Historic Christianity’s most distinctive doctrinal feature may be the affirmation that God is one divine being eternally existing in three distinct (but not separate) divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine sets Christianity apart from the other two major Middle Eastern monotheistic religions of Judaism and Islam.
And yet in spite of the Trinity’s doctrinal importance in Christian theology, many Christians today give this critical belief insufficient reflection.
Biblical Names for Father, Son, and Spirit
Therefore in my ongoing effort to encourage Christians to grow in their doctrinal understanding of and devotion to the triune God (for example, see my previous article “Focusing on the Trinity Enhances Christian Devotion”), here I’ll list some of the names and titles of the Trinity’s divine persons and briefly discuss their significance. I hope this closer look helps you grow in your trinitarian awareness.1
God the Father
The first person of the triune God is the Father from whom the Son is eternally begotten and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds.2 Notice that these unique relationships between the three persons stem from eternity, thus ensuring their full unity and equality. The status of being created reflects an inferiority of nature. But the status of being begotten reflects an equality of nature.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, called God “Father” and instructed his followers to do the same. As the adopted children of God through salvation, it is appropriate and precious to call God our “Father.”
The Father is the almighty Creator and the human children he created trust in him as their ultimate provider, protector, and ruler. The Trinity is progressively and informally revealed in Scripture and sometimes the word God refers uniquely to the Father. One such trinitarian formula is found in Ephesians 4:4–6.
God the Son
The second person of the triune God is the eternal Word and Son of God who is coeternal and coequal with both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The Son took a human nature and was incarnate as Jesus Christ the God-man. He is the Savior of the world and the only Mediator between God and man.
Jesus as the Son of God has many names, titles, and metaphors in Scripture. Some of the most important include Messiah, Savior, and Lord.
God the Holy Spirit
The third person of the triune God is the Holy Spirit, who is coeternal and coequal with God the Father and God the Son. Thus, he is to be worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and has a unique role in human regeneration and sanctification.
As a divine person the Holy Spirit also has names and titles. In the New Testament, the Greek word paraclete is variously translated as Helper, or Comforter, or Advocate.
In Christianity, the one God eternally subsists as three persons who work together as allies in redeeming sinful human beings. The Father initiated salvation, the Son accomplished salvation, and the Spirit applied salvation. Knowing more about the names and titles of these unified divine persons can help us grow in our worship and devotion to the triune God.
Reflections: Your Turn
As a Christian, how do your trinitarian beliefs affect your devotion?
- For an introduction on how the Trinity is revealed in Scripture, see my article “The Trinity’s Biblical Basis.”
- For thoughts on the ultimate significance of the Trinity, see my article “How the Trinity Shows God’s Love.”
- For a special focus on the Holy Spirit, see my article “10 Reasons to be Thankful for the ‘Shy’ Member of the Trinity.”
1. My discussion of the names and titles of the three persons of the Trinity was influenced by J. I. Packer and Joel Scandrett, eds. To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).
2. Historically, Western Christendom has affirmed the filioque: That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the Son.” For a historical and apologetics discussion of the Trinity, including the filioque clause, see my book Christianity Cross-Examined: Is It Rational, Relevant, and Good? (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021), chapters 5 and 10.