In the first article on the Godhead, the nature of Christ’s divinity was discussed. In this section, the personhood of the Holy Spirit will be evaluated.
Among certain anti-trinitarian camps in Seventh-day Adventism today, there is a belief that the Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ in spirit form or the spirit of the Father and the Son. They deny that the Holy Spirit is a distinct being or person of the Godhead. They claim that whenever the “Spirit of God” is described in Scripture, it is referring to either the Father or the Son but not to a distinct third person of the Godhead. Some go so far as to claim that the Holy Spirit did not come into existence until Pentecost.
This camp again claims that they take the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy as it reads in their view of the Holy Spirit. In reality, they are selective in which verses and passages they take in such a way. I seriously doubt they accept Revelation 14:11 in a literal way:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we take the totality of what the Bible says on any given doctrine rather than trying to create an idea on one or two passages that are in contradiction with the rest of Scripture. We do this with Revelation 14:11. Why would we not do that with what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit?
What the Bible says about the Holy Spirit
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13).
The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. Recently, an anti-trinitarian proclaimed in an interview about his views, “If I am in error, it is God who led me here.” The Bible, in John 16:13, makes it very clear that God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide us into all truth, not error.
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:3,4).
In verse 3, Peter tells Ananias he has lied to the Holy Ghost. In verse 4, Peter shows that this lie was to God. Peter unquestionably equates the Holy Ghost to God.
The Holy Spirit is seen in the very first chapter of Scripture at the creation of the world in Genesis 1:2 where it says “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” While anti-trinitarians deny that the Spirit of God is referring to a distinct person, we will see that there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary.
Interestingly, Scripture makes it clear that the entire Godhead was present at Creation as Hebrews 1:1, 2 says:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
Thus, the Father (Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 1:2), Son (Hebrews 1:2), and Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) were all part of Creation at the beginning of this world.
In Luke 1:35, we see that the Holy Spirit was responsible for the conception of Christ with the virgin Mary:
And the angel answered and said unto her, 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.
When Jesus was baptized, Matthew 3:16, 17 shows that the heavenly trio was present:
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
We also see in Matthew 4:1 that the Holy Spirit was involved in guiding the key movements and activities of Christ while He was on this earth: "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."
Furthermore, Hebrews 9:14 identifies the eternal nature of the Holy Spirit:
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Matthew 28:19 shows the role of the entire Godhead in the work of salvation that leads to baptism in which we are to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
Some anti-trinitarians try to discredit the validity of this verse which should lead to red flags in the mind of any honest Bible student. Any time you find someone who will try to discredit the presence of any verse in Inspiration rather than understanding its place and meaning in the canon of Scripture, it should be cause for concern.
An often-overlooked biblical principle that is demonstrated in the trio of the Godhead is that of two or three witnesses establishing every truth. The Apostle Paul sets forth this principle in the opening verse of the final chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:1:
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Paul then demonstrates this principle in the closing verse of the chapter and book to show how two or three witnesses testify and establish each other in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
The pattern of the Godhead is consistent. Jesus came to testify of the character of the Father. The Holy Spirit came to testify of Jesus. Each member of the Godhead has two other witnesses to testify of Himself. Due to their humility, none of the members of the heavenly trio boast of themselves, even at the risk of being misunderstood, and rely on the other members of the Godhead to testify of their true character. This perhaps explains certain mysterious aspects of the Holy Spirit that leads some to misinterpret the true nature and personhood of the Third Person of the Godhead.
While Scripture makes it very clear that there are three living persons of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and even 1 John 5:7 - which of course anti-trinitarians try to claim that it should not be in the Bible even though there are manuscripts and historical evidence that support its existence), Ellen’s White’s writings also provide helpful clarity to the nature of the Holy Spirit and the Godhead.
What the Spirit of Prophecy says about the Holy Spirit
The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fulness 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; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ (Manuscript 21-1906.11).
We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds—Manuscript 66, 1899. (From a talk to the students at the Avondale School.) (Evangelism 616.5)
These two statements make it clear that there really are three living persons as part of the Godhead – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And just to be clear, Ellen White says that the Holy Spirit is as much a person as God is a person. Not surprisingly, anti-trinitarians claim that the book Evangelism, a compilation of Ellen White’s writings, was tampered with by Leroy Froom. There is no such evidence and it is simply a desperate claim as the quotes on the Holy Spirit in Evangelism clearly debunk the views of the anti-trinitarian camp. Amazingly, the anti-trinitarian camp is willing to make Ellen White’s writings of none effect when they say her writings have been tampered with and fall straight into one of Satan’s last deceptions for God’s people:
The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God's remnant people in the true testimony (Letter 12, 1890. Selected Messages Vol. 1, p. 48).
It is my settled conviction that Satan is working through the anti-trinitarian movement to unsettle the confidence of Seventh-day Adventists in the writings of Ellen White as it relates to the divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit. This is clearly evident when they claim that the book Evangelism has been tampered with. Her writings are too clear to be misunderstood on this subject.
One of the favorite quotes of anti-trinitarians from Ellen White to prove that the Holy Spirit is not really a distinct person is the following statement:
The Lord is soon to come. We want that complete and perfect understanding which the Lord alone can give. It is not safe to catch the spirit from another. We want the Holy Spirit, which is Jesus Christ. If we commune with God, we shall have strength and grace and efficiency (Letter 66, 1894.18).
At first glance, it appears that Ellen White is saying that the Holy Spirit is none other than Jesus Christ Himself in spirit form. However, the previous statements obvious contradict such a sentiment. And the following statement also adds further clarity:
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, in Christ’s name. He [the Holy Spirit] personifies Christ, yet is a distinct personality (Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 324).
There is no doubt that Ellen White shows that Christ and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons. Just because Jesus says in John 10:30 “I am my Father are one” and in John 14:9 “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” that does not mean that He is not a distinct person from the Father. The same is true with respect to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
A true understanding of the Godhead and of the role of the Holy Spirit helps us to understand better the way in which God works to save us. Notice some of the following quotations:
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. In order fully to carry out this plan, it was decided that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, should give Himself an offering for sin. What line can measure the depth of this love? God would make it impossible for man to say that He could have done more. With Christ He gave all the resources of heaven, that nothing might be wanting in the plan for man’s uplifting. Here is love—the contemplation of which should fill the soul with inexpressible gratitude! Oh, what love, what matchless love! The contemplation of this love will cleanse the soul from all selfishness. It will lead the disciple to deny self, take up thecross, and follow the Redeemer (Counsels on Health 222.2).
Some have said that the Holy Spirit did not come into existence until Pentecost. This statement shows that the Holy Spirit was involved in the council of the Godhead to discuss the plan of salvation. Clearly, that discussion took place long before Pentecost.
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 out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving. The gratitude which flows from our lips is the result of the Spirit’s striking the cords of the soul in holy memories, awakening the music of the heart (1 SM 344).
This statement identifies the distinct work of the Holy Spirit working upon our hearts, which works upon our hearts, leading us to offer prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving, all of which are necessary in the work of salvation and redemption.
The next quotation identifies that the Holy Spirit is worthy of worship. Notice this amazing statement by Ellen White:
Now a little point. As the saints in the kingdom of God are accepted in the beloved, they hear: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And then the golden harps are touched, and the music flows all through the heavenly host, and they fall down and worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Manuscript 139, 1906.32).
God alone is worthy of worship and here we see that the Holy Spirit, who is God, will be worshipped when the saints enter into the kingdom of God.
Interestingly, the anti-trinitarians claim that those who worship Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as God are guilty of breaking the First Commandment which says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” They believe that the Father is the one true God. Yet Ellen White makes it clear that all three persons of the heavenly trio are worthy of worship and will be worshipped by the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
Anti-trinitarians claim that their view of the Godhead is the true latter rain message and must be understood in order to experience true righteousness by faith. Sadly, they have fallen into the trap of many other fanatical movements such as the 2520 movement, Feast-keepers, advocates of the lunar sabbath, and other similar groups who elevate a false idea into a testing truth. Ellen White actually predicted, through her prophetic eye, the rise of fanatics who would create false tests:
God is raising up a class to give the loud cry of the third angel’s message. ‘Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:30). It is Satan’s object now to get up new theories to divert the mind from the true work and genuine message for this time. He stirs up minds to give false interpretation of Scripture, a spurious loud cry, that the real message may not have its effect when it does come. This is one of the greatest evidences that the loud cry will soon be heard and the earth lightened with the glory of God” (Manuscript Releases, Volume 9, p. 27, from Letter 20, 1884).
Those who seek to define God are on forbidden ground. We are to enter into no controversy regarding God—what He is and what He is not. He, the Omniscient One, is above discussion. Those who express such sentiments regarding Him show that they are departing from the faith (Letter 240-1903).
It is very unfortunate that the anti-trinitarian camp has created a false loud cry/latter rain message and they are, by defining God on forbidden ground, very clearly departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
Thankfully, the heresy of the anti-trinitarian camp is an evidence that the real loud cry is about to be given. As Seventh-day Adventists, we long for the fulfillment of Revelation 18:1 in which an angel comes down from heaven having great power and the earth is illuminated with the glory of God’s character. I urge you to follow the counsel of Romans 16:17 and to “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them.”
Let us not be confused and divided over such basic and clearly defined truths. Let us focus on being filled with the Holy Spirit so that we will receive the true latter rain. May we be part of God’s closing work on this earth in which God’s character illuminates the entire world with the glory of God’s character through the power of the Holy Spirit. Even so come Lord Jesus!
Norman McNulty, MD, is a board-certified neurologist practicing in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Prior to starting his neurology practice, he served for two years as a missionary at the Adventist hospital in Trinidad. Norman was trained at Loma Linda University and he enjoys studying and speaking about prophecy in his free time. He has also been involved in several young adult ministries in the United States. He is married to Joelle, and they have three daughters, Saralyn, Anneke, and Madeline.