The Godhead (part 2)

In part 1 we discussed the Three Angel's Messages, and our pioneers' tireless efforts to share them.  In this part we will discuss the resurrection, the sonship of Jesus and Ellen White's response to Kellogg.

First, sonship in the Bible is frequently unrelated to origin.  It is, in such contexts, rather related to character.  In these verses, to be a “son” or part of the “seed” of a person (or of the devil) has nothing to do with your ancestry.  It is related instead to your activities.  Notice in the following dialogue (where references to sonship are in bold for your convenience) that the Jews were Abraham’s children in terms of origin, but not in terms of character.  Jesus said they were children of the devil, not because the devil created them or adopted them, but because they did the works of the devil.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?  Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.  I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not (John 8:31-45).

The way Jesus talks in this chapter is a key to many other passages.  The enmity (Genesis 3:15) between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is not about beings that the devil originated, but about those that followed his pernicious suggestions.  Those that do his “lusts” are his children.

This is, of course, the sense in which Abraham is the father of many nations.  He isn’t the origin of them.  But they are like him.

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. . . . So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9).

What may be a fresh thought to you is that this idea of sonship pre-existed embryos.  Genesis 3:15 was given before human pregnancy had happened.

That brings us very naturally back to our key text, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”  In what sense was this fulfilled at the resurrection?

First, it was the resurrection that shows Christ’s divinity according to the Holy Spirit, just as his flesh showed his human relation to King David.

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).

This verse is not the only one that connects Christ’s sonship to God with his resurrection. Elsewhere he is called, “the first begotten from the dead” (Revelation 1:5).

Some thoughtful readers may have questions about this idea.  How, for example, could Jesus be called the “Son of God” in Daniel 3:25 if He wasn’t “begotten” until six centuries later? Those familiar with Ellen White’s writings about the origin of evil know that Jesus was known as the Son of God even before the fall of Lucifer.  So how can this harmonize with Jesus being “begotten” at the resurrection?  Further, the Father gave his “only begotten Son” to die for us.  How could Jesus be the “only begotten” 30 years before he was begotten?  The answer is related to God’s foreknowledge.  Notice what Revelation says about Jesus.

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

Jesus was the lamb “slain” for four thousand years before He was slain. That is because God speaks about things that are not yet existing as if they have already happened (Romans 4:17).

This brings us back to Psalm 2.  And what time did the Father say to the Son, “This day have I begotten thee?”  That was at the resurrection.  He is called the “first begotten from the dead” not because he is the first one resurrected, but because His resurrection is preeminent.  And He is known as the Son even before the creation of the world in harmony with how God speaks.

What is apparent is that the Divinity of Jesus was not familiar to the angels at the time Lucifer was spreading rebellion.  Earlier, angels obediently worshiped Jesus before they understood the basis of the command to worship Him.  Later, they came to understand.

The King of the universe summoned the heavenly hosts before Him, that in their presence He might set forth the true position of His Son and show the relation He sustained to all created beings. The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both. About the throne gathered the holy angels, a vast, unnumbered throng—“ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11.), the most exalted angels, as ministers and subjects, rejoicing in the light that fell upon them from the presence of the Deity. Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will. The Son of God had wrought the Father's will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven; and to Him, as well as to God, their homage and allegiance were due. Christ was still to exercise divine power, in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. But in all this He would not seek power or exaltation for Himself contrary to God's plan, but would exalt the Father's glory and execute His purposes of beneficence and love (Patriarchs and Prophets 36.2).

The life that Jesus had before coming to earth was not the Father’s life.  It was his own life. And that is why He could pay for our sins.  He was “self-existent.”

No one of the angels could become a substitute and surety for the human race, for their life is God’s; they could not surrender it.  On Christ alone the human family depended for their existence.  He is the eternal, self-existent Son, on whom no yoke had come.  When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Christ alone of the angelic host could reply, “Here am I; send Me.”  He alone had covenanted before the foundation of the world to become a surety for man.  He could say that which not the highest angel could say—“I have power over my own life.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (Ms 101, 1897.28).

The idea of self-existence is contrary, to many minds, to the idea of a Father-Son relationship. It is completely foreign to the idea of being “begotten.”  This is where Psalms 2 comes in and helps us.  It shows us that Jesus could, as one person, be both self-existent and be begotten.

The idea of Christ’s self-existence is denied by many today.  They say that His life came from the Father.  But that is precisely what the statement above denies.  And if we are frank, it is what a better-known statement also denies.

Still seeking to give a true direction to her faith, Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection, and the life.”  In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. “He that hath the Son hath life.” 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life (DA 530).

When I have a son, you could argue that my son’s life is mine.  Certainly, he is derived from me and my wife.  But with the Son there is no such relation to the Father according to this statement.  His life is “underived.”

But suppose you see it another way.  I don’t condemn you.  I don’t doubt your intelligence. (I try not to doubt your skill at avoiding over independence while searching for truth.)  I think we could even work together if we agree on the main thrust of our message, the Three Angels’ Messages as found in Revelation 14.

But let me illustrate our differences (yours and mine if we don’t agree) by a famous Adventist disagreement some decades ago.  It was about the “daily” found in Daniel 8, 11, and 12.  Some Adventists thought this word to be a covert symbol of pagan Rome.  Others thought it to be a subtle reference to Christ’s continuous work as our intercessor.  And these two camps argued with such force of character that it seemed the church might suffer a schism!  (I know it is hard to imagine that today).  Neither could bear the thought of their brothers confounding paganism for Jesus!  And when you word it like that, you can see why it seemed so central to the message of Seventh-day Adventists.

But it wasn’t.  You can believe in the 490 years of Daniel 9, the 2300 years of Daniel 8, and their fulfillments that pointed to Christ’s work as Sacrifice and Priest.  You can believe in the ongoing judgment, the future reward of the saved and, later, of the lost.  You can believe and teach that Babylon is fallen because of her false doctrines of soul-immortality and Sunday sacredness.  You can believe in Jesus and have faith in His life and in His testimony through Ellen White.  You can believe intelligently in all these things without even having an opinion about the meaning of the daily in Daniel 8-12.

And that is why Ellen White said that on that point that was causing such agitation, silence was eloquence.

And so, considering these things, I am content that you and I do not make a mountain out of our molehill of difference.

But, you say, it is a mountain.  You say, “We can’t fear God unless we know who He is.”

Indeed, to know God the Father and His Son is life eternal.  There is nothing well to glory in but that you know Him, and that you know that He is the one that exercises loving kindness and righteousness and judgment in the earth (Jeremiah 9:23-24).  In the beginning the Word was God and the Word was with God.

You can believe that Jesus left his heavenly throne, came to earth, took the form of a weak man, lived a life of obedience and suffering, gained a victory for us all, took all our sins as a Divine-human man, and paid our penalty.  You can believe that He rose again, responding by his Divinity to the Father’s call to him to rise.  You can believe that He took up his role as our Advocate and Priest, a comforter who 1800 years later became our Judge.  You can believe that He lives with us here on earth by His Spirit, and that He will pour out the Holy Spirit on the sealed persons before leaving His work as Intercessor.

You can believe all these things about Jesus, and thousands of more things about Him, without having any opinion about Him before “the beginning.”  You can know him as a Savior, the way patriarchs and prophets knew him when they had the sanctuary service to teach them the saving knowledge.  They feared Him knowing those things.

God’s Plan to Save us from Deception

Generally, God’s plan has been to use the gifts of the Spirit to save us from deception.  Those gifts include the Spirit of Prophecy.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; . . .Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, . . . .That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph 4:11-14).

And in the case of the Adventist church and its relation to the truth about the Godhead, it was Ellen White that spurred change.

But she wasn’t the first.  Just as she wasn’t shown the evils of the shut-door theory until Bible study had exposed them, just as she wasn’t shown the truth about Sabbath-sundown opening until Andrews had studied it, just so she didn’t start making her surprising statements regarding the Godhead until after Camden Lacey began lecturing on the topic in 1896.  (The “life original, unborrowed, underived statement” can be found in Ms 22, 1898.  The “self-existent” statement in Ms 101, 1897.  The “three great powers of heaven” statements begin in 1900.  The “third person of the Godhead” statements began with Lt 8, 1896.)  After his lectures, within four years, the primary key statements that slowly led the church towards a belief in Christ’s eternal pre-existence and in three persons in the Godhead, were penned.

Some confusion exists today because Dr. Kellogg eventually tried to piggy-back his pantheism onto the new ideas Adventists were thinking about the Godhead.  He had been reproved for spiritualizing God’s personal existence, making God into an ever-present power.  When this was strongly opposed by White (who began at that time to make many statements about God’s “personality” in the sense of God’s “person”) he was stymied.  A few years later he tried again. This time he admitted that the Father and Son have personalities, but alleged that the Spirit was everywhere, the very pantheistic lifeforce he had earlier proposed.

But this did not convert his errors into truths.  The Spirit moves and chooses to dwell in some hearts while withdrawing from others.  The Holy Spirit is not an everywhere-present force as Kellogg alleged.

Ellen White, in Australia where Lacey had already been teaching regarding three persons in the Godhead, had made statements that countered even the future form of Kellogg’s error.

The Lord instructed us that this was the place in which we should locate, and we have had every reason to think that we are in the right place.  We have been brought together as a school, and we need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes, that the Lord God is our Keeper and Helper.  He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind (Ms66, 1899.11).

Such statements seem to have anticipated the confusion that would come in our day.  In Ellen’s day the idea of “three” was itself a new idea to some.  And by 1906 it had been accepted by many Adventists.  Kellogg went further and tried to illustrate the three by means of nature’s glories.  He shouldn’t have done that. God is above discussion.  In opposing him Ellen made some of her strongest statements.  Emphasis below is supplied.

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 fulness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Savior.  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 (Ms21, 1906, para 9-11).

In part 3, we will discuss the Holy Spirit, give a personal testimony, and offer a conclusion.

 

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Eugene Prewitt directs the Bible Teacher Training hosted by Aenon.  From there, his teachers train young people from around Asia to reach the various people groups of South East Asia. During school breaks and on weekends he and his wife Heidi frequently travel to put on presentations on Bible topics, canvassing and on Christian Education.