Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
The secret of the LORD is with them
that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 26, No.1 Straight and Narrow
In this issue:
Invitation For Revival
by the Faith of Jesus
The Fundamental Belief of the Holy Spirit
Most of us have received an invitation for maybe a wedding, a graduation, or a birthday party. The invitation signals that our presence is desired. An invitation, by its very nature, brings a certain feeling of worth. Someone thought enough or cared enough to invite us.
The Old Testament tells us about a invitation that was sent out by King Hezekiah because he cared for the remaining people of the northern kingdom of Israel. This was one of the greatest invitations ever sent out, not only in sacred history but in the history of the world.
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz. Ahaz began to reign when he was nineteen years old, and he gave himself up to a life of wickedness and idolatry. Ahaz had rejected warnings from Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. He introduced many heathen and idolatrous customs. He even placed an altar made from a Syrian model in the temple of Jehovah. He was so wicked that he was not buried into the sepulchre of the kings. Concerning his last years, Ellen White notes:
As the apostate king neared the end of his reign, he caused the doors of the temple to be closed. The sacred services were interrupted. No longer were the candlesticks kept burning before the altar. No longer were offerings made for the sins of the people. No longer did sweet incense ascend on high at the time of the morning and the evening sacrifice. Deserting the courts of the house of God and locking fast its doors, the inhabitants of the godless city boldly set up altars for the worship of heathen deities on the street corners throughout Jerusalem. Heathenism had seemingly triumphed; the powers of darkness had well-nigh prevailed. (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 330)
With this background Hezekiah came to the throne at the young age of twenty-five, and he began his reign by opening the temple doors and restoring the sacred building and its services. Hezekiah made a covenant with God and encouraged those of Jerusalem and Judah to rededicate their lives to Jehovah. Hezekiah then wanted to have the Passover celebrated. It had been many years since the Passover was observed as the national festival, and Hezekiah wanted those who remained from the ten northern tribes to join those of Judah in this great celebration.
And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel. For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month. For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem. And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation. So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. (2 Chronicles 30:1–6)
Hezekiah demonstrated a deep love for God’s people, by inviting both Judah and Israel to come together for the Passover. This occurred during the third year of the reign of Hoshea, the last king of Israel. Time was running out for Israel, and Hezekiah wanted them to have every opportunity that they might turn from idolatry to the living God.
The text says that Hezekiah wrote letters to Israel and Judah, but it especially mentions also Ephraim and Manasseh. These were the principal tribes in the territory of the northern kingdom not yet carried into captivity. The tribes east of the Jordan and the northern tribes had earlier suffered deportation:
And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day. (1 Chronicles 5:26).
The Passover desired by Hezekiah was to be during the second month. Why was this, since the Passover was to be in the first month? It is because the work of cleansing and sanctifying the Temple was not completed until the sixteenth day of the first month (1 Chronicles 29:17), and the Passover service ordinarily began on the fourteenth day of the first month (Exodus 12:2, 6; Leviticus 23:5). According to Numbers 9:6–11, however, in cases of emergency, the law permitted individuals to observe the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month.
Second Chronicles 30:5 says that King Hezekiah and the congregation made a proclamation. The Hebrew word for proclamation is קוֹל (qol), and it literally means, a voice. The government of Judah decreed that word should be sent to the inhabitants of Israel inviting them to the Passover. Though it appears there was no official sanction for Hezekiah’s proclamation to be given in Hoshea’s northern kingdom, the text does not mention any effort to reject or stop the proclamation.
This proclamation was to go “from Beer-sheba even to Dan.” Beer-sheba was in the southern most part of the kingdom of Judah, and Dan was located at the extreme north. This shows that all in the kingdom were included in the invitation.
Jeroboam had established the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, to keep his people from going to Jerusalem to worship. During the reigns of Rehoboam and Asa, however, many from the northern kingdom came to worship with their brethren at Jerusalem. But now God’s providence had opened an invitation to worship at Jerusalem again.
The posts sent were literally runners. To have time for the announcement to be made and for the people to have time to prepare and travel, the word must go forth quickly. There was no radio, television, Internet, or other quick means of spreading information in those days, so the messengers needed to be as quick as possible.
As we noted, there was a remaining part of the northern kingdom at the time of Hezekiah’s invitation. The message was to go to those who were escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.
When these words were written, the eastern and northern parts of the kingdom of Israel had already fallen into the hands of Assyria. Tiglathpileser III had come up against Israel in the days of Pekah, and had taken Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and Gilead (2 Kings 15:29). Further, he had carried off the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and“ the half tribe of Manasseh” (1 Chron. 5:26). The feeble remnant that had escaped was given one more opportunity to repent (see PK 287–291) before the coming of Shalmaneser, who imprisoned Hoshea and began the final siege of Samaria (2 Kings 17:4–6; 18:9, 10) (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol, 3, p. 294)
The story continues, with the message of Hezekiah stating to the different tribes:
And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him. 2 Chronicles 30:7–9)
Hezekiah pleaded with the people to not be stiffnecked! This expression comes from an animal stiffening its neck to refuse to be yoked or to work with an yoke. For the people of Israel, bearing the yoke was living in obedience to the law of God; stiffening the neck against the yoke was representative of being disobedience.
The yoke that binds to service is the law of God. The great law of love revealed in Eden, proclaimed upon Sinai, and in the new covenant written in the heart, is that which binds the human worker to the will of God. If we were left to follow our own inclinations, to go just where our will would lead us, we should fall into Satan’s ranks and become possessors of his attributes. Therefore God confines us to His will, which is high, and noble, and elevating. He desires that we shall patiently and wisely take up the duties of service. The yoke of service Christ Himself has borne in humanity. He said, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Psalm 40:8. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 329)
To complete his appeal to not be stiffnecked, Hezekiah told Israel to yield themselves to Jehovah. The Hebrew literally means to give the hand. A person will generally not want to hold the hand of someone they are in rebellion or opposition towards. Hezekiah was blessed to make a beautiful appeal to the people.
Hezekiah went further and pleaded with the people to turn to the LORD, and they would find compassion. This message of turning to God was given by two near contemporaries of Hezekiah:
Therefore turn thou to thy God: Keep mercy and judgment, And wait on thy God continually. (Hosea 12:6)
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, And passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, Because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18, 19)
Attitudes and responses
What was the attitude of most of the people? “So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (2 Chronicles 30:11).
The attitude of the northern tribes was, as a whole, one of hostility to God and his worship. However, we are also told, “Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (v. 11). In spite of the general hostility, some from the northern tribes responded to Hezekiah’s gracious invitation and came to Jerusalem for the Passover service. Men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun responded positively. Regardless of how widespread apostasy may be, God always has a faithful remnant who will remain loyal to him.
The narrative continues:
Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the Lord. And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation. And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron. Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the Lord. And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the Lord. For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:12–20)
In contrast with Israel the people of Judah responded to the movings of the Holy Spirit, and with one heart they positively responded to the invitation to attend the Passover. Not only did they respond to attend, but they took action against the false worship that had come into Judah during the reign of Ahaz. “And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron” (v. 14). Upon these altars false gods were worship through false doctrine. Now they were returning to Jehovah and to the truth of his teachings or doctrine.
In the first year of his reign, Hezekiah removed these altars devoted to false gods, altars where false doctrine is offered.
Verse 15 states that the priests and Levities were ashamed. This was due to their not being ready for the services.
It appears that up to this point many of the priests had neglected to purify themselves (ch. 29:34; 30:3), but now, shamed by the general ardor, they sanctified themselves by the purification ritual so as to be ready for participation in the paschal ceremonies. (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 294)
Not only were the priests not fully prepared, but many who came from the northern kingdom were defiled and had not cleansed themselves. We are told that “many of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun” were not prepared. However, God, knowing that the people had not been able to make provision, allowed all to attend who would prepare their hearts.
This was the important item, having a heart that loved righteousness and hated iniquity. This was more important than having ceremonial purity. This is an example of keeping the spirit of the law, when the letter could not be obeyed.
Everything was not done according to the strict letter of the law, but, circumstances having made that impossible, the spirit of the law was followed. God is reasonable, and true servants of His are men of reason and prudence. Everyone engaged in the work of the Lord will find that circumstances sometimes do alter cases, and extreme situations may arise where judgment and reason must replace a strict observance of the letter of the law. This is no excuse for laxity, but emergencies must be met as the circumstances require. (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 296)
The Bible says that God heard the pray of Hezekiah and healed the people. This showed that God prefers spiritual sincerity to cold, formal adherence to strict legal rules and that he pardons the sins of those who truly seek him.
Because Hezekiah gave his invitation, there “was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26). Furthermore, the people received a blessing from the priests, perhaps the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:22–27. What a time of great rejoicing and blessing this was to the people of God.
Writing during the first part of the Christian era, the apostle Paul noted:
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)
While the events recorded in 2 Chronicles 30 were not a prophetic type and antitype, there are certainly parallels in this lesson from which we can and must learn.
Today it is not Passover but the antitypical Day of Atonement in which we live and worship. During this great time we want to send out an invitation, a new invitation to all believers in the truth about God to come, afflict their souls with us and worship the God of our fathers
While we have a proclamation that is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6), we have an equally important call to our brothers and sisters to come to the worship of the truth.
We want this voice to go from Dan to Beer-sheba. Let it ring from Australia to Austria, from Jamaica to Juneau, from Serbia to South Africa. All are invited to the worship of our God, as he gave truth to Ellen White and to our pioneers:
Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844. Even now, after the lapse of many years, all who shared in that movement and who have stood firm upon the platform of truth still feel the holy influence of that blessed work and bear witness that it was of God. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 401)
It has been a long time since many were united in the message, but it need not be longer. Unlike in the time of Hezekiah, let not the people make fun of the messengers nor the message that they bring. May there not be an attitude of hostility to God and his worship.
Let us not be stiffnecked today and resist, like our pioneers did in 1888. We need both the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Of course the law is not our saviour, but it is the standard of righteousness (Psalm 119:172).
Let us take away the altars where false doctrine has been offered up and return to the truth. Much of Israel had been involved in Baal worship, and you might be tempted to think that Baal worship was very different than the worship of Yahweh, but the name Baal means husband or Lord. Baal worship involved sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings. Baal worship had a temple with a holy and a most holy place. When we believe false doctrine about God and the Bible, we are worshipping a false god, a Baal.
No outward shrines may be visible, there may be no image for the eye to rest upon, yet we may be practicing idolatry. It is as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as to fashion gods of wood or stone. Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false God as were the servants of Baal. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 173, 174)
Let us turn away from such teachings! Today! If we have lost confidence in the testimony of Jesus as manifested in the writings of Ellen White, I urge you to strongly reconsider your positions. Study the Bible and carefully compare it with your thoughts. If there are differences between your understanding and that of the testimonies, could it not be because you have misunderstood? Study the history of how the prophetic gift was supernaturally used in our church. This was not an accident or the working of a diseased mind.
If we have been involved in teachings that misrepresent God and his righteousness, let us turn away. If we have been involved with a gospel that lightly esteems the standard of God’s righteousness, let us turn away. If we have been involved with the lunar sabbath, feast keeping, or the God does not destroy doctrine, let us turn away!
Let us prepare our hearts today. Paul says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). There must, at times, come reproof, but it is only such that some can be saved. No doubt we all have repenting to do that needs not to be repented of. None of us are in glory yet. But shall we not strive to be there and especially strive to be among the 144,000? Then let us strive together.
Maybe we have not met every exact detail of afflicting our souls in the past, but let us move forward in the spirit of the law and let God’s Spirit move and bring us to the place that God wants us to be.
In the days of Hezekiah, God healed the people. The Lord pardoned the sins of those who truly sought him at that time and he will do it again today. We can claim promises, such as:
I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: Heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee. (Psalm 41:4)
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: For mine anger is turned away from him. (Hosea 14:4).
God promises that if we will turn from our backsliding, he will heal us, and his anger will be turned away.
Brothers and sisters, let this be a time such as has not been since the pioneers, wherein God’s people all came together in truth. Hezekiah did not invite the northern tribes to come and worship Baal or to have a mixed worship of Baal and Yahweh. We are not suggesting some kind of ecumenical service just for the sake of getting together. No, truth must be the center of it all. But with Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life—we will be able to find the greatly needed unity that God desires for his people.
For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him. (2 Chronicles 30:9)
While God gives us a gracious invitation to walk in his ways, he also gives us a stern and serious warning if we do not have reformation. He says to the people of God:
Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: And because I will do this unto thee, Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. (Amos 4:12)
If we continue in the wrong path, God has given us a lesson:
From generation to generation the Lord had borne with His wayward children, and even now, in the face of defiant rebellion, He still longed to reveal Himself to them as willing to save. “O Ephraim,” He cried, “what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” Hosea 6:4.
The evils that had overspread the land had become incurable; and upon Israel was pronounced the dread sentence: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it.” Hosea 4:17; 9:7. (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 285)
Like the wedding invitation that says, Your Presence Is Desired, so we, Smyrna Gospel Ministries and others of like mind, send this invitation to all of spiritual Judah and spiritual Israel. We make an appeal, not only to those who have chosen a different path, but to ourselves, as well, to cling to the original platform of truth and to prepare our hearts to meet the Lord. If we do this, there will be great joy among God’s people and in heaven. Let us chose now to be part of God’s flock. Joyous, open arms await, so that we may symbolically walk into the upper room together, turning from paths of error and false doctrines that can only bring damnation to our souls. ?
Perfection by the Faith of Jesus
A definite aim
If you are going to succeed in any line, there is something demanded of you. In the book Education page 262, the servant of the Lord says, “Success in any line demands a definite aim. He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavor.” Whether you are going to be a physician, teacher, lawyer, housekeeper, or pastor, you must have a definite aim if you are to succeed. But as a child of God, what should be your aim? What should every man who profess Christ aim for? Jesus tells us what we should aim for. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” Luke 6:40. Jesus here tells us that, if we are to be as the Master, we are to aim for perfection. Nothing less than perfection of character can equate to the likeness of Christ. Inspiration says, “God requires moral perfection in all. Those who have been given light and opportunities should, as God’s stewards, aim for perfection, and never, never lower the standard of righteousness to accommodate inherited and cultivated tendencies to wrong” (Ellen G. White, This Day with God, p. 32).
What perfection is NOT
Now when it comes to understanding perfection, it is critical for us to recognize what perfection is NOT.
Firstly, perfection is not a perfect physical body. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, the apostle Paul says, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” Not only did Paul have this “thorn,” but he understood its purpose: to keep him humble and dependent upon the grace of Christ. Sometimes God allows sickness or affliction to keep us focused on the riches of Christ and not on the rags of this earth. Paul understood that the time will come when God “… shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” Philippians 3:21. The fact that our bodies are base and despicable shows that they can never be perfect.
Secondly, perfection is also not an exemption from temptation. As long as we are in this vile body, we will be tempted. Paul says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” 1 Corinthians 10:13. Although we will be tempted, this verse shows that, whatever the test may be, there is a way of escape. But this does not mean you will not be tempted. You will be tempted, but being tempted is not the same as sinning. You are not a sinner because you are tempted. The devil tempted Jesus, but Jesus never sinned. Perfection is not an exemption from temptation; you will still have to fight against temptations, both from within and from without. But although the temptations to sin are all around us, we do not have to yield. John Wesley, one of the co-founders of the Methodist church, once made the following statement: “Thoughts concerning evil are not always evil thoughts; … a thought concerning sin, and a sinful thought, are widely different” (John Wesley, Sermons on Several Occasions, p. 330). Did Jesus have any thoughts concerning sin? Yes, he did! When the religious leaders brought the woman who was caught in adultery to Jesus, they mentioned to Jesus, in order to test him, the fact that she was caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus had to think about that because they communicated such thoughts to him. In other words, he had thoughts concerning that sin and all the sin that was around him, but he himself never indulged in even a sinful thought. His thought process was always righteous, pure, and true. And we are told that he that is perfect will be as his Master. The apostle James says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). In other words, although you are tempted, the victory will be sure to you, if you stand firm under the pressure of that temptation. This is what God is wanting from each of his children—to stand firm in spite of the pressure. No one can ever have an excuse for sinning. No one can ever blame his act or thought of transgression on God or Satan. Your act or thought of sin is your own choice. But just because you are tempted does not mean you have sinned.
Thirdly, perfection is not a perfect knowledge. You must not think that you must know it all before you can achieve perfection or righteousness. You will never know it all. And even if you did, knowledge in and of itself does not make one perfect. Paul says, “O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33). In fact, throughout the ceaseless ages through eternity, the redeemed will continue to learn. “And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 687). So since perfection is not a perfect body, exemption from temptation, or a perfect knowledge, what then is perfection? If we are to aim for this perfection, we must understand what we are aiming for and keep this aim steadily in view. Let us compare a few scriptures.
to be continued
Youth’s Corner — Afoot and Alone
(This installment presents the first part of Chapter 17 of Escape from Siberian Exile by John Godfrey Jacques, published by Pacific Press in 1921.)
“TALL and small” were on their feet early the next morning, and soon I was ready for my pilgrimage. I dared not encumber myself with heavy clothing, though I knew that I should suffer from lack of such.
I carried a strong walking stick that a young son of the family had provided for me—a fortunate provision it proved to be—and in my small traveling bag was some European food to supplement the unpalatable Chinese food I should purchase on the way.
As I was about to start, my hostess proposed that I take with me a Chinese Testament that she had. I was very reluctant to add so much weight to my luggage, but the good woman insisted; and I acquiesced, solely in deference to her wishes. Erelong that volume served a purpose which neither she nor I had foreseen.
Mukden was my intended destination. That city was next after Harbin on the list given me by the good man who had marked out for me the seemingly reckless journey from the Caucasus to America. It was also on the only practicable route for me to follow—if indeed any route was practicable for a person in my circumstances.
The friends I was leaving could not express any hope that I should ever see Mukden; for the road led frequently across the railroad, which was under Russian control, though on Chinese territory, and was guarded by Russian soldiers.
I left a message to be sent to my parents in case no word came from me inside of three weeks, as a longer silence would indicate that I had been either captured or killed. Of the two fates, I dreaded the latter least. But I did not expect either. I set out assured that I should yet accomplish what I was undertaking.
On my horseback trip with the Manchurian guide, I had learned the safest road by which to leave the city, and I followed it “without let or hindrance.” The wind was icy cold. My breath made a fringe of frost on my camel’s hair skating cap, which was drawn about my face, as a protection from both cold and observation.
As the last of the Russian factory buildings were disappearing from sight, I turned to bid farewell to what had been to me a city of perplexities. Then, as I hastened on, I saw coming toward me a company of men who I concluded were Russian soldiers. To elude them, I turned off onto the prairie; and they did not molest me. They may have supposed me to be a Manchurian; or, like many of the imperial Russian soldiers, ill fed and dissatisfied, themselves little better off than prisoners, they may not have been averse to letting one in similar plight better his condition if he could do so.
As I passed through the first village, the inhabitants displayed much curiosity. It is not improbable that they took for granted I was a fugitive; for only a few days before, several Russian soldiers had attempted to escape from Harbin, but had been captured not many miles away.
Snow was falling fast; and after leaving the village, I could not clearly distinguish the road. The nearness of the railroad was evidence that I was not far out of the way; but otherwise I should have preferred that the railroad had not been so near, because of the likelihood of encountering some of the guards.
Presently, turning my face to one side to avoid the cutting wind, I saw a Manchurian coming behind me. He was not particularly prepossessing, being bleary-eyed, like many of the Manchurians, as a result of the smoke from their open fires. But I was glad of the prospect of being with some one who knew the road, and he seemed equally pleased to have company. He could speak a few words of Russian; and these, augmented by signs, enabled us to carry on a fragmentary conversation.
Soon the man signified that he was going to take a footpath that branched off from the road. I asked what town lay in that direction; and he replied, Shwang-chang-puo. When I told him I was going to the same place, he took me by the arm, and drew me out of the road, making me understand that the trail over the prairie was preferable, being more direct. Certainly it was more desirable for me, in that it was farther from the railway.
On the highway, we often met caravans of Manchurian carts, with solid wooden wheels, each cart drawn by four to eight mules. They were hauling beans, millet, peanuts, and other foodstuffs to the railway for shipment.
In a Manchurian village, one meets more dogs than human beings. The dogs are a hungry looking lot; and with a few bits of bread, a stranger can often, though not always, make friends of a host of them.
In the towns that we passed through, I observed bright-colored paper ornaments in front of some of the buildings. My traveling companion informed me that these buildings were inns. I was soon to become more familiar with such places than was agreeable. About the middle of the afternoon, being chilled and hungry, we stopped at one of them, and called for a warm drink. The proprietor replied that he had none, nor did he have much food to offer, except roasted peanuts and a sort of bean paste; but these, with bread from my bag, made a fairly satisfactory lunch.
A score or so of villagers who sat about the place, inquired of my fellow traveler whether I was a runaway soldier. They examined me closely, even feeling of my clothing, but exhibited no ill will.
Cold as we had been out in the wind, we were colder in the inn; and after our lunch, we traveled on. My good comrade could not keep up with my accustomed pace, possibly in part because his Chinese shoes were not well adapted to walking. However, he knew the country well, and often led me on short cuts across the fields and through some of the numerous little cemeteries, thus saving me many miles of travel.
Twilight overtook us in a heavy snowstorm, which so hid the road that soon we lost it utterly. Still I urged the Manchurian along, even though we did not know where we were going; for there was no shelter in sight, and thinly clad as I was, I should have perished if I had not kept moving briskly.
Taking the course of least resistance, we let the storm drive us. In a short time, we came to a small clump of trees, among which were a few graves with rude stone monuments. Shielded from the storm by trees and monuments, we rested there for a little while, and tried to make out the directions. Then we staggered ahead.
After about half an hour, we came upon a road. We did not know whether it led in the way we should go; but we followed it, and before we had gone far, it brought us to a little village. We did not seek lodging there, for we felt impelled to push on. The one thing we wanted was, to learn the route. We met a young man on the deserted streets, and of him we made inquiry. He graciously went with us some distance, then gave us the instruction we needed.
We went some miles farther, when, through the darkness and the storm, the outlines of a building took form before us, only a few yards away. It was an unwelcome sight; for I recognized the structure as the barracks of a Russian railway guard. A soldier passed within reach of my hand. Happily, the night and the snow rendered me indistinguishable from an Asiatic.
Not long afterwards, we reached a small settlement, and we thought best to stay there for the night. Each house was inclosed by a mud wall eight or nine feet high. We sought to enter one of the yards, but the gate was locked. Another and another were the same. At last, we found one that was unlocked; but according to Manchurian usage, we must not approach within about two rods of the house unbidden. My guide called to the inmates, making known our desire to find lodgings. A voice from within replied that there was no room for us there.
We went outside the wall again. After a time, a cart came in sight, drawn by several mules. This we followed, and in its wake, gained entrance to an inn. The proprietor protested that his house was already full; but eventually we persuaded him to make room for us.
The inn, like most of the country houses, was built of bamboo, and plastered with mud. The window panes were of paper. For some minutes after entering, I could hardly breathe because of the smoke from the big kettle that answered as a stove, and from the pipes of the occupants of the room. These pipes were made of bamboo, with clay bowls, and varied in length from less than a foot to more than two feet.
Place was assigned us on the platform that must do duty as table, chairs, and beds for the entire company. Soon the cook appeared, and prepared over the fire something akin to noodles, afterwards serving it in small bowls. Cook, food, and dishes all looked very unclean; but I had had no warm food since morning, and my vigorous boyish appetite still stayed by me. So, sitting cross-legged, like the Manchurians, I made my first attempt to manipulate a pair of chopsticks—thus affording considerable entertainment for the spectators.
Weariness and the warmth of the room made me feel disposed to sleep; but my success in that direction was not enhanced by the chatter of the other guests, nor by the thinness of the rush mat which was all that modified the hardness of the clay platform. Moreover, I was too chilled to sleep. My thoughtful guide, observing my restlessness, asked our host for a blanket for me; and a piece of an old bed comfort was brought. It gave inadequate protection from the cold drafts that came through the crevices in the walls; yet in time I fell asleep.
It must have been. about three o’clock the next morning when I awoke because of the cold. We arose, paid the innkeeper the few cents charged for our supper and lodging, and took our leave. We hoped to reach Shwang-chang-puo before the next night. To be continued
The Fundamental Belief of the Holy
In Henan, China, a young man heard the Holy Spirit tell him, “The Lord will give you gifts of healing,” and then this happened:
During March 1994 this brother went out to evangelize and pray for the sick. It was soon evident the Lord gave him a gift of healing people who were deaf and mute; in one month alone twenty-six people were healed.
One of these was a man who was not only mute but also was born with a severe mental deficiency and was widely considered to be “an idiot.” Though this man had an adult body, he had the mind of a small child and could not even clearly communicate with others. However, after prayer, he began to speak in beautifully fluent Mandarin Chinese. His mental facilities were completely restored. People came from far and near to listen to him speak, and they were amazed at the brilliant mind, excellent speech, and talents he now had. In fact, the Lord gave him wisdom and knowledge far beyond his background as a simple peasant farmer.
This man who was considered to be a half-wit now had the demeanor of a genius. People were astonished and this amazing testimony caused eighty-three people, many of whom were atheists, to believe in Christ. For years after this amazing healing, people were still being saved after seeing this “living miracle.” (Dennis Balcombe, China’s Opening Door: Incredible Stories of the Holy Spirit at Work in One of the Greatest Revivals in Christianity, p. 6)
If you had been a resident in his village and if you had witnessed his healing, you probably would have thought something wonderful had happened, and you, most likely, would have become a believer. Since he believed the Holy Spirit had spoken to him and had given him this gift of healing, let us consider what Seventh-day Adventists believe about the Holy Spirit.
The Sixtieth General Conference Session voted in 2015 to amend the fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church about the Holy Spirit. Before considering what was amended by this vote, let us first review the statements of belief the Adventist Church has formulated over the years concerning the Holy Spirit.
In 1872 the Seventh-day Adventist Church declared that the Holy Spirit was a representative of the Father and that the “Spirit of God” was manifested in the church through spiritual gifts and was manifested as a presence to give God’s people understanding of the word of God, “to convince of sin, and to work a transformation in the heart and life” (A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists, Principles #I and #XVI).
This declaration remained unchanged until 1931, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church announced belief in the trinity. The statement noted that “the Godhead, or Trinity,” consisted “of the Eternal Father…the Lord Jesus Christ…[and] the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption.” The fundamental belief also stated that through “the enabling power of the indwelling Christ, his [the sinner’s] life is brought into conformity to the divine precepts” (Ibid., Fundamental belief #8, p. 378).
The 1872 statement on the Holy Spirit is clear—the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and the Spirit works “transformation in the heart and life,” but the 1931 statement blurs the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, for it declares the Holy Spirit to be the third person of the Godhead and as such to be “the great regenerating power in the work of redemption.” The statement also declares that it is “through the enabling power of the indwelling Christ” that the sinner’s “life is brought into conformity to the divine precepts.” Now we have two powers said to make possible a godly life—the indwelling Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1872 there was only one—the Spirit of God, which worked transformation of the heart and life—but who enables us now, the Holy Spirit or Christ? To the non-trinitarian mind, the answer is easy. The Spirit of Christ lives within us, enabling us to live a godly life. To the Seventh-day Adventist trinitarian mind of 1931, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, two separate gods enable us. Let us move now to the General Conference Session of 1980.
The 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs was considered sufficient for nearly five decades but was not an official document, for it had not been voted on or approved by the Seventh-day Adventist world church in session, so, under the leadership of Neal C. Wilson, the issue of fundamental beliefs was presented to the Fifty-third General Conference Session, convened in Dallas, Texas, in 1980.
To give you an idea of the significance of this presentation and of the solemnity, the diligence, and the fidelity to truth required of the delegates in considering our fundamental beliefs, let me quote Ángel Rodríguez from a business meeting at the Fifty-eighth General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia:
The Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is probably the most important document that we possess as a church—apart from the Bible, of course. (Ángel Rodríguez, Fourth Business Meeting, Fifty-eighth General Conference Session, July 3, 2005, 9:30 a.m.)
And again, we quote him from the Sixtieth General Conference Session in 2015:
We believe that the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is an extremely serious document and that before we move to make changes, a careful analysis should be in place. (Ángel Rodríguez, Eighth Business Meeting, Sixtieth General Conference Session, July 6, 2015, 1:51 p.m.)
In 1980, Elder Neal Wilson presented to the delegates a statement of twenty-seven fundamental beliefs for their approval. This was a very serious undertaking. The statement for the Holy Spirit read:
God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth. (Gen. 1:1, 2; Luke 1:35; 4:18; Acts 10:38; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:11, 12; Acts 1:8; John 14:16–18, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7–13.)
The pronoun used to refer to the Holy Spirit in John and in Luke 4:14 in the above references is he or him. The rest of the references refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of the Lord, with the one exception of Ephesians 4:11, where the pronoun he refers to Christ, the one who ascended, and not to the Holy Spirit. This misapplication of Ephesians 4:11 to the Holy Spirit was not corrected until 2015, when the text in Ephesians was deleted and 1 Corinthians 12:7–11 was added in its place. Putting these two references together, however, helps us understand that it is the spirit of Christ, and not a separate god known as the Holy Spirit, that provides these gifts, unless, of course, you believe that two separate persons of the trinity (Christ and the Holy Spirit) give spiritual gifts to the church. Nevertheless, in 1980 the world church in session approved these twenty-seven fundamental beliefs and for the first time officially adopted a trinitarian foundation for church doctrine and belief.
Fundamental belief #2 of the 1931 statement established a belief in the trinity for the first time and stated that the Holy Spirit, “the third person of the Godhead,” is the “great regenerating power in the work of redemption.” This statement, however, never refers to the Holy Spirit by a personal pronoun. This changed in 1980, when, for the first time, the word he is used in reference to the Holy Spirit—he extends spiritual gifts, he renews and transforms, etc.
The real issue concerning the use of pronouns in 1980 is that the use of personal pronouns in scriptural references to the Holy Spirit is given as a proof that the Holy Spirit is a person. Today, when we use the English pronouns he and she, we usually use them to represent a person or to signify physical gender, but in the Greek language it is different, for words themselves have gender. The Greek word for table, for example, is trapeza and is a feminine word, even though it is not a living creature. The French language also exhibits this quality, as do many languages spoken on Earth, and the modifiers of nouns in such languages agree with the gender of the noun. Applying a personal pronoun to the Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is not accurate linguistically, for pneuma is of the neuter gender and requires the pronoun it, and when John wrote some of the verses in chapters 14, 15 and 16 of his gospel, he used the demonstrative pronoun ekeinos. Ekeinos is best translated that or that one, but Dr. Jo Ann Davidson says John used the personal pronoun he to give proof that the Holy Spirit is a person:
John strengthens this point by using the personal pronoun ekeinos (“he”) to render Jesus’ references to the Spirit, when Greek grammar more naturally would use the neuter ekeino (“it”) to agree with the neuter noun pneuma (“Spirit,” the Greek equivalent of ruach). This personal pronoun, used in numerous verses in John (14:26; 15:26; and 16:8, 13, 14), is all the more striking because in 14:17, where the Spirit is first introduced, John uses the grammatically appropriate neuter pronouns (ho and auto). The subsequent shift to the masculine expresses his theology—and John was inspired by the Spirit as he wrote! (Jo Ann Davidson, “Third Member of the Godhead: Power or Person,” paper presented at the Adventist Theological Society Fall Symposium 2016; emphasis supplied)
I respect Dr. Davidson’s education and position, but I cannot agree with her statement that “John strengthens this point by using the personal pronoun ekeinos” for two reasons. First of all, John wrote the gospel, but John is not strengthening his point that the Holy Spirit is a person. He is simply quoting Jesus, and it is Jesus, not John, who is strengthening whatever point is being made. We acknowledge Jesus spoke Aramaic and that John chose the appropriate Greek words to represent what Jesus said, but more importantly, and this is the second reason, ekeinos is a demonstrative pronoun, not a personal one. The King James’ translators have used the personal pronoun he in translating ekeinos, but John did not use the personal pronoun he when he wrote this verse. He used the word ekeinos, and ekeinos is a demonstrative pronoun and means that or that one. Ekeinos is the masculine form of the demonstrative pronoun, it is true. Ekeinos also has a feminine form and a neuter form, and the King James’ translators were correct in choosing he, instead of the grammatically correct neuter form of the Greek (ekeino), which would have been translated it, but not for the reason Dr. Davidson states. This is not a trivial point and to better understand the reason for focusing on it, let us consider another statement of Dr. Davidson. She stated in the above quotation that “the Spirit is first introduced” in John 14:17, but I ask you, of whom is John speaking in verse 16?
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (John 14:16)
Dr. Davidson provides an answer:
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “another Paraclete,” who will continue His ministry (Jn 14:16). This second Paraclete will give intelligible directives to a fledgling New Testament Church just as Jesus did. Jesus portrays the Spirit as a person as much as He Himself is. (Davidson, Ibid.)
In this quotation she says the Holy Spirit is the Comforter of John 14:16, but, as we read in the earlier quotation, she also states the Spirit is not introduced until verse 17. She does not say the word spirit is not introduced until verse 17, so she can only mean the Holy Spirit itself is not introduced until verse 17, in which case she is obviously contradicting herself, and I wonder why.
The two issues she raises—the use (and translation) of ekeinos and that of the Spirit not being introduced until verse 17—are used as “evidence that the HS is a personal being” (Ibid.) and as evidence that “Jesus portrays the Spirit as a person as much as He Himself is” (Ibid.). The use of ekeinos in John 14:26 is evidence for a personal being, Dr. Davidson says, because John intentionally disregarded Greek grammar and used the personal pronoun he instead of the linguistically proper demonstrative pronoun it in this verse. John did this, she says, in order to teach us that the Holy Spirit is a person (remember the Greek word for spirit is a word that is linguistically neuter and would require the pronoun it). The claim that the Spirit is not introduced in the referenced section of John 14 until verse 17 denies that the Comforter mentioned in verse 16 is the Holy Spirit. This denial would seem important to make to prove the point that Jesus and John cannot be referring back to the Comforter in verse 26 when using ekeinos but are bending proper grammar in using ekeinos to refer to the Holy Ghost spoken of in verse 26.
Dr. Davidson is saying the improper use of pronouns she claims John makes in various verses of his gospel when speaking of the Holy Spirit is significant because John is purposely making a shift from the proper use of pronouns to teach the personhood of the Holy Spirit, but if you approach 14:26 and 15:26, for example, without allowing for improper grammar but insisting on proper grammar, you will find that the masculine demonstrative pronoun ekeinos is referring back to that one already mentioned, the Comforter, and not to the Spirit. Ekeinos is modifying Comforter (paraklētŏs). Both ekeinos and paraklētŏs are masculine, linguistically speaking, so there is perfect harmony between them, and the grammar is in proper order. Remember, the Greek word John used is ekeinos, and ekeinos means that one. Jesus is pointing back to that one he has already mentioned (the Comforter); thus, there is no basis to claim Jesus and John are teaching anything about the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The pronoun he was chosen by the translators of the KJV, instead of she or it, because they understood the word it modified was not Spirit, but Comforter (paraklētŏs), and paraklētŏs is of the masculine gender. If the word it modified were pneuma (spirit), for example, then ekeino would have been used, for both ekeino and pneuma are linguistically neuter. It is that simple. No hidden meaning about the personhood or about the being of the Holy Spirit is found in John 14:26, despite the multitude of proponents for such an understanding.
It is as Drs. Naselli and Gons wrote:
The common argument is invalid because the antecedent of the masculine
ekeinos is not the neuter
pneuma but the masculine
paraklētŏs. . . . Of course, we agree that the Holy Spirit is a person, and the three passages in John 14–16 are good places to advance that argument. But the basis of that argument is not a grammatical theological connection between
pneuma. Rather, its basis is contextual, including the nature of a
paraklētŏs and how Jesus speaks about the personal function of the
Keep in mind we are not denying the Holy Spirit is a person. Ellen White clearly states that it is. (We will discuss this later). We are simply stating that the proof for it is not found in John 14:26 or 15:26 and that John 14:16 is definitely not teaching the Holy Spirit is a being, as Dr. Davidson states.
John 16:13 is a more complicated verse because of its many pronouns, but it carries the same message concerning the use of pronouns.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
The first pronoun, he, is the translation of the Greek word ekeinos. At first you might think ekeinos is referring to the “Spirit of truth” because of its proxemity, but pneuma (spirit) is of a neuter gender and alēthĕia (truth) is of a feminine one, so if the pronoun were referring to either of these words, it would have to have been it or she, respectively, to maintain correct grammar. If you keep in mind, however, that Jesus is referring back to that one which he has already mentioned, you will understand, as the translators of the King James Bible (KJV) understood, that he was referring to the Comforter in verse 7, and thus the use of the masculine pronoun ekeinos, translated he in the KJV. The masculine pronoun he is not used to denote a being that is male; it is simply used to keep agreement with the gender of the noun it modifies. Matching the genders linguistically does not, of itself, prevent one from believing the Holy Spirit is a person, but the use of a masculine pronoun cannot, on the other hand, be used to prove the Holy Spirit is a person or a being. The pronouns simply refer to linguistic gender, except when personal pronouns refer to a human being.
Let us consider the use of personal pronouns in the Greek when they refer to the names of people. For example, he is always used when referring to Christ. Obviously Jesus was male, but what would happen if the Greek word for Christ were a feminine word, linguistically speaking? Would the pronoun referring to Christ then have to be she? This problem never arises, for names of people in the Greek language were always of the same linguistic gender as the person’s physical gender, thus these pronouns correspond to the physical gender of the person. In other words, no name of a person will have a linguistic gender different from the one the person actually has physically. The Greek word for Mary is feminine. The Greek word for Peter is masculine, linguistically speaking, but this leads to another question: Does the Holy Spirit have a name? If there were a name for the Holy Spirit, we then would have a clue to the Holy Spirit’s physical gender.
At one time I was a teacher, but teacher was not my name. Another time I was a counselor, but that, also, was not my name. We could each say something similar. Perhaps you are a musician or a carpenter, but neither of these words is your name. We wear many hats, but these hats are titles or descriptors of the person we are or of the things we do. The Father has names and many descriptors; the Son has names and many descriptors; Satan has names and many descriptors, but the Holy Spirit has no name, only descriptors or titles. We do not want to be guilty of limiting the Holy Spirit by our logic or by how we define God’s Spirit, it is true, but we also do not want to embellish our understanding of the Spirit beyond what God has revealed.
Pneuma is the basic Greek word translated spirit and spirits in 1 John 4:1, and the Greek word for prophet signifies someone who speaks the divine will, so John is saying that not everyone who stands before you to speak God’s word is actually doing so; therefore, we must try or test what the person is saying to know if they are the mouthpiece for God or for Satan. We do this by comparing what is said or written with the Holy Scriptures, for the Holy Spirit will always lead one to the scriptures:
The Holy Spirit always leads to the written Word. (Ellen White, Ms20–1906.32)
So, no matter whom you listen to and no matter what you read or study, what is said or written must be in harmony with the written word or it is inspired by a evil spirit. This is why we take seriously the written and the spoken words of Adventist theologians and scholars, for their influence is great. May it be their words only present truth.
Let us now consider another reason given to believe the Holy Spirit is a person—the Holy Spirit functions as a person. The Holy Spirit moans and groans, the Holy Spirit guides and instructs, for example, all characteristics of what a person can do.
The Bible never teaches us about the personhood of the Holy Spirit or about the composition of the Spirit’s being, other than to tell us that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26) and that the Spirit is the Spirit of God and/or the Spirit of Christ. Many theologians give the Holy Spirit the status of personhood or the status of a being because the Spirit functions like a person or a being functions. It can be grieved, for example, but so can a mother cow over its missing calf. Instead of explaining the personhood or the being of the Holy Spirit, the Bible teaches us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit; of the actions of the Holy Spirit; of the power of the Spirit; of the guidance, counsel, and purpose of the Holy Spirit; and that the Spirit helps, comforts, and convicts us, but it never explains its essence or its composition. Beyond that which has been revealed, the Holy Spirit is a mystery, and beyond this revelation, silence is golden:
The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.
The office of the Holy Spirit is distinctly specified in the words of Christ: “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin. If the sinner responds to the quickening influence of the Spirit, he will be brought to repentance and aroused to the importance of obeying the divine requirements. (Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 55)
Ellen White has referred to the Holy Spirit as a person:
We have been brought together as a school, and we need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes, that the Lord God is our Keeper and Helper. He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind. (Ms66–1899.11)
But she has also equated person with personality when speaking of the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit always leads to the written Word. The Holy Spirit is a person; for He beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. When this witness is borne, it carries with it its own evidence. At such times we believe and are sure that we are the children of God. . . . The Holy Spirit has a personality, else He could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must also be a divine person, else He could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God. “For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man, which is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (Ellen White, Ms20–1906.32)
Either the Holy Spirit is two different persons—a human person and a divine person because she says the Holy Spirit is “also” a divine person—or the Holy Spirit has two different personalities—a personality that understands man and can bear witness to him and a personality that understands the things of God which no man can know. No one would say the Holy Spirit is two different persons. Sister White can only be saying that the Holy Spirit is a personality and that this personality understands both man and God, and as a personality, the Holy Spirit walked, in a symbolic sense, the grounds of a school, knowing the thoughts of those on campus. Understanding this helps us to comprehend how Satan can be held in check by “the third person of the Godhead”:
The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. (Ellen White, Ms22–1897.19; also Special Testimonies, Series A, no. 10, p. 37, and Evangelism, p. 617)
This third person of the Godhead is the third personality of the Godhead. This is reinforced by Ellen White’s handwritten copy of a document that the Ellen G. White Estate has not published correctly. The officially published text reads as follows:
The Father cannot be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily and is invisible to mortal sight.
The Son is all the fulness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be “the express image of His person.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is shown the personality of the Father.
The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fulness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.
What is the sinner to do? Believe in Christ. He is Christ’s property, bought with the blood of the Son of God. Through test and trial the Saviour redeemed human beings from the slavery . . . (Ellen White, Ms21–1906, para. 9–12)
Her handwritten copy, however, contains edits and reads as follows:
The Father is not to be described by the earthly The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead invisible to mortal earthly sight
The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested, He is the express image of his Father’s person 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. Here is the personality of the Father
The Spirit the Comforter whom Christ promised to send after he assended to heaven is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead making manifest to the All who receive him and believe in Him. Here are the living three personalities of the heavenly trio in which every soul repenting of their sins receiving Christ by a living faith to them who are baptized In the name of the Father and of the Sone and of the Holy Ghost these high dignified personalities Give power to the obedient subjects because they are Gods property to be called the Sons of God. What is the sinner to do, believe in Jesus Christ because they are his property which he hath purchased with his own blood through the test and trial to which he was subjected to redeem from the slavery . . .
The published version contains important inaccuracies, and the one on which we wish to focus is the correction she made to “the three living persons,” for she struck out her original word “persons” and changed it to “personalities.” Her corrected copy reads “the living three personalities.” For whatever reason, the White Estate has never corrected the published document to reflect this correction. Her correction, however, gives us the correct understanding of the “heavenly trio” to be a trio of personalities and not of coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial beings. The release of Ellen White’s writings to the general public has met many obstacles. Soon after her death a controversy arose over this very issue, with Willie White advocating for the release and A. G. Daniells and other church leaders opposing it, and it was not until 2015, at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that the release of all the documents was announced by the director of the Ellen G. White Estate, James R. Nix.
Let us now consider 2015 and the General Conference session. A change was proposed to the fundamental belief on the Holy Spirit at this session. This change added the statement that the Holy Spirit is as much a person as are the Father and the Son, and the addition was overwhelmingly approved. Only Jerilyn Burtch spoke against the change, although Ray Roennfeldt suggested using the term personal being in place of person.
. . . the nature of the Holy Spirit is another area where we see through a glass darkly. Even our pioneers were constantly debating this. And we just don’t have a clear “thus saith the Lord” that quantifies the personhood of the Holy Spirit as compared to the Father or the Son. So I would be speaking against this revision. (Jerilyn Burtch, Eighth Business Meeting, Sixtieth General Conference session, July 6, 2015, p. 31)
To which Dr. Artur Stele, who was presenting to the delegates the changes to the fundamental beliefs, replied:
. . . the Scripture speaks very clearly of the Holy Spirit as a person. (Artur Stele, Eighth Business Meeting, Sixtieth General Conference session, July 6, 2015, p. 31)
So, let us consider the new fundamental belief on the Holy Spirit and the supporting Scriptures that should speak “very clearly of the Holy Spirit as a person”:
God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth. (Gen. 1:1, 2; 2 Sam. 23:2; Ps. 51:11; Isa. 61:1; Luke 1:35; 4:18; John 14:16–18, 26; 15:26; 16:7–13; Acts 1:8; 5:3; 10:38; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 12:7–11; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Peter 1:21.)
Nothing to support the Holy Spirit as a person is found in Genesis 1:1, 2. The Spirit of God moved, but many things move, so this cannot be a support. Also, this is the Spirit of God—not an entity of its own and not God the Spirit, which the first few words of the belief state. In 2 Samuel 23:2, we read the “Spirit of the LORD.” Again, no separate person is revealed. The same idea is found in Psalm 51:11 and in Isaiah 61:1. In Luke 1:35 the Holy Ghost is “the power of the Highest.” Again, the Spirit is not its own person, for it belongs to the “highest.” Luke 4:18 speaks of the “Spirit of the Lord.” John 14:16–18 speak of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, but the text tells us this Comforter is Jesus, for Jesus said “I will come to you” (v. 18) and said that the Comforter currently dwelt with them and would later would be in them (v. 17). Jesus is the one who dwelt with them, and he is the one who later dwelt in them by his Spirit. John 15:26 also equates the Holy Ghost with the Comforter, but this verse adds the information that the Comforter is sent by Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit does not choose of its own to come but is controlled by Jesus.
The word translated whom in this verse is the Greek word ho, and ho is a relative pronoun. Relative pronouns do not reveal physical gender; they simply refer back to a previously mentioned noun, be it animate or inanimate. They are related to a previously mentioned noun—and in this case the noun which is related to whom is paráklētos. So, when theologians and scholars state that the use of the word whom in this verse demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is a person, they are simply denying what a relative pronoun is. It is a word that relates to another word, and that is all. The pronoun, of itself, gives no hint whether or not it is related to a person. No gender is implied in the use of any relative pronoun, other than a linguistic gender, if so required by the language.
The rest of verse 26 gives a partial list of the work of the Holy Spirit, and this work reveals no personhood either, although many take issue with this conclusion. Because some of the work of the Holy Spirit is work that people also do, many have concluded that the Holy Spirit is thus a person, but this conclusion is not supported by scripture and also limits the Holy Spirit to our understanding of what a person is and/or does.
The rest of the references address the work of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit, etc., none of which expressly state the Holy Spirit is a person and only give attributes we associate with people.
Brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to be misled concerning the Holy Spirit. Nowhere do we read in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is a separate person, as Jesus and the Father are. We do read that the Holy Spirit relates in ways people relate, although on a much higher level; we read part of the work done by the Holy Spirit is similar to what people can also do, although we do it to a vastly inferior degree; and we read that the Holy Spirit proceeds from God. Beyond this we can say no more concerning the personhood of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is a great gift to us that reaches to the farthest regions of the universe:
He [God] moves upon human forces, causing His Spirit to touch invisible cords,v and the vibration rings to the extremity of the universe. (Ellen White, Ms22–1897.18)
When you meet so-called living miracles, such as the mute, mentally deficient man mentioned at the beginning of this article, who was changed into a genius, or when someone tells you the Holy Spirit has given him the gift of healing, remember this: “The Holy Spirit always leads to the written Word” (Ellen White, Ms20–1906.32). If there is not a corresponding honoring of God’s law, know for a certainty a false spirit is at work.
How can it be that we, who have been so blessed of God, eagerly buy into the invention of man that exalts the Holy Spirit to the Godhead? The absolute, the complete, Godhead is the Father and the Son:
“Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” This is the absolute Godhead. (Ellen White, Ms128–1897)