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In Defense of the Godhead

In Defence of the Godhead  Presenter: Kevin D. Paulson

The claim is now being heard in various circles that the doctrine of the Godhead, or Trinity, is a Catholic teaching without foundation in Scripture or in the Spirit of Prophecy. Such persons teach that the Holy Spirit is not God, but rather a divine essence working in conjunction with God. Many of these same persons wish to revive the Arian (or Semi-Arian) perspective on the divinity of Christ held by some of our pioneers. This view, while not denying the pre-existence of Christ prior to His birth in Bethlehem, holds that at some time in the past reaches of eternity, Christ was brought into existence by the Father.

Long ago Ellen White warned the church:

The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 80).

Yet we need not despair, for the same writer assures us:

Not one cloud has fallen upon the church that God has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counter-work the work of God but He has foreseen. All has taken place as He has predicted through His prophets (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 108).

The two great inspired sources, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, must remain our changeless criterion in all doctrinal controversy:

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20).

God has, in that Word [the Bible], promised to give visions in the ‘last days’; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth (Early Writings, p. 78).

Men may get up scheme after scheme, and the enemy will seek to seduce souls from the truth; but all who believe that the Lord has spoken through Sister White, and has given her a message, will be safe from the many delusions that will come in these last days (Selected Messages, vol. 3, 83, 84).

These inspired writings must prevail as our exclusive authority. Those who speak of the need to return to the teachings of the pioneers need to remember this: Only one Seventh-day Adventist pioneer was inspired, and her name was Ellen G. White. About her writings she wrote, “There is one straight chain of truth, without one heretical sentence, in that which I have written” (Ibid, p. 52). Ellen White wrote no such endorsement concerning anyone else’s writings—except, of course, the Bible. We cannot therefore assume that anything the pioneers taught about any subject must therefore be true. Only the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings are free of doctrinal error.

The Deity and Personhood of the Holy Spirit

Both Scripture and the writings of Ellen White are clear that the Holy Spirit is God, as well as a Personal Being. Repeatedly, in His promise to His disciples to send the Holy Spirit, Christ refers to this Spirit by such pronouns as “He” and “Him.” See John 14:16Ð17; 15:26; 16:7, 13Ð14. In giving the Great Commission just before His ascension, Jesus placed the Holy Ghost alongside His Father’s name and His own name, declaring that His followers should be baptized in the name of all three. See Matthew 28:19. In the book of Acts, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Ghost (see Acts 5:3), and in the following verse stated to him, “thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Verse 4).

The Spirit of Prophecy writings are equally clear on this point. While some have insisted that the word Trinity is a Catholic term never used by Ellen White, the following statement uses the word trio, which means exactly the same thing:

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 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 cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ” (Evangelism, p. 615 (all emphasis supplied in this and other EGW references).

The following statements make it clear that the Holy Spirit is both God and a Person:

The eternal heavenly dignitaries—God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit—arming them [the disciples] with more than mortal energy … would advance with them to the work and convince the world of sin (Ibid, p. 616).

We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds.

The Holy Spirit is a Person, for He beareth witness with our spirits 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 (Ibid, pp. 616, 617).

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 (Ibid, p. 617).

The Comforter is called ‘the Spirit of truth.’ His work is to define and maintain the truth. He first dwells in the heart as the Spirit of truth, and thus He becomes the Comforter.… Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul.…

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 fullness of divine power (The Desire of Ages, p. 671).

Evil had been accumulating for centuries and could only be restrained and resisted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 392).

He [Christ] determined to give His Representative, the Third Person of the Godhead. This gift could not be excelled (My Life Today, p. 36).

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 (Counsels on Health, p. 222).

The Eternal Pre-Existence of Jesus Christ

The clearest Biblical passage contradicting the Arian view of Christ’s divinity is found in Micah 5:2:

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

The New Testament likewise says of Christ, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Elsewhere Paul writes: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). The New Testament leaves no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was—and is—fully God.

Ellen White speaks even more decisively concerning this subject:

In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived (The Desire of Ages, p. 530).

The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, ‘whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity.’ Micah 5:2, margin (Ibid, pp. 469, 470).

From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was ‘the image of God,’ the image of His greatness and majesty, ‘the outshining of His glory’ (Ibid, p. 19).

When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity (Acts of the Apostles, pp. 38, 39).

The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father. He was the surpassing glory of heaven (Review and Herald, April 5, 1906).

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 (Signs of the Times, August 29, 1900).

Here Christ shows them that, although they might reckon His life to be less than fifty years, yet His divine life could not be reckoned by human computation. The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures (Ibid., May 3, 1899).

From all eternity Christ was united with the Father, and when He took upon Himself human nature, He was still one with God (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 228).

The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant, the One in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted Him, were to be blessed.…

Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore (Review and Herald, April 5, 1906).