#9 Difficult and Revealing Bible Texts concerning the Holy Spirit
I wish that it were possible to devote this entire chapter to the beautiful aspects of Christ's Spirit and what it means to us. However, in writing a study of this sort one is inescapably faced with the necessity of examining some of the technical issues, difficult Bible Texts, and the inevitable objections bound to be raised in response to the position set forth here. I know that this sometimes makes for dryer reading but it is necessary before we can move on to the kind of things that will stir your soul. So I would like to start with these issues and conclude with the more glorious implications of all of this. We will begin by looking at some of the difficult Bible text used by some to support the idea that the Holy Spirit is not Christ's Spirit but an unrelated third person of the Godhead (the traditional Trinitarian viewpoint). Then we will take a look at the names of the Holy Spirit and the character attributes that inseparably link Him to Christ. We will also look at some of the Spirit of Prophecy quotes that have muddled the waters of our understanding of the nature of the Holy Spirit and which many people use as proof positive inspired quotes to prove that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity is the correct one. Finally we will examine both the Bible and the SOP quotes that offer us a true understanding of exactly who the Holy Spirit is, and the beautiful implications of understanding this truth.
First, let me say that it is impossible for a believer in, or a student of, the Scriptures to conclude that the Holy Spirit is not God! His titles, His work, His relationship with God and His relationship to us, all prove His existence as "God." I do not argue this point. The Holy Spirit is indeed a "Divine Being" - He is God. This fact, however, has caused many to erroneously conclude that the Holy Spirit has existed as a third, individual (or independent), member of the Godhead from all eternity. This is simply not the case. Let me explain.
Just because the Bible identifies the Holy Spirit as being God does not mean that He must have existed as a third person of the Godhead from all eternity. The Bible states that "God is Spirit" and since it refers to the "Holy Spirit" we could conclude that since the Holy Spirit is God that He has existed as a separate, individual (third) member of the Godhead with the Father and Christ from all eternity. However, this type of reasoning is flawedfor several reasons. We have already seen that it was the Father and the Son who created all things and who were involved in the councils of heaven, the plan of Salvation, and who are the only ones associated with the Throne of God. It would also be incorrect to assume that just because two things are true (fact) and are related to a single subject (or person) that they are directly correlated and must exhibit all the characteristics of that subject/person (i.e. personal history and existence)! Too many of us have approached the subject of the Holy Spirit with this type faulty reasoning and have used it, ultimately, to support our preconceived opinions - or the teachings with which we were indoctrinated. Let me illustrate why this type of reasoning can lead us to a wrong conclusion.
I went to work yesterday -- Yesterday I got sick. Does this mean that since I went to work yesterday that this is the reason I got sick? Absolutely not! I may have picked up a virus days ago (over the weekend) and only came down sick yesterday. The fact that I went to work yesterday had nothing to do with my getting sick. It would be totally fallacious to conclude that my going to work yesterday was responsible for my getting sick yesterday just because both things happened to me yesterday.
Students of the Scriptures sometimes employ this same kind of fallacious reasoning. For example: We know that God (Father) is "Spirit" and we know that the Holy Spirit is God. Does that mean that the Holy Spirit is the Father? Some believe He is. Their reasoning incorporates the reasoning that God (the Father) is "Spirit" and that He is "Holy" coupled with the fact that the Holy Spirit is God - and they conclude that God the Father IS the Holy Spirit. This is correct in a sense - we can certainly refer to the Father as a "Holy Spirit" -- but referring to the Father as The "Holy Spirit" would not be true to Biblical revelation or its teaching regarding "The Holy Spirit" as a being which is separate (or individual) from the Father. Just because the Bible says that the Father is "Spirit" and it also speaks of the "Holy Spirit" as being God, does not mean that the Holy Spirit is the Father God.
The same kind of fallacious reasoning is employed by many of us in concluding that the Holy Spirit, since He is God - and since God has existed from all eternity --must have existed as the third individual member of the Godhead from all eternity. This is simply not the case and it is wrong for us to make such a conclusion. God has indeed changed. Christ, who was "with God and was God," was brough- forth from the Father as a divine being who was different from the divine being that existed with the Father prior to the creation of intelligent, free-moral, beings. Even the brought-forth Christ underwent further change when He incarnated Himself into the Human Family and took on the nature (form, intellect and character) of man. This change created a very real change in the nature of the Godhead. The Father and the Son no longer share the intimate Oneness that they once did when Christ existed, singularly, as the same type of being (substance, attributes, and form) as the Father. In accomplishing the incarnation (beginning with Christ being "brought forth" from the Father) Christ could not maintain all the attributes that once made Him truly and singularly (individually) God.
Difficult Bible Texts:
John 3:12,13:"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (KJV emphasis added).
Some translations of the Bible, such as the New American Standard Version (NASB), do not include the last four words of verse 13: "which is in heaven." They note it in a marginal reference but do not include it in the body of the text. Many other translations - The King James Version, the Revised Version, the International Standard Version, the American Standard Version, Young's Analytical Translation, Webster's, the Analytical-Literal Translation, etc. - all include these words.
I do not know exactly why the NASB does not include the last part of this passage. I realize that they are using what they consider to be the oldest and the best manuscripts available and that some of these do not include these words. I do wonder though, if the translator's may have chosen not to include these words (which are found in other reputable manuscripts) because they appear to make no sense at all! Whatever may be the reason, these words are included in the majority of Bibles and are worth our attention and study.
Jesus is speaking here, and He (the Son of Man/God) is addressing Nicodemus as One standing in his midst - in his immediate presence. These were not words spoken through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - as were many of the other words written by the disciples. Nicodemus related his encounter with Jesus to the Apostle John who recorded this account in his gospel (see DA p. 177, par. 2). Jesus revealed to Nicodemus his need to be "born again" "by an agency as unseen as the wind" (DA p. 172) - that is, "the Spirit." In other words, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit and his need to be re-born from above. Christ was trying to get Nicodemus to discern> "heavenly things." He was trying to get him to go beyond his earthly wisdom and understanding and to focus on that which is from above, that is, on those truths which are spiritual and which are spiritually discerned. Christ had used "earthly" things to illustrate the spiritual things He was relating and while Nicodemus seemed eager to understand that which he was being taught, he stubbornly refused to do so. Christ told him: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (Jn. 3:12). Then Christ threw him a real "bone" to chew on. This difficult bone of truth is found in the very next words spoken by Jesus. It is the apparently contradictory statement found in verse 13: "no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."
It is not difficult to understand the first part of this statement - that the One who came down from heaven and who has ascended up to heaven is the "Son of man" - Jesus Christ, the Messiah. But the second part of this verse leaves most of us scratching our heads - "which [who] is in heaven." How could the man speaking these words to Nicodemus, and who was physically present with him at that moment, say that He is also in heaven?! The tense that is used in the word translated as "which is" (in heaven) is the first-person singular present indicative - this means that the word "is" is indicative of the state of the person speaking, at that moment - it indicates where the person speaking "is" right then. Jesus was saying, in effect, "although I am standing here speaking to you right now" -- "I am in heaven." That will blow a few brain cells! Especially if you understand that the Son of God, now incarnate as "The Son of man" (Jesus Christ), was not "Omnipresent." "Cumbered with humanity Christ could not be in every place personally" (Manuscript 1084; p. 7 - [MR vol. 14; p. 23, par. 3]). How then, could Christ be present and speaking with Nicodemus here on this earth and be in heaven?
If you have followed the premise of this book so far, you can understand perfectly "how" this could be the case. Christ, in His brought-forth/incarnate form, was here speaking to Nicodemus -- while Christ, in His Holy Spirit form, was in heaven. Interestingly, the roles would be reversed following His death, resurrection and ascension - The Son of Man would be performing His work in Heaven while His Holy Spirit would be actively working here on earth. This is why Christ later told His disciples: "…'It is expedient for you that I go away.' No one could then have any preference because of his location or personal contact with Christ. The Saviour would be accessible to all alike, spiritually, and in this sense he would be nearer to us all than if he had not ascended on high" (RH December 5, 1912; par. 6).
1 John 5:6-8:"This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." (KJV).
In the King James Version verse 7 reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." In almost every other reputable translation these words are not included. Why? Unlike John 3:13 above; these words are not omitted because of the use of different documents or because they don't make sense. The words are omitted because they simply don't belong there! They are not found in the original text. They were added from a corrupted text (more accurately, they became the corrupted text of this passage of the King James Version).
This verse made its way into the KJV primarily because Erasmus (a 16th century Theologian, Catholic Priest and humanist), who hurriedly published his translation of the New Testament in 1516, surcame to the pressure of the Catholic Church to include the words in verse 7 from the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus agreed to do so if a Greek manuscript could be found that contained these words - miraculously just such a manuscript was produced (by the Catholic Church) and Erasmus included this verse in the 1522 revision of his original work. The manuscript he worked from, however, was one included in what is known as the "Textus Recepticus" (meaning: "received" or "agreed upon" Text). This "Textus Recepticus" contains many errors primarily because it was a typed text that incorporated several scribal notes into the original text. 1 John 5:7 of the KJV is an example of one of those "scribal notes" that made it into the Bible. Interestingly, Erasmus was "encouraged" to add this text primarily in an effort by the Catholic Church to support and maintain the doctrine of the Trinity.
However it made its way into the King James Version, the text itself can be shown to be out of context (not belonging) here. I should say that I really don't have any quarrel with the "truth" of the text - we certainly find the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bearing record in heaven - but the insertion of this text into the text of 1 John 5:6-8 is completely out of place and does not belong there - and unfortunately, it gives a completely different flavor to these verses if it is retained. It tends to make you think that John is talking about the "Godhead" when he is not. Reputable scholars would not think to use this text to argue the Trinitarian position. Only those who are ignorant of its insertion, or, those who stubbornly deny that the King James Version could be in any way "corrupt", or, those who are desperate to hold on to any text that would support their belief in the Trinity would ever think to use this text as a "Proof Text."
For these reasons I have to agree with the translators of the NASB (and other versions) which omit this verse in 1 John 5 and translate verses 6-8 in this way(I will include verse 5 for clarity): "Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."
The verses take on a totally different flavor without the inserted text! One can readily see that you simply cannot insert the "Father" into these verses - they are simply not talking about Him. The verses do speak of "Three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood", so let's see what we can learn about these "three."
In verse 5 John makes it clear that the "one who overcomes the world" is the one "who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." His subject here in these verses is the person of Jesus Christ - the Son of God. Let's look further. John includes the "water and the blood" as two of the three that "testify." But he clearly states the both the water and the blood refer to one person - Jesus Christ (see vs. 6). This indicates that there are not three separate individuals testifying. At best we could only conclude two - Jesus (the water and the blood) and the Spirit. So what is John telling us?
Given that the subject matter of these verses is the person of Jesus Christ - and given that two of those that "testify" indisputably refer to Jesus Christ (see vs. 6) - one must wonder why we would assume that the third witness (the other one testifying) here is someone, anyone, other than Jesus Christ! It makes absolutely no sense to conclude such a thing, and if we would simply read on in 1 John 5 we will find that "the Spirit" is none other than Christ Jesus - our Lord.
In verse 7 we read: "and it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the Truth." Jesus emphatically declared: "I am…the Truth" (Jn. 14:6). Jesus' own words must be the precedent upon which the Apostle John's words are based and are to be understood. John certainly understood this and so must we. When John says that, "the Spirit is the Truth" he cannot be contradicting the words of Jesus. So, if "the Spirit is the Truth" and Jesus "is the Truth" then the Spirit must be Christ's Spirit. John must be stating that the "Spirit" and "Jesus" are ONE of the same person, and if we continue reading in 1 John 5 we find that John says exactly that.
John explains that the "three" witnesses "agree in one" (vs. 8). The word translated as "agree" (KJV) or as "in agreement" (NASB) literally means: "are." The word translated as "one" is exactly that: it is the word for the numerical value of 1 (one) or "only." So the International Standard Version correctly translates the verse: "the Spirit, the water, and the blood - and these three are one." John already explained to us in verse 5 that the "water" and the "blood" refer to the person of Jesus. Here in verse 8 he is telling us that the "Spirit" is "ONE" with the water and the blood - that the "Spirit" is an integral component of the person of Jesus Christ.
John launched his discourse with the words: "And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (vs. 5). John summarizes his discourse with the same emphasis: "The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself…And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:10-12). How is it that we have this "witness" within ourselves? The incarnated Christ certainly cannot literally be "in" us - but His Spirit most assuredly can! And "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).
The three witnesses are this: the water is representative of (witnesses to) the incarnation of Christ into the human race, the blood is representative of (witnesses to) the death (sacrifice) of Christ on our behalf by which He made possible both the Forgiveness of our sins and our Justification (returning us to a right standing) before God, and the Spirit is representative of (witnesses to) His (Christ's) ongoing work on our behalf in which He "transforms" us (Sanctifies us) into His image by the indwelling of His Spirit. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God" (Galatians 4:4-7).
1 John 5:6-8 does not give us any proof of an eternally existing "Triune" Godhead. On the contrary, it confirms an original Godhead consisting of Jesus Christ and the Father, who, embarked on a mission to save a lost race through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Instead of speaking of the Godhead itself (or of the Trinity), we see that John is speaking of the person of Jesus Christ when referring to the "three that bear witness" and John has shown us that the Holy Spirit is indeed Christ's Spirit - not a separate member of the Godhead apart from Christ. The Holy Spirit is: "…Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27. See also 1 Pet. 3:15).
Matthew 28:19:"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
This is, by far, the most difficult Biblical Text to deal with if you don't agree with the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. It is perhaps the only real Biblical text containing the Trinitarian formula per se. This text has bothered me for a very long time - since before I came to the belief I now hold regarding the Godhead and the Holy Spirit. Here is the reason it bothered me so.
In Matthew 28:19 (if we accept these words to be the words of Christ) we find a direct command from Jesus for His disciples to go and baptize in the "name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." First of all, we have to wrestle with the fact that the text instructs them to baptize in the "name" (Singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now I understand that Jesus said that He and the Father are "one," but if you want to show that these three are separate individuals then you would want to use the Plural ("names") instead of the singular. More troubling than that though is the fact that this is a direct command. Surely the disciples realized the importance of obeying their Lord and Savior! Surely they would follow His instructions to the letter - especially if Christ had been as specific about the procedure as He appears to be in this verse. WHY is it then that we have absolutely NO examples of the disciples obeying Christ by following this direct instruction on how to baptize? You can search the entire New Testament through and never find an example of the disciples baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. What you will find are examples in which they always, and only, baptized in the name of JESUS. Why is that? Doesn't that bother you?
In the book of Acts we find examples of the disciples "making disciples" of other men and baptizing them into the Lord Jesus Christ. In each of the examples recorded we find them baptizing in the name of "Jesus."
Acts 2:38 "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
Acts 8:16 "For He [Holy Spirit] had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Acts 10:48 "And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days."
Acts 19:5 "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Were the disciples careless about following our Lord's instructions? Or did they understand perfectly what Jesus had told them to do? Isn't it more plausible (likely) that the disciples were obedient to Jesus and followed His instructions? And if this is the case, isn't it probable that those instructions were not stated as we find them recorded in Matthew 28:19?
Now I don't want to sound like some naysayer who, whenever I come to a "difficult" text, immediately says that it "doesn't belong there" or that it is "corrupt" and inserted by someone other than the actual author of the text. However, we need to be honest in our approach to God's Word and not be afraid to critically examine it - comparing Scripture with Scripture - to insure that it maintains its integrity and continuity. Unfortunately, most of us do not want to critically examine these things and prefer to read into a text our own preconceived opinions and beliefs. We don't want to "THINK" about or "QUESTION" anything. And we take great pride in suggesting that by accepting whatever we read in the Bible as being directly inspired by God that we are being more faithful to God than someone who critically examines and questions the statements found there (this is especially true in regards to difficult texts such as the one at hand). In fact, we are often predisposed to attack anyone who questions something we have believed for so long and who challenges us to look at our cherished beliefs in a different manner. I am quite certain that many will attack me for espousing the position I have set forth in this study. But that does not mean that these things are not true. Throughout history, many have been ridiculed (and even killed) for challenging a long-held belief - only to be proven correct as the Spirit of the Lord has brought Truth after Truth back into its proper light and understanding. Wasn't Martin Luther severely chastised for preaching Righteousness by Faith? Haven't Seventh-day Adventists been ridiculed for their preaching the Sabbath? Could we be in danger of rejecting further light simply because we are unwilling to let go of a long-held belief? Could we be in danger of rejecting "new light" simply because we have become too lazy to honestly and critically study God's Word for ourselves - preferring instead to be spoon fed by the men we consider "leaders" and "scholars"? I simply cannot afford to do this - and neither can you. Mrs. White has told us that this can be a very risky thing to do:
"Every soul must look to God with contrition and humility, that He may guide and lead and bless. We must not trust to others to search the Scriptures for us. Some of our leading brethren have frequently taken their position on the wrong side; and if God would send a message and wait for these older brethren to open the way for its advancement, it would never reach the people" (GW 1913: p. 303).
"I have been shown that ministers and people are tempted more and more to trust in finite man for wisdom, and to make flesh their arm….I entreat of you to search the Scriptures as you have never yet searched them, that you may know the way and will of God. O that every soul might be impressed with this message, and put away the wrong" (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 10 (1909); found in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 480,481).
"Investigation of every point that has been received as truth will repay the searcher: He will find precious gems. And in closely investigating ever jot and tittle which we think is established truth, in comparing Scripture with Scripture, we may discover errors in our interpretation of Scripture. Christ would have the searcher of his word sink the shaft deeper into the mines of truth. If the search is properly conducted, jewels of inestimable value will be found. The word of God is the mine of the unsearchable riches of Christ" (RH, July 12, 1889; par.15).
"There is no excuse for any one 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. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation" (RH, December 20, 1892; par. 1).
"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. Those who allow prejudice to bar the mind against the reception of truth cannot receive the divine enlightenment" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers; p. 105, par. 2,3).
"When God's people are at ease, and satisfied with their present enlightenment, we may be sure that He will not favour them. It is His will that they should be ever moving forward, to receive the increased and ever increasing light that is shining for them. The present attitude of the church is not pleasing to God. There has come in a self-confidence that has led them to feel no necessity for more truth and greater light" (5T: pp. 708, 709).
See New Light Quotes for additional New Light quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy (these will open up in a new window and are real eye-openers)!
Matthew 28:19 is indeed a very suspect text. One of the reasons this is the case is that there is a very large gap of time from the time Matthew wrote his Gospel and the earliest Greek manuscripts we have containing the words found in Matthew 28:19 - almost three hundred years exist between the two. Unfortunately, the "Church" during this time period was also slipping quickly into darkness. The Catholic Church developed much of their theology during this time and was doggedly zealous in its enforcement of these doctrines. If you dared to challenge them, you were labeled a heretic and could face shunning, censure, and even death. To have only manuscripts dating to this time (the 3rd and 4th centuries - during which the Catholic Church was firmly establishing itself and its beliefs as the authority of the Scriptures), is a very real and a very big problem. This fact alone should immediately call for some caution in our acceptance of "every word" contained in these documents. It would be nice if we had older, more reliable manuscripts to work from. Unfortunately, as F.C. Conybeare informs us; "In the only codices which would be even likely to preserve an older reading, namely the Sinaitic Syriac and the oldest Latin Manuscript, the pages are gone which contained the end of Matthew" [The Hibbert Journal. A Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology, and Philosophy. Vol. I, No. 1 (Oxford: October 1902) pp. 102-108. Emphasis mine. See also 'The Eusebian Form of the Text of Matthew 28:19' Zeitschrift fur Neutestamentlich Wissenschaft 2: 1901, pages 275-288. (ZNW 2: 1901, 275-288)]. In "Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew" which uses Hebrew texts pre-dating the Greek texts which we have [These Hebrew manuscripts are of the Ante-Nicene era (pre-dating the First Council of Nicaea-325A.D.). Matthew's Gospel was written for the Jew and would most likely have been written in Hebrew. Hebrew scribes were much more meticulous -- careful not to use extraneous material -- in their transcription of manuscripts than were Greek scribes - so these Hebrew manuscripts are likely to be more reliable then the Greek manuscripts], there is a very different ending to Matthew 28:19 which reads: "You go and teach them to carry out all the things that I have commanded you forever" [See Dr. James D. Tabor, A Hebrew Gospel of Matthew ]. Eusebius, in at least 18 citations of Matthew 28:19, always wrote it this way: "Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you." (see Conybeare). This reading would certainly be more in line with the Bible's "in Christ" motif.
You do not have to go to the ancient manuscripts in order to deduce that the text, as it reads in most Bibles, does not fit the Bible's Theology. Nor do you have to agree with my position concerning the Godhead to recognize that this text does not really fit into the Bible's teaching about baptism. Please note that I am not suggesting that Christ didn't give the great commission, only that the words that He used are unlikely to be those found in most of the translations we have of Matthew 28:19. If Christ gave the commission to go and "baptize" then it would only make sense that His words would be in harmony with the rest of the Bible's teachings regarding baptism.
The Bible clearly states that we are baptized into Jesus Christ (not into the Father or the Holy Spirit):
Rom. 6:3,4 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
Gal. 3:26,27 "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
Acts 22:16 "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (KJV). "What are you waiting for now? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away as you call on his name." (ISV).
Acts 10:48 "And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
You will never find any deviation from this except as it is recorded in Matthew 28:19! Why is that? If Jesus actually said the disciples should be baptizing in the name of "the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit" then why don't we find this being done? This is a very serious question and it demands a serious and straightforward answer.
Jesus could not have commanded the disciples to baptize people in the name of [into] the Holy Spirit for if we are baptized into the Holy Spirit what need would there be to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Jesus could not have told His disciples to baptize people into the Holy Spirit quite simply because this is not a baptism that the disciples were to perform [If Jesus could not have told His disciples to baptize men into the Holy Spirit, then it is highly unlikely that He would have told them to baptize men into the Father either - especially given His emphatic statement: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. (Jn. 14:6).]. We are told that Jesus is the one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit - that this is the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist said: "I baptized you with water, He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8 cf. Mat. 3:11 & Lk. 3:16). "…this [Jesus] is the One who baptizes in [with] the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 1:33). Since this is obviously a separate baptism - a baptism in which we are immersed [baptized] with [or in] the Holy Spirit - a baptism that Christ is to perform - then Jesus could not have told the disciples to baptize people into the name of the Holy Spirit.
Once we understand who Jesus is and how He has provided us with Salvation, we are to be baptized into Him. He will then baptize us with His Holy Spirit. Christ's Holy Spirit is the gift we receive when we accept Him and are baptized into Him. In Galatians 3:27 we read: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." To be "clothed with Christ" is to be baptized "with the Holy Spirit." We "put on" Christ through the reception of His Spirit in our mind and heart. "He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 Jn. 3:24). 1 John 4:13 makes all of this perfectly clear: "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
So the prescribed order is to learn of Christ, be baptized into Christ, and then to receive Christ's Spirit. "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). While there are some exceptions to this order (see Acts 10:47), the normally prescribed order is repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Spirit - and there is a reason for this order.
Jesus said to "go and teach" or "make disciples" of all nations. Teach them what? Make them disciples of whom? We are to teach men of Christ in who's name is the "forgiveness of sins" (See Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38 & 10:43) -- for "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). We must be taught (learn) that we are in a lost condition and that there is only one hope for us - the person of Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that we might not die but have eternal life. We must be persuaded to place our faith in the Son of God and we must learn to depend upon Him for the power to overcome and to live a new life in the power of His Spirit. We must repent (die to "self") and make a public proclamation of that repentance and of our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior, Lord, and God. That public proclamation is made through the ordinance of baptism - in which is symbolized our acceptance of Christ and His sacrifice, our death to self, and our resurrection to a new life in Christ - a life powered by the Spirit of Christ! Paul stated it very clearly in this way: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Baptism is an absolute imperative for all those who are mentally and physically capable of making such a public proclamation for to deny it is to deny Christ and to have no part in Him. To neglect such a proclamation is to neglect (or deny) the eternal price paid by Christ for our Salvation, and "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:3). To refuse baptism is really a "public proclamation" in itself - that we do not accept Christ's death on our behalf and that we do not accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Refusing to repent (die to self) and be baptized (being buried with Christ and resurrected to a new life in Christ) is to remain "in the flesh" or in our "sin." And the Bible tells us that this is to remain dead in sin: "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit [Christ] is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Romans 8:6-10).
The Bible is very clear about the fact that Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. No one need be confused about this: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). This is the whole theme of the Bible. Period. Once we understand this, we are to show our acceptance of Him by being baptized into Him. This is why I believe that Jesus did not instruct His disciples to baptize new disciples into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He instructed them to baptize men into HIS name - the only "name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
We need to be baptized into the name of Jesus and not into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: because when we are baptized into the threefold name we are being baptized into a misconception. We are being baptized into a false belief about God, about Jesus Christ, about the Holy Spirit, and about the Plan of Salvation. What I am saying is not sacrilege. Nor is it heresy. I am not diminishing the value or the persons of the Father or the Holy Spirit in any way. Nor am I suggesting that the Father and the Holy Spirit do not play an important part in our salvation. I am simply saying that doing what the Lord has commanded and in the way that God has ordained is what we, as Christians, ought to be doing. When we are baptized into the threefold name (even ignorantly) we are being baptized into the traditions of men and not of God. Jesus said: "BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN" (Mark 7:7 & Matthew 15:9). I don't want my worship, or my service to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to be "in vain" - do you?
I believe that one of the reasons we have received so little of the Holy Spirit is because we have never truly been baptized into Jesus Christ. That is to say, that we have not had a clear conception of who He is or what He has done in order to make Salvation available to us. Or, as Mrs. White puts it, "because we are so far behind our privileges" (RH: October 8, 1889; par. 2). I am not suggesting that there is some kind of magic in the manner of our baptism [There is no 'magic' in being baptized by immersion - but this is the only manner of baptism that demonstrates our understanding of the significance of this ordinance. We can be baptized by immersion and still not be baptized into Christ! There is nothing magical about the method, but the method is important because it demonstrates our understanding of the significance of the act - and it demonstrates our commitment to doing things as God has prescribed, as opposed to how we may have been taught or might like to do things ourselves]. I am suggesting that the manner of our baptism is what shows our understanding of, and our commitment to, God's Will and our willingness to demonstrate that understanding and commitment in the way that He has prescribed. Until we intelligently understand the will of God in the person of Jesus Christ we will never be prepared to fully partake of His Spirit.
John 14:16-18:"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
This is another favorite text of those who espouse the traditional view of the Trinity. In this text there are several words that they seize upon in order to deny that the Holy Spirit is actually Christ's Spirit. Those words are: "another" (which they claim must indicate that it is not Christ); "He" and "Him" (which they claim indicates a person other than Christ); and, of course, "Spirit" (which they claim identifies a person who is another person, apart from Christ). These arguments simply don't hold water, and we will examine this in detail in a moment - dissecting this passage using textual criticism, Greek meanings and usages, the Apostle's understanding of the Holy Spirit, and the extra-Biblical inspired writings of E.G. White. But let me say right now that the meaning of what Christ was saying is contained right within the text itself. Christ says that the disciples already know Him (the "Helper/Comforter") because He abides (is abiding) "with" them (Christ is the one abiding with them at this point). Then He says that He "will be" in them (yet future but soon to come to pass - Christ, after He ascends to Heaven following His crucifixion, would abide in His disciples through His Spirit). In verse 18, Christ explains that this other "comforter" is really Himself -- He would not leave them comfortless, He would "come" to them. It really isn't that hard to understand is it? We are the ones that have muddled this up! When we get done examining all this I believe that you are going to be hard pressed to conclude that the Holy Spirit is not Christ's Spirit! So if you want to hold on to your "cherished" traditional understanding of the Godhead and the Holy Spirit, STOP RIGHT HERE! Otherwise, leave your cherished positions at the door; humbly knock, and let the Spirit of our Lord speak to your heart.
"Who" did the Apostles understand this "other Helper," this "Spirit of Truth," to be? I am quite confident that the disciples did not understand who this "Spirit" was, at the time that Jesus spoke these words, for in another place John tells us "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn. 7:39). Jesus had also told the disciples that there were many things which He did and was yet to do that they did not understand at the time He said or did them: "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter" (John 13:7). Ellen tells us: "The words of Christ were not always comprehended by the disciples; and even when they were understood in a measure, the comprehension of them did not measure their full significance. In order to understand the sayings of our Lord, we should carefully and prayerfully contemplate the words of truth, not merely to reach that comprehension of them which the people of an earlier age might have had, but to reach a deeper significance; for if our minds are illuminated by the Spirit of God, more and more of the force and meaning attached to them by the Saviour himself will come to our hearts" (ST: April 6, 1891; par. 5). The disciples, however, did not remain ignorant as to the identity of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the early Church understood that the Holy Spirit was indeed Christ's Spirit and not a completely separate being of the Godhead (as the Apostate Church teaches and from which the Traditional and Orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity has come).
It is extremely interesting that when Jesus was right in the middle of His discourse on the Holy Spirit (in Jn. 16 & 17) Jesus stopped and said; "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" (Jn. 16:12). What were those "many more things"? Ellen White tells us quite clearly: "What was it that Jesus withheld because they could not comprehend it?--It was the more spiritual, glorious truths concerning the plan of redemption" (RH; October 14, 1890; par.4). Obviously, the truth about the Holy Spirit is part of the "more spiritual, glorious truths concerning the plan of redemption" for she goes on to tell us that: "Only the Holy Spirit could enable them to appreciate the significance of the plan of redemption" (Ibid). She also tells us that this is a truth that must be "searched for" through the inspired testimony of the disciples. It is not something that will be understood by those who are given to a "casual" understanding of the truths of God's Word. "The lessons of Christ, coming to the world through the inspired testimony of the disciples, have a significance and value far beyond that which the casual reader of the Scriptures gives them…. He spoke of the truths of the Bible as a treasure hid in a field….He represents the gems of truth, not as lying directly upon the surface, but as buried deep in the ground; as hidden treasures that must be searched for. We must dig for the precious jewels of truth, as a man would dig in a mine" (Ibid).
So let's "dig" into the disciples' testimony and see if we can't come to a knowledge of the truth concerning the Holy Spirit. As I said before, the disciples came to understand clearly that the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Christ."
Paul understood this:
Paul wrote a very emphatic statement about Jesus Christ (which is in complete harmony with the rest of the Bible) in 1 Timothy 2:5,6 where he writes: "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all..." Yet if we turn to the book of Romans we find Paul stating that there is someone else making intercession for us: "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26) . So which way is it Paul? Is there only one mediator ("intercessor") between God and men, or are there two? The simple truth is that there is only One, and Paul understood this perfectly.
Excepting the Apostle John, Paul most fully understood and explained that "the Spirit" who intercedes for us is "Christ's Spirit." We only have an "intercessor" or "mediator" in Christ Jesus if we have accepted Christ as our Savior and our Substitute - and if we have become His children. And Paul explains that if we have become His Children that Christ's Spirit actively acts in our behalf: "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal. 4:6) . Paul understood the workings of Christ's Spirit on His behalf and he had complete confidence in this: "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provisions of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19) . Paul understood that the person of Jesus Christ, in both His humanity and in His Spirit, are active in the process of our sanctification: "how much more will the <>blood of Christ [His humanity], who through the eternal Spirit [His Spirit self] offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the new covenant…" (Heb. 9:14,15) .
As the mediator of this "new covenant," and during the New Testament era (following Christ's death and resurrection), Christ had promised to put His Spirit inside us, enabling us to obey Him and walk in His commandments: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (Eze. 36:27). Paul understood all this! And Paul understood the importance - the necessity of the indwelling of Christ through His Spirit in our lives if we are to be victorious over our fleshly natures: "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God [remember that Christ is "God"] dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Rom. 8:9). This is also why Paul exhorts us to: "Keep examining yourselves to see whether you are continuing in the faith. Test yourselves! You know, do not you, that Jesus Christ lives in you? Could it be that you are failing the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5 [ISV]) .
Peter understood this:
Peter also understood that the Holy Spirit was Christ's Spirit. Peter tells us: "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet. 1:20,21). Peter makes it very plain that no prophecy contained in God's Word was spoken without the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Who is that Holy Spirit? Peter tells us: "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" (1 Pet. 1:10,11). In other words the prophets who prophesied and predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow, did so through the inspiration of "the Spirit of Christ" which was "within them." Peter understood that the "Holy Spirit" is the "Spirit of Christ," and not some "other" person apart from Christ.
John understood this:
John had an intimate understanding of the person of Jesus Christ and of His Holy Spirit that surpassed that of many of his contemporaries. John wrote more comprehensively on this subject than any of the other Apostles. Because John recognized the importance of Christ's words concerning His Holy Spirit, he recorded the teachings of Christ on this subject in greater detail than did any of the other Apostles. John realized the significance of the sacrifice Christ has made in order to give us "His Spirit." And this is probably the reason Jesus chose John as the one through whom He spoke most intimately regarding the Holy Spirit and why John would be the one through whom Christ would give the "Revelation." It is also the reason why John ascribes the personal pronoun of "He" and "Him" to the Holy Spirit. John knew that the Holy Spirit is a person, and that the person of the Holy Spirit is "part and parcel" of the person of Jesus Christ. Here is the reason why we know that John understood the Holy Spirit to be part of the person of Jesus Christ.
Technically the Greek noun "pneuma," translated as "Spirit," is neuter - meaning that it does not have a gender (masculine or feminine) ascribed to it. Technically, the pronoun used with a noun, must always agree with the noun to which it refers [See - Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, ed., The Language of the New Testament, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965), pp.33,34]. Hence, the noun "Spirit" ought always take a neuter pronoun such as "it." Consequently, any discussion about the "Spirit" ought (technically) be done without the use of the personal pronoun of "He" or "Him." But John knew that the "Spirit" is not just an "impersonal power" (i.e. "the power of the flame" Isa. 47:14), and that the Holy Spirit is inseparably linked to the person of Christ and should rightfully be addressed as "He." John is the only writer who consistently uses the masculine pronoun "He" when he speaks of the Holy Spirit precisely for this reason.
More Textual Criticism concerning the "Helper" of John 14:16-18 and "His" identity as Jesus Christ:
The word "another" is translated from the Greek word "allos" which means: "Another, numerically but of the same kind in contrast to héteros (G2087), another qualitatively, other, different one" [The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. (ed.), et al. (Chattanooga, TN, AMG International, Inc., 1993). Emphasis mine]. In other words, this "other Helper" is "another" numerically, but qualitatively He is of the same kind (character/nature) as Christ. Or, to put it another way, the "helper" that the Father would send would not be a different one than Christ.
While Jesus is the one who spoke the words recorded in John 14:16-18; it was John who chose which Greek words to use when he recorded them. The prudence of John in choosing this particular Greek word to describe what Christ had said, evidentially demonstrates an understanding of what Christ really meant that, unfortunately, has eluded most of us.
Jesus tells us in John 14:26 that this "helper" would be sent by the Father "in My name." "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." Those words, "in My name," are extremely significant. "It is through the name of Jesus that every favor is received" (MB: p. 133, par. 1). Anything that is truly done "in His name," is intrinsically linked to Him. Something done in His name is to be accepted as being done by Him. Note these texts:
Mat 18:5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me"
Mat 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
Mar 9:37 "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."
Mar 9:39 But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
Luk 9:48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me" .
Mar 16:17,18 "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." .
Jn. 14:13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." .
Jn. 14:14 "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." .
Jn. 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." .
Jn. 16:24 "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." .
Jn. 16:26,27 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. .
Jn. 16:23 "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you." He (the Father) will give it to you because you are "in Christ" and your petition is considered as Christ's petition (so long as it is in harmony with the will of God). .
Someone sent in the "His name" is to be accepted as His representative. But, in the case of the "Holy Spirit" it reflects a much deeper meaning than that. The Holy Spirit is much more than Christ's "representative" - He is Christ Himself, in "Spirit" form. Mrs. White tells us that the words of Christ, especially those recorded by John in the 16th and 17th chapters of his Gospel, carry a significance for us that we have <>not realized - a significance that our enemy (Satan) understands much more clearly than we do and is not willing to have us grasp.
"The salvation of human beings is a vast enterprise, that calls into action every attribute of the divine nature…. The Lord is gracious and long-suffering, not willing that any should perish. He has provided power to enable us to be overcomers. How full of comfort and love are the words of Christ to his disciples just before his trial and crucifixion. He was about to leave them, but he did not want them to think that they were to be left helpless orphans. "I go my way to him that sent me," he said, "and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 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 show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."
Then comes the wonderful prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John,--a prayer that means much more to us than we realize. Let us receive it into the treasure-house of the soul, and make it the daily lesson of our lives:--
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me; be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
Satan understands this prayer better than do the members of churches and the heads of families. He does not want the people of God to understand it, lest they should see the advantage God has bestowed on them, and know the day of their visitation. He would keep them in discord and strife over little misunderstandings and little differences, which, dwelt upon, grow into variance and hatred. He knows that if he can keep them thus, they will present before the world a showing exactly the opposite of that which God desires them to present.
I urge our people to cease their criticism and evil speaking, and go to God in earnest prayer, asking him to help them to help the erring. Let them link up with one another and with Christ. Let them study the seventeenth of John, and learn how to pray and how to live the prayer of Christ. He is the Comforter. He will abide in their hearts, making their joy full. His words will be to them as the bread of life, and in the strength thus gained they will be enabled to develop characters that will be an honor to God…. Perfect oneness,--a union as close as the union existing between the Father and the Son,--this is what will give success to the efforts of God's workers…. It is this union that convinces the world that God has indeed sent his Son to save sinners. Christ gives to his true disciples the glory of his character, that his prayer may be answered. Through the impartation of his Spirit, he appears in their lives" (RH: January 27, 1903; par. 9-13,15).
The Apostle John realized that Jesus Christ is the only One "sent" by the Father (for our Salvation) -- notice how many times John records this fact (Jn. 3:34; 4:34; 5:23,24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,44,57; 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44,45,49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21 & 1 Jn. 4:9,10,14). The other Apostles realized this also, as did the early Church, but John really seems to have "honed" in on this fact (and for an important reason). Matthew records this fact only once (Mat. 10:40) as does Mark (Mk. 9:37). Luke records it only five times (Lk. 4:18,43; 9:48; 10:16 and Acts 3:26). Paul refers to Jesus being "sent" twice (Gal. 4:4,6). John records this fact at least 43 times! John seems to have recognized a significance in Jesus words regarding His being "sent." Thirty-nine (39) out of those 43 John is recording the words of Jesus (Jesus was obviously stressing this point over and over again in order to get it through our heads that He is the only One "sent" by the Father for the Salvation of mankind - there is Salvation in none other).
John realized that when Christ said that the Father would send "another Helper" He was not referring to someone other than Himself (Christ). We know this from our earlier study of 1 John 5:6-8 where John showed us that the water and the blood and the spirit were all references to Christ. There is no contradiction indicated in these statements when applied to the premises of this book. But so that we are absolutely clear on this let's review a few facts.
Regarding the Holy Spirit, we have absolutely no evidence that the He existed as a separate individual member of the Godhead (apart from Christ) prior to the Creation [I suppose that it would be more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit did exist prior to the Creation but that He existed as the 'Word' (Jesus Christ in His Divine Totality) when He was 'with God' and 'was God' before Jesus was 'Brought Forth' as the mediator between God and His Creations]. In fact, we have a great deal of evidence that there were not three members of the Original Godhead. We cannot simply ignore this fact. And I don't believe that we can simply explain it away as something that has not been revealed to us -- "…for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known" (Mat. 10:26). There are simply too many quotes (Bible and SOP) which indicate that there are actually only two persons of the original Godhead, and that these two created and implemented the plan of Salvation. This plan required a tremendous sacrifice on the part of both the Father and the Son. Established before the creation of the World, this plan required a separation of the Son from the Father, which resulted in, or created, three members of the Godhead. Explaining the "when" and "how" and, especially the "why" of the Holy Spirit becoming the third member of the Godhead has been the whole purpose of this study.
An understanding of Christ's sacrifice is vital for our Salvation. And an understanding of "What" Christ has actually done is absolutely crucial for those of us "upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11). Understanding that He has actually given His Holy Spirit to us in order that we may truly be victorious over Sin and the Devil and in order that we may actually become partakers of the His Divine Nature is critical for those who would receive the Latter Rain. We'll see why this is so crucial in study #11.
Before we look at the "Helper" of John 14:16 under the other descriptive titles He is referred to (e.g. "the Spirit of Truth" and "The Comforter"), we should probably look at some of the SOP quotes that are used by those who believe that the Holy Spirit is someone other than Christ. That way, when we have finished examining these seemingly definitive quotes on the nature of the Holy Spirit, we can move on to the most beautiful truths concerning the Holy Spirit.
Ellen White and the "Third" person of the Godhead:
Ellen White recorded several quotes that indicate that the Holy Spirit is a person, that He has a personality, and that He is the Third member of the Godhead. Many people use these quotes to prove that the Holy Spirit must be someone other than Christ. Here is a listing of the most pertinent quotes used by those who insist that the Holy Spirit is not Christ:
"Evil had been accumulating for centuries and could only be restrained and resisted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 392).
"Keep yourselves where the three great powers of heaven - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - can be your efficiency. These powers work with the one who gives himself unreservedly to God. The strength of heaven is at the command of God's believing ones. The man who makes God his trust is barricaded by an impregnable wall." (In Heavenly Places, p. 176).
"There are three living persons of the heavenly trio." (Evangelism, p. 615).
"We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds. 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. 'For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.'" (Evangelism, pp. 616, 617).
"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, that the Lord God is our keeper, and helper. He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind." (Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, p. 299).
"The Holy Spirit is a person; for He beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. . . At such times we believe and are sure that we are the children of God. . . 'We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in God, and God in him.'" (Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, pp. 68,69).
"For ages prayers had been offered for the fulfillment of God's promise to impart His Spirit, . . . . 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 divine Spirit, that converting, enlightening, and sanctifying powr, would be His donation. . . . It came with a fullness and power, as if for ages it had been restrained but was now being poured forth upon the church . . . ." (My Life Today, p. 36).
"We need to realize that the Holy Spirit . . . is as much a person as God is a person. . . .The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency….The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Jesus] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, 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. The Holy Spirit is an effective helper in restoring the image of God in the human soul." (The Faith I Live By, p. 52).
I have absolutely no quarrels with these statements. In fact, I agree with them wholeheartedly! There are, however, a few mistakes that are often made by Adventists when it comes to Ellen White's writings. First, we have assumed that she understood everything there is to know about the subjects she was inspired to write about. This is simply not the case. We readily admit that the Bible writers didn't always understand everything they were inspired to record. Daniel certainly didn't understand everything he recorded: "As for me, I heard but could not understand" (Dan. 12:8). Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and even the Apostle John certainly did not understand everything they recorded. Peter, speaking in Acts 2:16-18, told those gathered in Jerusalem that what they were witnessing on the day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 regarding the outpouring of God's "Spirit." But we know that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was only a partial fulfillment (the "Early Rain") of what Christ intends to do in the "last days" when He will pour out His Spirit in Full measure (the "Latter Rain" ). Peter did not understand all that was involved concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Why then do we insist that it was any different for Ellen White? She certainly admitted that she was not "all-knowing" and that there were many things yet to be revealed. In fact, when it came to the subject of the Holy Spirit, she made it clear that "the nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery not clearly revealed" and she clearly stated: "there are many mysteries which I do not seek to understand or to explain, they are too high for me…" (MS #1107 [MR vol. 14, p. 179]. This statement is made in direct reference to the Holy Spirit).
The second error many of us have made is one of neglect. We have neglected to compile all of her writings on a particular subject before we have drawn our conclusions about what God was revealing through her. When people do this with the Bible we become very alarmed. Yet we often do this with Ellen's writings. Why?
Third, we forget that the revelation of "Truth" is progressive and that some truths will only be brought into the "light" when God deems the time to be right. Ellen White was human and made human errors even during the many years that she received special revelations from the Lord. "In the vision given me June 12, 1868, I was shown the danger of the people of God in looking to Brother and Sister White, and thinking that they must come to them with their burdens, and seek counsel of them. This ought not so to be. They are invited by their compassionate, loving Saviour, to come unto Him, when weary and heavy laden, and He will relieve them. . . Brother and Sister White are striving for purity of life, striving to bring forth fruit unto holiness; yet they are only erring mortals…We utterly refuse to be conscience for you" (2T: p. 118 (119), par. 3). If you will read the 1st volume of the Testimonies you will see that Ellen rather severely rebuked a man and a woman who had rediscovered the truth about "unclean" meats: "If God requires His people to abstain from swine's flesh, He will convict them on the matter…If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine's flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty" (p. 207). This statement was written on October 21, 1858; five years before the great health reform vision of 1863. Yet it was written during a time when Ellen was receiving other important instruction from the Lord and was under His "inspiration."
This illustrates the fact that just because a prophet makes a statement at one moment it either may not be directly from God or it may indicate that God had not yet purposed that a particular truth be brought to the forefront. In either case, the prophets understanding of the subject would not be entirely correct. "The disciples themselves yet cherished a regard for the ceremonial law, and were too willing to make concessions, hoping by so doing to gain the confidence of their countrymen, remove their prejudice, and win them to faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer. . . . Though some of these men wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, yet when not under its direct influence they sometimes erred. It will be remembered that on one occasion Paul withstood Peter to the face because he was acting a double part" (Sketches from the Life of Paul; p. 213, par. 2). This really should not bother us at all. Indeed, I find it comforting to realize that God uses erring human beings to shed forth His Truth - it gives me confidence and hope that He can use someone as erring as myself in His great work! When the time is right, God will reveal His truths.
We also often ignore the fact that inspired writers often recorded more than they themselves were aware, concerning the things they wrote about. Sister White tells us: "Mysteries into which angels desire to look, which prophets and kings and righteous men desired to understand, the remnant church will carry in messages from God to the world. The prophets prophesied of these things, and they longed to understand that which they foretold; but to them this privilege was not given" (6T p. 19, par. 4). Mrs. White understood this principle. The Biblical prophets understood this. Why don't we?
So let's look at more than just a few, carefully selected quotes, of Ellen's statements regarding the Holy Spirit before we draw our conclusions about His nature. I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much God actually revealed about the nature of the Holy Spirit through Ellen - even though she felt that it had not been "clearly revealed" and was "too high" for her.
"The doctrine of the incarnation of Christ in human flesh is a mystery, "even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations." It is the great and profound mystery of godliness. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." Christ took upon himself human nature, a nature inferior to his heavenly nature. Nothing so shows the wonderful condescension of God as this. He "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." John presents this wonderful subject with such simplicity that all may grasp the ideas set forth, and be enlightened" (RH April 5, 1906; par. 3).
The Holy Spirit IS Christ (is "Christ's Spirit"):
We can use the Bible alone to show that the "Spirit" is Christ's Spirit. In Proverbs 8 we see that it is "Wisdom" that was "brought forth." We know that this refers to Christ and can refer to no one else. So "Wisdom" is Christ. Then we find references to the "Spirit of Wisdom" (see Isa. 11:2; Acts 6:3 and Eph. 1:17). If "Wisdom" is Christ, then the "Spirit of Wisdom" must be the "Spirit of Christ." This same truth is expressed in the Holy Spirit's title of the "Spirit of Truth." Christ said: "I am…the Truth." So if the Christ is the Truth, then the "Spirit of Truth" must be the "Spirit of Christ."
In John 14:16-17, Jesus referred to the other "Helper" as "the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but [Christ told his disciples] you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you" (John 14:17). If you believe the Spirit of Prophecy (and I hope you do), there can be no doubt that this "other Helper" - the "Spirit of Truth" - is, in fact, Jesus Christ (Christ's Holy Spirit).
"Christ was the spirit of truth. The world will not listen to His pleadings. They would not accept Him as their guide. They could not discern unseen things; spiritual things were unknown to them. But His disciples see in Him the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And they shall have His abiding presence. They shall have an experimental knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. To them He says: You will no more say, I cannot comprehend. No longer shall you see through a glass darkly; you shall comprehend with all saints what is the length and depth and breadth and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. The honor of God, the honor of Jesus Christ, is involved in the perfection of your character. Your work is to co-operate with Christ, that you may be complete in Him. In being united to Him by faith, believing and receiving Him, you become a part of Himself. Your character is His glory revealed in you. And when you shall appear in His presence, you will find the benediction awaiting you, 'Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things: I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord'" (Southern Watchman; October 25, 1898; par. 2).
"There are many things that we ought to be able to understand, that we do not comprehend because we are so far behind our privileges. Christ said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." This is our condition. Would they not have been able to understand what he had to say to them, if they had been doers of his word--if they had improved point after point of the truth which he had presented to them? But although they could not then understand, he told them that he would send the Comforter, who would lead them into all truth. We should be in a position where we can comprehend the teaching, leading, and working of the Spirit of Christ. We must not measure God or his truth by our finite understanding, or by our preconceived opinions….Is Christ abiding in your hearts by faith? Is his Spirit in you? If it is, there will be such a yearning in your soul for the salvation of those for whom Christ has died, that self will sink into insignificance, and Christ alone will be exalted. Brethren and sisters, there is great need at this time of humbling ourselves before God, that the Holy Spirit may come upon us" (RH: October 8, 1889; par. 2) .
Jesus not only described the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Truth," but also as the "Comforter" ("Helper" and "Comforter" are used synonymously and come from the same Greek word): "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (Jn. 14:26 KJV. See also: Jn. 15:26 & 16:7) . Jesus is our comforter: "I, even I, am He who comforts you" (Isa. 51:12). The Spirit of Prophecy leaves us no doubt as to the identity of the "Comforter."
"As by faith we look to Jesus, our faith pierces the shadow, and we adore God for His wondrous love in giving Jesus the Comforter." (MS #1405 [MR: vol. 19, pp. 297,298]).
"The Saviour is our comforter. This I have proved Him to be." (MS #548 [MR: vol. 8, p. 49]).
"Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and that the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, "the Spirit of truth, which the Father will send in my name….This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter." (MS #1107 [MR: vol. 14, p. 179]).
"Let them be thankful to God for His manifold mercies and be kind to one another. They have one God and one Saviour; and one Spirit - the Spirit of Christ…" (9T p. 189, par. 3).
"The reason why the churches are weak and sickly and ready to die, is that the enemy has brought influences of a discouraging nature to bear upon trembling souls. He has sought to shut Jesus from their view as the Comforter, as one who reproves, who warns, who admonishes them, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Christ has all power in heaven and in earth, and he can strengthen the wavering, and set right the erring." (RH August 26, 1890; par. 10).
"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….they must act with His Spirit; that it may be no more they that live, but Christ that liveth in them. Jesus is seeking to impress upon them the thought that in giving His Holy Spirit He is giving to them the glory which the Father hath given Him, that He and His people may be one in God." (MS #99 [MR: vol. 2, pp. 36,37]).
"Let them study the seventeenth of John, and learn how to pray and how to live the prayer of Christ. He is the Comforter." (RH January 27, 1903; par. 13).
Jesus said that He would not leave us "comfortless" and said: "I will come to you" (John 14:18). Jesus also said "where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" (Mat. 18:20). He assured us; "lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Mat. 28:20 KJV). How is Jesus to "come" to us? How is He "in our midst"? How can He be with us "to the end of the world"? He tells us how in John 14:16 where He says that the "comforter/helper" would "abide with you forever." Jesus, in His humanity cannot be in all places at all times - He cannot "abide" with everyone, everywhere, "forever." "Cumbered with humanity Christ could not be in every place personally, therefore it was altogether for their advantage that He should leave them to go to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth" (MS #1084 [MR: vol. 14, p. 23]). "The Son of God, now at the Father's right hand, still pleads as man's intercessor. He still retains His human nature, is still the Saviour of mankind" (ST: July 15, 1908; par. 7). In the person of His "Holy Spirit" form, Christ could be in all places at all times and "abide with us forever." "While Jesus, our Intercessor, pleads for us in heaven, the Holy Spirit works in us, to will and do of His good pleasure" (MS #99 [MR: vol. 2, p. 37]). "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,--the soul of his life, the efficacy of his church, the light and life of the world. With his Spirit Christ sends a reconciling influence and a power that takes away sin. In the gift of the Spirit, Jesus gave to man the highest good that heaven could bestow" (RH May 19, 1904; par. 1,2).
When Christ said "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you," it is readily apparent that He was speaking of Himself as the "Comforter," the Spirit of Truth that will "abide with you forever." Jesus was speaking of His Spirit - "the soul of his life" which He has given to us. "John calls upon the world to 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.' It is a love that passeth knowledge. In the fullness of the sacrifice nothing was withheld. Jesus gave himself" (The Paulson Collection; p. 339, par. 3).
The inspired Apostles understood and taught that the Holy Spirit is Christ's Spirit: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2Cor. 3:17) - And that, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." (Rom. 8:9). They taught that it is only through our acceptance of Christ (expressed in our baptism) that His Spirit is given to us: "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). The Bible states that Christ is "He who comforts you." (Isa. 51:12). And Ellen White has clearly demonstrated that the "Comforter" -- the Spirit of Truth -- the Holy Spirit, is none other than Christ: "Christ was the spirit of truth" (Southern Watchman; October 25, 1898; par. 2). "He is the Comforter" (RH January 27, 1903; par. 13). She even tells us that the Holy Spirit is "the soul of His life" (RH: May 19, 1904; par. 1) which has been given to us that we may become a "partaker of the [His] divine nature" (Ibid, par. 3). This really ought to be argument enough to establish this fact - but apparently it isn't, for we continue to deny this Truth! So, let's dig a little deeper.