A closer look at the relevant data
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 salvation.”1 This took place in heaven prior to the agreement that Christ would function as the Savior.2
Concerning Christ, the coming Messiah, Scripture says His “goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The preincarnate Christ is the “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). “Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity,” writes Ellen White.3 No wonder Christ knew He was “equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). Christ “was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent,” notes Ellen White, and “Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity,” “a distinct person.”4
“In speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God.”5 Fellowship means a relationship with each other. Jesus declared to Martha at the death of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. . . . Whoever . . . believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25). Ellen White comments: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. ‘He that hath the Son hath life.’ 1 John 5:12, KJV. The divinity of Christ is the believer’s assurance of eternal life.”6
When on earth, Christ was confronted by Pharisees about His age. He said to them: “I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Commenting on this claim, Ellen White writes: “Silence fell on the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by the Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, ‘whose goings forth have been of old, from the days of eternity.’ ”7 “Self-existent” means having original life, underived from anyone else.
What about the Holy Spirit? “We need to realize that the Holy Spirit . . . is as much a person as God is a person.”8 The Holy Spirit is “the Third Person of the Godhead,”9 and “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, [are] the three holy dignitaries of heaven.”10 “The eternal heavenly dignitaries—God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit.”11
Christ Speaks With Authority
Christ was soon to leave His disciples. To comfort them, He said: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him [personal pronoun] nor knows him. You know him [personal pronoun], for he [personal pronoun] dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18, ESV).12 Two chapters later Christ said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him [personal pronoun] to you” (John 16:7, ESV). Then Christ names some of the Holy Spirit’s responsibilities (verses 8-11).
Christ continued: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he [personal pronoun] will guide you into all the truth” (verses 12, 13, ESV). In these two chapters Christ speaks of two Persons—Christ and the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s “representative” and “successor” on earth.13
Holy Spirit’s Further Functions
It takes a Divine Person to give human birth to Christ (Matt. 1:20), to author the Old Testament (Acts 28:25-27) and the New Testament (1 Peter 1:20, 21; cf. 1 Thess. 2:13). It takes a Divine Person to be an administrator of the church in the book of Acts: giving guidance (Acts 8:29; 10:19, 20; 11:12, 28; 13:2-4; 16:6, 7; 20:23, 28); filling believers (Acts 4:8, 31; 8:17; 9:17; 10:44, 45; 11:15, 24; 13:9, 52; 19:6); giving languages (Acts 2:4), teaching (John 14:26), bringing to remembrance Christ’s words (John 14:26), comforting (Acts 9:31), being a witness (Acts 5:32).
He intercedes (Rom. 8:26); can be grieved (Eph. 4:30); sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2; cf. John 17:17); produces fruit in Christians—love, with all of its qualities (Gal. 5:22, 23); gifts church members for different ministries in the church (1 Cor. 12:4-11); and brings the risen Christ to live in His followers (John 17:26; Gal. 2:20, 4:19; Eph. 3:17; Phil. 2:13; Col. 1:27). At the close of the Jerusalem Council the leaders recognized the Holy Spirit as a person, saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28).
The Holy Spirit says: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [cf. John 3:16], and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor. 13:14). “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word [John calls Christ the Word (John 1:1, 14)], and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). In Scripture each person in the Trinity is called God. The Father calls Christ God (Heb. 1:3, 8), Christ calls the Father God (John 8:42). Peter remonstrated with Ananias: “You have lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3, NIV),14 and in so doing, “you have not lied just to human beings but to God” (verse 4, NIV). So inspired writings define God as three persons in the Godhead, a communion of love, with life original, self-existent, unborrowed, and underived.
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923), p. 222.
2 Compare here more in Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 36.
3 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), pp. 38, 39.
4 Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 615; Ellen G. White, in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Apr. 5, 1906.
5 Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, Aug. 29, 1900.
6 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 530.
7 Ibid., pp. 469, 470. (Italics supplied.)
8 Ellen G. White manuscript 66, 1899, in Evangelism, p. 616.
9 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
10 See Ellen White’s understanding of Matthew 28:19 in Ellen G. White manuscript 92, 1901. In The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1956), vol. 5, p. 1110.
11 Ellen G. White manuscript 145, 1901, in Evangelism, p. 616.
12 Bible texts credited to ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
13 Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1988), p. 179.
14 Bible texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Norman Gulley, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Southern Adventist University, has served as pastor, missionary, and teacher and lives with his wife in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States.
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