THE DIVINE AGENT OF THE GODHEADby: Elder Lawrence Nelson
We have been warned that every wind of doctrine would be blowing within the Seventh-day Adventist church as the end draws near. I have been amazed at the large number of letters addressed to me in the past six months questioning the doctrines of God's true church. Seldom a week goes by but that some misguided soul sends me articles, pamphlets and sometimes large books stating that there is no such doctrine as a Trinity and that such a belief has been taken from the teachings of the papacy.
There is no doubt in my mind that when Christ predicted in Mark 13:22 that "false prophets shall rise,…to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect," that this is certainly taking place today. I believe it's time to re-examine this pillar of truth and settle this issue once and for all. A belief in the Holy Spirit is essential to our salvation and we should become intimately acquainted with Him.
As we approach this most important subject let us first seek the counsel of our mighty God. Let us pray. Our Loving Father, as we investigate the greatest mystery of heaven, open to us from Your Holy Word and the writings of Thy last-day prophet the revealed truth regarding the personality of the Godhead. May such truth be so clearly understood that it will remain forever in our minds as the foundation of our faith and make possible our total surrender to the divine agent of the Godhead, that we may be sealed in the likeness of Christ, ready for heaven. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
As we begin, let us keep in mind the excellent counsel given to us by the servant of the Lord. "The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden." Acts of the Apostles p. 52.
With such admonition, I'm sure we will feel the same as G. B. Thompson, who stated in his book The Ministry of the Spirit, p. 63, "I am aware that I should tread softly here. I am dealing with One whose nature is a mystery; where no fanciful views or human construction of scripture should be given. I have no desire, nor do I deem it wise or profitable, to seek to define or analyze the personality of either the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit. When it comes to definitions here silence is indeed golden. The Godhead is incomprehensible."
However, in the revealed Word of God we find names applied to the Holy Spirit that can only mean that the Holy Spirit is a person. There is also recorded definite acts which are attributed to Him which only God could do. The Holy Spirit Himself, through Ellen White, revealed Himself as "the Third Person of the Godhead." Testimonies to Ministers p. 392. With such a background of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, Seventh-day Adventists feel warranted in attributing both deity and personality to the Holy Spirit.
Opening our Bible to Acts 5:3, 4 it says, "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?…Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." From this then we can be safe in saying that the names "God" and "the Holy Spirit" or "the Holy Ghost" are the same and may be used interchangeably. The Holy Spirit is God, that is, one of the three that compose the Godhead, as we shall discover.
Compare these two passages of scripture. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16. But in 1 Corinthians 6:19 this temple is called the temple of the Holy Ghost. Listen, "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
Then in different portions of scripture we find three divine beings spoken of as being together but also distinguished as three separate beings. Notice in this first passage that the article "the" is used in describing each. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 28:19.
Now let us examine the experience of Jesus when He was baptized as recorded in Matthew 3:16. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." We also read in Luke 3:22, "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice (that is God's voice, "the Father") came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."
Another passage we are well acquainted with reads, "I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." John 14:16. These verses clearly teach of three separate Beings of the Godhead. Even in the Old Testament we find there too, a Trinity, in that three separate "Lords" are mentioned together. Numbers 6:27 says, "They shall put my name upon the children of Israel," and this verse is proceeded with the expansion, "The Lord", "The Lord", "The Lord" not four times, nor two, but three. We read in verses 24-26, "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." We may therefore conclude that the Holy Spirit is separate from God the Father, and Christ the Son. However by this I do not wish to convey the idea that I believe in three separate "Gods"; for while there are three beings, yet these three are so perfectly united that they form one God.
Now I can hear you say, "Brother Nelson, how is this possible?" - To this I may say, "It is one of the most difficult of Christian doctrines to explain and understand." Let me quote what Floyd E. Hamilton says, "The definition given of this doctrine in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is as good a definition as any. 'There are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost – and these three are one God; the same in substance, the same in power and glory.' What is meant by this definition is that the Christian God is one God, not three gods, but that in this single Godhead there are three equal persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit."
There are other factors which prove the Holy Spirit to be divine aside from being called "God" and one of the three. Notice in the following that the Holy Spirit has divine attributes:
1. He is the Truth. John 16:13 says, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
2. The Holy Spirit can love. Romans 15:30 tells us, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me."
3. The Holy Spirit has holiness. Ephesians 4:30 says, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
4. The Holy Spirit is eternal. Hebrews 9:14 reads, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God."
5. He is omnipresent. Psalm 139:7 tells us, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?"
6. He is omniscience. 1 Corinthians 2:10 says, "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
7. He is omnipotent. In 1 Corinthians 12:11 we read, "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
The Holy Spirit also performs the works of God.
1. He had a part in creation. Job 26:13 tells us, "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent." And in Job 33:4 it says, "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life."
2. The Holy Spirit is able to cast out demons. In Matthew 12:28 we read, "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you."
3. He does the work of regeneration. John 3:8 says, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." And in Titus 3:5 we read, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
4. He does the works of Providence. Psalm 104:30 tells us, "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth."
5. He has a part in the resurrection. Romans 8:11 reads, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
Now with all of these thoughts well in mind let us now turn to a few well pointed quotations from the pen of inspiration, the Spirit of Prophecy. In the first we shall find the heavenly Trio explained. "The Father is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fulness 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 Saviour.
(Now, notice how she explains these Three together.)"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." Testimonies Series B #7 p. 62,63. "In the great closing work we shall meet with perplexities that we know not how to deal with; but let us not forget that the three great powers of heaven are working,…and that God will bring His promises to pass." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, p. 254.
"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. "Christ gave His representative, the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit." Christ Triumphant 301, manuscript 44, 1898. "The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave Themselves to the working out the plan of redemption." Counsels on Health p. 222. "Christ made baptism the entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Bible Commentary, Volume 6, p. 1075.
"We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds." Evangelism p. 616. "We are to cooperate with the three highest powers in heaven,-- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Special Testimonies Series B, #7, 51. "The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit." Special Testimonies, Series A, #10, 37.
"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." Evangelism p. 615. Out of these nine quotations anyone who professes to believe in the Spirit of Prophecy must be convinced that the Holy Spirit is a member of the Godhead. To reject this plain teaching of the Spirit of Prophecy is to separate yourself from God's remnant.
There are some who admit that the Holy Spirit is a member of the Godhead but they will not accept Him as an actual being, but rather believe the Holy Spirit to be some "essence" or "influence." To such, consider the following: If we think of the Holy Spirit only as an impersonal "power" or "influence," then our thought will continually be, "How can I get a hold of and use the Holy Spirit?" But if we think of Him in the Biblical way, as a Divine Person, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely tender, then our thoughts will constantly be, "How can the Holy Spirit get a hold of and use me?" "Is there no difference between the thought of the worm using God to thrash the mountain or God using the worm to thrash the mountain?" The Christian Layman – The Fundamentals 55.
Now let us examine closely the following passages from scripture. "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." John 14:26. Further we read, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." John 15:26. "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." John 16:7.
From these texts we get some important facts. From the first two passages we notice that the Spirit is capable of being sent by both the Father and the Son and in the latter we find that Christ will send the Holy Spirit - Christ being at that time on the earth and the Holy Spirit being in heaven. The conclusion then could be that the Spirit is capable of going and coming; of being sent and staying away. Now, would this be true of an "influence" or an "essence"? I'm afraid not. An "influence" cannot be sent.
There are two places in the Greek that bring out added thoughts showing that the nature of the Holy Spirit as a personal Being. In John 14:16 we find an excellent example. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." In the Greek we find that there are two words that bear the meaning of "another." One is spelled "mtepos" meaning "another of a different kind" and "allov" meaning "another of a similar kind." How fitting that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit John used the latter "allov" which shows definitely that Christ, when He spoke of the Spirit to come, declares that the Spirit is "another of a similar kind." In other words, another God - similar to Christ.
In other places the Holy Spirit is also given other terms. For example, the Spirit is likened unto the wind. (See John 3:1-10). But I believe that with the other "proofs" one will readily agree that this has reference to the nature of His work. In other words, how He would go about doing it. True, we know that there is a wind, but has anybody seen it? We only behold that which it accomplishes. I believe that it is true, beholding the nature of His work, that the real evidence of a personality is revealed.
Let us also consider a few of His names used in the scripture that revealed Him to be a person. He is called "a Comforter" (John 14:18), "the eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14), "the holy spirit" (Psalm 51:11) , "the free spirit" (Psalm 51:12), "the good spirit" (Nehemiah 9:20).
He is also capable of personal acts such as He searches the heart (Romans 8:27), He makes intercession for us (Romans 8:27), He selected individuals (Acts 13:2), He forbade (Acts 16:6,7), He guides (John 16:13), He speaks (John 16:13), He loves (Romans 15:30), and He witnesses (Acts 20:23).
And notice that the Holy Spirit has in His possession an intelligence (Nehemiah 9:20), a knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), and a mind (Romans 8:27). He can love (Romans 15:30), He can hold communion (2 Corinthians 15:13), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and the Holy Spirit can be insulted and lied to (Hebrews 10:29; Acts 5:9; and Acts 5:3,4).
The Holy Spirit is Christ's representative but divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. Cumbered with humanity Christ could not be in every place personally. Therefore, it was for their interest that He should go to the Father and send the Spirit to be His successor on earth. No one could then have any advantage because of his location or his personal contact with Christ.
"By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all. In this sense He would be nearer to them than if He had not ascended on high." Desire of Ages p. 669. True, this does prove why Christ sent the Holy Spirit to us who are fallen and need help, but it does not prove the theory of an "influence." It is through the Holy Spirit and the angels that this is done. Note the following: Hebrews 1:13,14 says, "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" In Psalm 34:7 we read, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." We see in these passages that God the Holy Ghost, uses His angels in being "all present."
Note the following: "The Bible shows us God in His high and holy place, not in a state of inactivity, not in silence and solitude, but surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of holy beings, all waiting to do His will. Through these messengers He is in active communication with every part of His dominion. By His Spirit He is everywhere present. Through the agency of His Spirit and His angels He ministers to the children of men." Ministry of Healing p. 417.
Herein then, we may explain the great work done on Pentecost by the Holy Spirit; He used the angels. "Under the Holy Spirit's guidance, thousands were converted in a day (that's Pentecost). When the truth in its simplicity is lived in every place, then God will work through His angels as He worked on the day of Pentecost." Special Testimonies, Series B, # 7, p. 63.
Thus we can now catch a vision of the high and exalted position of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who is in charge of the entire force of the angelic hosts as they do His bidding in hastening the return of Christ. Beloved, what a lofty position the Holy Spirit holds. We read further that He is the representative of the Captain of the Lord's hosts. Speaking of His laborers we read, "They are to contend with supernatural forces, but they are assured of supernatural help." Desire of Ages p. 352. Praise God! All the intelligences of heaven are in this army! And more than angels are in the ranks. The Holy Spirit, the representative of the Captain of the Lord's hosts, comes down to direct the battle. "Our infirmities may be many, our sins and mistakes grievous; but the grace of God is for all who seek it with contrition. The power of Omnipotence is enlisted in behalf of those who trust in God." Desire of Ages p. 352. What a promise!
Note the following: "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 (are you listening? It says, 'in the fullness of'…) divine power. Another spirit must be met; for the essence of evil was working in all ways, and the submission of man to this satanic captivity was amazing." Testimonies to Ministers p. 392.
Now let us study the phrase, "another spirit must be met." Here we have the picture of Satan, the captain of the hosts of evil, in conflict with the mighty Holy Spirit and with the hosts of unfallen angels. What a battle! It brings us again to the familiar text, "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." Revelation 12:7. But the war has not ceased; it is now become a real spiritual battle today. Instead of Christ as the leader, now His representative, the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the Godhead) is now in charge, fighting for us against the powers of darkness. O beloved, why then do we not as Adventists seek a greater need of having the Holy Spirit with us today?
"Their warfare is not to be waged against flesh and blood, but 'against principalities,…against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.' Ephesians 6:12 R.V. They are to contend with supernatural forces, but they are assured of supernatural help. All the intelligences of heaven are in this army. And more than angels are in the ranks. The Holy Spirit, the representative of the Captain of the Lord's host, comes down to direct the battle. Our infirmities may be many, our sins and mistakes grievous; but the grace of God is for all who seek it with contrition. The power of Omnipotence is enlisted in behalf of those who trust in God." Desire of Ages p. 352.
The scripture tells us to be full of the Spirit, but how is this to be accomplished? The answer: By faith. Compare the following: The scripture says of Christ, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." John 15:5. But now the question: Does Christ abide in you personally? - He does not, for we plainly know that the Word teaches us that Christ is now in heaven in the heavenly sanctuary. How then, you ask, does Christ dwell in us? - The answer is: By faith. Both Christ and His representative, the Holy Spirit, dwell in the heart by faith.
"Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. (Now notice: It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us)…And the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of life eternal." Desire of Ages p. 388. Again we read in this book how the union is formed. "By faith in Him as a personal Saviour the union is formed. The sinner unites his weakness to Christ's strength, his emptiness to Christ's fullness, his frailty to Christ's enduring might. Then he has the mind of Christ. The humanity of Christ has touched our humanity, and our humanity has touched divinity. Thus through the agency of the Holy Spirit man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is accepted in the Beloved." Desire of Ages p. 675.
So friend, through faith, we give Christ and the Holy Spirit our wills and we become possessed with a good spirit. Our minds become quickened. The conscience becomes active and clear. Our faith deepens. We learn to commune with God. We are in constant touch with Him. We become so closely united with Him that our actions are prompted by His will. By faith we abide in Him. It was thus that Enoch walked with God daily reflecting more and more of God's image. We too, may walk with God until it is said of us that we are one with God. "As you empty the heart of self, you must accept the righteousness of Christ….If you open the door of the heart, Jesus will supply the vacuum by the gift of His Spirit." Review and Herald, February 23, 1892.
Let us then pray God for power from on high to be released from the wiles of Satan and to allow the Holy Spirit and His angels to direct our lives. And praise God, dear beloved, they can do even more for us. I quote from Prophets and Kings p. 591, "While Satan has been urging his accusations, holy angels, unseen, have been passing to and fro, placing upon the faithful ones the seal of the living God." What a revelation! Does this not help us to understand how the Holy Spirit works?
Soon, very soon, we shall be given the final test with a universal Sunday Law. Each of us will have to give a personal answer but in John 14:26 it states that the Holy Spirit, "shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." But this too is the work of angels. I am quoting: "Angels are round about those who are willing to be taught in divine things; and in the time of great necessity they will bring to their remembrance the very truths which are needed. Thus 'when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against them.' Isaiah 59:19." Great Controversy p. 599.
Don't you want to join me in praising God for such a divine plan of help - a plan that never fails? Let us remember, "Under God the angels are all powerful." Desire of Ages p. 700. What a gift God the Father has bestowed on mankind! What help He extends to lost souls who desire to live the better life. I believe that next to God's great gift, the Son, the next greatest gift to us has been the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead. He is directing, in person, the myriad's of angels who only wait our call for divine aid to overcome every sin so we may be sealed, ready to meet Jesus when He comes.
Let us pray. Thank you, dear God, our Father, for the precious gift of Jesus and Thy Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead; who with His angels is able to prepare us for the soon coming of Thy Son. With praise and gratitude we pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.