The first booklet of this series offers basic background information on the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and a review of the first four lessons of the 2017 Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (ASSBSG), entitled “The Holy Spirit and Spirituality.” The second booklet reviews Lessons 5–8, and both of these booklets are available at no cost upon request. This current booklet concludes our review of the ASSBSG for first quarter 2017.
Lesson 9 — The Holy Spirit and the Church
Lesson 9 covers the work on the Holy Spirit in the church. It should be remembered that the church as taught in the Bible is collectively made up of all the called-out ones. While the Spirit of God works with the individual, it is as the Spirit works collectively with all the members that it works with the church. The church is not a living entity separate from the members. The Spirit can only work upon people, not upon non-living substances.
Sabbath Afternoon — In the first paragraph we are told, “The Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible for the existence of the church of Christ” (ASSBSG, p. 72). The word ultimately means at the most basic level. This quotation says that the church is the church of Christ; therefore, it is Christ who is ultimately responsible for it. It should be noted that in Romans 16:16 we find the phrase churches of Christ. The phrase churches of God is found in three places. The phrase church of God is found in eight places. Jesus uses the term “my church” in Matthew 16:18, but never in the Bible or in the Spirit of Prophecy do we find any expressions about the church or churches of the Holy Spirit.
It may seem like a small, technical matter that is not worthwhile to discuss, but to say that the Holy Spirit is “ultimately responsible for the existence of the church”  puts the Spirit of God ahead of the Father and also ahead of the Son. If the Holy Spirit were a part of a three-person god, it might be said that the Holy Spirit is equally responsible, with the Father and with the Son, for the church, but the statement of the lesson goes beyond this. If the tritheistic view of the godhead is accepted, the lesson’s statement puts the Holy Spirit above the Father and/or the Son.
Sunday — One of the key texts of this day’s study is Ephesians 2:18, which says: “For through him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” This should be coupled with 1 Timothy 2:5, which says:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
And also coupled with:
No middle-man comes between the sinner and Christ. No dead prophet, no buried saint is seen. Christ Himself is our Advocate. (Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, June 28, 1899)
Monday — The key text for Monday’s lesson is 1 Corinthians 12:13, which states:
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
It should be noted that the Greek word translated by, in the beginning of the verse, is ἐν (transliterated en and pronounced en or in). En is a preposition denoting position and, by implication, instrumentality. The word is used 2,768 times in the New Testament and while it is translated 142 times as by, it is translated 1,867 times as in. Does this make a difference? In some verses, such as 1 Corinthians 12:13, it does. Both the English Standard Version and the Young’s Literal Translation translate the Greek word en in this verse as in.
John the Baptist said, concerning Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). The believer is to be baptized with or in the Holy Spirit not by the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday — The title for this portion of the lesson is “The Holy Spirit Unites the Church through the Word of God.” Second Peter 1:21 says that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Thus, in his second epistle, Peter says that the Bible was authored by Holy Ghost. Interestingly, in his first epistle, Peter notes:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (1 Peter 1:11)
Thus, Peter is presenting the Holy Spirit as being equivalent with the Spirit of Christ. Before Jesus left his disciples, he said:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:15–18)
Jesus said that the world would not receive the Comforter that he would send but that the disciples (present tense) knew the Comforter and that it dwelt with them and would be in them (future tense). Finally, Jesus said: “I will come to you.” The Comforter is Christ come to the disciples in another form or personality. He was the one that the world did not receive. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Jesus was the one they knew and was with them. Jesus was the one who would be in them (Colossians 1:27).
Wednesday — This lesson correctly emphasizes that true unity of Christianity comes through the written word of God. God wants his people to come into “the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). Ellen White adds, “I urge our brethren to unify upon a true, scriptural basis” (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 175).
While the lesson states that theological unity or unity of purpose as a church body “is not so much a work to be achieved but a gift of the Holy Spirit” (ASSBSG, p. 76), no proof is given for this broad statement.
Thursday — This portion of the lesson uses Acts 2 about the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as the main Scripture. Pentecost is accepted by all as a fulfillment of the early rain of Joel, as Peter quotes from Joel 2 and makes reference to the prophet by name in Acts 2:16.
There are two special times of rain in the Near East that are mentioned in the Bible. The first is the early rain, which falls from late October to late December. These rains help the planted seeds to germinate and to begin growing. Then in March and April comes what is termed the latter rain, which ripens the crops to harvest. Joel speaks of both:
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (Joel 2:23)
Here Joel speaks of a former (early) rain and of the latter rain. Concerning the Hebrew of the text, one commentary notes:
Of great interest, however, is whether the phrase “autumn rains in righteousness” should be translated “teacher of righteousness.” The Hebrew is ambiguous and could mean either. Some believe that this phrase in Joel, interpreted as “teacher of righteousness” by the Qumran sectarians, led them to believe that a certain teacher who appeared among them at the very time the Jews were suffering under the Romans was the prophesied “teacher of righteousness.” (Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary, vol. 19A, p. 361)
Indeed, if you have a Bible with marginal references, you will find referenced for Joel 2:23 the following:
the former rain moderately: or a teacher of righteousness. moderately: Heb. according to righteousness. (Cambridge Reference Bible, KJV)
Who was the teacher of righteousness Joel predicted and to whom the Essenes from Qumran looked forward? Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Certainly there has never been a greater teacher of righteousness than Jesus.
Lesson 10 — The Holy Spirit, the Word and Prayer
Sabbath Afternoon — The key text for the introduction and for the whole week is Romans 8:26, 27 NKJV. Verse 26 in the NKJV states:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
In the KJV it is stated this way:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
The Greek pronoun translated Himself and itself in these versions is αὐτὸ (auto). It is the third person singular neuter form of αὐτός (autos). Being neuter the pronoun should usually be translated itself and not himself. Here we see a Trinitarian basis in the translation of the text. The use of auto, when it is not necessary, makes the use emphatic, and this is what we find in this text. But does the text not say that the Spirit makes intercession for us?
This text is speaking of how the Holy Spirit assists, or helps, us when our hearts are heavy and when we know not how to pray as we ought.
Sometimes we are so burdened and distressed that we cannot even speak a word. All we can do is sigh or groan. The Spirit is able to relate to that feeling, and God understands.
“The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.” How could the Scriptures refer to the Spirit as it, if the Spirit is God? We are made in the image of God — body and spirit. We could appropriately refer to our body or to our spirit with the term it, but when there is a union of body and spirit, we are now dealing with a person, and it would be inappropriate to refer to the person as it.
The Scripture tells us that we have only one that mediates on our behalf, “For there is one God, and one mediator (or intercessor) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
According to 1 Corinthians 8:6 and to Ephesians 4:5, there is one Lord, who is Jesus Christ. Now let us look at another eye-opening verse. It is 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
We see that Jesus is that Spirit that maketh intercession for us, but because he is in a non-bodily form, he can be referred to as it, and this is not inappropriate. Ellen White also noted:
We have only one channel of approach to God. Our prayers can come to him through one name only,—that of the Lord Jesus our advocate. His Spirit must inspire our petitions. No strange fire was to be used in the censers that were waved before God in the sanctuary. So the Lord himself must kindle in our hearts the burning desire, if our prayers are acceptable to him. The Holy Spirit within must make intercessions for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered. (The Review and Herald, February 9, 1897)
Sunday — Prayer that is pleasing to God is prayer that is according to his will.
Our prayers are not to be a selfish asking, merely for our own benefit. We are to ask that we may give. The principle of Christ’s life must be the principle of our lives. “For their sakes,” He said, speaking of His disciples, “I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.” John 17:19. The same devotion, the same self-sacrifice, the same subjection to the claims of the word of God, that were manifest in Christ, must be seen in His servants. Our mission to the world is not to serve or please ourselves; we are to glorify God by co-operating with Him to save sinners. We are to ask blessings from God that we may communicate to others. The capacity for receiving is preserved only by imparting. We cannot continue to receive heavenly treasure without communicating to those around us. (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 142, 143)
Monday — This portion of the lesson begins by stating, “Before we can receive anything from God, we have to ask for it” (ASSBSG, p. 82). This certainly is not true in an absolute sense or even in many lesser senses. Jesus said, “For he [the Father] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And we are told that:
Enmity against Satan is not natural to the human heart; it is implanted by the grace of God. (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 407)
If we persevere, we shall gain experience of highest value, that will never be forgotten. None who waits on the Lord will ever be confounded. Sometimes the answer will come so manifestly that we shall be surprised. The blessing will bring gladness to our souls, and call forth praise to our God. We shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Ellen G. White, The Youth’s Instructor, March 23, 1893)
This is not to say that asking God for his favors is not important. It certainly is. We are also told:
It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask. (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 525)
Tuesday — This day’s lesson is on the necessity of having faith, if our prayers are to be answered. Sometimes, like Elijah upon Carmel asking for rain, we must continue to ask and to ask, but faith knows that the answer will come at just the right time.
Prayer is heaven’s ordained means of success in the conflict with sin and the development of Christian character. The divine influences that come in answer to the prayer of faith will accomplish in the soul of the suppliant all for which he pleads. For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christlike temper, for wisdom and strength to do His work, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; and the promise is, “Ye shall receive.” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 564)
Wednesday — This day’s lesson discusses the need to claim the things for which we are praying. We are certainly told to “claim the promises of God” (Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 239; 1892), but we are not told we may claim promises for anything for which we pray. If we are asking outside the will of God, it would be presumptuous to claim something without a promise and without meeting the condition of the promise.
But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 126)
In the next-to-last paragraph in the main section of Wednesday’s lesson, we read: “John 11:11 tells us that He was willing to do God’s will and that He was obedient” (ASSBSG, p. 84). The reference must be a typographical error, for while John 11:11 teaches truth, it is not about Christ’s willingness to be obedient.
Thursday — This section is about praying for the Holy Spirit. Ellen White wrote:
Let us place ourselves in the channel of light, and know for ourselves what it means to believe in Jesus. As yet there is only a feeble, partial faith in the hearts of the professed followers of Christ in the word of God; but we must learn what it means to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Who of us has this faith? Who of us believes with the simplicity of a little child that we may come to God, through the name of Jesus, and ask for spiritual food, ask for the Holy Spirit, the greatest gift that Heaven can bestow? (White, The Youth’s Instructor, June 29, 1893)
There is one great condition that the Bible lays out, however, to having a prayer for the Holy Spirit answered. That condition is found in Acts 5:32, where we are told that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. We cannot expect to receive the Holy Spirit, if we are living lives of disobedience to God’s law.
In the middle of this day’s study, we find this shocking statement:
However, when we respond to His prompting, then repentance for sin is the firstfruit of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In humility and faith, we need to confess our sins so that He [the Holy Spirit] can cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ASSBSG, p. 85)
There is no question that, according to every rule of grammar, the He in the above reference refers to the Holy Spirit. But God is the one who forgives our sins for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 1:9).
Lesson 11 — Grieving and Resisting the Spirit
Sabbath Afternoon — This lesson on grieving and resisting the Holy Spirit is divided into four parts — first, resisting the Holy Spirit, followed by grieving the Spirit and quenching the Spirit, and finally the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Sunday — Sunday’s lesson is on resisting the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the text deals with this at a corporate or church level.
The key text is from Acts 7:51, where Stephen said to the Jewish leadership, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Adventists have recognized that the seventy-week prophecy was fulfilled at the stoning of Stephen and that the corporate identity of Judaism was forever cut off from God. The nation, as a group, had committed the unpardonable sin. Salvation would be open to the individual Jew, but Judaism would never again arise as a nation favored of God.
The lesson for Adventism is that God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and that he is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). What does this mean? It means simply that Adventism does not have a free ticket into the kingdom, regardless of what they do. Ellen White noted:
In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: “Found wanting.” By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 247)
Just like every corporate body and every individual who has ever lived, corporate Seventh-day Adventism will face a judgment.
Monday–Tuesday — Monday and Tuesday’s lessons deal with grieving the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” This is the only Bible text that speaks of grieving the Holy Spirit. To grieve means to feel deep sorrow. The lemma of the Greek word translated grieve is λυπέω (lupeō). Lupeō means to be in heaviness, sorrow, unhappy, or “to cause someone to be sad, sorrowful, or distressed” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains, p. 317). The root word for lupeō, lýpē in ancient Greek means pain. (See The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 4, page 313.)
Lupeō, or a form of it, is used in the following verses:
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:22)
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
To be able to be grieved certainly gives personhood or personality to the Holy Spirit, and, as we have noted in 2 Corinthians 3:17, the Lord is the Spirit in another form other than his human form, but this does not make him another being. Interestingly, at the beginning of Monday’s lesson, we find this surprising statement: “The Holy Spirit is a personal being, . . .” (ASSBSG, p. 90). This is not the theology of the corporate church today, which states:
In other words, since the God of the Bible is one and not many, all the various revelations about Him presented throughout the Bible refer to the same, one divine reality and not to a plurality of divine beings. (Handbook of Seventh-Day Adventist Theology, p. 121)
The orthodox, or classical, doctrine of the Trinity does not allow for three beings. It allows for only one being which has three personalities or brains!
Moreover, Adventism conceives the idea of persons in its biblical sense, as referring to three individual centers of intelligence and action . . . (Ibid., p. 150)
Wednesday — We are admonished to “quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). How can we quench the Spirit? We have the following counsel:
Many who excuse themselves from Christian effort plead their inability for the work. But did God make them so incapable? No, never. This inability has been produced by their own inactivity and perpetuated by their deliberate choice. Already, in their own characters, they are realizing the result of the sentence, “Take the talent from him.” The continual misuse of their talents will effectually quench for them the Holy Spirit, which is the only light. The sentence, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness,” sets Heaven’s seal to the choice which they themselves have made for eternity. (White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 365)
Precious light is to shine forth from the word of God, and let no one presume to dictate what shall or what shall not be brought before the people in the messages of enlightenment that He shall send, and so quench the Spirit of God. (Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 28)
Men have the power to quench the Spirit of God; . . . they may be disobedient, and realize the consequences. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 428)
Thursday — The vital subject of this day’s lesson is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We would recommend that each student carefully read Chapter 33 in The Desire of Ages for a fuller representation of this subject.
The teaching of the lesson follows the standard line of explanation that the sin against the Holy Spirit is not a single specific sin, but a continual rejection of the promptings of the Spirit of God, until the individual is so hardened that he or she will never respond to the Spirit of God again. This is only partly true. The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy teach that the unpardonable sin, or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, can be reached by a specific sin. That sin, we agree, would not come without a long rejection of the Spirit of God, but come it can.
First we need to understand that there was a general knowledge by both the leadership and the laity in the time of Christ as to the identity of Christ and from whence he had come. Matthew records the visit of the wise men from the East who came to worship the Christ child. King Herod became worried and
. . . gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, [and] he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:4–6)
Jesus, himself, testified that they knew who he was and from whence he had come:
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? (John 7:25–31)
The nature and character of Jesus’ work was foretold in the Scriptures. A knowledge of the Scriptures would have revealed Christ and his mission to the priests, Pharisees, and scribes. These leaders claimed to be the guardians of the sacred truths and prided themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures. The rejection of Christ’s miracle in healing the blind man recorded in John 9 reveals the depths to which the Pharisees went in rejecting the light from heaven. The healed man was asked what he thought about the one who had healed him. Yet, after repeated questioning and conclusive evidence, the Pharisees still would not acknowledge what they knew to be true. The record states:
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:39–41)
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus taught that “if they hear not Moses and the prophets [the Scriptures], neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Jesus further stated, “Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me” (John 5:39 RV).
Not only did the leaders and the people have the Scriptures to declare unto them the identity of Jesus, but even the unclean spirits knew and acknowledged Jesus as the Christ.
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. (Mark 1:21–24)
For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. (Mark 3:10, 11)
And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matthew 8:28, 29)
The witness of the demons was not a private testimony! The first reference from Mark stated that it occurred in the synagogue in Capernaum. The second stated that “many” were thronging beside him. When Jesus healed the demoniacs, as recorded in Matthew 8, there were at least two who saw and heard what had happened, for the Scripture states that they (plural) went to the city to tell what had occurred (verse 33). Thus the people were without excuse concerning the identity of Jesus. Not only did the Scriptures reveal the truth that he was the Christ, but even the demons testified that he was the Son of God!
Yet, with all this evidence, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being an agent of Satan!
Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. (Matthew 12:22–24)
It was the laymen who proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of David, a well-known term for the Messiah. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9).
The Pharisees called the Saviour of the world a co-worker with Beelzebub! They were not, however, alone in their sin. The scribes were equally guilty. These men of learning, who were to be the interpreters of the law and the leading theologians, also declared that Christ was of the devil:
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. (Mark 3:22)
Notice that it was not the common scribes from the local synagogue but those from Jerusalem (conference headquarters) who accused Jesus.
In refuting the charge that his work was of Satan, Jesus gave an explanation of, and a dire warning concerning, the unpardonable sin. The context of Jesus’ speech must not be overlooked: the work of God had just been attributed to the work of Satan.
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:25–31)
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. (Mark 3:28–30)
So, we see that the sin against the Holy Spirit is committed when one knowingly and deliberately attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. The Spirit of Prophecy agrees with the scriptural definition of the unpardonable sin. Notice the following testimony:
Brother P, you ask if you have committed the sin which has no forgiveness in this life or in the life to come. I answer: I do not see the slightest evidence that this is the case. What constitutes the sin against the Holy Ghost? It is willfully attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. For example, suppose that one is a witness of the special work of the Spirit of God. He has convincing evidence that the work is in harmony with the Scriptures, and the Spirit witnesses with his spirit that it is of God. Afterward, however, he falls under temptation; pride, self-sufficiency, or some other evil trait, controls him; and rejecting all the evidence of its divine character, he declares that that which he had before acknowledged to be the power of the Holy Spirit was the power of Satan. It is through the medium of His Spirit that God works upon the human heart; and when men willfully reject the Spirit and declare it to be from Satan, they cut off the channel by which God can communicate with them. By denying the evidence which God has been pleased to give them, they shut out the light which had been shining in their hearts, and as the result they are left in darkness. Thus the words of Christ are verified: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” For a time, persons who have committed this sin may appear to be children of God; but when circumstances arise to develop character and show what manner of spirit they are of, it will be found that they are on the enemy’s ground, standing under his black banner. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 634)
Also, in The Desire of Ages, we read:
Christ told them [the Pharisees] plainly that in attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, they were cutting themselves off from the fountain of blessing. Those who had spoken against Jesus Himself, not discerning His divine character, might receive forgiveness; for through the Holy Spirit they might be brought to see their error and repent. Whatever the sin, if the soul repents and believes, the guilt is washed away in the blood of Christ; but he who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit is placing himself where repentance and faith cannot come to him. It is by the Spirit that God works upon the heart; when men willfully reject the Spirit, and declare It to be from Satan, they cut off the channel by which God can communicate with them. When the Spirit is finally rejected, there is no more that God can do for the soul. (White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 321, 322)
Lesson 12 — The Work of the Holy Spirit
Sabbath Afternoon — The lesson notes that the Holy Spirit is called a “Helper” by Jesus, according to John 14:26 NKJV. The Greek word translated comforter (KJV) is παράκλητος (paraklētos). The word literally means called beside. The paraklētos, then, is one who is at your side. This word is used in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7, where it is translated Comforter. The only other place in Scripture it is used is 1 John 2:1: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate (paraklētos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Here Jesus is the paraklētos.
Sunday — This day’s lesson deals with conviction of sin. To be convicted of sin, one must understand what sin is. First John 3:4 states that “sin is the transgression of the law.” God’s law expresses his character, and the violation of that law in thought, word, or deed is sin.
The bottom paragraph for this day begins by stating, “The fundamental problem of all sin is that we do not believe in Jesus” (ASSBSG, p. 97). But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? We are told, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). The Greek word (lemma form) here translated believest and believe is πιστεύω (pisteōu). Pisteōu is also the root word from which we get pistis, the Greek word for faith. We have faith (noun form) in Christ; we believe (verb form) in Jesus, but the faith which the devils have is not saving faith.
When we speak of faith, there is a distinction that should be borne in mind. There is a kind of belief that is wholly distinct from faith. The existence and power of God, the truth of His word, are facts that even Satan and his hosts cannot at heart deny. The Bible says that “the devils also believe, and tremble;” but this is not faith. James 2:19. Where there is not only a belief in God’s word, but a submission of the will to Him; where the heart is yielded to Him, the affections fixed upon Him, there is faith—faith that works by love and purifies the soul. (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 63)
Monday — This lesson is on the need for righteousness. The Bible defines righteousness in Psalm 119:172: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.” Isaiah 51:7 says, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law . . .”
Here we see that God’s commandments are righteousness. The lesson states in the first paragraph:
. . . the world, which does not know what sin really is, does not know what true righteousness is either. (ASSBSG, p. 98)
As we noted earlier from 1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law and, therefore, obedience to the commandments is righteousness. The lesson correctly states: “But our acts of obedience to the law can never justify us before God” (Ibid.), yet it should also be noted that by our sin, or by the transgression of the law, we can and will be condemned. Paul is very explicit in Galatians 5:21, where he states “that they which do such things [sin] shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The emphasis of this lesson is on justification, with no mention of sanctification. If justification were all that men needed, why, then, did Paul write: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The Greek word (lemma form) translated holiness is also the same word translated sanctification in all five places where sanctification is found in the Bible (KJV).
Tuesday — This day’s lesson is on conviction about judgment. There is a clear attempt to soft-pedal this issue, saying “much of our preaching on this passage seems to go in a wrong and harmful direction. Often a discussion of sin and righteousness seems to lead many professed Christians to pronounce warnings about the judgment on those who reject Christ. In doing so, they want to warn sinners, often with fearful overtones, of the future judgment that awaits them” (ASSBSG, p. 99).
While God certainly wants to draw people to him by love and mercy, “few believe with heart and soul that we have a hell to shun and a heaven to win” (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 636). It was Jesus who stated:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)
Nobody spoke more about hell and judgment than Jesus Christ. This does not mean that the judgment must be seen in negative terms. The Bible teaches that our heavenly Father presides at that judgment (Daniel 7:9, 10). Our elder brother is our advocate (1 John 2:1), and, in fact, the Father has given judgment over to his Son (John 5:22). It would seem that we have a stacked court in our favor. And while Jesus will do everything possible to save his people, his truthfulness cannot be denied in the judgment. If we have not made Christ our sure defense, we have “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” (Hebrews 10:27) because “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Wednesday — Wednesday’s lesson is on the assurance of salvation. The first text reference is 1 John 5:12, 13. These verses, with the two preceding verses, state:
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:10–13)
The testimony of John places strong emphasis upon Jesus being the Son of God, and those who believe this are the ones who may have the assurance of eternal life. This assurance comes from believing the promises of the word of God, as we meet the conditions of the promises. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Romans 8:9 says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” In this text the Holy Spirit is called both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. In both cases the nouns are in the genitive case, which shows possession. That is why they are translated with the word of, even though there is no direct word in the text that translates as such. If we are to be Christ’s, we must have his spirit; otherwise, we do not belong to him.
The next-to-last paragraph in Wednesday’s lesson has, at best, a very ambiguous statement:
The Holy Spirit seals this fact in our hearts so that we can have assurance of being saved, and experience the joy that comes from being a child of God. (ASSBSG, p. 100)
How the Holy Spirit seals the assurance in our hearts is not stated. But remember, it is by the word of God that we have assurance. No feeling in our heart can be depended upon. The Mormon church has a teaching whereby a feeling, or a burning of the bosom, as it is sometimes called, is to be relied upon for confirmation of a truth.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. (The Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9)
We can NEVER trust feelings for doctrines or for salvation. While it is true that when we are justified, we have peace (Romans 5:1), our assurance of justification and our peace are both provided by the written word of God.
Thursday – Friday: We have no comments for these days.
The following is taken from the section on the Holy Spirit (pages 17–30) in the supplement written by David Sims for Bible Studies To Do at Home. We include it here because it is a valuable collection of biblical and Spirit of Prophecy references on the Holy Spirit.
Supplement—“The Holy Spirit”
It is not our purpose in this study to speculate about things that are too deep for us to understand. We recognize that “the secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). We want to know all that has been revealed, for we believe, like it is for all truth, it can be a means of sanctifying us (John 17:17) and of making us free (John 8:32).
Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and teachable spirit All should decide from the weight of evidence. (Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, September 16, 1873, par. 10)
There is much that God has revealed to us regarding his Holy Spirit through the writings of Ellen White. The study of these have proved to be a blessing to us, and we are excited to share a small portion of them with you.
Like a dove
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. (Matthew 3:16)
The scene at Christ’s baptism
Never before had angels listened to such a prayer as Christ offered at his baptism, and they were solicitous to be the bearers of the message from the Father to his Son. But, no! direct from the Father issues the light of his glory. The heavens were opened, and beams of glory rested upon the Son of God and assumed the form of a dove, in appearance like burnished gold. The dove-like form was emblematical of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. While the people stood spell-bound with amazement, their eyes fastened upon Christ, from the opening heavens came these words: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (White, The Review and Herald, January 21, 1873, par. 5; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
The Greek word used for Comforter in John 14 is παράκλητος (paraklētos – par-ak’-lay-tos), Strong’s number 3875. The same word is used in 1 John 2:1, where it was translated advocate and clearly refers to Christ.
Some inspiring quotations about our Comforter:
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.” (White, The Review and Herald, August 26, 1890, par. 10)
The work of the holy Spirit is immeasurably great. It is from this source that power and efficiency come to the worker for God; and the holy Spirit is the comforter, as the personal presence of Christ to the soul. (White, The Review and Herald, November 29, 1892, par. 3)
When on the Day of Pentecost the promised Comforter descended and the power from on high was given and the souls of the believers thrilled with the conscious presence of their ascended Lord. (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 350.1)
The Spirit of God has personality in that it is of a person, from a person, and has everything to do with a person, in that God is a person! Moses’ spirit was given personality in Psalms 106:33, quoted earlier in this book, where it says that “they provoked his spirit.” Furthermore, the Spirit becomes personality in the person who receives it, as the gospel becomes personality in the believer:
No wonder Paul exclaims, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” The gospel of Christ becomes personality in those who believe, and makes them living epistles, known and read of all men. In this way the leaven of godliness passes into the multitude. (White, The Review and Herald, December 15, 1891, par. 9)
Christ in the third person
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.
The Spirit was given as a regenerating agency, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of man to this satanic captivity was amazing. 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 fulness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given his Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress his own character upon the church. (White, The Review and Herald, May 19, 1904, par. 3)
When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature. The soul that is yielded to Christ becomes His own fortress, which He holds in a revolted world, and He intends that no authority shall be known in it but His own. A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan. But unless we do yield ourselves to the control of Christ, we shall be dominated by the wicked one . . . The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome. Without a personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy, and shall do his bidding in the end. (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 324.1)
Notice in each of the bold passages above there is only one way we can be safe from evil or sin, but these passages seemingly each give a different way. The paragraphs above do not contradict one another but are, instead, two ways to describe the same thing. What is called the third person of the Godhead in one paragraph is, in the next quotation, called Christ, dwelling in the heart. It is called third person because, rather than the bodily presence of Christ (for he is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary), it is his presence in spirit (mind/thoughts/words), manifested in or through another agency, a third entity. The following verse says the same thing in yet another way:
Thy word [mind/thoughts] have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:11)
If we ever hope to resist and overcome sin, if we ever hope to have any defense against evil, we must have a supernatural element brought in. We must be partakers of the divine nature. “Christ in you,” is our only “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We must have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts.
For the church on earth, those who are obedient to God’s Word, Christ is performing His office work. Through His appointed instrumentalities, He carries forward His work. If we walked in accordance with the light of God’s Word, we should understand better the mysteries of redemption. (Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, February 14, 1900, par. 15)
The agency of angels and the Holy Spirit
Communication was cut off between man and God because of sin. To intercede, to mediate, to restore that communication, is a great object in the plan of salvation. Christ began this work from the moment Adam fell.
Communication between God and man through Christ and angels
Without the atonement of the Son of God there could have been no communication of blessing or salvation from God to man. God was jealous for the honor of his law. The transgression of that law had caused a fearful separation between God and man. To Adam in his innocence was granted communion, direct, free, and happy, with his Maker. After his transgression, God would communicate to man only through Christ and angels. (White, The Signs of the Times, January 30, 1879, par. 19)
The angels of God are ever passing from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The miracles of Christ for the afflicted and suffering were wrought by the power of God through the ministration of the angels. And it is through Christ, by the ministration of His heavenly messengers, that every blessing comes from God to us. In taking upon Himself humanity, our Saviour unites His interests with those of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, while through His divinity He grasps the throne of God. And thus Christ is the medium of communication of men with God, and of God with men. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 143.1)
This line of communion brought out in the statements above is also illustrated in Revelation 1:1.
The Holy Spirit is to dwell in us, speaking to our hearts and leading us into all truth. Is this a contradiction of the truth brought out in the statements quoted above that God only communicates with us through Christ and angels? No. Have we not all said at some time, after hearing or reading an impressive message, The Holy Spirit has really spoken to my heart. In saying this, we do not mean that the minister or the passage we read is the Holy Spirit. We simply mean that God was speaking through the lips of the minister or through the agency of the written word, transmitted to us through angels and men, though God himself may not be bodily present.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (Psalms 139:2)
The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works. (Psalms 33:13–15)
Two olive trees/branches in Zechariah 4, communicating oil, represent angels sharing the Holy Spirit
The oil with which the wise virgins filled their lamps represents the Holy Spirit. “The angel that talked with me came again,” writes Zechariah, “and waked me, as a man is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive-trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him. What be these two olive-branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he. These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
The anointed ones standing by the Lord of the whole earth, have the position once given to Satan as covering cherub. By the holy beings surrounding his throne, the Lord keeps up a constant communication with the inhabitants of the earth. The golden oil represents the grace with which God keeps the lamps of believers supplied, that they shall not flicker and go out. Were it not that this holy oil is poured from heaven in the messages of God’s Spirit, the agencies of evil would have entire control over men. (White, The Review and Herald, July 20, 1897, par. 6)
Read Ezekiel 28:14. Also note that the cherubs in the temple built by Solomon were made from olive wood.
Angels speaking for God is spoken of as being done by the Holy Spirit
But let us follow the history of the men whom the Jewish priests and rulers thought so dangerous, because they were bringing in new and strange teaching on almost every theological subject. The command given by the Holy Spirit, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life,” was obeyed by the apostles;, “they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 71)
But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” The command of the angel was opposed to the command of the authorities, and which should they obey? “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (White, The Review and Herald, February 26, 1895, par. 7)
The heavenly trio
The Father, the Son, and the holy angels will be present with you to behold your faith, your steadfast principle, and there you will have of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. (White, The Signs of the Times, February 10, 1890, par. 4)
The three that our fellowship is with is the Father, the Son, and the angels
Shall we not regard the mercy of God? What more could He do? Let us place ourselves in right relation to Him who has loved us with amazing love. Let us avail ourselves of the means provided for us that we may be transformed into His likeness, and be restored to fellowship with the ministering angels, to harmony and communion with the Father and the Son. (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 22)
The three heavenly witnesses
I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. (1 Timothy 5:21)
Young men, you cannot afford to sacrifice your eternal interests for your school studies... Your names will stand registered before the holy, exalted angels and before the Creator of the universe and Christ, the Majesty of heaven, in a very poor light. Opposite them will be a record of sins, of mistakes, failures, neglects, and such ignorance in spiritual knowledge that the Father and His Son, Jesus our Advocate, and ministering angels will be ashamed to own you as children of God. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 224.1)
The three heavenly ministering characters
God and Christ and angels are all ministering to the afflicted, the suffering, and the sinful. Give yourself to God for this work, use His gifts for this purpose, and you enter into partnership with heavenly beings. Your heart will throb in sympathy with theirs. You will be assimilated to diem in character. To you these dwellers in the eternal tabernacles will not be strangers. When earthly things shall have passed away, the watchers at heaven’s gates will bid you welcome. (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 373.1)
I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.” “likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” If God and Christ and angels rejoice when even one sinner repents and becomes obedient to Christ, should not man be imbued with the same spirit, and work for time and for eternity with persevering effort to save, not only his own soul, but the souls of others? (White, The Review and Herald, January 2, 1879, par. 7)
The following letter includes a portion that has been published a number of times out of its context, and it has caused much misunderstanding. I am setting it forth here, with its immediate context, and the context of other statements by the same author quoted above, along with some historical information, so that the reader can see its true meaning:
I have not been able to sleep during the past night. Letters have come to me with statements made by men who claimed to have asked Dr. Kellogg if he believes the testimonies that Sister White bears. He declares that he does, but he does not. . . .
. . . I am so sorry that sensible men do not discern the trail of the serpent. I call it thus; for thus the Lord pronounces it. Wherein are those who are designated as departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, departing from the faith which they have held sacred for the past fifty years? . . .
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye already have hold fast till I come . . .
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 fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are [the living three personalities] 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. . . .
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, and hearts will be changed so decidedly that there will be a manifestation of the influence of genuine truth, as is represented in the descent of the Holy Spirit. (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies, series B, no. 7, pp. 60–64)
(Though this quote usually appears as “three living persons,” the words in brackets above are as they appear in the original handwritten manuscript widely distributed and publicized by The White Estate.)
1. The issue in this letter is whether Dr. Kellogg believed the testimonies or not. He was claiming to believe them and even used them to try to prove that Ellen White was teaching the Holy Spirit was a third separate being. (See supporting statement below.)
2. Rather than urging people to accept a new teaching, this letter warns against rejecting the principles upon which the church had been unanimously united for the first fifty years of its existence, and says to hold fast. The letter says that a departure from that faith means accepting doctrines of devils. (The church was unanimous in believing the word as it reads that the Father is, in fact, the Father of Christ; that Christ is, in fact, the Son of God; and that the Spirit of God is, in fact, the Spirit of God.)
3. This letter describes the personality of God.
4. This letter speaks of the relationship of the Father and the Son.
5. In this letter the Comforter is said to be, in fact, “the Spirit.”
6. The descent of the Holy Spirit is described as “then God will work through His angels as He worked on the day of Pentecost. . . . as is represented in the descent of the Holy Spirit.”
All the human capabilities are to be henceforth consecrated powers to do service for God in representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost upon whom they depend. All heaven is represented by these three in covenant relation with the new life. (Ellen G. White, Ms 45, 1904, pp. 9, 10)
Ellen White does not argue over terms; she does not argue whether there are three persons or personalities, for the reasons set forth in this document, but she thoroughly explains who and what she understands them to be. After this description, she says there are the living three personalities of the heavenly trio.
The historical setting — what Kellogg was teaching
As far as I can fathom, the difficulty which is found in The Living Temple, the whole thing may be simmered down to the question: Is the Holy Ghost a person? You say no. I had supposed the Bible said this for the reason that the personal pronoun “he” is used in speaking of the Holy Ghost. Sister White uses the pronoun “he” and has said in so many words that the Holy Ghost is the third person of the Godhead. How the Holy Ghost can be the third person and not be a person at all is difficult for me to see. (Letter from J. H. Kellogg to G. I. Butler, a leading SDA minister, October 28, 1903)
The next day, October 29, 1903, A. G. Daniells (SDA General Conference president at the time) wrote the following in a letter to Willie White:
He [J. H. Kellogg] then stated that his former views regarding the trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement; but that within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was, and believed that he could clear the matter up satisfactorily. He told me that he now believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost, and not God the Father, that filled all space, and every living thing. He said that if he had believed this before writing the book, he could have expressed his views without giving the wrong impression the book now gives.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gave themselves
The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption. In order to fully carry out this plan, it was decided that Christ, the only begotten Son of God, should give Himself an offering for sin. What line can measure the depth of this love? (Ellen G. White, Atlantic Union Conference Recorder, April 1, 1901, par. 10)
The inhabitants of the heavenly universe are appointed to go forth to come into close touch with human instrumentalities who act as God’s helping hand. In the performance of this mission of love, angels mingle with the fallen race, ministering to those who shall be heirs of salvation. Divine and human agencies unite in the work of restoring the image of God in man. All who partake of the divine nature are appointed of God to unite with the angels in carrying forward with untiring zeal the plan of redemption. (Ibid., par. 16)
Is this statement saying the Holy Spirit, as a separate being, was involved in the planning of redemption? No. It is simply saying that the Holy Spirit was an agency in the carrying out of the plan of redemption. How was this? Look carefully at the context, paragraphs 16 and 17, above. How do I know that this means carrying out and not planning, and how do I know the Holy Spirit, as a separate being, was not helping to plan the work of redemption?
Only the Father and the Son were involved in the council of peace
The great plan of redemption was laid before the foundation of the world. And Christ, our Substitute and Surety, did not stand alone in the wondrous undertaking of the ransom of man. In the plan to save a lost world, the counsel was between them both; the covenant of peace was between the Father and the Son.” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, would become a servant. The only-begotten Son, in whom the Father delighted, was given for the ransom of a fallen race. (White, The Signs of the Times, December 23, 1897, par. 2)
The term working out
After examining all the places where Ellen White uses the term “working out,” it is clear the term simply means carrying out. Here are some examples:
In the work in which my husband and I were called by the providence of God to act a part, even from its very beginning in 1843 and 1844, we have had the Lord to devise and plan for us, and He has worked out His plans through His living agents. (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 75.1)
If the parents have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, if they have in the fear of God tried to help their children, their work will be accepted. (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, p. 288)
Christ worked out before his disciples and before the world a perfect example of true religion. (White, The Signs of the Times, December 9, 1997, par. 12)
An appeal to the human agent
The church of Christ, every individual disciple of the Master, is heaven’s appointed channel for the revelation of God to men. Angels of glory wait to communicate through you heaven’s light and power to souls that are ready to perish. Shall the human agent fail of accomplishing his appointed work? Oh, then to that degree is the world robbed of the promised influence of the Holy Spirit! (Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 40.2)
The heavenly angels are waiting to unite with the human agent, that many souls may hear and be impressed by the Holy Spirit, and be converted. (White, The Review and Herald, May 16, 1893, par. 11)
Christ, our Mediator, is the one who gives the Holy Spirit... A measure of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. Through the ministry of the angels, the Holy Spirit is enabled to work upon the mind and heart of the human agent. . . . Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, man becomes the agent through which souls are brought into the kingdom of heaven. (Ellen G. White, The Youth’s Instructor, July 5, 1894, par. 5, 6)
A word of caution
In examining the channels through which the influence of God’s Spirit is manifested, a caution is needed, lest we forget to distinguish between the Spirit and the agency.
The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency. The God of heaven uses his Spirit as it pleases him, and human minds and human judgment and human methods can no more set boundaries to its working, or prescribe as to the channel through which it shall operate, than they can say to the wind, “I bid you to blow in a certain direction, and to conduct yourself in such and such a manner.” (White, The Review and Herald, May 5, 1896, par. 2)
M. C. Wilcox became editor-in-chief for The Signs of the Times in the 1890’s and held that position for a quarter of a century. He makes this clarifying comment on the Spirit’s relation to the different agencies:
Wherever God’s children are, there is the Spirit — not an individual person, as we look upon persons, but having the power to make present the Father and the Son. That Spirit is placed upon God’s messengers, the angels; but the angels are not the Spirit. That Spirit is placed upon God’s servants, His human messengers, but the human messengers are not the Spirit. They are possessed by the Spirit, and used by the Spirit, and have within them the power of the Spirit; but they are not the Spirit. The Spirit is independent of all these human or material agencies. Why not leave it here? Why not know that the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Deity, goes out into all the earth, bringing the presence of God to every heart that will receive it? (M. C. Wilcox, The Signs of the Times, November 24, 1914)
Ten essential points concerning the deity
1. The church should not make a definition of the Holy Spirit a test of fellowship.
It is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Spirit is the Comforter, ‘the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.’ It is plainly declared regarding the Holy Spirit that, in His work of guiding men into all truth, ‘He shall not speak of Himself.’John 15:26; 16:13. (Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51)
2. Jesus reveals whom we need to know in order to have eternal life:
Addressing his Father, Jesus said:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
3. Inspiration reveals the divine beings with whom we are to fellowship and through what means.
The sinner then stands before God as a just person; he is taken into favor with Heaven, and through the Spirit has fellowship with the Father and the Son. (White, The Signs of the Times, November 3, 1890, par. 1)
Note: No third divine being is mentioned here with whom we are to have fellowship.
4. Inspiration reveals who will be in heaven on the throne and with whom we will commune while there.
I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. Rev. 21:22. The people of God are privileged to hold open communion with the Father and the Son. (Ellen G. White, The Story of Redemption, p. 432)
5. The beings through whom all communication and blessings come from God to man are:
After his (Adam’s) transgression, God would communicate to man only through Christ and angels. (White, The Signs of the Times, January 30, 1879, par. 19)
All the blessings from God to man are through the ministration of holy angels. (White, The Review & Herald, January 21, 1873, par. 16)
Note: The entire Scriptures were given by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This can only be harmonized with the above statements in the light of the fact that when God communicated to men by his angels, it is spoken of as being through the Spirit, just as when a minister preaches a sermon and we say, The Holy Spirit was really speaking to my heart today. When God works through any of his various agencies, it can be said to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
6. Inspiration reveals the following heavenly beings included in the counsels and purposes of God:
... and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:13)
In the plan to save a lost world, the counsel was between them both; the covenant of peace was between the Father and the Son. (White, The Signs of the Times, December 23, 1897, par. 2)
Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will. (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 36)
Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character, in purpose—the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. (Ibid., p. 34)
Note: There are only two, not three, beings mentioned as present in the counsels of God.
7. The Father and the Son created the world.
The Father and the Son engaged in the mighty, wondrous work they had contemplated—of creating the world . . .
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. They had wrought together in the creation of the earth and every living thing upon it. And now God said to His Son, “Let us make man in our image.” (White, The Story of Redemption, p. 20)
8. Inspiration reveals the divine beings who made a sacrifice for us.
Before the whole world is clearly presented the great sacrifice made by the Father and the Son in man’s behalf. (Ibid. p. 427)
9. The line of authority in heaven is delineated as follows:
God is a moral governor as well as a Father. He is the Lawgiver. (Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, p. 241)
The Son of God was next in authority to the great Lawgiver. (Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 9)
Satan in Heaven, before his rebellion, was a high and exalted angel, next in honor to God’s dear Son. (Ibid., vol. 1, p. 17)
After Satan’s rebellion:
It was Gabriel, the angel next in rank to the Son of God, who came with the divine message to Daniel. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 234)
Note: If another being were divine, other than the Father and the Son, he would be next in the line of authority to the Father or the Son, not Lucifer and later Gabriel, who are both angels.
10. “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery” (White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 52), but one thing is certain:
The Father and the Son alone are to be exalted. (White, The Youth’s Instructor, July 7, 1898, par. 2)
The Voice of God
Christ used the wind as a symbol of the Spirit of God. As the wind bloweth whither it listeth, and we cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth, so it is with the Spirit of God. We do not know through whom it will be manifested. But I speak not my own words when I say that God’s Spirit will pass by those who have had their day of test and opportunity, but who have not distinguished the voice of God or appreciated the movings of His Spirit. Then thousands in the eleventh hour will see and acknowledge the truth. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed” (Amos 9:13). These conversions to truth will be made with a rapidity that will surprise the church, and God’s name alone will be glorified. —Letter 43,1890, p. 5. (To Brother Olsen, December 15, 1890) (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 179.1)
The Holy Spirit strives with every man. It is the voice of God speaking to the soul. But let that voice be resisted, and we, like the Pharisees, shall stifle conviction and resist evidence, however plain. God will give us up, and we shall be left to our own inclinations. (White, The Review & Herald, July 27, 1897, par. 8)
. 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4
. Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32: 11:22; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:15
. All emphasis is added, unless otherwise noted.
. For an in-depth consideration of this matter, see the article in the February 2017 issue of Old Paths entitled “Does God Change?” This issue is free from the publishers upon request.
. According to the Greek, John 5:39 may be translated as a statement, “ye search the Scriptures,” or as a command, “search the Scriptures.” The former fits the context best and is used in The Desire of Ages on page 211.