Paraclete." The Spirit is "another" in that he continues and completes what the first one began. It is precisely in the parallels that the answer to the question of the meaning of the word Paraclete lies. The Paraclete abides with the believer. He teaches all things and reminds of what the first Paraclete said. He witnesses concerning the first Paraclete. He convicts of sin as the first did. He guides into all truth, not by speaking on his own, but by speaking the words of the first one. The Paraclete receives these words from the first and announces what is to come. He glorifies the first Paraclete who in turn glorifies the Father. It is in these senses that the Spirit is Another Paraclete.

One might argue that a great deal of what has been said is the result of reading the ontological conclusions of later Christological debates back into the text of John. D. Moody Smith makes an important point in that regard. The language of Trinitarian and Christological debates of the fourth and fifth centuries went beyond anything said in John's Gospel. But it would be a mistake to say that they imposed a completely unrelated set of questions and issues on the Gospel.[90] Indeed, the relational language used in the entire Gospel of John, and especially in the farewell discourse, depicts the associations and interactions of the persons of the Trinity. It lays the foundation for the more metaphysical language of the church councils and creeds. Barrett agrees.

It is true that even in these [the last discourses] no doctrine of the Trinity is formulated; but the materials are present out of which the doctrine eventually grew. The three divine Persons are mentioned side by side, distinct from one another, yet akin to one another as they are not akin to man.[91]

The persons of the Trinity are distinct in John. They may act in parallel ways, but they interact with one another. They exist in a relationship of unique oneness and equality.

Like all other studies, this study has not been exhaustive. More needs to be done on the deity and humanity of Christ and how the two natures relate to the language of the farewell discourses. More work needs to be done on the nature of the essential equality of the Trinity and the subordination of role between members of the Trinity, with regard to both extent and duration. More work needs to be done concerning the oneness between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how that relates to their oneness with believers and the oneness among believers for which Jesus prays. More work needs to be done developing a stronger theology of the personhood of the Spirit and his equality with the Father and Son from the whole New Testament perspective to protect the doctrine of the Trinity from the attacks of pseudo-Christian cults.




[1] Hendrikus Berkhof writes "As we see it, when we discuss God as the source of everything that arises next in the study of the faith, there is no reason to ascribe to him something like triuneness. As the creator of the world, as the establisher of the covenant, and as the one who reveals himself, we know him as the one God, as a person...can we say then that we have here ‘one essence in three persons’? No, there is here one event that happens from God...May we then not call the Spirit a person? No, if thereby we put him separately beside the person of God. Yes, if we understand that this name expresses the personhood in God in its outward actions. The Spirit is precisely God-as-person, God-in-relation." Hendrikus Berkhof, Christian Faith, translated by Sierd Woudstra (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 335-335. I know of one otherwise "evangelical" seminary where Christian Faith was, until recently, the primary textbook for "Introduction to Christian Theology I & II."

Likewise, Geoffrey Lampe’s Spirit Christology continues to have influence and represent the view of many modern Christians. Lampe readily admits that his Spirit Christology has far reaching implications for the doctrine of the Trinity. Far from any classical distinction among the persons of the Trinity, Lampe sees the greatest possible distinction in the Godhead as being that between God as transcendent Spirit verses God as immanent Spirit. The Spirit and the Son are only "divine" in that the Spirit of the One God acts in them. Lampe’s theology is basically modalism. Geoffrey W. H. Lampe, " The Holy Spirit and the Person of Christ," in Christ, Faith and History, ed. S. W. Sykes, and J. P. Clayton (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1972), 129; see also Geoffrey W. H. Lampe, God as Spirit: The Bampton Lectures, 1976 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 226-228; and Geoffrey W. H. Lampe, "The Essence of Christianity," Expository Times 87 (February 1976): 136.

[2] Van Gorden reports a world membership in the Mormon Church at 9 million with 4.5 million in the United States, with a growth rate of 250,000 to 300,000 new baptisms annually. Kurt Van Gorden, Mormonism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 16. Bowman reports that in 1994 Jehovah’s Witnesses numbered 4.9 million "publishers" of the faith, with almost 950,000 in the United States and a staggering growth rate. Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 14. United Pentecostals boast 750,000 members in the United States with another 2 million world-wide. They have churches in 132 nations and open 1 church each day world-wide. Pastor Arless Glass, Phone Interview by Harold F. Carl, 10 October 1996 The Pentecostals of Pasadena, Texas. In Texas, there seems to be a UP church in every community. I have had several United Pentecostal students who articulate a clearly modalistic view of God.

[3] Mark L. Appold, The Oneness Motif in the Fourth Gospel (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr & Paul Siebeck), 55.

[4] pathr in reference to God the Father occurs over 100 times in John (over 40 times in the chapters under consideration), more than the three synoptics combined. o uion in its absolute form occurs three times in the synoptics, once in Paul and five times in Hebrews. In John’s Gospel o uion occurs eighteen times. These statistics must be taken as a whole since they imply a relationship between one another. See Appold, Oneness Motif, 57.

[5] Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, translated by John Gibb, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff, vol 7 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903), 327.

[6] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, second edition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), 72.

[7] Tertullian, Against Praxeas, translated by Holmes, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 3 edited by Philip Schaff (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907), 604.

[8] The phrase "my Father" occurs 23 times in John as compared to 16 in Matthew and 4 in Luke. It is significant that the phrase occurs 11 times in the chapters under consideration, where the equality of the Son with the Father is of paramount importance for understanding other relational language.

[9] Boettner comments "And this was understood to be claiming to be all that God is. To be the Son of God in any sense was to be like God in that sense; and to be God’s own Son was to be exactly like God, to be ‘equal with God’." Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing), 113.

[10] (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9) See also D. Moody Smith, The Theology of the Gospel of John (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1995), 129-130.

[11] This already has certain implications for "oneness" theology which may seem simplistic, but which are none the less important. Since the names "Father" and "Son" imply equality and differentiation between two distinct personal subsistences, how can the Son be just one more manifestation of God? And if, as Tertullian argues, it takes a Son for a Father to be a Father, and vise-versa, How can "oneness" theology account in any real way for the eternal "fatherhood" of the father and the eternal "Sonship" of the Son?

[12] NIV, All English Bible quotations will be from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

[13] Barrett, John, 458.

[14] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 299.

[15] Morris notes that John uses upagw some 32 times. 17 of those uses are related to Jesus going to the Father. Morris, John, 417, note 62. John uses poreuomai 16 times, 6 of which concern Jesus going to the Father (all 6 fall with chapters 14-16). He also uses apercomai 22 times, but only once in this way (16:7). Observation of John’s willingness to interchange them in close context seems to confirm Bernard’s conclusion that John intends no great distinction between these verbs in these chapters (see especially 16:7-9). J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, edited by A. H. McNeile (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1963), vol. 2, 504.

[16] The issue of the Son being "sent" will be discussed under parallels between the Son and the Holy Spirit.

[17] Jesus goes to prepare a place for the disciples (14:1-4). The disciples will do greater miracles because Jesus goes to the Father (14:12). If Jesus goes, the paraclete will come (16:5-16).

[18] Indeed Augustine, Calvin and others would agree that the last clause of John 3:13 (o wn en ouranw) implies the eternal presence of the Son with the Father, even during the Incarnation.. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion edited by John T. McNeill, translated by Ford Lewis battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 2.13.4 vol. 1, 481.

[19] John 1:1 contains relational language!

[20] Although it may sound simplistic again, there are simple logical and linguistic implications for oneness theology. What sense can be made of this special language if the one speaking came from himself and returns to himself? If modalism reflected the truth, this kind of language would seem deceptive rather than revelational of God’s nature.

[21] Appold, Oneness Motif, 18-20.

[22] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 224. See also Barrett, John, 72: "So completely does he reflect the Father’s character that to see Jesus is to see the Father."

[23] Bruce, John, 300.

[24] Tertullian wrote on this passage "If, indeed, He meant the Father to be understood as the same with the Son, by saying, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father,’...He ought rather to have said: ‘Believest thou not that I am the Father?’...He laid the greater stress on His question on this very account, that He should supposed to be the Father; because He had never wished Himself to be so regarded" Tertullian, Praxeas, 620.

[25] Morris, John, 644. See the parallel passage in John 10:38.

[26] See Boettner, Studies, 118. Hodge wrote "These facts are expressed by saying that the persons of the Trinity concur in all acts ad extra." Hodge, ST, vol 1, 445.

[27] John 7:16-17; 5:19; 10:38; 12:49. For a similar fluidity between the words and works of Christ see John 8:28.

[28] John 14:31 may be the strongest statement to that effect. "But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me." See also 5:30; 6:38; 12:49-50.

[29] Morris, John, 658. See also Barrett, John, 468.

[30] John 17:5, 24.

[31] Augustine writes that in his divine essence the Son never left the Father’s side. In the context, it is in the form of the servant in which he returns to the Father. Likewise, it is in the servant form in which he is less than the Father. Augustine, Homilies, 340-341.

[32] Grudem cites Charles Hodge and A. H. Strong in defense of his position. Grudem, ST, 250-252. See Westcott for the history of interpretation on this passage. Westcott concludes that the Father is greater than the Son "as Son, in Person but not in Essence." B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 213-216.

[33] Boettner, Studies, 119-121.

[34] John 15:23; John 14:21; See also John 16:27.

[35] Appold, Oneness Motif, 32-33. Similarly, Barrett writes "His [John’s] thought is at this point (and frequently in the last discourses) concentrated upon the mutuality of the relation between Father, Son and believers...Because the disciples love one another they will appear to men as members of the divine family; their love for Christ, and union with Him, means that the Father loves them in Him. They enjoy the Father’s love merely as his creatures (cf. 1 John 4:10); but as Christians they have entered into the same reciprocity of love that unites the Father and the Son." Barrett, John, 465.

[36] Morris, John, 681. The same emphatic speech is used in verse 24 as well.

[37] Bernard, John, 494.

[38] See similar expressions in John 7;27; 8:19, 10:14; 14:7.

[39] See parallels to Jesus’s abiding in the believer in 14:20; 15:4-9. This is actually a parallel between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will also be in the believer (14:17).

[40] Barrett, John, 466.

[41] Bernard, John, 551.

[42] Smith sees it as the greatest problem in understanding the concept of the Spirit in John’s Gospel. Smith, Theology, 140.

[43] allon paraklhton first appears in 14:16. paraklhton appears also in 14:26, 15;26, 16:7, and referring to Jesus in 1 John 2:1. It is important that it appears only in the farewell discourse of John.

[44] Barrett, John, 91. Burge concludes that "any alignment of pneuma with paraklhton emphasizes the personal nature of the Johannine Spirit." Burge, Anointed Community, 142.

[45] Morris and Johnston have good extended information on this discussion which is beyond the scope of this paper. Morris, John, 662ff. George Johnston, The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1970), 88ff.

[46] Several writers make a salient point, that in a sense the Paraclete does act as God’s divine advocate, representing His case before the world. Bernard gives a representative argument. Bernard, John, 498. See also Morris, John, 684.

[47] Morris, John, 664. Westcott has a detailed outline of the exegesis of the work paraklhton. He prefers the translation "advocate." Westcott, John, 211.

[48] The perfect example of this is John’s use of the term logon. Logon is highly loaded with meaning in Greek and Jewish philosophy and theology and John uses it in a way unique unto himself. For him logon is not a principle or a personification. He is not the creative word of God spoken. He is a divine person who is equal to God and through whom God created the universe.

[49] One might infer from John’s use of allos as opposed to heretos that John means "another of the same character, kind or nature." While that is precisely what allon paraklhton means, it can scarcely be proved grammatically from John’s usage. John uses allos 34 times in his Gospel and 18 times in Revelation. He uses heretos only once in his entire corpus (John 19:37). In the latter passage Jesus compares two Scriptures both dealing with prophesies concerning crucifixion.

[50] A major section of this paper details some of those parallels.

[51] Smith, Theology, 140. Burge sees the parallel as going even further. "The use of allon in 14:26 is generally thought to include that for John Jesus is also a type of Paraclete (as is made clear in 1 John 2:1). But the reverse is also true; the Spirit Paraclete is also a type of Jesus. The identification of their roles suggests the identification of their personal functions. Where John does not use allon, he always draws the connection between Christ and the Paraclete (14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 14)." Burge, Anointed Community, 142-143.

[52] John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13. See also 1 John 4:6.

[53] See Bernard, John, 499 and Barrett, John, 463. It should be noted that for John, like Jesus, "the Spirit is the truth" (1 John 5:6).

[54] John 14:26. This is the only place in the Gospel where the complete phrase to pneuma to agion occurs. There are two other occurrences of the phrase "Holy Spirit" in John’s Gospel. John the Baptist announces that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:33). Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives the Holy Spirit in John 20:22.

[55] Morris, John, 656.

[56] In John 16:7 the accusative masculine singular auton is used for the Paraclete. Note also the genitive masculine singular of the reflexive pronoun eautou (himself) in 16:13, in closest proximity to the neuter pneuma,

[57] ekeinon is used in relation to the Spirit in John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13, 14. These are all nominative masculine singulars. In other contexts Jesus uses ekeinon to refer to the Father (John 8:42 for example).

[58] See Morris, John, 656, note 70.

[59] Barrett, John, 482. See also Morris, John, 683, note 63.

[60] Burge, Anointed Community, 142.

[61] Morris draws this conclusion in a note on John 15:26. "It does not prove that the Spirit is personal, but it is an indication that John tended to think of the Spirit in personal terms. This, of course, accords also with the function ascribed to Him here, that of bearing witness, for this is normally a personal activity." Morris, John, p. 683, note 63. See also Bernard, John, 500.

[62] See Barrett, John, 461 and Morris, John, 656.

[63] Bernard notes that this coincides with the Johannine doctrine that what the Father does, the Son does also. Bernard, John, 552. This is one context in which Oneness theology makes logical, theological and linguistic nonsense of the text. For the modalist, Jesus and the agrees with himself to send himself. He is sent in his own name, continuing the ministry of himself, but he cooperates with himself in sending himself.

[64] o para tou patron ekporeuetai.

[65] Indeed it is the only passage of Scripture Hodge sites directly in defense of the doctrine. Hodge, ST, vol. 1, 477-478.

[66] Augustine, Homilies, 383-386.

[67] Hodge, ST, 1:477.

[68] Loraine Boettner is probably the strongest "anti-procession" advocate. He concludes "We prefer to say, as previously stated, that within the essential life of the Trinity on one person is prior to, nor generated by, nor proceeds from, another, and that such priority and subordination as we find revealed in the works of creation, redemption and sanctification, relate not to the immanent but to the economic Trinity." Boettner, Studies, 123.

[69] "The passage is not concerned with the eternal mutual relationships of the Persons of the trinity, but with the work the Spirit would do in this world as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. Morris, John, 683. Bernard writes that this simply means that the Spirit who bears witness to Jesus has come from God. Bernard, John, 499. Westcott argues on the absence of ek, and the presence of para, and its usage elsewhere in the Gospel, and the substitution of ek in the creeds and the patristic writers, that the passage must refer to the temporal mission of the Spirit, and not to eternal procession or origin. Westcott, John, 225.

[70] Grudem, ST, 247, his italics.

[71] ei mh o wn para tou qeou.

[72] "The phrase implies not only mission..., but also a present relation of close dependence." Westcott, John, 105. "Both expressions point to an intimate relationship between the Father and the Son shared by none else." Morris, John, 373.

[73] Although Barrett suggests that John may be using language applicable to both resurrection and parousia. Barrett, John, 464. See also Morris, John, 651.

[74] Bruce refers to C. H. Dodd’s belief that in John’s Gospel the distinction between various phases of Jesus’ coming is a "vanishing distinction." Bruce, John, 303. Westcott writes that no one specific application of Christ’s coming exhausts the meaning here or in verse 3. Westcott, John, 206.

[75] Burge demonstrates that the chief uses of ercomai in the farewell discourse do not refer to the parousia, but to the resurrection and the coming Spirit. Burge, Anointed Community, 138.

[76] Burge writes "Thus the coming of Jesus is portrayed as a tangible resurrection appearance, but includes a personal epiphany of Christ to the believer in the Spirit." Burge, Anointed Community, 138.

[77] Augustine, Homilies, 338.

[78] Burge, Anointed Community, 141. The parallel between Father, Son and Spirit in terms of abiding presence with the believe has already been noted.

[79] John uses the preposition para as an expression of the Son’s coming "from" the Father numerous times (1:14; 6:46; 7:29; 9:16, 33; 16:27; 17:8). Morris, John, 683, note 62. For the Spirit see 15:26. Both Son and Spirit are described as "sent" (pempw) by the Father as well. For Jesus see 14:24; 15:21; 16:5. For the Spirit see 14:26.

[80] Fee compares the sending of the Son and the Spirit in Galatians 4:5-6. Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1994), 831.

[81] Compare Johnston, Spirit-Paraclete, 87.

[82] Appold, Oneness Motif, 21-22.

[83] See Morris’s explanation on how the "name" in antiquity, represents the fullness of the character and essence of the person. Morris, John, 99.

[84] John 1:18; 3:11; 7:7; 8:18; 18:37.

[85] John 15:26; 1 John 5:6.

[86] Burge, Anointed Community, 213-215.

[87] Fee, Presence, 830.

[88] For parallel application of these verbs to Jesus see remains (15:4), teaches (7;14, 8:20), comes (16:28), witnesses (7:7), speaks (8:38; 12:49), announces (16:25), glorifies (17:4), receives (10:18).

[89] Ibid, 831. Walter Martin quotes the Watchtower bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as describing the Holy Spirit as "God’s active force" and "likened to a radar beam." Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, Minneapolis: Bethany Publishing House, 1965), 47. It is difficult to see how a radar beam could carry out these personal activities.

[90] Smith, Theology, 129-130.

[91] Barrett, John, 91.




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