Digging Deeper Yet
The Adventist Review for July 1, 2018 features a collection of five essays defending what has become since 1980 the official teaching of the church on the personality of God. The writers—an associate editor of the Review, an ex-Father-Son believer, a repentant Father-Son believer now a professor at Andrews, a retired director of the BRI, and a Healthcare executive—all voice their concerns, express their convictions, and acknowledge their uncertainties regarding the incomprehensible mystery of the one triune God.
It is lamentable that with so many differing authors, so much was left unsaid in this Pentagon of perspectives. And because there is so much more to consider, in this installment we will examine the first two essays. For those who might desire an additional view from Scripture and Inspiration, we offer the following.
The “So What?” piece, subtitled “3 + 1 is not bad math,” attempts to demonstrate that all “three members” were involved in creation. Genesis states that God created, the Spirit/breath of God moved, God said, and the Lord God formed man. Scripture also informs us that “by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” Psalm 33:6; “God who created all things by Jesus Christ” Ephesians 3:9; “His Son by whom also He made the worlds” Hebrews 1:2; “the word was with God…all things were made by him” John 1:1,3; “one God the Father of whom are all things…and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things” 1Corinthians 8:6; “his dear Son…For by him were all things created” Colossians 1:13,16.
The testimony of Jesus continues. “The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings.” Patriarchs and Prophets p. 34.2; 36.2; “In the beginning the Father and the Son had rested upon the Sabbath after Their work of creation.” Desire of Ages p. 769.2; “Especially was his Son to work in union with himself in the anticipated creation of the earth and every living thing that should exist upon the earth.” Spirit of Prophecy vol. 1 p. 17.2; “After the earth was created, and the beasts upon it, the Father and Son carried out their purpose, which was designed before the fall of Satan, to make man in their own image.” Ibid p. 24.2; “The Son of God was in the form of God, and he thought it not robbery to be equal with God… He had united with the Father in the creation of man...” 2SP 10.2; “Before the fall of Satan, the Father consulted his Son in regard to the formation of man.” Spiritual Gifts vol. 3 p. 36.1.
Jesus said, “God is a spirit” John 4:24. His Spirit Is His presence. Psalm 139:7. Jesus said it is “the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you.” Matt 10:20. The Spirit of God is a person, because “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3; 1Peter 1:3) is a person and the Son of God is the express image of the Father’s person. Heb 1:3. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” John 3:35 “and has given not the Spirit by measure unto him” John 3:34 because the Spirit is the life (John 6:63). Ellen White concurred, “By His Spirit He [God] is everywhere present.” Education p. 132. “The Father gave His Spirit without measure to His Son, and we also may partake of its fullness.” Great Controversy p. 477. “Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life.” Desire of Ages p. 827. “The Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes; that the Lord God is our Keeper and Helper. He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind.” Sermons and Talks vol. 2 p. 136, 1899. “Christ walks unseen through our streets.” Ministry of Healing p. 107.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6. There is only one way to the Father. “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1Timothy 2:5. “We have an advocate [Gr. Parakletos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1John 2:1. “The Father…shall give you another Comforter [Gr. Parakletos]…even the Spirit of truth;” “the world…sees him not” John 14:16,17. “He that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Verse 21. The disciples understood that Jesus was speaking about himself. “How is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:22. Ellen White explained, “That Christ should manifest Himself to them, and yet be invisible to the world, was a mystery to the disciples. They could not understand the words of Christ in their spiritual sense. They were thinking of the outward, visible manifestation. They could not take in the fact that they could have the presence of Christ with them, and yet He be unseen by the world. They did not understand the meaning of a spiritual manifestation.” Ms44-1897.3
Jesus is the truth; the Father will send the Spirit of truth; the world sees him not, but Jesus will manifest himself to them. Why? “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6. The Spirit of the Son dwells in us just as “the Spirit of Christ which was in” the prophets “signified and testified” 1Peter 1:10,11. Ellen White agreed, “The divine Spirit…the world’s Redeemer promised to send is the presence and power of God.” ST Nov 23, 1891. “This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter.” Lt7-1891.14; 14MR 179.2. “Christ declared that the divine influence of His Spirit was to be with His followers unto the end.” AA p. 49. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matt 28:20. “Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead…Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil” DA 671.2.
What is Christ’s Spirit? Jesus said He “has the seven Spirits of God.” Rev 3:1. He is the one standing among the golden candlesticks before the throne in Revelation 1:13. This is where the seven Spirits of God are. Rev 4:5. Jesus is next seen before the throne as the Lamb of God with “seven eyes which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Rev 5:6. He has ascended back to the Father and “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this” Acts 2:33, his omnipresence.
The first essay continues by admiring the “voluntary submission of the members of the Godhead…They submit to each other” but no Scriptural reference is offered to support this assertion. Later in essay four we are assured, “There is no hint in the Bible of an eternal hierarchical order among the three.” Then let us consider the following:
“Then comes the end, when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father…then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him” 1Cor 15:24,27. “That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:11. “My Father is greater than I” John 14:28. “Neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” John 13:16. “Even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in His throne” Rev 3:21. There is, however, no text describing the Son submitting or praying or even speaking to the Spirit, nor the Father submitting or praying to the Son nor the Spirit, and no text indicating that the Spirit submits to the Father or the Son.
There is ample evidence of the Father’s love for His Son. “For the Father loveth the Son, and shows him all things that Himself doeth” John 5:20; “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.” John 3:35. “Christ is invested with power to give life to all creatures…For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in himself. (John 5:26)” RH April 5, 1906.12 “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17; 17:5. “Therefore does my Father love me,” Jesus said. John 10:17. In the entire chapter of John 17, Jesus converses with His Father, saying, “Thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24. But there is no record of any exchange between the Father or the Son with a separate Spirit. Rather, the Son simply prays, “as Thou, Father, art in me…and I in them.” John 17:21,26.
The second essay incorrectly characterized the Bible teaching on the Holy Spirit. The writer states, “I came to believe that the Holy Spirit was not a person like the Father and the Son…” Jesus spoke of the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter as a person; the apostles recognized the Spirit as a person, but not as a separate person. The spirit of man within man knows the things of a man: it is his conscious, mental awareness of thoughts and feelings, but it is not a separate person. “Even so, the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1Cor 2:11. Isaiah 40:13 asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor has taught him?” Paul quotes this passage twice using the equivalent meaning: “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” Romans 11:34; 1Cor 2:16. “But we have the mind of Christ” the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ. “Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you?” 2Cor 13:5. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the holy Ghost which is in you?” 1Cor 6:19. “In that day you shall know that…I [am] in you” John 14:20. “Christ lives in me” Galatians 2:20. “The mystery which has been hid for ages…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:26.27. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2Cor 3:17. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36. “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20. Jesus “breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” John 20:22. “Thus Christ gave to humanity an existence out of Himself…The Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the only begotten Son of God, binds the human agent, body, soul, and spirit, to the perfect, divine-human nature of Christ.” RH April 5, 1906.16. “Do not forget that you have a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which Christ has appointed. You are never alone. If you will listen to the voice that now speaks to you, if you will respond without delay to the knocking at the door of your heart, “Come in, Lord Jesus, that I may sup with Thee, and Thee with me,” the heavenly Guest will enter. When this element, which is all divine, abides with you, there is peace and rest.” AH p. 350.3; Letter 124, 1897. “The Holy Spirit is Himself, divested of the personality of humanity, and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent.” Lt119-1895.18
The divine Son of God is also “the man Christ Jesus,” the Son of man. He is “the only being in all the universe who can enter into all the purposes and counsels of God.” Great Controversy p. 493.1. He is also the only divine being who has two natures: divine spirit, and mortal flesh. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (that which is born of the flesh is flesh) John 3:6. Christ was twice born, even as we also must be. He is Spirit and He is Flesh. He has two personalities: the personality of divinity and the personality of humanity. He is the only being in all the universe who could divest himself of the personality of humanity and remain independent in his personality of divinity—the Spirit of Christ.
Yet, we are told that “God and Christ are two personalities, distinct and separate.” Lt52-1906.23; Ms183-1907.34; Ms140-1903.44; Ms183-1907.35; Ms145-1905.18; “Christ and the Father” Lt331-1905.5; RH Aug 15, 1907; “the Father and the Son, are two personalities” Ms177-1907.1; “their distinct personalities” Ms49-1906.3; RH Aug 1, 1907.8; “the personalities of God and the Son” Ms111-1903.7. Thus they are two separate identities. “The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, but not in personality.” Ms116-1905; UL p. 367. “They were two, yet little short of being identical; two in individuality, yet one in spirit, and heart, and character.” Youth’s Instructor Dec 16, 1897. And because Christ has two personalities, there is a “heavenly trio.” “Three personalities; and these three personalities are the pledged power from God…the three great Worthies, the Powers in heaven…” Ms139-1906.15.
Essay number two begins with a fairly good description of the Biblical truth about God and His Son. Unfortunately, no Scriptural references were provided. Here they are:
“And this is life that they might know Thee [Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3. “The living and true God; and…his Son…whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus” 1Thessalonians 1:9,10. “The word was with God, and the word was God” John 1:1, “being in the form of God…equal with God” Phil 2:6. “…equal with God, because God was his Father” John 5:18. “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than” the angels. Heb 1:4. He was God’s “Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things” Heb 1:2. “I live by the Father,” Jesus said. John 6:57. “I proceeded forth and came from God” John 8:42; “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father” John 16:27,28. “…they know surely that I came out from Thee” John 17:8. Four statements by Jesus Himself, using the Greek word Exelthon (first person past tense of the verb Exerchomai—to come out, Ex- as in exit). This word is used in relation to persons in only two instances: evil spirits being cast out of those possessed with them, and Jesus coming out of the Father who possessed him, “the beginning of His way” Proverbs 8:22. The preposition "in" is not in the Hebrew text in this verse: the word is reshith not b'reshith as found in Genesis 1:1.
Jesus is the Stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” Daniel 2:45. Jesus referred to Himself as this same Stone “on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” Matthew 21:44; Luke 20:18, “like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors” Daniel 2:35. Coming out of the Mountain, the Stone has the same substance as the Mountain, the same nature, the same enduring qualities and attributes, and “there never was a time” when it “was not in close association with the eternal” Mountain. ST August 29, 1900.
The writer wondered, “Why did it seem that so few genuine Christians believed this teaching?” Jesus said, “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14. “Those to whom the message of truth is spoken seldom ask, “Is it true?” but, “By whom is it advocated?” Multitudes estimate it by the numbers who accept it; and the question is still asked, “Have any of the learned men or religious leaders believed? ...it is not an argument against the truth, that large numbers are not ready to accept it, or that it is not received by the world's great men, or even by the religious leaders.” Desire of Ages p. 459.5
He next questions, “Didn’t [Ellen White] say that the Holy Spirit is a mystery, not clearly revealed?” No, she said, “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it [the nature of the Holy Spirit], because the Lord has not revealed it [the nature of the Holy Spirit] to them.” Acts of the Apostles p. 52.1; 14MR p. 179.1 “…it [the nature of the Holy Spirit] is not clearly revealed.” Lt7-1891.13. It is the identity of the Spirit that she makes very clear. “…another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth (which is Christ formed within the hope of glory,) whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not: but you know him…” Ms24-1898.21 (parenthetical comment hers). “Christ is to be known by the blessed name of Comforter.” Ms7-1902.10. “We want the Holy Spirit, which is Jesus Christ.” Lt66-1894.18. “Christ was the Spirit of truth.” Ms44-1897; Southern Review Oct 25, 1898.
Essay two then suggests that for God to bring Christ into existence and “clone Himself” because of His foreknowledge that sin would arise “casts aspersions on the love of God” and “destroys the whole plan of redemption!” That is not why God “brought forth” His Son. Proverbs 8:24. The Wisdom of God was manifested in bringing forth a Son for the benefit of all finite created beings. The Father could not demonstrate to them the character of obedience and loving submission, for He submits to no one. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him” Isaiah 59:16. He needed a mediator between Himself and His creation, “the express image of His person” Heb 1:3, “the image of the invisible God” Col 1:15, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” 2Cor 4:6. “The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant” the everlasting covenant between the Creator and His creation, angels and men. RH April 5, 1906.5. “In the Son of God the inexpressible goodness of God is revealed…in his Son we see the glory of the divine attributes…for Christ is he who represents the Father.” ST Dec 12, 1895.3-5.
“Not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection.” ST May 30, 1895.3. “God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father.” 8T p. 268.3. The Father gave “all things” to His Son—His own “original, unborrowed, underived life”, “so has He given to the Son to have life [Gr. zoen, immortal, eternal life] in himself.” John 5:26. He has “given him a name above all names” Phil 2:9. “Jehovah is the name given to Christ.” ST May 3, 1899.18. He gave His Son His own “glory…before the world was” John 17:5. He has “given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom” Daniel 7:13.
A bold statement concludes essay two. “…God’s love does not depend on a literal Father-Son relationship as we understand it.” Yes, not as we understand it; not by procreation. The witness of God’s word is that He had a real Son by inheritance before sending him to this world. “In this is manifested the love of God toward us in that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1John 4:9. He had a Son to send. The eternal divine Son of God was sent into the world to become the Son of man. (RH March 8, 1881.6; 17MR 25.3; Ms45-1892.2), to become the Son of God in a new sense (Ms22-1905.5). What was the old sense, the original sense? “The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind.” RH July 9, 1895.
Grace and peace be unto you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ
the Son of the Father in truth and love. 2 John 3