CONSIDERATIONS

ABOUT THE

GODHEAD

 

A. Balbach

 

  

Published by

Northwestern Publishing Association

5770 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95820

 

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………….

 

Chapter I – THE ARIAN CONTROVERSY ……………………………..

 

1. Arianism …………………………………………….…………………….

2. Trinitarianism……………………………………………………………...

 

3. Modern Catholic views …………………………….……………………..

 

4. Recent theological ideas ………………………………………………….

 

5. Summary ………………………………………………………………….

 

Chapter II – THE GODHEAD IN HISTORIC ADVENTISM …………

 

1. The Adventist Church defines her position……………………………….

 

2. The SDA Reform Movement defines its position ………………………..

 

Chapter III – CONFLICTING CONCEPTS …………………………….

 

Chapter IV – MORE LIGHT SINCE 1888 ………………………………

 

1. The complete Deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ………………….

 

2. The personality of the Holy Spirit ………………………………………..

 

3. Warning against speculation ………………………………………………

 

Chapter V – THE GODHEAD IN THE PLAN OF SALVATION………

 

1. Three divine Beings, or Dignitaries, or Persons ………………………….

 

2. The three heavenly Beings work together ………………………………..

 

Chapter VI – WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT….

 

Chapter VII – MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT …………

 

1. Conscious and intelligent actions …………………………………………

 

2. Participation of the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation………………….

 

Chapter VIII – PAGAN ORIGIN? ……………………………………….

 

Chapter IX — THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN… …………………..

1. Common questions ……………………………………………………….

 

 

2. Difficult passages …………………………………………………………

 

CONCLUSION………………………………………………………………

 

  

INTRODUCTION

A true theoretical and practical knowledge of God is essential to our salvation. Just before Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane He said in His last intercessory prayer with his disciples:

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3

The Bible, especially the New Testament, tells us what we should know about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. On this theme, the information contained in the Word of God is enough for our salvation. We should beware of speculation. Let us be content with what is written and not go beyond a "Thus saith the Lord."

In this booklet we will abstain from giving our interpretation of difficult texts: we will just present what is written in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, and hope that our readers will agree that it is dangerous to reject, ignore, or explain away that which the finite mind cannot understand.

"Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." 2 Chronicles 20:20.

"In these last days of peril we are not to accept everything that men bring to us as truth. As professed teachers from God come to us declaring that they have a message from God, it is proper to inquire carefully, How do we know that it is the truth? Jesus has told us that 'false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.' But we need not be deceived; for the Word of God gives us a test whereby we may know what is truth. The prophet says, 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' …We are safe in no other course of action."

7 BC 951, 952.

Where we have used short quotations or ellipses please read the whole context in your own books for additional clarity. All emphasis is added.

I am thankful for the suggestions given by various brethren in the preparation of this booklet.

A. Balbach

Chapter I

THE ARIAN CONTROVERSY

The information contained hereunder is transcribed from different sources.

To one who reads the history of the church between the years 300 and 450 it may seem as though all of the energy of Christians must have been absorbed in doctrinal disputes…. There were four controversies in these years…. The first of the four was the Arian. It arose in Alexandria around 318. A presbyter of the Alexandrian church, named Arius, was publicly teaching certain doctrines which the bishop disapproved. When, after the bishop's reprimand, he persisted in his teaching, he was excommunicated. Then he appealed to other bishops, declaring that his condemnation had been unjust. Among these other bishops he found some followers, and the heresy spread out of Alexandria into Syria. Soon the whole eastern portion of the church was embroiled in a bitter quarrel, and at last Emperor Constantine intervened. He summoned the bishops of the Empire to a great council at Nicaea, in 325. At this council Arius' teaching was condemned, and a creed was adopted, stating the official doctrine of the church. There were, however, many in the Church, who, though they did not agree with Arius, believed that the council had gone too far. The result was that several parties formed, and for more than fifty years these parties were engaged in a violent controversy. The emperors were Christians, and by this time the Church had become almost a part of the Roman State. All the parties, therefore, tried to win the favor of the reigning emperor. Thus the whole struggle took a political color, which oftentimes obscured the real meaning of the controversy. In 381 a second General Council, at Constantinople, affirmed the action of the council at Nicaea, and the Emperor Theodosius forcibly repressed the Arian doctrine and all other doctrine that conflicted with the creed of Constantinople.

The question which Arius had raised was the old question, "Who and what is Christ?" … Christ, in Arius' teachings, is a sort of semi-god, halfway between us and the Father; like us, because He is created; like God because he came directly forth from Him before the world began. His was the worst possible answer to the question which he raised.

Arius' great opponent was Athanasius. . . . In the early years of the controversy he was the theological adviser of his bishop, and when the bishop (Alexander) died, he was elected to succeed him (328). For forty-five years he was bishop of Alexandria. They were the years when the Arian struggle was at its bitterest, and the Arians had him driven into exile no less than five times. He was out of his bishopric for more than seventeen years, all told, but after each exile he returned. The reason for his trouble lay in his complete devotion to the Nicene theology, with its insistence upon the full and complete divinity of Christ. In his attitude toward Arianism he was uncompromising. . .

Before the Arian difficulties were at an end, new doctrinal disputes had risen in the Eastern Church. Admitted that Christ is divine, "begotten of His Father before all worlds," how are we to explain Jesus of Nazareth? How can we think of him as a man, without ceasing to think of him as God? How can we think of Him as God, without ceasing to think of Him as man? These were the questions which formed the focus of Christological Controversies. - Source: Charles M. Jacobs, The Story of the Church (1925), pp. 52-55.

1. Arianism

As defined in church history, Arianism is in substance as follows:

The Father alone is God; therefore he alone is unbegotten, eternal, wise, good and unchangeable, and he is separated by an infinite chasm from the world. He cannot create the world directly, but only through an agent, the Logos. The Son of God is pre-existent, before all creatures, and above all creatures, a middle being between God and the world, the creator of the world, the perfect image of the Father, and the executor of his thoughts, and thus capable of being called in a metaphorical sense God, and Logos, and Wisdom. But on the other hand, he himself is a creature, that is to say, the first creation of God, through whom the Father called other creatures into existence; he was created out of nothing (not out of the essence of God) by the will of the Father before all conceivable times; he is therefore not eternal, but had a beginning, and there was a time when he was not.

Arianism thus rises far above Ebionism, Socinianism, deism, and rationalism, in maintaining the personal pre-existence of the Son before all worlds, which were his creation: but it agrees with those systems in lowering the Son to the sphere of the created, which of course includes the idea of temporalness and finiteness. It at first ascribed to him the predicate of unchangeableness also, but afterwards subjected him to the vicissitudes of created being. - Source: Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (1902), p. 645.

2. Trinitarianism

Three cardinal points were established [with reference to Christ]: sameness of essence, personal distinction, eternal generation.

What was yet wanting was an approximately adequate expression combining these main points. The predicate homoousios was adopted by the Council of Nice as embracing both the idea of unity and that of distinction, and the whole Christian Church has ever since united in declaring its faith in "the Only Son of God, Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father."

The same premises which resulted in this settlement of the relation of the Son to the Father eventually and of necessity brought about a similar conclusion concerning the Holy Ghost: the Symbol of the Church being expanded at the Council of Constantinople, A. D. 381, by the addition to the third article: "the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified," the Church thus affirming the absolute divinity alike of the Father , the Son, and the Holy Ghost, ascribing to each the attributes and perfections of deity, while always, on the other hand, maintaining that there is one God only, that the divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is an absolute unit. It cannot be claimed that all difficulties were surmounted. Long struggles ensued, even after the church had, in successive Councils, defined the doctrine; but the formulation in the Athanasian Creed of the Catholic Faith, "That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance," presents this mystery in such a way that, as Hagenbach says, "all further endeavors of human ingenuity to solve its apparent contradictions in a dialectic way must break against this bulwark of faith, as the waves break upon an inflexible rock."… Each "person" possesses its own ultimate form of subsistence. The Father differs from the Son, the Holy Ghost differs from both. The Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and (according to the Western Church) from the Son. Yet neither is God without the other; neither works independently of the other; the Three are One. - Source: E. B. Sanford, A Concise Cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1890), pp. 922, 923.

3. Modern Catholic views

It is of the very nature of God to exist. There is no other way of thinking straight about God, except to think of Him as the Being Who never had a beginning, the Being Who always was and always will be. The only real definition we can give of God is to say, "He is Who is." That is the way, you will remember, that God described Himself to Moses: "I am Who am."…

If the thought that God has of Himself, then, is to be an infinitely complete and perfect thought, it must include existence, since to exist is of the very nature of God. The image that God sees of Himself, the silent Word that He eternally speaks of Himself, must have a distinctive existence of its own. It is this Living Thought which God has of Himself, the Living Word in which he perfectly expresses Himself, Whom we call God the Son. God the Father is God, knowing Himself; God the Son is the expression of God's knowledge of Himself. Thus the second person of the Blessed Trinity is called the Son precisely because, from all eternity, He is generated, He is begotten, in the divine mind of the Father. He also is called the Word of God, because He is the "mental word" in which the divine mind gives utterance to the thought of Himself.

Suppose you look at yourself in a full-length mirror. You see there an image of yourself that is perfect except for one thing: it is not a living image; it is just a reflection in the glass. But if that image were to step out of the mirror and stand beside you, living and breathing like yourself – then it would be a perfect image indeed. There would not be two of you. There would be just one YOU, one human nature. There would be two 'persons,' but only one mind and one will, sharing the same knowledge and the same thoughts….

Then, since self-love (the right kind of self-love) is natural to an intelligent being, there would flow between you and your image an ardent love, one for the other. Now give your fancy free rein, and think of this love as being so much a part of yourself, so deeply rooted in your very nature, as to be a living, breathing reproduction of yourself. This love would be a "third person" (still only one YOU, remember; only one human nature), a third person standing between you and your image, and three of you linked hand in hand, three persons one human nature. - Source: Leo J. Trese, The Creed—Summary of the Faith (1963), pp. 44-46.

4. Recent theological ideas

In attempting to define more precisely what is meant by the threefold oneness of God, the church has spoken of God "in three Persons," a practice that goes back to the third century. Translation of the Latin word persona as "person" can be misleading, however, because the third-century meaning is quite different from the meaning today. The word originally referred to the mask worn by actors in a play, then to dramatic roles in the play, and only much later to the conscious self or ego, the individual "person." Use of the term today in connection with the Trinity implies that there are three personal divine beings in one God, a definite form of tritheism. In contrast to this, the doctrine of the Trinity is intended to affirm the threefold oneness of God.

For this reason, Karl Barth and other contemporary theologians persuasively argue that the attribute of personality should be applied only to God in his unity. In our communion with him we are confronted by one. "Thou," one God who makes himself known in three ways of being. We have known this one God as the Father, gracious Creator and Sustainer of life. We have known him as the Son, manifesting himself to us redemptively in Jesus the Christ. We have known him as the Holy Spirit, the continuing living presence of himself with us, calling us to reconciliation with himself through Christ and empowering us to live in this fulfilling relationship. These three ways of being are not the work of three distinct "individuals," but of one God. Each is a true expression of his inner nature, of who he truly is. But Christians cannot say who he truly is in his fullness without referring to his creative power, his redemptive incarnation in Christ, and his continuing illumination as the Holy Spirit.

This way of describing the Holy Spirit appeals to many persons as the most accurate way of stating [the] Christian belief about the threefold oneness of God." – Source: Edward W. Bauman, Beyond Belief (quoted in the book Faith in Search of Understanding, by John B. Magee).

5. Summary

a) Arianism

"Arius (280-336), presbyter of Alexandria, taught… that the Son was not equal to the Father; that He was not of the same essence; that He was neither infinite nor eternal; that He was a creature, namely, the most perfect creature, one by whom all other beings were created, a creature who was exalted to such a state of unity with God that, in a certain sense, He could be called God, but, definitely, He was a creature." – A. Boulenger, Histoire de L’Eglise (Church History), p. 111.

b) Trinitarianism

"It was decided [at the first ecumenical church council, at Nicaea, in 325], as a general creed of the Church, that Jesus Christ is very God of very God, of one substance with the Father, and begotten of the Father from eternity." – Nils Lovgren, A Church History, p. 72.

The creed called "Nicene Creed," drawn up after the Nicene Council, reads (according to the Book of Common Prayer):

"I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

"And [I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of His Father before all worlds; God of God; Light of Light, very God of very God;….

"And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son…, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified…" - Roland H. Bainton, The Church of Our Fathers, p. 44.

A doctrine that is not totally right may not be totally wrong. Before someone can attack a doctrinal belief, he must be able to define it correctly and point out its heretical features. Our antitrinitarian friends have failed to do that. Instead, they give us a list of distinctions between the teaching of "Jesus Christ and His Apostles" and the belief of the "Trinitarians." But many of them are artificial distinctions, which would not stand in a confrontation with these brethren, in the light of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. They reject trinitarianism mainly because it teaches a three-person Godhead, which they cannot accept, although this point is in perfect harmony with a "Thus saith the Lord." We think they would do a much better job if they directed their thrust only at the erroneous aspects of the dogma, such as these two:

"From all eternity, [the Son] is generated, He is begotten, in the divine mind of the Father."

"The doctrine of the Trinity is intended to affirm the threefold oneness of God… one God who makes himself known in three ways of being."

Of course, we must reject the wrong ideas of a doctrine; some, however, go much farther: They reject the wrong ideas together with the right ideas. It seems to us, in other words, that they are throwing out the baby with the tub water.

 

 

 

 

Chapter II

THE GODHEAD IN HISTORIC ADVENTISM

The early Advent pioneers did not have all the truth. Many of them, while rejecting the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, revealed a strong bent toward Arianism. Here is one example:

As fundamental errors, we might class with [the] counterfeit Sabbath other errors which Protestants have brought away from the Catholic church, such as sprinkling for baptism, the trinity, the consciousness of the dead and eternal life in misery. The mass who have held these fundamental errors, have doubtless done it ignorantly; but can it be supposed that the church of Christ will carry along with these errors till the judgment scenes burst upon the world? We think not. "Here are they [in the period of a message given just before the Son of man takes his place upon the white cloud, Rev. 14:14] that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." This class, who live just prior to the second advent, will not be keeping the traditions of men, neither will they be holding fundamental errors relative to the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. And as the true light shines out upon these subjects, and is rejected by the mass, then condemnation will come upon them. When the true Sabbath is set before men, and the claims of the fourth commandment are urged upon them, and they reject this holy institution of the God of heaven, and choose in its place an institution of the beast, it can then be said, in the fullest sense, that such worship the beast. The warning message of the third angel is given in reference to that period, when the mark of the beast will be received, instead of the seal of the living God. Solemn, dreadful, swiftly approaching hour! - Source: James White, Review and Herald, Sept. 12, 1854.

The "mystery of iniquity" began to work in the church in Paul's day. It finally crowded out the simplicity of the gospel, and corrupted the doctrine of Christ, and the church went into the wilderness. Martin Luther, and other reformers, arose in the strength of God, and with the Word and Spirit, made mighty strides in the Reformation. The greatest fault we can find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday-keeping, the church would now be free of her unscriptural errors. – Source: James White, Review and Herald, Feb. 7, 1856.

We are indebted to the Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, MD, for the following information:

"The evidence from a study of Adventist history indicates that from the earliest years of our church to the 1890s a whole stream of writers took an Arian or semi-Arian position. The view of Christ presented in those years by Adventist authors was that there was a time when Christ did not exist, that His divinity is a delegated divinity, and that therefore He is inferior to the Father. In regard to the Holy Spirit, their position was that He was not the third member of the Godhead but the power of God." – Gerhard Pfandl, The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Adventists, p. 1.

This position was maintained "until the 1890s"; then – we want to emphasize – the Lord sent light to His people, through the ministry of E. G. White, to correct their erroneous views on this important doctrine.

LeRoy E. Froom, in an interesting book published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association (1949), informs how Arianism tried to creep into the Adventist Church in the days of the pioneers.

"In the third century," he says, "that time of developing apostasies, Paul of Samosater advanced a theory denying the personality of the Holy Spirit, regarding the Holy Spirit merely as an influence, an exertion of divine energy and power, an influence moving out from God and exerted on men. Then about the time of the Protestant Reformation two men, Laeleus Socinus and his nephew, Faustus Socinus, reviewed the theory, and many accepted it.

"The chilling influence of this concept has told on many Protestant churches…. It is significant that the utterances of the Spirit of Prophecy were squarely against prevailing sentiments on the part of some of the pioneers of the Advent Movement, who were inclined to this impersonal idea of an influence…" -- LeRoy E. Froom, The Coming Comforter, p. 56.

In the following pages we will see how strongly the Spirit of Prophecy opposed the idea that the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal influence emanating from the Father (or from the Father and the Son), that Christ is a created being and that He is not God in the fullest sense, that the Godhead is composed of only two persons, etc.

1. The Adventist Church defines her position

If some of the pioneers wrote articles rejecting the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, they did a good job. But we should bear in mind that their writings were not free from doctrinal error. Therefore, we cannot take all their views as gospel truth. Antitrinitarians among SDAs should not forget that the official position of the Adventist Church, in the pioneer days, was defined in their declaration of beliefs entitled, Fundamental Principles of SDAs in 1872. This is what they believed and taught in reference to the Godhead:

1. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.

2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood he makes atonement for our sins; which atonement so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in Heaven. See Lev. 16; Heb. 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7: &c.

…………………………………………………………………………………

16. That the Spirit of God was promised to manifest itself in the church through certain gifts, enumerated especially in 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4; that these gifts are not designed to supercede, or take the place of, the Bible, which is sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, any more than the Bible can take the place of the Holy Spirit; that, in specifying the various channels of its operation, the Spirit has simply made provision for its own existence and presence with the people of God to the end of time, to lead to an understanding of that word which it had inspired, to convince of sin, and to work a transformation in the heart and life; and that those who deny to the Spirit its place and operation, do plainly deny that part of the Bible which assigns to it this work and position.

In these Fundamental Principles (1872), neither Arianism nor Trinitarianism are mentioned among the fundamental Adventist beliefs. Nor is antitrinitarianism listed in other statements of what was understood as present truth. J.N. Loughborough, in The Great Second Advent Movement, carefully traces the development of every important doctrine and defining truth of early Adventism. He is silent about antitrinitarianism as a point of present truth. The book, Synopsis of Present Truth, which was based upon the Bible Institute lectures of James White and Uriah Smith, does not refer to antitrinitarianism as a doctrine among Seventh-day Adventists. This silence is significant, as these lectures were presented for the very purpose of bringing the Adventist ministry into unity on all of the present truth. And what is more informative is that Sister White does not include Arian ideas among the "pillars" or "landmarks" of the Adventist faith.

2. The SDA Reform Movement defines its position

As far as the understanding of the Godhead is concerned, the SDA Reform Movement inherited the historic position of the SDA Church {1872). With reference to the Godhead, our Principles of Faith (1925) read:

 

a) God

We believe that there is but one God, who through His infinite wisdom and almighty power has created heaven and earth (Ex. 20:2,3; Isa. 45:5,6,18):

God is a spiritual being (John 4:24), eternal, without beginning, and without end (Rev. 21:6), present everywhere (Ps. 139:1-12), enthroned in the heavens, and cannot be seen by man in his present sinful state (1 Tim. 6:16; Isa. 59:2; John 1:18; Ex. 33:20). Only through faith can we come to God (Heb. 11:6).

b) Jesus Christ

We believe that Jesus Christ is the living Son of God and that He is one in nature with the Father (Heb. 1:1-3,5). From eternity all things in heaven and on earth have been created through Him (Col. 1:15-17). Therefore, only He can be Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). In harmony with the testimony of the prophets He was born as a human being on this earth at Bethlehem in Judea, of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Spirit of God (Matt. 1:18-23). Only through His death and through faith in His freely given grace can we be saved (Luke 1:77-79; Acts 4:12; John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6.

c) The Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit is the representative of Christ upon the earth (John 14:16). Without Him it is impossible to comprehend and live according to the will of God. Also, it is impossible to rightly interpret the divine Word without the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:11). His is a power from the Father and the Son, and is active also through human beings (2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:11).

The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, therefore, believers are baptized not only in these names, but also in the name of the Holy Spirit after they have become acquainted with the same (Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7; 2 Cor. 13:14).

In the light of our Principles of Faith (1925), as can be seen, we do not teach the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. In 1925 we inherited the belief that the SDA Church incorporated in her Fundamental Principles (1872), namely, that the Holy Spirit is the "representative" of God. With reference to the Godhead, we must repeat, the position adopted by the SDA Reformers (1925) is not different from the position defined by the Adventist pioneers (1872).

We have not omitted any part of the sacred truth considered as pillars of the Adventist faith. Although several pioneers held that the rejection of the papal trinity was important, no specific statement in support of Arianism or Semi-arianism ever became part of the present truth. We should not confuse what various individuals wrote with what the church understood as present truth revealed to them by God, confirmed by the miraculous leading of His Spirit, and testified to by His prophet. We cannnot build a doctrine upon ideas on which the pioneers were not united and which the Holy Spirit did not confirm as present truth. These facts should not be ignored by our antitrinitarian friends or by anyone who wants to involve the SDA Reform Movement in his discussion about this subject.

Our beliefs are based on the Bible (GC 595), which we try to understand under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the help of the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. And we do not believe that the door was closed against further light in 1850, or 1872, or 1888. E.G. White wrote:

"Light, brethren, more light we need. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm in the holy mountain. Gather the host of the Lord, with sanctified hearts, to hear what the Lord will say unto His people; for He has increased light for all who will hear." TM 410.

"We must not for a moment think that there is no more light, no more truth, to be given." GW 310.

"We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible -- He who is the way, the truth, and the life." TM 105 (1893).

Therefore, we have no excuse for ignoring the additional light that God sent to His people during the latter years of E. G. White's ministry. A good number of statements came from her pen after 1888, in harmony with the New Testament, to correct wrong ideas prevalent among the pioneers concerning the Godhead.

Chapter III

CONFLICTING CONCEPTS

It is true that the early SDA pioneers rejected the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and so does the SDA Reform Movement. Neither in the Scriptures nor in the Testimonies do we find support for this dogma. But the same thing is true concerning Arianism and the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal influence. So long as the advocates of these ideas are unable to produce convincing supportive evidence in behalf of their conclusions from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, their human opinions are unacceptable to us.

As far as the doctrinal truth is concerned, we have no doubt that we must side with the pioneers — but only as far as they stood on the truth. Not everything that they believed was correct. Here is one example: "For a time after the disappointment in 1844, … [they believed] … that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world." 1SM 63. This position was held until the Lord sent light on the subject. E. G. White wrote: "It was the light given me of God that corrected our error and enabled us to see the true position." Ibid. God did not use the pioneers to correct the prophetess; on the contrary, He corrected the pioneers through the prophetess. Therefore, we put a question to our antitrinitarian friends:

What position do you take when you see a disagreement between the opinion of some of the pioneers and the writings of Sister White?

Hereunder are a few more examples of such disagreements.

In his book Thoughts on Revelation, p. 59 (1867 edition), Uriah Smith wrote that Christ was "the first created being." Since this erroneous concept was published in a book, this is an indication that, among the respected pioneers, he was not the only one to uphold this belief. Prescott admitted: "We believed a long time that Christ was a created being." – W. W. Prescott, 1919 Bible Conference Transcripts, July 6, 1919, p. 62. This idea was maintained for a long time.

"By about 1880 the idea of Christ as a created being faded away and the concept of Christ as the ‘begotten’ was taken literally, which meant that Christ at some point in eternity proceeded from the Father and was therefore subordinate to Him…. Not only did Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald, believe until his death in 1903 that Christ had a beginning, but during the first decades of [the twentieth] century there were many who held on to the view that in some way Christ came forth from the Father, i.e., he had a beginning and was therefore inferior to Him." – Gerhard Pfandl, The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Adventists, pp. 3, 4.

There were many who held on to the idea that Christ had a beginning, in opposition to the light that God sent to the Adventist people, through E. G. White, during the last two decades of her ministry. You will read the corresponding Spirit of Prophecy statements in the following pages.

Uriah Smith also maintained that both the human and the divine nature of Christ died on the cross. He rejected the belief that only humanity died. And, again, he was not alone in supporting that doctrinal position. This is what he wrote:

"The point made by SDA's [is] that, if [Christ's] nature can be separated into human and divine, and only the human part died, then the world is furnished with only a human sacrifice, not a divine sacrifice, as we contend." RH March 27, 1888.

J. H. Waggoner (father of E. J. Waggoner) was of the same opinion. In his book The Atonement he wrote:

"No matter how exalted the preexistent Son was; no matter how glorious, how powerful, or even eternal; if the manhood only died, the sacrifice was only human. And so far as the vicarious death of Christ is concerned, this is Socinianism." – The Atonement in the Light of Nature and Revelation, pp. 164-166 (1884 edition).

Socinianism is the name given to a doctrine introduced by Faustus Socinus, an adherent of the 16th and 17th century theological movement professing belief in God and adherence to the Holy Scriptures but denying the divinity of Christ.

The teaching that both natures of Christ, humanity and divinity, died on the cross was also in conflict with the light that came to the church through the ministry of E. G. White. She wrote:

"He who had said, 'I lay down my life, that I might take it again,' 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,' came forth from the grave to life that was in Himself. Deity did not die. Humanity died… In His divinity Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death." 5BC 1113 (1SM 301).

The disagreement between G. I. Butler, General Conference president, and E. J. Waggoner, editor of Signs of the Times, shows that the pioneers were not clear on the human nature of Christ and on other points. Before the conference in 1888, Waggoner prepared a small tract, The Gospel in Galatians, as a response to Butler's book, The Law in Galatians. The following view advocated by Waggoner aroused a controversy among some of the pioneers:

"These texts (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:5-7; Heb. 2:9) show that Christ took upon Himself man's nature, and that as a consequence He was subject to death. He came into the world on purpose to die; and so from the beginning of His earthly life He was in the same condition that the men are in whom He died to save… (Rom. 1:3)…What was the nature of David, 'according to the flesh'? Sinful, was it not?…. Don't start in horrified astonishment; I am not implying that Christ was a sinner…. If Christ had not been made in all things like unto His brethren, His sinless life would be no encouragement to us." – The Gospel in Galatians, p. 61.

Elder Robert J. Wieland commented on this issue as follows:

"Indeed, this view must have been shocking to Elder Butler, or he would not have telegraphed the delegates at Minneapolis [1888] to 'stand by the old landmarks' and thus reject Waggoner's message." – The Broken Link, p. 12.

Sister White received many complaints about the "new light" presented by Elder Waggoner, but she endorsed it, contrary to the opinion of other pioneers. She wrote:

"Letters have been coming in to me, affirming that Christ could not have had the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations. If He did not have man's nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battles as man, in man's behalf. His temptation and victory tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern." 1SM 408.

"In taking upon Himself man's nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin…. He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are. And yet He 'knew no sin.' . . . We should have no misgivings in regard to the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of Christ." ST June 9, 1898.

In this case, again, we put the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy above the ideas maintained by some of the pioneers.

In 1888, God used two of the pioneers, Waggoner and Jones, to present the message Christ our Righteousness to the leaders and delegates assembled at the General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There were highly regarded pioneers among them. What was their reaction to the message brought by these two men? They rejected the light of heaven as incompatible with the old landmarks.

"From his sickbed in Battle Creek the General Conference president wired his chief supporters, men like Uriah Smith and J. H. Morrison, president of Butler's old home Iowa Conference, to ‘stand by the old landmarks’." — R. W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, p. 187.

"Older experienced brethren were piqued at the prospect of Ellen White so decidedly supporting two comparatively young and obscure men against practically the entire assembly of workers. Elder A. G. Daniells later said that she had to stand 'almost alone' against the entire General Conference (The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, p. 369)." – Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short, 1888 Re-Examined, p. 19.

"At Minneapolis…Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit…. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world…. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." 1SM 234, 235.

We certainly respect the views of the Adventist pioneers, but only as far as they were in harmony with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Not everything that they taught was later accepted as truth, even if Sister White, at the beginning, said nothing to contradict them. Not a few wrong views found their way to the press.

An additional example of what we are saying can be found in the understanding of Uriah Smith about "the third part of the stars of heaven" which Satan, the dragon, drew after him when he fell from heaven (Rev. 12:4). He explained this verse as follows:

"The dragon, being a symbol, could deal only with symbolic stars; and the chronology of the act here mentioned would confine it to the Jewish people. Judea became a Roman province sixty-three years before the birth of the Messiah. The Jews had three classes of rulers – kings, priests, and the Sanhedrim. A third of these, the kings, were taken away by the Roman power." – The Revelation, pp. 510, 511.

The war in heaven (Rev. 12:7), according to Uriah Smith, took place "in the days of the first advent" of Christ. – Ibid., p. 513.

Since Elder Smith's book was published by the church, many other pioneers must have shared his ideas, which were never endorsed by E. G. White.

With reference to the understanding of the Godhead, some of the pioneers also held wrong views, and, therefore, they had serious disagreements at the Minneapolis conference in 1888. Froom informs:

"As repeatedly stated, we had come up to 1888 with divided views on the Three Persons of the Godhead; the eternal existence, Deity, and pre-incarnation equality of Christ with the Father; …together with the personality and operation of the Holy Spirit." -- LeRoy E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 314.

Two years after the Minneapolis conference, one of the pioneers wrote:

"Although we claim to be believers in, and worshipers of, only one God, I have thought that there are as many gods among us as there are conceptions of the Deity. And how many there are of these, and how limited are most of them!" -- D.T. Bourdeau, RH November 18, 1890.

"Indeed, there seems to have been many ideas about God among Adventists during this time [around 1888]" – Russel Holt, The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination: Its Rejection and Acceptance.

While the division of opinion concerning the Godhead lasted among the pioneers, the Pacific Press, where E.J. Waggoner was editor until May 1891, published a tract setting forth the doctrine of the Trinity. We quote from this tract:

"The Arian, who regards Christ as more than human but less than divine, and also the Socinian, who regards Him as simply human, are alike at fault in reasoning from those passages that set forth His subordination to the Father and in omitting to give proper force to those that teach His absolute divinity. Neither [the Arian nor the Socinian] accepts the whole testimony of the Bible in respect to Christ. This leads both to false though not identical conclusions." – Samuel T. Spear, The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity (printed in l889 and reprinted in 1892).

Another serious doctrinal problem related to the Godhead was the promotion of pantheistic ideas, which created further division of opinion among the pioneers in the days of Sister White. She warned the church:

"The mighty power that works through all nature and sustains all things is not, as some men of science claim, merely an all-pervading principle, an actuating energy. God is a spirit; yet He is a personal being, for man was made in His image." Ed 131, 132.

"Scientific, spiritualistic sentiments, representing the Creator as an essence pervading all nature, have been given to our people, and have been received even by some who have had a long experience as teachers in the word of God. The results of this insidious devising will break out again and again. There are many for whom special efforts will have to be put forth to free them from this specious deception.

"I am now authorized to say that the time has come to take decided action. The development seen in the cause of God is similar to the development seen when Balaam caused Israel to sin just before they entered the promised land. How dangerous it is so to exalt any man that he becomes confused, and confuses the minds of others in regard to the truths that for the last fifty years the Lord has been giving his people.

"Few can see the meaning of the present apostasy. But the Lord has lifted the curtain, and has shown me its meaning, and the result that it will have if allowed to continue. We must now lift our voices in warning. Will our people acknowledge God as the supreme Ruler, or will they choose the misleading arguments and views that, when fully developed, make Him, in the minds of those who accept them, as nothingness?" SpT, Series B, No. 7, pp. 36, 37.

Froom gives more details about this new doctrinal problem among Seventh-day Adventists:

"The issue of pantheism came to the fore in the late nineties and persisted for a number of years. Appearing as a sort of alleged ‘angel of light,’ with fascinating new terms and concepts, the germ of the idea had appeared in Dr. Kellogg’s first book, Harmony of Science and the Bible (1879)… In 1897 Dr. Kellogg gave a lecture at the General Conference…that brought the issue out into the open. Here pantheistic ideas now appeared in express declarations. These were then amplified in his Living Temple (1903). And some on both sides of the Atlantic were taken in by these subtleties… Kellogg’s deviations were clothed in appealing language. His esoteric teaching implied that God was in everything as actual life, so that when we ‘ate’ or ‘drank’ we received God. And this began to be taught at the Battle Creek Sanitarium College (GC Bulletin, 1899, p. 58 ff.)." – LeRoy E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 349.

"While Mrs. White was in Australia, ideas of the immanence of God in all living creatures began to surface in Adventist circles. Kellogg was not the only one to propound such theories, although he did so frequently at the 1897 General Conference session. Men like Prescott and E. J. Waggoner promoted similar ideas. In fact, in later years, A. G. Daniells saw Dr. Waggoner as the chief aggressor in this matter… [Finally] Kellogg cast doubt on the belief that all of Mrs. White’s writings could be considered inspired by God." – R.W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, pp. 288, 290.

Needless to repeat, there was a conflict among the pioneers on important points of doctrine until light on these doctrinal issues came to the church through the ministry of E. G. White.

 

Chapter IV

MORE LIGHT SINCE 1888

The Spirit of God used the pen of Sister White to write out the truth – only the truth – that had been revealed to the pioneers. Therefore, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she was very selective in what she had to write. In her writings, she never endorsed the errors held by some of the pioneers. She warned us:

"I am instructed that the Lord, by His infinite power, has preserved the right hand of His messenger for more than half a century, in order that the truth may be written out as He bids me write it for publication, in periodicals and books, Why? — Because if it were not thus written out, when the pioneers in the faith shall die, there would be many, new in the faith, who would sometimes accept as messages of truth teachings that contain erroneous sentiments and dangerous fallacies. Sometimes that which men teach as ‘special light’ is in reality specious error, which, as tares sown among the wheat, will spring up and produce a baleful harvest…. There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, separated from their proper connection and perverted by association with error." — Letter 136, April 27, 1906 (This Day With God, p. 126).

"The leading points of our faith as we hold them today were firmly established. Point after point was clearly defined, and all the brethren came into harmony…. Our experience was wonderfully established by the revelation of the Holy Spirit." MS 135, 1903 (The Early Years, vol. 1, p. 145.)

According to this warning, the servant of the Lord was especially directed by the Holy Spirit during the latter years of her ministry. She knew what to write and what not to write as far as the truth is concerned. She did not endorse the Arian ideas maintained by some of the pioneers. Nor did she welcome the "spiritualistic representations" (SpT, Series B, No 7, pp. 62, 63) contained in the trinitarian views that some were inclined to accept at the turn of the century. Therefore, the idea that all the light had already been given to the pioneers before 1888, and that they were right and united on all points, is completely groundless. E. G. White wrote:

"There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not a proof that our ideas are infallible." – RH December 20, 1892.

Let this point be well understood: We are to abide by the accumulated light that we received until the beginning of the twentieth century. This means that "certain doctrines that have been held as truth for many years" may have to be discarded. It cannot be maintained "that all our [previous] expositions of Scripture are without an error." The additional light that God sent to His people, through the ministry of E. G. White, especially after 1888, to confirm "the leading points of our faith as we hold them today," in 1903, is especially important. The Spirit of God used the pen of Sister White to write out the truth – only the truth – that had been revealed to the pioneers, as we mentioned before.

In a confusion of beliefs concerning the Godhead, the Adventist Church was heading toward a great crisis. Help came to the church at the right time, through the ministry of E. G. White, whose more recent writings (produced after 1888) clarified the points under discussion. But the devil tried to stop the light sent from heaven as he sought to put doubts into the minds of some of the watchmen on the walls of Zion with reference to the validity of the Spirit of Prophecy. Isn’t he trying to do the same thing today?

To correct the wrong concepts maintained by some of the early leaders, God sent light to the church on the following points:

1. The complete deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ

"Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the source and sustainer of all, is alone entitled to supreme reverence and worship." PP 305 (DA 469, 470). Read Luke 4:8; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:5.

"Jehovah is the name given to Christ." ST May 3, 1899.

"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore." RH April 5, 1906 (ST August 2, 1905).

"Christ…assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God." ST August 29, 1900.

"In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived." DA 530.

"Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent Son of God." ST August 29, 1900.

"He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent." Ms 101, 1897.

"All created beings live by the will and power of God. They are recipients of the life of the Son of God. However able and talented, however large their capacities, they are replenished with life from the Source of all life. He is the spring, the fountain, of life. Only He who alone has immortality, dwelling in light and life, should say, ‘I have power to lay it [my life] down, and I have power to take it again.’ (John 10:18)." 1SM 301.

"That doctrine that denies the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ denies also the Godhead of the Father." ST June 27, 1895.

"If men reject the testimony of the inspired Scriptures concerning the deity of Christ, it is in vain to argue the point with them; for no argument, however conclusive, could convince them." GC 524.

2. The personality of the Holy Spirit

"The Holy Spirit…personifies Christ, yet is a distinct personality." 20MR 324.

"The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency." RH May 5, 1896.

"The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit." SpT, Series A, No. 10, p. 37. (DA 671).

"The Holy Spirit …is a person as God is a person." Ms 66, 1899 (Ev 616).

"I have felt burdened, lest the work of confession and repentance would not go as deep and thorough as it should, in order to meet the mind of the Spirit of God." RH March 12, 1889.

If the Holy Spirit has a mind, He is more than an impersonal influence.

3. Warning against speculation about the "three living persons of the heavenly trio"

God sent instructions through His servant to the church:

"I am instructed to say, the sentiments of those who are searching for advanced scientific ideas are not to be trusted. Such representations as the following are made: 'The Father is as the light invisible: the Son is as the light embodied; the Spirit is the light shed abroad.' 'The Father is like the dew, invisible vapor; the Son is like the dew gathered in beauteous form; the Spirit is like the dew fallen to the seat of life.' Another representation: ‘The Father is like the invisible vapor; the Son is like the leaden cloud; the Spirit is rain fallen and working in refreshing power.'

"All these spiritualistic representations are simply nothingness. They are imperfect, untrue. They weaken and diminish the Majesty which no earthly likeness can be compared to. God cannot be compared with the things His hands have made. These are mere earthly things, suffering under the curse of God because of the sins of man. The Father cannot be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight.

"The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be 'the express image of His person.' 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' Here is shown the personality of the Father.

"The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio." SpT, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62, 63 (1905).

A misinterpretation of John 17:3 has led many honest souls a long way on the path of error. To know "the only true God and Jesus Christ" does not mean "to speculate into the mysteries of the Godhead." As mere mortals, we should not presume to form conjectures about the majesty of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The nature of "the three dignitaries and powers of heaven" (6BC 1075) has not been revealed to us or to any human being. The relationship between the Father and the Son is not within the domain of our speculative knowledge. We should abstain from presumption and never claim to know more than what is written and never force the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy to say what they do not say.

"As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." John 10:15.

"No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Matthew 11:27.

"The revelation of Himself that God has given in His word is for our study. This we may seek to understand. But beyond this we are not to penetrate. The highest intellect may tax itself until it is wearied out in conjectures regarding the nature of God; but the effort will be fruitless. This problem has not been given us to solve. No human mind can comprehend God. Let not finite man attempt to interpret Him. Let no one indulge in speculation regarding His nature. Here silence is eloquence." 8T 279.

"While God's Word speaks of the humanity of Christ when upon this earth, it also speaks decidedly regarding His pre-existence. The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant, the one in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted Him, were to be blessed. ‘The Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). Before men or angels were created, the Word was with God, and was God.

"The world was made by Him, ‘and without him was not any thing made that was made’ (John 1:3). If Christ made all things, He existed before all things. The words spoken in regard to this are so decisive that no one need be left in doubt. Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.

"The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father…

"There are light and glory in the truth that Christ was one with the Father before the foundation of the world was laid. This is the light shining in a dark place, making it resplendent with divine, original glory. This truth, infinitely mysterious in itself, explains other mysterious and otherwise unexplainable truths, while it is enshrined in light, unapproachable and incomprehensible…

"‘We preach Christ crucified,’ declared Paul, ‘unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:23, 24).

"That God should thus be manifest in the flesh is indeed a mystery; and without the help of the Holy Spirit we cannot hope to comprehend this subject." 1 SM 249.

"The limited capacity of man cannot define this wonderful mystery — the blending of the two natures [in Christ], the divine and the human. It can never be explained. Man must wonder and be silent." — The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 332.

"It is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Spirit is the Comforter…. The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it unto them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them; but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden." AA 51, 52.

"The Spirit of God has unconfined range of the heavenly universe; and it is not the province of the finite human mind to limit its power or prescribe its operations. Let no one pronounce judgment upon the Holy Spirit; for it will pronounce judgment upon those who do this." RH August 25, 1896.

As we read these statements we must wonder why some people are still venturing upon forbidden, perilous ground. All our human speculations in this area, all our judgment, with all the fanciful explanations that we may try to give, are mere fallacious guesses.

"The plan of redemption is laid open to us, so that every soul may see the steps he is to take in repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be saved in God's appointed way; yet beneath these truths, so easily understood, lie mysteries that are the hiding of His glory--mysteries that overpower the mind in its research, yet inspire the sincere seeker for truth with reverence and faith…. Those are blessed with clearest light who are willing thus to accept the living oracles upon the authority of God. If asked to explain certain statements, they can only answer: 'It is so presented in the Scriptures.' They are obliged to acknowledge that they cannot explain the operation of divine power or the manifestation of divine wisdom." 5T 700, 701.

"Instead of man's speculations, let the word of God be preached." DA 827. "In regard to the personality and prerogatives of God, where He is, and what He is, this is a subject which we are not to dare to touch. On this theme silence is eloquence. It is those who have no experimental knowledge of God who venture to speculate in regard to Him. Did they know more of Him, they would have less to say about what He is…. He is infinite and omnipresent…. We are to regulate our faith by a plain, 'Thus saith the Lord'…. A man who is spiritually blind is easily led by those who improve every favorable opportunity to advance theories and conjectures regarding God. The one deceived by Satan imparts to a fellow being the new light that he supposes he has received, as Eve placed the forbidden fruit in the hand of Adam…. Satan presents his theories cautiously at first, and if he sees that his efforts are successful, he brings in theories that are still more misleading…. God will not excuse men for teaching theories that Christ has not taught… He warns them to beware of occupying their time in the discussion of matters that God has not authorized any human being to discuss." MM 92, 93.

In view of God's repeated warnings, let us stand on the firm foundation on which He placed the SDA Reform Movement – the infallible word of God – and let us be careful not to go beyond a repeated "It is written."

 

 

Chapter V

THE GODHEAD

IN THE PLAN OF SALVATION

The plan of salvation was founded upon "the principle of restoring in the fallen race the divine image by a constant manifestation of benevolence."

"This work began in the heavenly courts. There God decided to give human beings unmistakable evidence of the love with which He regarded them. He ‘so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16." CH 222.

"By Christ the work upon which the fulfillment of God’s purpose rests was accomplished. This was the agreement in the councils of the Godhead." Letter 126, 1890 (21MR 54).

"The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption." CH 222.

Some professed believers in the threefold message read that "even the angels were not permitted to share the counsels between the Father and the Son when the plan of redemption was laid" (8T 279; PP 34; GC 493), and proclaim that, since the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in these statements, He was not present. Contrary to CH 222, they see a Godhead composed of only two Heavenly Dignitaries. Evidence does not allow us to accept this idea. There is no such thing as a two-person Godhead.

1. Three divine Beings, or Dignitaries, or Persons

Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23. These words do not suggest that, since the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, He is excluded. No! The Holy Spirit is always present with the Father and the Son. E.G.White explains this verse (John 14:23) as follows: "We, that is, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, [will come] and make our abode in him." Letter 43, 1893 (8MR 408). Read Psalm 139:7-10.

In 1 John 1:3 we read: "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." The Holy Spirit is not mentioned. Does that mean that we are to have no fellowship with Him? If we followed the method of interpretation adopted by some antitrinitarians, we would say: The Holy Spirit is out, because there is no reference to a third Person. But such a conclusion would put us in conflict with another verse. Paul writes: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14 (RSV). So, in the interpretation of the Bible and the writings of E. G. White, let us be careful not to be selectively one-sided.

"There are three living persons in the heavenly trio." SpT, Series B, No. 7, p. 62.

"The eternal Godhead – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – is involved in the action required to make assurance to the human agent…" Ms 45, May 14, 1904 (UL 148).

"The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are pledged to cooperate with sanctified human instrumentalities." RH, May 17, 1906 (6 BC 1075).

"The Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit – the three dignitaries and powers of heaven – pledge themselves that every faculty shall be given to us as we carry out our baptismal vows…" Ms 85, 1901 (6BC 1075).

"You are born unto God, and you stand under the sanction and the power of the three holiest beings in heaven, who are able to keep you from falling." 7MR 480.

"The three great and glorious heavenly characters are present on the occasion of baptism…. All heaven is represented by these three in covenant relationship with the new life." Ms 45, 1904 (6MR 389).

"The great powers of heaven are witnesses. They are invisible, but present." Ms 57, 1900 (6BC 1074).

"The three great powers of the Godhead have pledged their might to carry out the purpose that God had in mind when he gave to the world the unspeakable gift of His Son…. The Holy Spirit unites with the powers of grace that God has provided to turn souls to Christ." RH July 18, 1907.

"There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son." 6BC 1068. And how about the Holy Spirit? "The Holy Spirit is a person…. The Holy Spirit has a personality…. He must also be a divine person, else He could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God." Ms 20, 1906 (Ev 616, 617).

"We need to realize that the Holy Spirit… is as much a person as God is a person…." Ms 66, 1899 (Ev 616).

"Christ declared that, after His ascension, He would send to His church, as His crowning gift, the Comforter, who was to take His place. This Comforter is the Holy Spirit….With his Spirit Christ sends a reconciling influence and a power that takes away sin.… The Spirit was given as a regenerating agency…. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power." RH May 19, 1904 (See also DA 671).

"The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, in Christ’s name. He personifies Christ, yet is a distinct personality." 20MR 324.

"The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency." RH May 5, 1896; ST March 8, 1910.

2. The three heavenly Beings closely associated with one another

Since the fall of our first parents, both divine and human agencies have been enlisted in the work of salvation, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Those who consecrate themselves wholeheartedly to God, working for the salvation of sinners, receive a new endowment of physical and mental power from the Godhead every morning.

"The Saviour’s life and death and intercession, the ministry of angels, the pleading of the Spirit, the Father working about and through all, the unceasing interest of heavenly beings – all are enlisted in behalf of man’s redemption." SC 21.

"Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit.... The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls." DA 827.

"[The followers of Christ] are to contend with super-natural forces, but they are assured of supernatural help. All the intelligences of heaven are in this army. And more than angels are in the ranks. The Holy Spirit, the representative of the Captain of the Lord’s host, comes down to direct the battle. Our infirmities may be many, our sins and mistakes grievous; but the grace of God is for all who seek it with contrition. The power of Omnipotence is enlisted in behalf of those who trust in God." DA 352.

"Christian is to be united to Christian, church to church, the human instrumentality cooperating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God." ChS 14.

The Holy Spirit is evidently more than an impersonal influence. He is the "representative of the Captain of the Lord’s army." He is, among the heavenly "intelligences," one who is "more than angels." He is the third "living person" in the "eternal Godhead." He has been commissioned "to come down to direct the battle." Therefore, we must be "subordinated" to Him.

 

Chapter VI

WHAT DO WE KNOW

ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT?

The word spirit is generally employed to translate the Hebrew word ruach in the Old Testament and the Greek word pneuma in the New Testament. Like ruach and pneuma, spirit has different connotations that show wide distinctions. Unless these distinctions are borne in mind, there may be confusion in the proper understanding of the word "Spirit" when the Holy Ghost is meant.

1. The breath of life united with the principle of life, which is present in man and the animals. Genesis 7:15; Psalm 104:29, 30; Psalm 146:4; Isaiah 2:22; Revelation 11:11.

2. Strength, energy, courage, enthusiasm. Judges 15:19; 1 Samuel 30:12; 1 Kings 10:5; Psalm 76:12.

3. The mind, intellectual faculties, thoughts, habits, etc. Deuteronomy 2:30; Matthew 5:3; Mark 2:8; Acts 17:16; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 6:20; Colossians 2:5.

4. Attitude, mentality. Proverbs 14:29; 16:18

a) Moral and intellectual disposition, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, entirely oriented toward God. 2 Corinthians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:18; Galatians 5:16.

b) Moral and intellectual disposition, under the influence of Satan, oriented toward the world. 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1.

5. Personality, individuality, character. Romans 8:16; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 John 4:2, 3.

"Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. The wondrous works of God are a mystery to man. The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection every man will have his own character. God in His own time will call forth the dead, giving again the breath of life, and bidding the dry bones live. The same form will come forth, but it will be free from disease and every defect. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend. There is no law of God in nature, which shows that God gives back the same identical particles of matter which composed the body before death. God shall give the righteous dead a body that will please Him (MS 76, 1900)." 6BC 1093.

6. A messenger of God or Satan (good or evil angels). Job 4:15-17; Matthew 12:43; Mark 9:20; Acts 23:8, 9; Hebrews 1:7,13,14.

The biblical descriptions of the Holy Spirit harmonize with the idea of a personality or individuality, as we will see in this and the next chapter.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is mentioned 88 times; in the New Testament 262 times.

"The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery not clearly revealed, and you will never be able to explain it to others because the Lord has not revealed it to you. You may gather together Scriptures and put your construction upon them, but the application is not correct…. You may lead some to accept your explanations, but you do them no good…. It is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is…. There are many mysteries that I do not seek to understand or to explain; they are too high for me, and too high for you. On some of these points, silence is golden." Ms 1107.

Some people believe that the Holy Spirit is only a divine essence emanating from the Father and the Son, a power divested of intelligence, an impersonal influence devoid of individuality. Many Bible verses and Spirit of Prophecy statements show that such a concept is untenable.

1. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative on earth, as Christ was the representative of the Father.

"He [Christ] stood before the human race as the representative of the Father." RH Sept. 30, 1909.

"The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative, but divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof." DA 669.

"What gift could He [Christ] bestow rich enough to signalize and grace His ascension to the mediatorial throne? It must be worthy of His greatness and His royalty. He determined to give His representative, the third person of the Godhead. This gift could not be excelled. He would give all gifts in one, and therefore the Holy Spirit, that converting, enlightening, and sanctifying power, would be His donation." ST Dec. 1, 1898.

"When God’s people search the Scriptures with a desire to know what is truth, Jesus is present in the person of His representative, the Holy Spirit…" 12MR 145.

2. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter.

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." John 14:16.

"The Comforter… is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name." John 14:26.

"The Comforter is the Holy Spirit – the soul of His life, the efficacy of his church, the light and life of the world." RH May 19, 1904.

"The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, as the personal presence of Christ to the soul." RH Nov. 29, 1892.

3. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s successor.

"While Christ was on earth, the disciples had desired no other helper…. Therefore, it was for their interest that He should go to the Father and send the Spirit to be His successor on earth." DA 669.

4. The Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of Christ.

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." John 14:18.

"The divine Spirit that the world’s Redeemer promised to send is the presence and power of God." ST Nov. 16, 1891.

"The Holy Ghost [is] Christ Himself abiding within…" NL 79.

"The Lord is that Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:17.

"That Christ should manifest Himself to them, and yet be invisible to the world, was a mystery to them…. They could not take in the fact that they could have the presence of Christ with them, and yet he be unseen by the world." ST Nov. 18, 1897.

"No more valuable legacy could He have left them than the promise of His abiding presence." Ms 24, 1903.

"Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore,… [He would] send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth. The Holy Spirit is Himself divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent." 14MR 23.

"By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all. In this sense He would be nearer to them than if He had not ascended on high." DA 669.

As "God [the Father] Himself, in His only begotten Son, assumed human nature" (ST April 8, 1897), so would the Son "manifest Himself" (ST Nov. 18, 1897) to His followers through the Holy Spirit.

"God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts." Galatians 4:6.

"While Christ is dwelling in the heart by His Spirit, it is impossible for the light of his presence to be concealed or to grow dim." ST. Oct. 20, 1897.

If this is our experience, we can say with the apostle Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20.

5. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Mind.

"Who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16.

"[God’s] institutions are to be under the control of the Holy Spirit of God. In no institution is any one man to be the sole head. The Divine Mind has men for every place." CH 524.

6. The Holy Spirit is the vital influence of Christ.

"Jesus is waiting to breathe upon all His disciples, and give them the inspiration of His sanctifying Spirit, and transfuse the vital influence from Himself to His people." ST Oct 3, 1892.

7. The Holy Spirit is a regenerating agency.

"But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11.

"The Spirit was given as a regenerating agency, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail…. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power…. Christ has given his Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress his own character upon the church." RH May 19, 1904.

The words "agent" and "agency" are used interchangeably. See example in DA 671.

8. The Holy Spirit is the only effectual teacher of divine truth.

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." John 16:13.

"Jesus saw that they [the disciples] did not lay hold of the real meaning of His words. He compassionately promised that the Holy Spirit should recall these sayings to their minds. And He had left unsaid many things that could not be comprehended by the disciples. These also would be opened to them by the Spirit. The Spirit was to quicken their understanding, that they might have an appreciation of heavenly things….

"The comforter is called ‘the Spirit of truth.’ His work is to define and maintain the truth…. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind and impresses the truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error and expels it from the soul….

"The preaching of the word will be of no avail without the continual presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life." DA 670-672.

9. The Holy Spirit is the grand helper.

"The Holy Spirit is to be the grand helper…" Ms 1, 1892 (3SM 137).

"There are those who say, ‘Someone manipulates her writings.’ I acknowledge the charge. It is the One who is mighty in counsel, One who presents before me the condition of things." Letter 52, 1906 (3SM 64).

10. The Holy Spirit is a heavenly Watcher.

"While writing upon the fifteenth chapter of John, suddenly a wonderful peace came upon me. The whole room seemed to be filled with the atmosphere of heaven. A holy, sacred presence seemed to be in my room. I laid down my pen and was in a waiting attitude to see what the Spirit would say unto me. I saw no person. I heard no audible voice, but a heavenly Watcher seemed close beside me. I felt that I was in the presence of Jesus." 3SM 35.

"The holy Watcher from heaven is present at [the ordinance service] to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord." DA 650.

11. The Holy Spirit is our intercessor on earth.

While Jesus is our Parakletos (Advocate) in the presence of the Father in heaven (1 John 2:1), the Holy Spirit is our Parakletos (Advocate) right by our side on earth (John 14:16; Romans 8:26,27). The same Greek word, parakletos, is translated as "comforter" in John 14:16 and as "advocate" in 1 John 2:1.

"We must not only pray in Christ’s name, but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This explains what is meant when it is said that the Spirit ‘maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.’ Rom. 8:26. Such prayer God delights to answer." COL 147.

"Christ our Mediator and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding in man’s behalf, but the Spirit pleads not for us as does Christ, who presents His blood, shed from the foundation of the world; the Spirit works upon our hearts, drawing our prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving." 1SM 344.

"Jesus said He would give us the Comforter. What is the Comforter? It is the Holy Spirit of God. What is the Holy Spirit? It is the representative of Jesus Christ, it is our Advocate that stands by our side and places our petitions before the Father all fragrant with His [Christ’s] merits.." Ms 43, 1894 (RC 285).

"The Holy Spirit, sent in the name of Christ, was to teach them [the disciples] all things, and bring all things to their remembrance. The Holy Spirit was to be the representative of Christ, the Advocate who is constantly pleading for the fallen race…. He [Christ] has assured you that the Holy Spirit was given to abide with you forever, to be your pleader and your guide. He asks you to trust in Him, and commit yourself into His keeping. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work, teaching, reminding, testifying, coming to the soul as a divine comforter, and convincing of sin as an appointed judge and guide." Ms 44, 1897 (RC 129).

12. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor.

"Every individual who receives Jesus as his personal Saviour, just as surely receives the Holy Spirit to be his Counselor, Sanctifier, Guide, and Witness." Ms 1, January 5, 1894 (UL 19).

Chapter VII

MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christ said, "I will love him [who keeps my commandments] and will manifest myself to him." John 14:21. Christ manifests Himself to us through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Sprit performs actions attributable only to an intelligent being. This is where some people get into an unnecessary difficulty when they think that intelligence belongs only to a person with a corporal form. Therefore, they ask how the Holy Spirit, without a tangible body, without a physical appearance, could be treated as a conscious individuality. There is no doubt that the Father and the Son speak and act through the Holy Spirit. But a good number of passages show that the Holy Spirit Himself does the same thing. He also speaks and acts as "an independent agency." This shows once more that the finite human mind should not speculate into the mysteries of the Infinite God. Let us accept by faith that which is beyond our understanding.

1. Conscious and intelligent actions

As explained in the previous section, a number of Bible verses and Spirit of Prophecy statements represent the Holy Spirit as a distinct personality. Here are a few more examples from the Scriptures:

a) The Lord has a mind (Romans 11:34; I Corinthians 2:16), and so does the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes, "He that searches the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." Romans 8:27. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God," "for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God." 1 Corinthians 2:11, 10

"The Holy Spirit is a person, for He beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. When this witness is borne, it carries with it its own evidence…. The Holy Spirit has a personality, else He could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must also be a divine person, else He could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God." Ms 20, 1906 (Ev 616, 617).

According to these passages, both must have a distinct personality, because God can read the mind of the Spirit and the Spirit can read the mind of God.

"The Spirit, being God, knoweth the mind of God." ST Oct. 3, 1892.

b) The Holy Spirit has a mind, which would enable Him to speak on His authority, but He speaks only that which He hears from Him who sent Him.

The Holy Spirit hears (John 16:13); speaks (Ezekiel 2:2; 3:24; 11:5; Acts 2:4; 8:29, 39; 10:19; 11:12, 28;16:7; 28:25); strives with sinners (Genesis 6:3); appeals to them (RH May 12, 1896); reproves and convinces them of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8); teaches the disciples and brings the words of Christ to their remembrance (John 14:26); reveals that which is unknown to them (Luke 2:26); announces future events (John 16:13); warns them of coming trials and afflictions (Acts 20:23; 21:11); forbids them to do certain things (Acts 16:6); makes intercession for them (Romans 8:26); gives messages to the people through the prophets (2 Peter 1:21); sends forth messengers into the field of labor (Acts 13:4); etc.

"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 show you things to come." John 16:13.

"It is plainly declared regarding the Holy Spirit that, in His work of guiding men into all truth, 'He shall not speak of Himself.'" AA 51.

"The Spirit of God is appealing to men, presenting to them their moral obligation to love and serve Him..." RH May 12, 1896.

"Let no one pronounce judgment upon the Holy Spirit; for it will pronounce judgment upon those who do this." RH August 25, 1896.

If the Holy Ghost can do all these things, there is no doubt that He is more than an impersonal influence.

c) The Holy Spirit has a mind: He approves the things that seem good to Him.

"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:…" Acts 15:28.

d) The Holy Spirit has a will.

"The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;… to another prophecy;… to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

e) The Holy Spirit has a capacity for love.

The Bible speaks of the love of God (1 John 2:5, 15; 3:16, 17) and of the love of the Spirit (Romans 15:30).

f) The Holy Spirit is susceptible to being grieved, insulted, tempted, and lied to.

"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Ephesians 4:30.

"How is it that ye have agreed to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" Acts 5:9.

"Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?" Acts 5:3.

g) The Holy Spirit gives commands and refers to Himself as an individuality, using the personal pronouns "I" and "me".

"As they [certain prophets and teachers] ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Acts 13:2.

h) The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ as Christ glorified the Father.

Read John 16:14; 17:1.

"Of the Holy Spirit Jesus said, 'He shall glorify Me.' The Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love; so the Spirit was to glorify Christ by revealing His grace to the world." RH November 19, 1908.

i) As Christ is our Parakletos in heaven (1 John 2:1), the Holy Spirit is our Parakletos on earth (John 14:16,26). Parakletos means advocate, defender, comforter. In both cases the same title points to a personality. This title does not fit an inanimate, unconscious, unintelligent power.

j) Since the Holy Spirit is referred to as a conscious and intelligent personality, in close association with two other conscious and intelligent heavenly Beings, namely, the Father and the Son, we cannot think of Him as being only an inanimate force. Consider these Bible verses:

"Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me." Isaiah 48:16.

"I [the Son] will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter [Greek, Parakletos].... The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I [the Son] have said unto you." John 14:16, 26.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14.

It is our privilege to have the communion or "fellowship of the Spirit" (Philippians 2:1).

Converts are to be baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

We receive blessings, not only from the Father and the Son, but also from the Holy Spirit. John wrote:

"Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come; and from the seven Spirits ["that is, the sevenfold Holy Spirit" - Amplified Bible] which are before the throne; and from Jesus Christ…" Revelation 1:4,5.

Adventist commentators hold the following view: "The association here of the ‘seven Spirits’ with the Father and with Christ, as equally the source of the Christian grace and peace, implies that they represent the Holy Spirit." – Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 733.

Such language must be understood as it reads. To read all the verses quoted in this chapter and say that they represent the Holy Spirit as an impersonal influence or an unintelligent power, and nothing else but that, is a very awkward exercise in semantics. It’s a useless attempt at impossibilities. It is like trying to force a big square peg into a small round hole. If we did not have the Spirit of Prophecy, then these Bible verses would be enough. But since we do have the Spirit of Prophecy, we expect the writings of the inspired pen to be in perfect agreement with the Scriptures. And they are. We would be shocked and disappointed if the servant of the Lord, E. G. White, had spoken of the Holy Spirit, not as an intelligent personality, but only as an impersonal influence.

Therefore, no additional biblical or Spirit of Prophecy evidence is needed to convince us that the Holy Spirit is a "living person" (SpT, B 7, 62), one of the three "holiest beings" (7MR 480), an "independent agency" (RH May 5, 1896), one of the three "heavenly characters" (6MR 389), a "personal dignitary" (7BC 959), one of the three "infinite and omniscient" powers (6BC 1075), "a distinct personality" (20MR 324), one of the "three great worthies" (7MR 267) exercising conscious and intelligent actions.

2. Participation of the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation

Under the previous subheading we have seen that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work, pleading in our behalf, guiding us into all truth, reminding, testifying, comforting, convincing of sin, etc. Here is more evidence:

a) We have access to the Father through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Read John 14:6.

"For through Him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Ephesians 2:18.

"The Father has given His Son for us that through the Son the Holy Spirit might come to us and lead us unto the Father." ST October 3, 1892.

b) Christ promised to abide in us through the Holy Spirit.

Read John 14:18-21, 23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 4:6.

Christ's promise will be fulfilled on one condition — obedience. John 14:15, 23; Acts 5:32; 1 John 3:24.

"'If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' (John 14:23). We, that is, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, [will come] and make our abode in him." Letter 43, 1893 (8MR 408).

c) The Holy Spirit is present when the repentant sinner makes a covenant with God through baptism.

Read Matthew 28:19.

"Christ made baptism the entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." 6BC 1075.

"After the believing soul has received the ordinance of baptism, he is to bear in mind that he is dedicated to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. These three all cooperate in the great work of the covenant made by baptism in the sight of the heavenly universe. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit receive the believing soul into covenant relationship with God." Ms 56, 1900 (6MR 163).

"The work is laid out before every soul that has acknowledged his faith in Jesus Christ by baptism and has become a receiver of the pledge from three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Ms 57, 1900 (6 BC 959).

"When you gave yourself to Christ, you made a pledge in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the three great personal dignitaries of heaven." Ms 92, 1901 (7BC 959).

"There are three living persons in the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live a new life in Christ." SpT, Series B, No. 7, p. 63 (Bible Training School, March 1, 1906).

"Here is where the work of the Holy Ghost comes in, after your baptism. You are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. You are raised up out of the water to live henceforth in newness of life. You are born unto God, and you stand under the sanction and the power of the three holiest beings in heaven, who are able to keep you from falling…. When I feel oppressed, and hardly know how to relate myself toward the work that God has given me to do, I just call upon the three great worthies and say: You know I cannot do this work in my own strength, You must work in me, and by me, and through me, sanctifying my tongue, sanctifying my spirit, sanctifying my words…" Ms 95, 1906 (7 MR 267).

A worthy is a "person of eminent worth, merit, or position" (dictionary).

"After we have formed a union with the great threefold power, we shall regard our duty toward the members of God's family with a much more sacred awe than we have ever done before." Ms 11, 1901 (6BC 1102).

d) We are sanctified by having fellowship with the Three Holiest Beings.

Read 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

"Our sanctification is the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the fulfillment of the covenant that God has made with those who bind themselves up with Him, to stand with Him, with His Son, and with His Spirit in fellowship." Ms 11, 1901 (ST June 19, 1901; 7BC 908).

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14 (RSV).

"The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three holy dignitaries of heaven, have declared that they will strengthen men to overcome the powers of darkness." Ms 92, 1901 (5BC 1110).

We need no further evidence to convince us that the Holy Spirit is "a distinct personality."

e) The fruit of the Spirit

In a meeting with His disciples, after His resurrection, Christ breathed upon them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." John 20:22. Christ is just as willing to grant His Holy Spirit to us today: "Receive the Holy Spirit, and your efforts will be successful. Christ's presence is that which gives power." 1 SM 85.

"O that frail men would realize that it is the General of the armies of heaven that is leading and directing the movements of his allies on earth. Christ Himself is the renewing power, working in and through every soldier by the agency of the Holy Spirit." RH July 16, 1895.

"And he [the Lord] said to me [Paul], 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9.

"The influence of the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in the soul. We do not see Christ and speak to Him, but His Holy Spirit is just as near in one place as in another. It works in and through every one who receives Christ. Those who know the indwelling of the Holy Spirit reveal the fruits of the Spirit – Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith." Ms 41, 1897 (6BC 1112).

Read Galatians 6:7, 8.

f) Partakers of the divine nature

In the process of salvation, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), we become "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).

"He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him." 1 Corinthians 6:17 (RSV).

"If by His Holy Spirit Christ abides in the soul, our features, our attitude, our words will reveal Him to the world." ST January 6, 1898.

"The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ. It imbues the receiver with the attributes of Christ." DA 805.

"All the culture and education which the world can give will fail of making a degraded child of sin a child of heaven. The renewing energy must come from God. The change can be made only by the Holy Spirit. All who would be saved, high or low, rich or poor must submit to the working of this power." COL 96, 97.

"When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life." COL 312.

"We have the mind of Christ." 2 Corinthians 2:16.

g) The earnest of our resurrection and salvation

"In [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:12-14.

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Romans 8:11.

"Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave -- not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal." DA 388.

"[The believer] may die, as Christ died, but the life of the Saviour is in him. His life is hid with Christ in God. 'I am come that they might have life,' Jesus said, 'and that they might have it more abundantly.' He carries on the great process by which believers are made one with Him in this present life, to be one with Him throughout all eternity…. At the last day, He will raise them up as part of Himself…. Christ became one with us in order that we might become one with Him in eternity." Mar 301.

 

 

 

Chapter VIII

PAGAN ORIGIN?

Antitrinitarians contend that the concept of the Trinity characterized virtually all the pagan religions of the world. Therefore, they say, the belief that "there are three living persons of the heavenly trio" (SpT, Series B, p. 63) was derived from paganism. These brethren have a serious problem with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. They do not accept what is written. They should be straightforward and admit that they are in conflict with a "Thus saith the Lord," because they do not believe that "the three powers of the Godhead — The Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit" — are "the eternal heavenly dignitaries" (Australasian Union Conference Record, October 7, 1907; Manuscript 145, 1901).

Paganism is basically Satan’s counterfeit of true religion. On many points there is a parallel but in each case the pagan religions derived their ideas and practices from the true worshipers of God, not the other way around. Consider these examples:

The Babylonian concept of creation

"The narrative of Genesis 1-2 has points in common with several ancient cosmogonies…. It was not until 1875 that fragments of a cuneiform account of the creation [in the form of an epic poem] were discovered at Nineveh by George Smith…. The study of the entire epic reveals many remarkable parallels between the Hebrew and Babylonian narratives…. In each narrative the culminating act is the creation of man." — A Standard Bible Dictionary, pp. 153, 154.

Will the mentioned brethren say that the belief in the story of creation, according to Genesis 1, is of pagan origin only because it is found also in the Babylonian narratives?

Heathen parallels concerning the fall of Lucifer

"The doctrine of Satan has its parallels in the mythologies of the heathen nations." — Ibid., p. 773.

The story of the Flood

"Most peoples of antiquity had a flood legend…. The Babylonian flood story… closely resembles the Biblical account…. That the Hebrews borrowed it directly from the Babylonians is only the view of extremists." — Ibid., p. 263.

Temples, altars, priests, sacrifices, etc.

"Temples as abiding-places of the gods were very common among the Semitic and other ancient peoples and lands." —Ibid., p. 848.

"Under Ahab and his Tyrian wife Jezebel, the relation to Tyre was practically one of vassalage, and the worship of the [Tyrian god] became the court religion, with hundreds of priest and prophets and imposing ceremonies." — Ibid., p. 785.

The belief in the coming of a Redeemer

"Not only were the Jews expecting the birth of a Great King, a Wise Man and the Savior, but Plato also spoke of the Logos; Socrates, of the Universal Wise Man ‘yet to come’; Confucius, of ‘The Saint’; the Sibyls [Greek and Roman prophetesses], of a ‘Universal King’; the Greek Dramatist, of a Savior and Redeemer to unloose the ‘primal eldest curse’ " — Fulton J. Sheen, The Life of Christ, p. 15.

Antitrinitarians do not regard themselves as holding pagan views though they accept parallel points which are found in the religion of the Bible as well as in some heathen systems. Then why do they say that the belief regarding the "three living persons of the heavenly trio" is of pagan origin? Why don’t they pronounce the same judgments on the other parallel concepts also? Where is their consistency?

 

 

Chapter IX

THE RELATIONSHIP

BETWEEN THE FATHER AND THE SON

"The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each." MH 421.

The Christological controversy that began in the fourth century is not ended. Very often we have to answer questions asked by serious Bible students with an Adventist background. Some questions have to be left unanswered, and some can be answered only tentatively, because many pertinent passages are difficult to understand, especially when they seem to point in two different directions.

Hereunder are some of the most common questions that can be answered from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.

1. Common questions

a) What is the basic distinction between Jesus and the angels?

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God – begotten in the express image of the Father: John 3:16-18; Hebrews 1:2; Matthew 3:17. The angels were created: Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:5.

"A complete offering has been made; for ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,’-- not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father's person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection." ST May 30, 1895.

b) What is written about the life that is in Jesus? Whose life is also His life? How is our life different from His?

"For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." John 5:26.

"As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." John 6:57.

"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." John 10: 17,18.

Christ declared: "I and my Father are one." John 10:30. "The Father is in me, and I in him." John 10:38.

"He [Jesus] declared that He had no existence separate from the Father." 5BC 1142.

"While He took upon Him humanity, it was a life taken in union with Deity. He could lay down His life as priest and also victim. He possessed in Himself power to lay it down and take it up again." 7BC 933.

"'In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.' (John 1:4) It is not physical life that is here specified, but eternal life, the life which is exclusively the property of God [Read 1 Timothy 6:16]. The Word, who was with God, and who was God, had this life. Physical life is something which each individual received. It is not eternal or immortal; for God, the Lifegiver, takes it again. Man has no control over his life. But the life of Christ was unborrowed. No one can take this life from Him. 'I lay it down of myself' (John 10:18), He said. In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ." 1SM 296, 297.

c) Since when has Christ been one with the Father?

Read Proverbs 8:22-30; Micah 5:2.

"The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with the Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant, the one in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted Him, were to be blessed…. Christ was God essentially and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.

"The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father…. 'The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way,' He declares, 'before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning….' This truth, infinitely mysterious in itself, explains other mysteries and otherwise unexplainable truths, while it is enshrined in light, unapproachable and incomprehensible." ST April 26, 1899 (1SM 247, 248).

"The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures." ST May 3, 1899.

"In speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God." ST August 29, 1900.

"From all eternity Christ was united with the Father." ST August 2, 1905.

d) What did Christ mean when He said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30)?

"From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus was one with the Father." DA 19.

"The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate—a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.' John 1:1, 2. Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character, in purpose—the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. [Isaiah 9:6 quoted]. His 'goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.' Micah 5:2. And the Son of God declares concerning Himself: 'The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting…. When He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.' Proverbs 8:22-30." PP 34.

e) In what sense does the Father share titles and equality with the Son? What distinction is shown between both?

e.a) Equality:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Philippians 2:5, 6.

"For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Colossians 2:9.

"[God] set him [Christ] at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Ephesians 1:20-23.

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Matthew 28:18.

"For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." John 5:21.

"All things that the Father hath are mine..." John 16:15.

"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." John 17:5

"God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son." 8T 268, 269.

"The Father…made known that it was ordained by Himself that Christ, His Son, should be equal with Himself"—"equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection"---"one in nature, in character, in purpose." 1 SP 17, 18; ST May 30, 1895; PP 34.

"There had been no change in the position or authority of Christ. Lucifer's envy and misrepresentation and his claims to equality with Christ had made necessary a statement of the true position of the Son of God; but this had been the same from the beginning." PP 38.

e.b) Titles are shared

- True God -- Father: John 17:3; Son: 1 John 5:20

- Lord -- Father: Jude 4; Son: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5

- The Almighty -- Father: Revelation 21:22; Son: Revelation 1:7, 8, 12, 13

- The Self-existent One -- Father: PP 36; Son: Ev 615.

- Jehovah (original Hebrew) -- Father: Psalm 2:7; 110:l; Son: Isaiah 40:3 (cf Matthew 3:3); Exodus 6:3. The Father did not appear to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16). It was the Son that came to them.

"Jehovah is the name given to Christ." ST May 3, 1899.

e.c) Worship

Christ is to be worshiped: Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:5. Compare with Luke 4:8.

e.d) Subordination

Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I am." John 14:28. And Sister White wrote, "The Son of God was next in authority to the great Lawgiver." RH Dec. 17, 1872. Paul stated that Jesus "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:6). And, again, the servant of the Lord wrote: The Son was "as great as the Father on the throne of heaven" (3SM 128). Nevertheless, the Son is subordinate to the Father: John 5:19, 30; 8:29 (cf 13:16); John 14:28 (cf Matthew 11:27); 1 Corinthians 3:23; 8:6; 11:3; 15:27, 28; Ephesians 4:6. This is one of the points that must be left open for further study.

f) Since when has Jesus carried the title "Son of God"?

From the foundation of the world, Christ was called, prophetically, "the Lamb that was slain" in view of a future event. Read John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19, 20; Revelation 13:8. He is also called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5) in anticipation of His future intervention in the affairs of this word (6T 404; PP 236). In a similar way, Seventh-day Adventists believe that Christ carried the title "Son of God" in view of a prophetic event in the plan of salvation (Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35; Acts 13:30-33; Romans 1:3, 4).

Another example: Christ was called "the Son of man" (Daniel 7:13) before His birth in Bethlehem. And some people ask: If, in the Old Testament times, Christ was prophetically called "the Son of man" with regard to His future birth on this earth, why should His other title, that of "Son of God" (Daniel 3:25), not be taken in the same sense, when even the Bible connects this title with His birth from the seed of David and with His resurrection from the dead? Consider these verses:

"And the angel answered and said unto [Mary]: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35.

"Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead..." Romans 1:3, 4.

"For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" Hebrews 1:5.

In these verses, the title "Son of God" that Christ carried prophetically, from eternity, is related to his birth through the seed of David. In Hebrews 1:5, Paul explains the prophecy in Psalms 2:7 ("Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee") in connection with God’s promise to David (1 Chronicles 22:10), that one of his descendants would be called the Son of God. None of these texts refers to a supposed birth of Christ in heaven. The prophecy in Psalms 2:7, as mentioned before, also refers to Christ’s resurrection.

"And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Acts 13:32, 33.

From these verses, we understand that, before Christ’s first coming, both titles (Son of God and Son of man) were used in a prophetical sense and that, after His coming into the world these titles took on a new sense (as a fulfillment of prophecy). "This statement [Psalm 2:7] must not be construed as implying an original generation of the Son. ‘In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.’ (DA 530). The Bible is its own best interpreter. Inspired writers must be permitted to make the precise application of OT prophecies. All other applications are human opinion, and as such lack a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord.’" -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 634.

The title "Son of God" was confirmed on several occasions.

f.a) Jesus was called "The Son of God" before the beginning of the works of creation.

"The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings." PP 34.

"Satan in his rebellion took a third of the part of the angels. They turned from the Father and from His Son, and united with he instigator…" 3T 115. Read also PP 37; EW 151.

f.b) At His incarnation: Luke 1:35; John 1:14; Romans 1:3; Hebrews 1:5.

"In His incarnation He [Jesus] gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God. Said the angel to Mary, 'The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke 1:35). While the Son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense." ST August 2, 1905 (1 SM 226).

f.c) At His baptism: Matthew 3:17

f.d) At His transfiguration: Matthew 17:5

f.e) At His resurrection: Acts 13:30, 33; Romans 1:4

g) In what sense was Jesus the Word of God when He was on this earth?

Read John 1:1

"He was the Word of God – God's thought made audible." DA 19.

"He stood before the human race as a representative of the Father." RH September 30, 1909.

h) What is written about the dual nature of Jesus?

"Although Christ's divine glory was for a time veiled and eclipsed by His assuming humanity, yet He did not cease to be God when He became man. The human did not take the place of the divine, nor the divine of the human. This is the mystery of godliness. The two expressions human and divine were, in Christ, closely and inseparably one, and yet they had a distinct individuality. Though Christ humbled Himself to become man, the Godhead was still His own. His Deity could not be lost while He stood faithful and true to His loyalty." ST May 10, 1899.

"Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race." ST July 30, 1896.

"In Him God and man became one." 3SM 128.

"By His humanity, Christ touched humanity; by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of God. As the Son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey." DA 24.

h.a) The divinity of Christ

Read Matthew 1:23; John 1:1; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20.

"He [Christ] veiled His divinity with the garb of humanity, but He did not part with His divinity. A divine-human Saviour, He came to stand at the head of the fallen race…" RH June 15, 1905.

"Divinity was not degraded to humanity; divinity held its place, but humanity by being united with divinity, withstood the fiercest test of temptation in the wilderness." RH February 18, 1890.

"All created beings live by the will and power of God. They are recipients of the life of the Son of God. However able and talented, however large their capacities, they are replenished with life from the Source of all life. He is the spring, the fountain, of life. Only He who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light and life, should say, 'I have power to lay it (my life) down, and I have power to take it again' (verse 18). . . . Christ was invested with the right to give immortality. The life which He had laid down in humanity, He again took up and gave to humanity. . . ." TMK 71

h.b) Since Christ is God, He is to be worshipped

Quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, Christ said, "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve." Matthew 4:10. Let us bear in mind that Deuteronomy 6:13, in the original, refers to Jehovah. Since Christ, also, is to be worshiped, these verses (Deut 6:13 and Matt. 4:10), as well as the title of "Jehovah," apply to both the Father and the Son. Read Hebrews 1:6; Philippians 2:9 (cf Revelation 19:10); John 12:20, 26.

h.c) The humanity of Christ

Read Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 John 4:2, 3.

"The story of Bethlehem is an exhaustless theme…. It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man's nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity." DA 48, 49.

"When Adam was assailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin were upon him. He stood in the strength of perfect manhood…. It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, and in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depths of His degradation…. Our Savior took humanity with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man with the possibility of yielding to temptation." DA 117.

"Because divinity alone could be efficacious in the restoration of man from the poisonous bruise of the serpent, God Himself, in His only begotten Son, assumed human nature, and in the weakness of human nature sustained the character of God, vindicated His holy law in every particular, and accepted the sentence of wrath and death for the sons of men." ST April 8, 1897.

h. d) The suffering of Christ was shared by the Father.

"God suffered with His Son." DA 693.

"Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that sin, from its very inception, has brought to the heart of God." Ed 263.

i) Did Christ resurrect Himself or was He resurrected by the Spirit of God?

Read Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; Romans 8:11; 10:9; Hebrews 13:20. The following passages explain John 10: 17, 18:

"'And behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven.' Clothed with the panoply of God, this angel left the heavenly courts…. The face they [the Roman soldiers] look upon is not the face of mortal warrior; it is the face of the mightiest of the Lord's host. This messenger is he who fills the position from which Satan fell….The soldiers see him removing the stone as he would a pebble, and hear him cry, Son of God, come forth; Thy Father calls Thee. They see Jesus come forth from the grave and hear Him proclaim over the rent sepulcher, 'I am the resurrection and the life.' As He comes forth in majesty and glory, the angel host bow low in adoration before the Redeemer, and welcome Him with songs of praise." DA 779, 780.

"He [Christ] is the Word, conscious of power that He can take up and lay down His life as He chooses [in order] to secure the salvation of those who have fallen under Satan's falsehoods and intrigues. . . ." UL 144.

"Jesus said to Mary, ‘Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.’ When he closed his eyes in death upon the cross, the soul of Christ did not go at once to Heaven, as many believe, or how could his words be true--'I am not yet ascended to my Father'? The spirit of Jesus slept in the tomb with his body, and did not wing its way to Heaven, there to maintain a separate existence, and to look down upon the mourning disciples embalming the body from which it had taken flight. All that comprised the life and intelligence of Jesus remained with his body in the sepulcher; and when he came forth it was as a whole being; he did not have to summon his spirit from Heaven. He had power to lay down his life and to take it up again." 3SP 203.

"When the voice of the mighty angel was heard at Christ's tomb, saying, Thy Father calls Thee, the Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself. Now was proved the truth of His words, 'I lay down My life, that I might take it again. . . . I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.' Now was fulfilled the prophecy He had spoken to the priests and rulers, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' John 10:17, 18; 2:19.

"Over the rent sepulcher of Joseph, Christ had proclaimed in triumph, 'I am the resurrection, and the life.' These words could be spoken only by the Deity. All created beings live by the will and power of God. They are dependent recipients of the life of God. From the highest seraph to the humblest animate being, all are replenished from the Source of life. Only He who is one with God could say, I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. In His divinity, Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death." DA 785.

"'I am the resurrection, and the life.' He who had said, 'I lay down my life, that I might take it again,' came forth from the grave to life that was in Himself. Humanity died: divinity did not die. In His divinity, Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death. He declares that He has life in Himself to quicken whom He will.

"All created beings live by the will and power of God. They are recipients of the life of the Son of God. However able and talented, however large their capacities, they are replenished with life from the Source of all life. He is the spring, the fountain, of life. Only He who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light and life, could say, 'I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again.' . . .

"Christ was invested with the right to give immortality. The life which He had laid down in humanity, He again took up and gave to humanity. 'I am come,' He says, 'that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (YI Aug. 4, 1898)." 5BC 1113, 1114.

 

2. Difficult passages

a) The following passages have been the object of speculation: John 3:16; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 3:14.

As mentioned before, the Adventist leaders were divided in their understanding of the mysteries of the Godhead when they came to the GC session in 1888. Froom informs:

"Another source of perplexity and stumbling on the part of some of Waggoner’s hearers was the biblical descriptive ‘only begotten Son.’ This was construed, by such, to mean priority of existence of the Father, and hence a derived Christ – with a consequent beginning. This had been part of the Arian argument of Stephenson, [Joseph] Waggoner, Smith, and Stone. And it perplexed others….

"In considering the expressions ‘only begotten,’ ‘firstborn,’ ‘firstbegotten’ – as it relates to Christ – three considerations must always be borne in mind concerning our Lord. They must be harmonized with His complete Deity, His pre-existence, and His eternity of Being….

"Nevertheless, the main argument of those who denied the eternal pre-existence and complete Deity of Christ – as the Second Person of the Eternal Godhead – rested on the misconception of these Biblical terms [specific Greek words used in the verses referred to at the beginning of this section.]. … In Hebrews 11:17 Isaac is called Abraham’s ‘only begotten son.’ Yet Isaac was not Abraham’s only son literally…. Note the Biblical portrayal:

"‘By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.’ (Hebrews 11:17).

"But Isaac was neither Abraham’s only son, nor his first son. So it is never to be forgotten that monogenes, as used of Isaac, was not to indicate Abraham’s ‘only begotten’ literally, or even his first-born. Rather, that he was the son of promise, destined to succeed his father as heir to the birthright. Here, again, in this earthly case, it is a matter of special relationship – unique, existing only once, singly in its kind." – LeRoy E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp. 300-302.

Jesus is also called "the firstborn of every creature," "the firstbegotten," and "the beginning of the creation of God."

In Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:6, the Greek word is prototokos, which does not always mean "the first in chronological order." In Revelation 1:5, Jesus is called the "first begotten" (prototokos) of the dead. Read also Acts 26:23; Colossians 1:18. But He was not the first person to be raised from the dead. In Exodus 4:22, Israel is called God’s "firstborn." Yet he was born after Esau. According to Numbers 8:18, the Levites were taken for all the firstborn of Israel. Yet Levi was the third son of Jacob and Leah. In Jeremiah 31:9, Ephraim is called God’s "firstborn" though he was born after Manasseh. David is called God’s "firstborn" (Psalms 89:20, 27) though he was the youngest son of Jesse.

As can be seen, the terms "only begotten," "firstbegotten," and "firstborn" can also point to pre-eminence rather than literal and chronological birth. See Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:23. When these terms are applied to Jesus, they refer to the supreme position that He holds among all created beings. This is confirmed in Revelation 3:14, as well as in Jude 9, where the Greek word arche means "head," "chief," or "pre-eminent one."

b) "Jesus said unto them,… I proceeded forth and came from God." John 8:42.

"The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly He loved mankind." RH July 9, 1895.

Some people understand from this verse (John 8:42) and from this statement (RH July 9, 1895) that Jesus came forth literally from the body of the Father some time in eternity, but they cannot show any scripture or Spirit of Prophecy statement to endorse their conclusion. Let us, for a moment, turn our attention to the parable in Luke 16. If Lazarus, who went to the bosom of Abraham, could come to us and if we could ask him: Lazarus, where are you coming from? he would answer: I proceed from the bosom of Abraham. To us it’s clear that Christ proceeded from the Father like the expected "governor" was to "proceed" from the midst of the people (Jer. 30:21). And we also understand that Sister White used the word "bosom" as indicating "a state of enclosing intimacy" (dictionary). See examples: Deuteronomy 13:6; Isaiah 40:11; Luke 16:22, 23. In this sense Christ proceeded from, and returned to, the bosom of the Father. John 1:18.

In the Bible and in the writings of E.G. White there are many passages that are "hard to understand" with reference to Christ’s pre-existence – passages that remain involved in "the mystery of godliness," into which we should not speculate. Some want to know, and some even think they can explain, when and how the Son was begotten. They insist that "the idea that Christ was literally begotten in heaven, at some time in eternity, is implied in John 3:16." But John 3:16 does not prove their point, because Christ "came down from heaven" also as "the Son of man" (compare verse 13 with verse 16). He carried both titles before coming into the world.

c) There is only one God, the Father

Though some Bible passages state "there is only one God, the Father" (1 Corinthians 8:6; cf Mark 12:28-32; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19), and the Father is "the only true God" (John 17:3), this does not mean that the Son is not God also, as shown earlier in this chapter. We simply accept by faith the verses confirming that Christ is God in the fullest sense:

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 (NIV).

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matthew 1:23.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1.

"Christ ... is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." Romans 9:5.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." 1 Timothy 3:16.

"We should live soberly,... looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Titus 3:12, 13.

"But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." Hebrews 1:8.

"And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." 1 John 5:20.

"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Colossians 2:9.

"Christ was God essentially and in the highest sense." 1SM 247.

"He did not cease to be God when He became man" ST May 10, 1899.

"He clothed his divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but he did not appear as God. He veiled the demonstrations of Deity… He was God while upon earth, but he divested himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man." 5BC 1126.

"That doctrine that denies the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ denies also the Godhead of the Father." ST June 27, 1895.

d) A spirit with a bodily form?

Jesus said, "God is a Spirit." John 4:24. The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus, "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit." 1 Corinthians 15:45. "The Lord is that Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:17. However, both the Father and the Son are described as having a physical appearance. Isaiah 6:1; Daniel 7:9-13; Revelation 1:12-18. The angels are spirits (Hebrews 1:13, 14), yet they may show themselves with a physical appearance (Matthew 28:2-6).

In a vision, Sister White asked Jesus "if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself." "Jesus said, I am in the express image of My Father's person." – Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White, p. 230.

 

CONCLUSION

As the reader must have noticed, our considerations about the Godhead are based on what is written. Many texts, some of which seem to be conflicting with each other, defy our limited, human understanding. For example: How can the Holy Spirit be described as a power from the Father and the Son, and at the same time be represented as a living person, as a holy being, as a distinct personality? How could He take part in the counsels of the Godhead and in the working out of the plan of redemption? How can He be omniscient and exercise intelligent actions?

The unsatisfied finite mind may keep asking: What is the Holy Spirit? A person? A power? Or both? In other words, Is He a spiritual personality, without a physical body, but vested with intelligence and power? If you, dear Bible student, do not have the answer, we are both in the same boat, because neither do we have all the answers. And if you accept what is written, and refuse to go beyond a "Thus saith the Lord," there should be no disagreement between you and us.

Discussions about important doctrinal issues should not be discouraged (5T 707; GW 298). But, as believers in the threefold message, we have nothing to gain and much to lose by entering into useless debates over questions which were settled on the basis of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy over 100 years ago. Today we do not need to ask those who are established in the present truth: "Do you believe in a two-person Godhead or in a three-person Godhead?" "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God?" "Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is represented as an intelligent individuality?" We know what is written, and, after you, dear reader, have read the many texts quoted in this booklet, you also know what is written.

Together with Sister White we emphasize that the Godhead, the relationship between the Father and the Son, and the nature of the Holy Spirit are involved in mysteries that should not become a matter of speculation and discussion among the remnant people of God. Let us heed the warning of the Lord's chosen messenger:

"The Reformation was greatly retarded by making prominent differences on some points of faith and each party holding tenaciously to those things where they differed. We shall see eye to eye erelong, but to become firm and consider it your duty to present your views in decided opposition to the faith or truth as it has been taught by us as a people, is a mistake, and will result in harm, and only harm, as in the days of Martin Luther. Begin to draw apart and feel at liberty to express your ideas without reference to the views of your brethren, and a state of things will be introduced that you do not dream of.

"My husband had some ideas on some points differing from the views taken by his brethren. I was shown that, however true his views were, God did not call for him to put them in front before his brethren and create differences of ideas. While he might hold these views subordinate to himself, once they are made public, minds would seize [upon them], and just because others believed differently would make these differences the whole burden of the message, and get up contention and variance.

"There are the main pillars of our faith, subjects which are of vital interest…. Speculative ideas should not be agitated, for there are peculiar minds that love to get some points that others do not accept, and argue and attract everything to that one point, urging that point, magnifying that point, when it is really a matter which is not of vital importance, and will be understood differently. Twice I have been shown that everything of a character to cause our brethren to be diverted from the very points now [not?] essential for this time, should be kept in the background." 15MR 20, 21.

The knowledge of the truth about the Godhead is very important and has much to do with our salvation (John 17:3), but we should be able to distinguish between knowledge and speculation (Deut. 29:29). The Spirit of God leads us to seek knowledge in a "Thus saith the Lord" (John 16:13; 17:17). The spirit of Satan influences people to engage in speculation, tempting them to question a number of texts in the inspired writings or to go beyond a clear "It is written."

We think that we have no right, no authority, to dissect the writings of E. G. White, even those that were produced during the last twenty years of her ministry and that were published under her supervision. The Lord God instructed her to warn the church against the acceptance of erroneous teachings concerning the Godhead, as we read in Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62 and 63, written in 1905. Therefore we believe that the Lord, at the same time, would not have allowed her to incorporate wrong teachings into her writings. We cannot doubt the legitimacy of her many references to the Holy Spirit, as produced in this booklet. Wasn't she accepted as a true prophetess of God for fifty years, since 1844? Then why should those who profess to believe in the Spirit of Prophecy give the impression that, during the last twenty years of her labor, she was wrongly influenced by some of her coworkers, that she did not actually know what she was writing, that the Lord just overlooked these things, and that now, so many years later, someone must sound the alarm?

To warn the Adventist people against the introduction of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, is a must; but let us be careful and not go from one extreme to the other. It is definitely wrong to weed out from the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy that which does not agree with our ideas or that which is beyond our comprehension.

"The most sacred, holy, and eternal mysteries which God has not revealed are but speculations when considered from a human standpoint, mere theories that confuse the mind. There are those who know the truth but do not practice it. These greatly long for some new, strange thing to present. In their great zeal to become original some will bring in fanciful ideas which are but chaff." Ms 45, 1900 (4BC 1157).

This is what we have noticed in the present agitation that is going on in Adventist circles concerning the mysteries of the Godhead. Therefore, the following warning of Sister White, the Lord's messenger, seems to have a special application today:

"To my ministering brethren I would say, 'Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season' (2 Tim. 4:2). Do not bring to the foundation wood, and hay, and stubble – your own surmisings and speculations, which can benefit no one.

"Christ withheld no truths essential to our salvation. Those things that are revealed are for us and our children, but we are not to allow our imagination to frame doctrines concerning things not revealed….

"Matters of vital importance have been plainly revealed in the Word of God. These subjects are worthy of our deepest thought. But we are not to search into matters on which God has been silent…. When questions arise upon which we are uncertain, we should ask, 'What saith the Scriptures?'

"Let those who wish for something new seek for that newness of life resulting from the new birth. Let them purify their souls by obeying the truth, and act in harmony with the instruction Christ gave to the lawyer who asked what he must do in order to inherit eternal life." 1SM 173.

Another point which we wish to emphasize is that, instead of arguing about questions which the Lord wants us to leave alone, instead of speculating into the mysteries of the Godhead and nature of the Holy Spirit, we should submit to the influence of His Holy Spirit in the interest of our salvation.

"The Spirit of God, with its vivifying power, must be in every human agent, that every spiritual muscle and sinew may be in exercise. Without the Holy Spirit, without the breath of God, there is torpidity of conscience, loss of spiritual life. Many who are without spiritual life have their names on the church records, but they are not written in the Lamb's book of life. They may be joined to the church, but they are not united to the Lord." RH January 17, 1893.

Our great need today is, not to speculate into the mysteries involving the Godhead, but to surrender to God and take care of our own souls.

"It is the privilege of every soul to exercise faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. But pure spiritual life comes only as the soul surrenders itself to the will of God through Christ, the reconciling Saviour. It is our privilege to be worked by the Holy Spirit." Letter 352, 1908 (RC 130).

"Who but the Holy Spirit presents before the mind the moral standard of righteousness and convinces of sin, and produces godly sorrow which worketh repentance that needed not to be repented of, and inspires the exercise of faith in Him who alone can save from all sin?" Ms 1, 1892 (RC 132).

Therefore: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30.

In conclusion, we must say that, in spite of all the evidence that a person may have for his standpoint on the Godhead, the safest position is to leave the door open for further investigation and additional light. May the Lord bless all serious Bible students!