The Holy Spirit: A Personality or Merely an Influence?
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for your prayers for our work and for your financial support. Your gifts to Keep the Faith are efficient because they do not support a lot of bulky overhead. Plus you can be certain that any support you send is used to win souls. Also, our monthly KTFInsider reports show you how effective your gifts really are. You can read the stories of how Keep the Faith is changing lives. Thank you for all you do.
My topic today is a subject that I have not really wanted to address. I hate getting into doctrinal controversy because it just tends to alienate people. And I’m a networker. However, there have been so many people that have been asking me over and over again what I believe about the so-called “Trinity,” that I’ve just gotten to the place where I believe I must lay out what the inspired sources say about it. I am very loyal to the inspired sources. It doesn’t matter to me what anyone else says about any given issue. I want to know the plain “thus saith the Lord.” It doesn’t even matter to me what fallible “pioneers” have said or believed, though we are encouraged to read their writings for they have much value. But even the pioneers are subject to the inspired sources. The fact is they are fallible.
As we begin our study today, let us pray and ask our loving heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to teach us. Our heavenly Father, we do not want to be deceived. We do not want to have our lives messed up by confusion and misunderstanding of the very thing that should be our clear guide – the word of God. The word is the anchor of the soul. The word is the foundation of our faith. But the enemy, your enemy and ours, is working to create false doctrine that will lead us astray. Please send Your Holy Spirit to us today as we study about His powerful work. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let us begin with a scripture text. Please turn with me in your Bibles, if you can, to 1 Timothy 4:1. Listen carefully. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Friends, this warning is given to us who are living in the end times. It suggests that if we aren’t careful there will be deceptive attempts by Satan to take us away from sound doctrine. What is a seducing spirit? It is a tempter that is trying to get us to leave the path of rectitude. And a doctrine of devils is one that is not found in the Bible. Often the enemy twists the Bible from its true interpretation or misrepresents it to get you to think that his doctrines are really God’s doctrines. But this is very dangerous.
Here is another warning. Ephesians 4:14, 15. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Friends, I am bringing this sermon to you today because I must speak the truth in love. I realize that I will not change the minds of many who are in error on these points. But I must still raise my voice and do my best to help you and all of our subscribers, listeners and readers to understand the principle that is involved. You need the defenses that so many who do not know the word very well, or who have never studied this subject do not have. You will need them to keep you on solid ground.
The subject we are going to study today is actually very simple to understand, at least in principle. However, there are many who are confused by what they hear, nevertheless. Those who are weak in the faith are often made to feel that if they do not accept the alternative view to the truth of the inspired text, they will somehow be lost eternally. And there are a number of leaders in the anti-Trinitarian movement that play psychological games with people’s minds so that they are ready to accept that which is false as if it were special light sent from heaven. Yet, isn’t that the way Satan would want it to be… so deceptive that it will deceive even the very elect?
I do not take up this subject lightly. It has an important place in the end-time stream of events, for every wind of doctrine will be blowing. Nor do I share these things with you to enter into debate. I want to help you understand what is behind the deception concerning the Holy Spirit and also the shocking place where it is leading. I pray that you are willing to hear and see the truth, for if you do, you will be spared the falsehood, or the conflict with your pride over giving it up if you have accepted it. Moreover, another reason I have chosen to finally do a sermon on this topic, after much hesitation and personal wrestling is because I do want to see souls saved in the kingdom. I believe that there may be someone, somewhere that would come out of their error and unite with the truth. Plus I want to help anyone who is not in that error to resist the enemy and not get into it. Lastly, I appeal to anyone who has accepted the false doctrines of those who teach that the Holy Spirit is only an influence of Christ to break free of this dangerous error.
But before we go further, I would like you to think about this. In any false doctrine there are key principles that always lead to disaster. And those key principles are the reasons why deception gets a foothold with any soul. The underlying principle in any false doctrine is Bible interpretation. If you are prepared to interpret the Bible according to your own mind, you will be deceived. If you are prepared to only follow the clearest “thus saith the Lord,” you will be spared. The enemy has a trap for even the sincere. He knows how to spin a teaching so that it is attractive to those who would be caught up with no other false doctrine. He titillates the mind with “what ifs” and “could it be’s.” Error always leads away from salvation. We must stay a long way away from error if we are to survive spiritually. That means that we will pursue the knowledge of God with correct principles.
Here is another scripture that should be familiar to all of us. It is from Luke 10:27. Listen carefully. “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
Friends, we are called to love God with all we’ve got. We are to have a heart, mind and soul love for God and we are to do it with all our strength. What does this mean? It means friends, that we are not to just have a superficial love for God. We can’t just go to church every week, pay our tithe and offerings and think that’s all we need to too. Too many of us are spiritually lazy. Your spiritual life needs to run deep, right down to the bottom of our hearts, to the deepest recesses of the mind, and with every breath we take. That is some kind of love, isn’t it?
Many who teach false doctrines, often tell me how much their favorite doctrine has enhanced their love relationship with Christ. But friends, what is it really? While they are blinding their minds to the true principles of the character of God, how can they love him with all their minds? If they are turning their backs on what God has said about himself, to take up subjects that He has not been pleased to clearly reveal, how can they love Him with all their hearts and with all their souls? They might have a good feeling, but all error leads away from a true relationship with Christ.
In fact for some, if not many, who teach the so-called “pioneer view” of the Holy Spirit, it has become their life passion. They can talk of nothing else. They have to bring it up in some way in every conversation. It has become their claim to having special insight, their chance at holding something that is not held by the majority of God’s people, setting them apart from the rest. And some people like that place. However, don’t forget that the truth sets us apart from most others. We don’t need error to do that. In this age, we have so many errors that are coming into God’s church that those who hold to the truth alone will be very distinct indeed.
Many years ago, long before I took on Keep the Faith Ministry, one of the leaders of the so-called “anti-Trinitarian movement” contacted me and urged me to read his views in a book on the subject. I was willing at the time, to consider the views of those teaching on this topic because I wanted to be sure that I was on the right track. I did not want to be deceived. I decided I would listen to what this anti-Trinitarian leader had to say. But I have a foolproof principle that I use in judging every new doctrine, and every new light that comes my way. It is simple. Nothing complex. But it’s infallible. I said to myself and to the Lord, that I would review his material unless and until I ran into something that he taught that contradicted any clear statement in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy.
Fortunately, in my life I have been associated with some mentors who gave me a healthy loyalty to the plain teachings of scripture, and a clear and cogent, but simple process, by which I could tell the difference between truth and error. This gave me a set of the most important keys to unlock and understand whether any teaching, is from God or from the enemy. I plan to share the key principle with you today. Furthermore, I am a person that investigates matters and I do not jump on any exciting theological bandwagon very easily. I only lock on to something when I can see that it harmonizes with the truths of sacred and inspired writ.
My many years in ministry have taught me that loyalty to these sources of inspired writings is the only safety. A clear “thus saith the Lord” must be the foundation of everything I believe, and everything you believe if you want to be saved. Notice I said, a CLEAR “thus saith the Lord.” I did not say any statement of inspired writing. That’s because there are many UNCLEAR statements that could be interpreted any number of ways leading to truth or falsehood. The whole experience with this anti-Trinitarian leader ended up being very revealing.
I invited the anti-Trinitarian leader to my office to discuss the matter with me. He came, no doubt hoping for yet another convert. One of the things he told me was that the Trinity doctrine was an invention of the Roman Catholic Church. I already knew this. I had also determined never to refer to the Godhead as the Trinity in my classes or sermons, as this would only confuse people about what I believe. I believe that all of us must be very careful with our expressions. If we use the wrong word, we can give the wrong impression. So be careful that you don’t give people the idea that you believe in the Trinity by using those words.
I did not really understand the Roman Catholic concept of the Trinity as well as I should. The anti-Trinitarian leader actually gave me quite an insight. He explained to me that the Roman Church teaches that the Trinity is three persons in one substance – something like a three-headed monster. That insight really helped me to understand eventually how the “anti-Trinitarians” among us today operate. They use a truly false doctrine of the Roman Church to attack the true doctrine of scripture as if it is the same thing. They make the truth sound like Roman Catholic teaching. They end up in another ditch that keeps them from accepting the truth because to their minds, it brings them back toward Catholicism. There is a wide distinction between the teaching of scripture and Catholic teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. But these so-called “anti-Trinitarians” have confounded the two concepts and made the distinction of none effect.
But let us explore for a few minutes the history of the Catholic concept of the Trinity. It will help us understand this question better. The Catholic Trinity doctrine comes from paganism. In most pagan religions there were always, it seems, a triad of gods. The Babylonians certainly understood their gods this way. Their religion included a father, a mother and a male child. The Egyptians also had a three-some of deities – Isis, Horus, Set (IHS). This one, in particular has been incorporated within the Roman Catholic concept of the Trinity. The Greeks and the Assyrians had a three-person god concept too. So do the Hindus, Brahmins, Krishna, and a host of others. Many of them teach a three-headed god. In fact, Alexander Hislop in his famous book “The Two Babylons,” which explains ancient and modern Babylon, writes the following statement.
“While overlaid with idolatry, the recognition of a trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world, proving how deep-rooted in the human race was the primeval doctrine on this subject….” Page: ****** and edition.
Some of those who teach that there are not three persons in the true Godhead suggest that since all pagan religions come from the enemy, the concept of the three-person Godhead in Christianity originated from Satan too. This can’t be farther from the truth.
Let me ask you. Where did the devil get the idea of a three-person godhead? Think about Lucifer’s position in Heaven. Before his fall, Lucifer, the “son of the morning,” was a covering cherub, holy and undefiled, clothed with precious jewels. He stood in the presence of the great Creator, “upon the holy mountain of God,” where he ministered “in the midst of the stones of fire.” Because he ministered in God’s very presence, God’s glory rested upon him. See Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:13–15.
As the covering cherub, wouldn’t Lucifer know about the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? The fact is, it would have been impossible for him not to know about them. He had daily conversation and association with them. He knew them as intimately as any created being can know his creator.
So, here is another anecdotal way that we can know that there is a three-person Godhead. Lucifer knew about it because he counterfeited it in every false religion he controls on earth. Satan has counterfeited everything that God is or does! Do counterfeiters produce likenesses of things that do not exist? Have you ever heard of a counterfeit $3 bill? Doesn’t the existence of the counterfeit indicate the existence of the genuine?
God has a Sabbath; Satan has a counterfeit, Sunday. God has baptism by immersion; Satan has a counterfeit, sprinkling. God has prophets; Satan has false prophets. God has a gift of tongues; Satan has a counterfeit tongues which is essentially gibberish. God has divine healing; Satan has pretended healing. God has faith; Satan has presumption. God has conditional immortality for the faithful; Satan has natural immortality for everybody. God has fire that will destroy the wicked; Satan has a false doctrine of fire that will never stop burning the wicked, and so on. Satan is a master counterfeiter. In view of these realities and his intimate knowledge of the three persons of the true Godhead, wouldn’t he counterfeit this heavenly relationship, too? It is obvious that he did by looking at his pagan religions, including his subtle mixture of truth and error on the subject taught by most Christians.
1 John 5:7 says, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The biblical concept of the godhead combines unity with individuality in a way that no human mind can explain. It is the “given” which we have.
Here is a little fictitious story that illustrates my point. Suppose I came to your church to speak, and you and a lovely lady were sitting on the front row. I come over to speak to you before the service begins.
“Sir,” I say to you, “who is that lady beside you?”
You answer, “She is my wife.”
Then I say, “You must think I am pretty dumb. I have been to school and I know how to count. The Bible states clearly in Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:31 that when a man and a woman marry, they become one. But you two are certainly not one. You are two. I am not blind. Don’t try to tell me that you are married because you are not one.”
Anyone listening to this exchange would say, “Pastor Mayer, you are making a fool of yourself!” And you would be right! But how many times have people used the same idea when the subject of the Trinity is brought up? How can these three individuals in the Godhead be independent individuals yet at the same time one? Well, it’s in the same way as a man and a wife become one. And this is not something that can be explained easily, if at all.
The scripture says, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” Job 11:7. The oneness of the Godhead is a truth stated and that we understand vaguely, but it cannot be explained, especially perfectly. We have been told as much as we need to know.
We are advised to accept it and move on, wasting no time in conjectures and speculations about the nature of the three-person Godhead. We have been given what we need to know, but that’s all. God has left this concept somewhat unclear in the Bible, and there is a reason why. We may not understand the reason, but we have to accept it by faith, that it is true. There are many things in scripture that we have to accept by faith. To try to define this more than the scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy does, will lead to controversies and confusion and the loss of souls. Moreover, it will do something else very serious that I will explain in a few minutes.
The concept of the Trinity, as foisted on the Christian world by the Roman Catholic Church, was not manufactured out of thin air. The enemy is counterfeiting what he saw in the heavenly courts. They got their three-headed monsters from paganism, like so many other things. They have consequently distorted the truth about the Godhead.
Because the term trinity is not found in the Bible and because its precise meaning has engendered much strife throughout Christian history, we choose to use the expression “the three persons of the Godhead,” or more simply, the “Godhead.”
The Catholic Church not only adopted the concept of the trinity, it adopted the characteristics of the pagan deities and applied them to their teaching concerning the Trinity. Many mystical concepts arose in the Catholic concept of the Godhead. For instance, the angry god of pagan teaching became the god who would burn you in hell for your sins. This led to a whole set of theological errors, including Mariology and Mariolatry. After all, someone had to appease the angry god, and Mary was the one chosen to do this. Also, other false doctrines arise in logical development of the angry god theory, such as purgatory, infant baptism, and a host of other papal errors.
Understanding this helped me to understand why the pioneers were so reticent to accept a three-person godhead. The early pioneers that came out from the various Protestant churches also had a strong aversion to Roman Catholic teaching. It was quite different than what Protestants, or evangelicals, as they like to be called, believe today. They have accepted Roman Catholic teaching on the Trinity for the most part. But back then they rightly understood Rome to be leading the world astray, and they saw the Trinity – a “three-headed monster” of three persons in one substance – as the foundation of Catholic false doctrine.
I do not believe that we should be using the term Trinity. It only confuses those who do not understand the truth for this time and makes them think that one of the cardinal teachings of the Bible is the Roman Catholic idea of the Trinity, when in reality the Bible teaches something quite different.
Many who hold to the anti-Trinitarian doctrine are very sincere sounding. They will tell you that they only want to know the truth and that they just want an answer to their questions. And they expect you to answer them. And for those who do not really know their Bibles, this becomes a trap. They aren’t actually telling you the truth. Their questions are already answered for them. Their minds are not only satisfied with the answers at which they have arrived, they are convinced of them and they have become zealous in proselytizing them, and they prey on unwary people in your church that are vulnerable to their specious suggestions.
What they are really saying is that they want you to answer their questions so they can lead you to a false premise and a false conclusion. Their questions are often leading questions that open up an opportunity for them to try to infuse their premises and conclusions into your mind. These are masters of spin. They spin the unclear statements to say something that cannot be clearly established by the statements they use. This leads them to spin the clear statements in a way that supports their false doctrine. But more on that later.
If you don’t have a strong loyalty to a CLEAR “thus saith the Lord” as the basis of every doctrine you hold, you can easily be led down the path to false teaching by unclear statements. These anti-Trinitarians use those questions to drag their unwary victim into debate. Friends, these people would not consider themselves to be of the devil, yet that is exactly who is using them. And you can never enter into a debate with the enemy of souls and win.
So many people have fallen for the false interpretations of UNCLEAR statements of inspiration that these teachings have become quite widespread. If you don’t understand how to correctly interpret scripture, not only will you be led down the path to a wrong concept of the Holy Spirit, but you will also be led down the path to a wrong concept of the eternal pre-existence of Christ and of the feast days, the “lunar Sabbath” and a host of other false doctrines. If you accept one wind of false doctrine, you will likely be tossed about to another and another and to another. Some of them are connected and they logically fit together.
Incidentally, virtually every error is logical. It is based on a false premise. Once you accept that false premise, it is easy to take you logically to a false conclusion.
Listen to this statement from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, pages 74 and 75. “There are some in the church who need to cling to the pillars of our faith, to settle down and find rock bottom, instead of drifting on the surface of excitement and moving from impulse. There are spiritual dyspeptics in the church. They are self-made invalids; their spiritual debility is the result of their own wavering course. They are tossed about here and there by the changing winds of doctrine, and are often confused and thrown into uncertainty because they move entirely by feeling. They are sensational Christians, ever hungering for something new and diverse; strange doctrines confuse their faith, and they are worthless to the cause of truth.”
While not every point made here is applicable to all promoters of false doctrine, many of them are, in fact, going from one false teaching to the next is one of the consequences of this.
The anti-Trinitarian leader gave me his material to study. It was apparent to me that he was teaching that the Holy Spirit is not a separate and distinct person as Jesus is a separate and distinct person from God. He was teaching that the Holy Spirit is only the influence of Christ or Christ’s spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit is really only part of Christ; He is not a separate, distinct being.
As I reviewed his material something struck me. He was using many different statements of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, none of which clearly stated what he was proposing as correct doctrine concerning the Godhead. They were ALL unclear statements. He would ask me questions like “could these statements be saying…” thus and so. Or “could it be that… this statement is saying…” such and such. I could see very clearly that he was trying to construct a doctrine to fit his own idea of what he thought the statements SHOULD be saying.
My principles of Bible interpretation are quite set in my mind. I know that I cannot base my understanding of truth on unclear statements of the inspired sources. I must base my faith on the clear statements then harmonize unclear statements with the clear ones to establish and mature my understanding of the doctrine.
So, I did a little research in the inspired counsel. Here are some of the clear statements I found relating to the nature of the Holy Spirit.
Notice John 14:16. Jesus is speaking about the future comforter that he will send to His disciples after He is taken back into heaven. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”
Did you notice that Jesus said he would ask the Father to send “another Comforter?” In other words, the Father would send someone that is different from the Father and from Christ.
In John 15:26 Jesus says similarly. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father…, he shall testify of me.”
Did you notice that John clarified where the Holy Spirit comes from? He comes from the Father, not from Christ. Therefore, the Holy Spirit cannot be merely the influence of Christ.
What often happens is that teachers of false doctrine create confusion about even the clear statements of inspiration. They put a false spin on them and ask questions that are designed to unsettle your faith in the plainest, the clearest and most obvious meaning of the statement.
There is no need for confusion, my friends. The Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct being, without bodily form. He is of the same understanding as Christ and the Father. They all work together.
Here is another Bible statement that tells us that the Holy Spirit is not merely the influence of Christ but that He is actually the third person of the Godhead. Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 3:15-17.
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 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: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
This familiar passage is actually a rather powerful confirmation that the Holy Spirit is a third entity or person in the Godhead. First of all, the apostle Matthew testifies that the Holy Spirit was present at Christ’s baptism. But there is more. Some people dare to suggest that the “Spirit of God,” which is one of the names of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, was actually the Spirit of the Father instead of the third person of the Godhead. But if you are being guided by the scripture, this concept is unsustainable.
No one in their right mind would claim that the parallel name for Christ, the “Son of God” is referring to Christ as part of God the Father. Yet they try to suggest that the name for the Holy Spirit, which is expressed in the same way, refers to the influence of the Father. It makes no sense to say that the “Son of God” is a separate and distinct individual, while saying that the “Spirit of God” is not a separate and distinct individual.
This illogical conclusion is further addressed by the apostle Paul in his account of his visit to Ephesus. In Acts 19:1-5 we read the following:
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him, which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
The fact that we are to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit makes it very clear that the Holy Spirit is an important and distinct part of the Godhead. Otherwise, Christ would not have given this specific instruction to His disciples.
But Paul takes it further. The fact that these Ephesians were not baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit tells us that this is very important. John the Baptist was baptizing in the name of the Father. If the dove that landed on Christ was the “influence of the Father,” and not a separate third being in the Godhead, then why would it be so important for the Ephesians to be rebaptized? Again, the idea that there are only two persons in the Godhead is illogical. It is impossible to conclude that the dove that landed on Christ is the “influence of the Father” because if it was there would have been no need for these believers in Ephesus to be rebaptized. John further makes this point, when he says plainly in Matthew 3:11 that he did not baptize with the Holy Spirit. Listen carefully.
“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:”
Mark, in his gospel records John’s testimony using similar language to describe the difference between baptism of John and the baptism of Christ.
“I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:8-11.
These words again tell us that John did not baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit. Luke also refers to the Holy Spirit in his gospel. Listen to how he describes the scene.
“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21, 22.
It is clear from these scriptures that at Christ’s baptism there were three persons of the Godhead present, Christ in human form, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Father, by His voice.
How anyone can conjecture and speculate that there were only two makes absolutely no common sense. Notice that these Bible verses do not say that the Holy Spirit is not a separate, distinct person from the other two divine beings in the Godhead. But, based on the preponderance of evidence that clearly shows that none of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, understood the Godhead to be any other than three separate and distinct persons, we must conclude that they were right, and the pioneers were wrong.
Here is yet another testimony concerning the three-person Godhead in the book of Acts, written by Dr. Luke. Again the good doctor makes it clear that we are to understand that the Holy Spirit is separate and distinct from the other two members of the Godhead.
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:1-5.
Notice that Luke mentions all three persons separately from each other. First he mentions the things Jesus began to do. Then he says that the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen. He clearly distinguishes between Christ and the Holy Ghost. Then he mentions Jesus “who showed himself alive after his passion.” Then he mentions that Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God during those 40 days while He was still with the disciples.
Then again in chapter 10:36-38, he lists all three members of the Godhead. “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”
Notice how he incorporates the three persons in His description. God (the Father) anointed Jesus of Nazareth (the Son) with the Holy Ghost (the Spirit). How could God anoint Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost if the Holy Ghost was merely the influence of Christ? And if the Holy Spirit was merely the influence of Christ, how then could Luke put it this way? Was Luke wrong in his testimony? I happen to believe that Luke knew more about the Godhead than I do. I also happen to believe that Luke knew more about the Godhead than these anti-Trinitarian teachers. For they use uninspired sources, such as the pioneers to determine their doctrine, while overthrowing the plain teachings of scripture concerning the Godhead.
Let us now look at the testimony of the apostle John. Turn to John chapter 1:32-34. “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him [Christ]. And I knew him not [Christ]: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same [the Father through the Holy Spirit] said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending [Christ], and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
John the Baptist did not know who Christ was. The Holy Spirit or an angel was sent to him from God the Father, who instructed him to baptize with water, explained to him that when Christ came for baptism, he should look for confirmation of the Messiah by the descent of the Holy Spirit on him in the form of a dove.
All three persons of the Godhead were involved in John’s ministry and in the identification of the Messiah. Here is yet another plain statement of the distinction between Christ and the Spirit as two separate beings. Turn to John 3:33, 34.
“He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent [Christ] speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.”
First, notice that John did not say, “God giveth not HIS Spirit by measure unto him.” He said “God giveth not THE Spirit by measure unto him, clearly distinguishing the Spirit from the other two members of the Godhead.
This is not the only testimony of John concerning the three persons of the heavenly trio. John 14, 15 and 16 have at least six verses that clearly state the three persons of the Godhead. Paul and Peter each give similar testimony to the three-person Godhead.
To come to the conclusion that the Godhead is only two persons, the anti-Trinitarians have to do considerable intellectual gymnastics and must wrest the clear statements of scripture out of their settings. These anti-Trinitarians cannot put their intellectual gymnastics over on anyone that knows the secret about the interpretation of inspiration. You always take the clear statements of inspiration as the foundation of your understanding of truth. You never base your understanding of truth on the flimsy evidence of unclear statements.
No one can say that the Holy Spirit is not the third person of the Godhead is simply in error, no matter how many reams of unclear statements they may throw at you, and no matter how many arguments designed to confuse are made, no matter how many late night Bible study sessions are required to try to get you to accept their ideas, it does not make their ideas correct, or the plain statements of holy writ to be in error. They simply do not have the authority to overthrow the plain teachings of the word of God.
Yet some people, who want to come up with theories that are unsound, refuse to recognize these facts of scripture. Because they have convinced themselves of their human interpretation of the Divine Godhead, they try to show that the preponderance of evidence is all supporting their views in spite of the fact that the statements they use from the inspired sources are merely inferential and unclear, and can be interpreted a number of different ways.
But in order to do this, they have to find a way to eliminate the testimony of the plain and clear statements in the inspired sources. So they say that they must not be understood as they were written. Or they have to brush them off by saying they were tampered with, and that the unclear statements of the inspired record are not really part of the inspired record and were added by uninspired authors whom they cannot name. To maintain their speculation concerning the third person of the Godhead, they have to abuse the scripture and come to the conclusion that their personal views are of more value than the clearly stated inspired record.
But friends, we are told that, “one sentence of scripture is of more value than ten thousand of man’s ideas or arguments.” Testimonies for the Church Vol. 7, page 71. We have just reviewed several of them.
Friends, if it was so important for us to understand that the Holy Spirit is not the third person of the Godhead, and that He was just the “influence of Christ,” as the anti-Trinitarian teachers want you to accept, wouldn’t at least one of these writers of holy scripture have told us so in plain unequivocal terms? Would there not be evidence that they were wrong in what they had actually written. Would they not have said these things a bit differently if they understood that there were only two members of the Godhead? We would certainly have abundant clear evidence that perhaps, at first, they misstated their views, and were corrected by Paul or the apostle John, an angel, or someone else. Wouldn’t God have identified the problem and pointed out that they misunderstood the truth on the matter?
When a man or woman places their own personal false theories in opposition to the inspired counsel, and maintain them even though the inspired record is clear and unambiguous, they have to be quite arrogant. But worse, they put themselves in judgment of the word of God. In this case, they place the writings of the pioneers above the inspired text and try to make the pioneers judges of the message of scripture. This, my friends, is turning the Bible on its head. They turn their backs on the Godhead itself, and in particular the Holy Ghost who said through the apostle Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
You cannot correct many of these people by showing them these scriptures. They cling to their teaching for all they are worth. They cannot bear to admit that they were wrong. Can you imagine discovering that you are wrong only when it is too late, and losing your own salvation over a doctrine that you thought was right based on your own prideful way of placing yourself above the inspired sources? Imagine discovering, only too late, that all you had taught to others about this was terribly wrong, and that you had led others astray as well.
When I went to the Spirit of Prophecy to see what statements were there and whether they were clear or not concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit, I discovered these.
“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.” That’s Desire of Ages, page 671.
So, it was obvious to me that the Spirit of Prophecy clearly says that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead, not the influence of the second person of the Godhead.
Here is another statement I found. “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.” That’s from Evangelism, page 617.
Again, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead, not merely the influence of the second person.
Then I found this from a manuscript of a talk given at Avondale College in Australia. “We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds.” That’s found in Evangelism, page 616.
Then I ran into this statement, which also clearly states that the Holy Spirit has a personality. It is from Evangelism, page 617. “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.”—Manuscript 20, 1906.
And here is one more that I discovered. It too is found in Evangelism, page 617. “We are to co-operate with the three highest powers in heaven,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,—and these powers will work through us, making us workers together with God.”
This passage harmonizes with 1 John 5:7 which says, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
While there has been a lot of debate as to whether 1 John 5:7 was actually written by the apostle John, or whether it was added to the manuscript to bolster the idea of the Trinity, there is evidence that this verse is authentic indeed. In the second century, the Bishop of Antioch references the “Trinity” in a letter he wrote. Now this would not be the Roman Catholic concept because the Catholic Church adopted its own views on the “Trinity” at the Council of Constantinople in 381 (the fourth century). The Bishop of Antioch’s letter is significant because it was in the eastern region of Christianity, which had protected the letters and manuscripts of the apostles from corruptions that were being incorporated into them over in Alexandria, Egypt.
But 1 John 5:7 is not the only verse in the Bible that clearly states the three-person nature of the Godhead. Notice these verses.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:19.
If the Holy Spirit were only the mere influence of Christ, why would Christ tell us to baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit? That would be like saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Son’s influence.” It makes no sense.
Here’s another one. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” 2 Corinthians 13:14.
If we take what these anti-Trinitarian teachers are telling us and apply it to this verse, it would read something like this. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the influence of Christ, be with you all. Amen.” Again, this is mere redundancy, and it doesn’t make any sense.
If we took 1 John 5:7 and did the same thing, we would have “For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the influence of the Word: and these three are one.” This only confuses the clarity of the verse.
So, clearly there are three persons in the Godhead, which includes the Holy Spirit, not two in the Godhead with one of them having an influence that He sheds abroad on the earth, called the Holy Spirit. Why would God give a name to an influence or a force?
Yet, for some reason, our early pioneers were unclear in their understanding of the Godhead, and there was some confusion. They were “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” as the saying goes. At least for a while they rejected the idea of a three-person Godhead because the Roman Catholic Church had corrupted the truth. So they correctly did not want to use the term Trinity or promote that concept. They knew that this would only lead down the wrong track. They did not understand that there are, in fact, three persons in the Godhead in spite of Roman Catholicism’s false teachings on the subject.
Eventually, God’s messenger clarified the matter and the controversy over the Trinity ceased among the pioneers. And though some say that we have to look to what the pioneers taught because God’s messenger said to do that, we cannot take their word on something that has been clearly established otherwise by inspiration.
The pioneers were wonderful people, no doubt. They were sincere, and they were godly, but on this point they were wrong. While the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is not based on truth or scripture, we are not to dismiss the personality of the Holy Spirit either.
When I considered the clear inspired counsel concerning the three-person Godhead, I wrote an email to my anti-Trinitarian leader friend and included many of the clear statements of inspiration on the subject. I asked him to provide a clearer statement than the ones I had found that would support his theory. I pointed out that the statement I was asking for would need to make it abundantly clear that I am not to take the statements I had shown him at face value, but understand them differently from what they actually said.
He responded to my email with more unclear statements. “Could it not be,…” he asked, “that this statement means…” thus and so? “Maybe this concept would be clear if we understood this other statement…”
I wrote back to him and I said, I do not base my faith on “ifs,” “buts” and “maybes.” I need a clear statement that makes it obvious that the ones I had found and presented to him were not to be understood the way they were written.
He responded with more unclear statements. And I pointed out that the statements he presented to me could be taken either way.
After several rounds of this, I asked him if he understood the nature of inspiration the same as I do. Specifically, I asked whether or not we can take the prophet at face value or if we have liberty to “interpret” her writings according to unclear statements and what we might think they mean.
His response was that we cannot take the prophet at face value and that we have to “understand” inspired comments according to the “weight and preponderance of evidence.”
I responded back to him by saying that “one sentence of a clear thus saith the Lord, to me, outweighs all the “weight of evidence” of all the unclear statements, ifs, buts and maybes that can be presented. The “preponderance” of evidence must fall, first and foremost with the clear statements of inspiration. Appropriate Bible interpretation always takes the clear statements as the foundation and brings the unclear statements into harmony with them. With his method of interpreting the Bible, one could make the Bible say anything that one wanted it to say. We must not base our faith on such a flimsy foundation.
I pointed out to this leader of the anti-Trinitarian movement that he had set himself up in the place of God to correct the prophets. And with that, I told him that since we do not have the same concept of the authority of inspiration, I could not continue the discussion any further unless we came into unity on this underlying issue.
And friends, this is the way it still is with all those who teach false doctrine. They will always have to reinterpret the clear statements that don’t line up with their special false doctrine that has come to mean so much to them. Or they will have to find a way to excuse themselves from understanding the clear statements as they are written.
Many have chosen this second tactic. They try to say that the inspired statements were tampered with or added in by others, similar to the text in 1 John 5:7. But if you ask them to go to the original manuscripts and read them in the original handwriting, they just won’t do it. They prefer their delusion, and they don’t want to accept evidence that contradicts their pet theories.
And this brings us to the devastating result of all this. This method of interpreting the inspired sources essentially makes of none effect that authority and the message of the prophets. This one frightful destination to where the anti-Trinitarian false doctrine leads wipes out and eliminates all that God has done for the last generation of His church on earth. It undermines everything that God is trying to show them about His truth. To show you this I want to read a statement from Maranatha, page 158. Listen carefully.
“The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony.”
Friends, rejecting the three-person Godhead leads to making of none-effect the testimony of the spirit of God because it sets the so-called “anti-Trinitarians” above the defining and authoritative role of the inspired counsel of the Lord. This is part of the very last deception of Satan. It leads its adherents to block from their minds any inspired statement they don’t think is valid based on their human reasoning.
This also tells me that we are very close to the close of probation since there are many among us who overthrow the counsel of the Lord. The enemy does not care how it is done. He only cares that it’s done.
Friends, what do you believe about the authority of inspiration? Do you believe that there is a way that you can circumvent that authority by your own ideas construed from unclear statements of inspiration? Or do you accept the scripture as it reads and is meant to be clearly understood even by the simplest of minds?
Oh friends, don’t be misled by those claiming to have new light from heaven in regard to the nature and personality of the Godhead. Use the clear inspired statements to establish your understanding of truth. Then bring the unclear statements into harmony with them. Scripture will not contradict itself. So if someone comes to you and tries to suggest that there are contradictions to the plain teachings of the Bible, you know right off the bat that they are in error.
Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Friends, don’t be left without excuse.
Let us pray, Father in heaven, we want to only hold pure doctrines from scripture. We want to be able to teach them to others so that they may have a true understanding of God. Please Father in Jesus Christ we pray that we will be ready to accept the clear statements of the inspired writings and reject any interpretation of the unclear statements that would conflict with the clear ones. Thank you for Jesus who forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, pride or arrogance, and for the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead who guides us and empowers us against the deceptions of the enemy. We pray that You will free us from any false interpretations of Your word and Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.