Holy Spirit has a Distinct Personality-A Statement re-examined

Holy Spirit has a Distinct Personality-A Statement re-examined

By Paul Chung

"The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, in Christ’s name. HE PERSONIFIES CHRIST, YET IS A DISTINCT PERSONALITY. We may have the Holy Spirit if we ask for it and make it [a] habit to turn to and trust in God rather than in any finite human agent who may make mistakes." {20MR 324.2} (emphasis in caps added throughout)

Our Trinitarian brethren will tell you that “distinct personality” means a separate and different individual with distinct personage, therefore, the Holy Spirit who personifies Christ, “yet is a distinct personality” proves Holy Spirit is a separate, distinct being not unlike Christ or God the Father. But does it really mean that?

Statements below show how the enemies of God will personate:

“The apostles, as PERSONATED by these lying spirits, are made to contradict what they wrote at the dictation of the Holy Spirit when on earth” GC 557.1
 
“As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will PERSONATE Christ” GC 624.2.
 
“He will assume to PERSONATE the angels of light, to PERSONATE Jesus Christ” Lt102-1894.18.
 
“If men are so easily misled now, how will they stand when Satan shall PERSONATE Christ and work miracles? Who will be unmoved by his misrepresentations then—professing to be Christ when it is only Satan ASSUMING THE PERSON of Christ, and apparently working the works of Christ? What will hold God’s people from giving their allegiance to false Christs? “Go not after them”” Ms185-1897.9.

Is it wrong for the enemy to personate Christ? YES! Why? Because it’s a lie…They are personating someone that they are NOT and they personate to deceive.

Consider that the opposite is true about the Holy Spirit. He is personating Christ, but it’s not a lie. He REALLY IS CHRIST!

Let’s take a closer look again the statement under consideration:

"The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, in Christ’s name. HE PERSONIFIES CHRIST, YET IS A DISTINCT PERSONALITY. We may have the Holy Spirit if we ask for it and make it [a] habit to turn to and trust in God rather than in any finite human agent who may make mistakes." {20MR 324.2}

The way the word “yet” is being used here conveys the meaning of “but nevertheless” or “but despite this.” It is being used as a balancing corrective for the first clause; the word “distinct” in this case means, “recognizably different in nature from something or someone else of a similar type.” In other words, someone might read the first clause and think that because the Spirit “personifies Christ” then that means that He (or It) is not a distinct personality. This is the error that sister White’s clause “yet is a distinct personality” guards against.

This is a common usage for the word “yet” even as the following quote will demonstrate, taken from the book, Education: 

“The mighty power that works through all nature and sustains all things is not, as some men of science claim, merely an all-pervading principle, an actuating energy. GOD IS A SPIRIT; YET HE IS A PERSONAL BEING, for man was made in His image. As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son. Jesus, the outshining of the Father’s glory, “and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3), was on earth found in fashion as a man. As a personal Saviour He came to the world. As a personal Saviour He ascended on high. As a personal Saviour He intercedes in the heavenly courts. Before the throne of God in our behalf ministers “One like the Son of man.” Daniel 7:13. {Ed 131.5}

Due to the fact that “God is a spirit” some might erroneously conclude that He is an all-pervading energy instead of a personal being. The clause “yet He is a personal being” is a balancing corrective against that conclusion. Hope this is clear.

Here's yet another example of how "yet" is being used as a balancing corrective for the first clause:

“From eternity there was a complete unity between the Father and the Son. They were two, YET little short of being identical; two in individuality, yet one in spirit, and heart, and character. {YI December 16, 1897, par. 5}

Again, the first clause with the word “yet” guards against someone thinking that the Father and Son were identical. This is because of the previous assertion that "there was complete unity between" Them. The second clause with the word “yet” guards against someone making them completely separate. This is because it is preceded by the statement that they were “two in individuality.” Despite this though they were “one in spirit, and heart, and character.” I hope these things are clear.

"The Lord's throne is in heaven" (Psalm 11:4); YET BY HIS SPIRIT HE IS EVERYWHERE PRESENT. He has an intimate knowledge of, and a personal interest in, all the works of His hand. ” { E. G. White, Education , p. 132}

Note: Here is yet another clear example of how some might think that because God is a personal Being with "physical" (though invisible) personage that he cannot be everywhere present but again, "yet" is being used here to guard against that thought. And significantly, how is He omnipresent? "BY His Spirit." It is by the very medium of His own Spirit that He is everywhere. This also guards against any spiritualistic idea that God's ENTIRE personage is ONLY an all pervading essence, devoid of distinct, physical personality-having a bodily form. 

God the Father and His Son are Personal Beings

"THROUGH Jesus Christ, God—NOT A PERFUME, NOT SOMETHING INTENGIBLE, BUT A PERSONAL GOD—created man and endowed him with intelligence and power. It is God that thundereth in the heavens. His voice reacheth to the ends of the earth. He holdeth the winds in His hands. He sendeth lightnings with rain. He looketh on the earth and it trembleth; He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. He melteth the mountains like wax at His presence. He maketh the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good." {Ms117-1898} 

"AS A PERSONAL BEING, GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF in His Son. The outshining of the Father’s glory, “and the express image of his person,” JESUS, AS A PERSONAL SAVIOUR, came to the world. AS A PERSONAL SAVIOUR He ascended on high. AS A PERSONAL SAVIOUR He intercedes in the heavenly courts." {FLB 40.3}

"HE [Christ] REPRESENTED GOD NOT AS AN ESSENCE THAT PERVADED NATURE, BUT AS A GOD WHO HAS A PERSONALITY. Christ was the express image of His Father’s person; and He came to our world to restore in man God’s moral image, in order that man, although fallen, might through obedience to God’s commandments become enstamped with the divine image and character—adorned with the beauty of divine loveliness." (Manuscript 24, 1891). {7BC 921.9}

"THE THEORY THAT GOD IS AN ESSENCE PERVADING ALL NATURE is received by many who profess to believe the Scriptures; but, however beautifully clothed, THIS THEORY IS A MOST DANGEROUS DECEPTION.... IF GOD IS AN ESSENCE PERVADING ALL NATURE, THEN HE DWELLS IN ALL MEN; AND IN ORDER TO ATTAIN HOLINESS, MAN HAS ONLY TO DEVELOP THE POWER WITHIN HIM. These theories [pantheism], followed to their logical conclusion, ... DO AWAY WITH THE NECESSITY FOR THE ATONEMENT AND MAKE MAN HIS OWN SAVIOR.... Those who accept them are in great danger of being led finally to look upon the whole Bible as a fiction...." {FLB 40.5}

"The new theories in regard to God and Christ, as brought out in “The Living Temple”, are not in harmony with the teaching of Christ. The Lord Jesus came to this world to represent the Father. He did not represent God as an essence pervading nature, BUT AS A PERSONAL BEING. Christians should bear in mind that GOD HAS A PERSONALITY AS VERILY AS HAS CHRIST." {SpM 324.2}

“When in times of trouble and perplexity we trust Him fully, we have a living sense of His cheering, ALL-PERVADING PRESENCE AND POWER. We realize that the Lord is indeed our strength and our portion forever. We can be one with Christ in God. But LET US NEVER UNDERTAKE TO DEFINE GOD AS AN ESSENCE. NEVER, NEVER VENTURE ONE STEP INTO THE WAY OF PUTTING GOD IN THE PLACE OF THE THINGS OF HIS CREATION." Manuscript 126, Nov. 29, 1905, “A Warning Against Present Dangers.”  {UL 347.7}

"All created things testify to His power, His wisdom, His love. But not from the stars or the ocean or the cataract can we learn of the personality of God as it is revealed in Christ. God saw that a clearer revelation than nature was needed to portray both His personality and His character. He sent His Son into the world to reveal, so far as could be endured by human sight, the nature and the attributes of the invisible God. HAD GOD DESIRED TO BE REPRESENTED AS DWELLING PERSONALLY IN THE THINGS OF NATURE, —IN THE FLOWER, THE TREE, THE SPIRE OF GRASS,—WOULD NOT CHRIST HAVE SPOKEN OF THIS TO HIS DISCIPLES WHEN HE WAS ON THE EARTH? BUT NEVER IN THE TEACHING OF CHRIST IS GOD THUS SPOKEN OF. CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES TAUGHT CLEARLY THE TRUTH OF THE EXISTENCE OF A PERSONAL GOD. {8T 265}

"Pantheism is the term used to designate the strange new teachings that were being introduced. Pantheism pictures God NOT as a great personal Being, but as a mysterious essence—an impersonal influence pervading all nature. God is seen in all nature—in trees, flowers, sunshine, air, and human beings. The power of God in nature is confused with the personality of God." {5BIO 281.3}

"As is so often the case with misleading teachings, it came to the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists subtly, as new, advanced truth. At first it was not discerned as a threat to the church. Dr. Kellogg had toyed with these concepts before James White’s death in 1881, and considering it “great light,” had discussed it with Ellen White. “‘Those theories are wrong,’” she told him. “‘I have met them before.’” He seemed dazed as she showed him the outcome of espousing such a philosophy. She then admonished, “‘Never teach such theories in our institutions; do not present them to the people.’”—Manuscript 70, 1905. {ibid 281.4}

Pantheism thus denies the aspect of God's personality which is corporeal, having a bodily form, though invisible, who actually dwells in heaven in real location and yet is omnipresent by His Spirit.

Note: As you can see and it's worth noting that Sister White was very much concerned with portraying God as a Person and not as some kind of mysterious essence pervading all nature. Father is a tangible Being with substance (aka: corporeal-having a bodily form) and this same thing is true of His Son who has this very same substance. She was adamant about this, especially in light of prevailing pantheistic ideas about God, namely because of John Harvey Kellogg (Influential doctor, contemporary of Ellen White who authored, "The Living Temple"), for he was depersonalizing the Holy Spirit and his views needed to be corrected. Therefore, Ellen White was very careful to describe the Holy Spirit as a Person (but not to be construed as a separate being), for HE/IT is the very personal presence via the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son with distinct personalities as we will see later.

Protection against spiritualism

Kellogg's pantheism sought to make God ONLY as an all pervading essence. With this view, God's omnipresent Spirit is an actual whole being that does not have physical personage.  But this is a confusion and a contradiction because a single physical body can't be everywhere simultaneously, as well as dwell inside another person's body.

The truth of the matter is that God is a personal Being and He is physically in heaven. That is where He lives, works, and resides. He is only omnipresent BY His Spirit. Which is a spiritual manifestation of his own presence, divested of His physical personage.

Where shall I go from YOUR SPIRIT? Where shall I flee from Your PRESCENCE? If I go to heaven or hell, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
— Psalm 139:7-10

Here is a quote that I think is full of significance.

"This subject has been kept before me for the past twenty years, yea, for more than twenty years. Before my husband's death, Dr. Kellogg came to my room to tell me that he had great light. He sat down and told me what it was. It was similar to some of the views that he has presented in Living Temple. I said, "Those theories are wrong. I have met them before. I had to meet them when I first began to travel".... 5MR 278.4

From at least 1881 and perhaps her whole ministry the subject of Spiritualism and Spiritualistic interpretations concerning God's personality was "kept before" her.

Couple those with the statements like,

"But I have ever had the same testimony to bear which I now bear regarding the personality of God...". 4MR 57.1

And

“There is in it [Kellogg’s teachings] the beginning of theories which, carried to their logical conclusion, would destroy faith in THE SANCTUARY QUESTION and in the atonement. I do not think that Dr. Kellogg saw this clearly. I do not think that he realized that in laying his new foundation of faith, he was directing his steps toward infidelity.” (Lt. 33, 17-1-1904)

"there they become indoctrinated with the very sentiments regarding the PERSONALITY OF GOD AND CHRIST that would undermine the foundation of our faith. The sanctuary question, which means so much to the heavenly family and to the believers on earth, has been made as nothingness. " Letter 72,1906

Thus, the ultimate end of Spiritualism is that Christ, the sanctuary, the atonement, etc are "burned up" and become "nothingness".

Kellogg's pantheistic assertion that God is "ONLY" an all pervading essence or force and that He is omnipresent in everywhere and in every person (regardless of the person's spiritual condition), negates the literal, physical personhood of the Father and the Son in heaven.

Just to digress a little, after the the great disappointment of 1844, there was another group of believers (who later became the Jehovah’s witnesses) who understood the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8 similar to the Sabbatarian Adventists but they spiritualized the meaning. They understood the significance of the prophetic date to be valid but because they spiritualized the event, they adopted a view that Jesus already came but spiritually. Consequently, they denied the literal personhood of Christ ministering in the literal heavenly sanctuary and thereby rejected the idea that Christ also physically entered the Most Holy Place.

"The Most Holy, containing the Ark of the ten commandments, was then opened for our Great High Priest to enter to make atonement for the cleansing of the Sanctuary. IF WE TAKE THE LIBERTY TO SAY THERE IS NOT A LITERAL ARK, CONTAINING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN HEAVEN, WE MAY GO ONLY A STEP FURTHER AND DENY THE LITERAL CITY, AND THE LITERAL SON OF GOD. Certainly, Adventists should not choose the spiritual view, rather than the one we have presented. We see no middle ground to be taken."{Parable by James White, p. 16, Para. 1, [MATT25]; ND JW PARA 16.1} Source click HERE

Note: I believe this was the significant underlying context as to why she chose such expression as the "third person" or "personality" language in describing the Holy Spirit. It was not intended to bring in a new theology but to uphold the truths of the sanctuary and the personality of God. Therefore, by portraying the Spirit as a "third person" or "personality", preserves those other vital, distinct truths of the Adventism yet does not negate the truth that the Spirit is also the presence and power of the Father and Son. 

So all of this brings us back to the quote in question.  Let’s look at it again. 

We have one statement – “He personifies Christ.” What this means is that the Spirit is representing or embodying the humanity of the Man Christ Jesus to us. It, the Spirit Itself, is not Him in His PHYSICAL Person. However despite this personification of Jesus, the Spirit is “yet” a distinct personality.

The literary context of contrast does indicates that “distinct” is synonymous with “different” here. A point of differentiation is being made here. 

Now that brings us to another question. How can the Spirit of Christ be a distinct personality? There are a few options here. 

Option 1: It is a different Person altogether. This is the option believed by our Trinitarian brethren.  

One can certainly make this argument for there are numerous statements by Ellen White where she used the expressions such as "distinct personalities" or "personifies" to denote two distinctly separate individuals.

For example:

"Christ and God are one, and yet they are distinct personalities. Christ spoke with conscious authority, as one possessing in Himself power that would enable Him to perform His work." {Ms140-1903.44} 

“Christ is one with the father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages”(RH June 1, 1905)

"God had placed upon His Son authority to lay hold of the eternal throne with His divine nature. While Christ stood forth distinct in His own personality, He reflected the luster of the greatness that was His because of His position of honor within the encircling light of the eternal throne, in unity with God."{Ms156-1903.4}

"These words show that God and Christ are two personalities, distinct and separate. The unity for which Christ prays, which is to make believers one with Him, as He is one with the Father, does not destroy the personality of God or the personality of Christ. The believers become sons of God, and the personality of all is preserved." {Lt52-1906.23}

"...Son of God, the personification of the only true God, who possessed goodness, mercy, and untiring love, whose heart was ever touched with human woe..." {RH January 30, 1900, Art. A, par. 6}

“As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ” GC 624.2.

Note: Here we find Ellen White using these expressions ("distinct" and "personalities") to denote two distinctly different individuals. Christ and God (Father) are two distinct personalities and Satan, while he personates Christ, is a separate, distinct personality. Therefore, when we read Ellen White says, "HE [Holy Spirit] PERSONIFIES CHRIST, YET IS A DISTINCT PERSONALITY.", it's not unreasonable to take it to mean that the Holy Spirit is a separate distinct individual not unlike the Father and the Son.

Other viable possible options

Option 2: It is a different personality because it is the Spirit of Christ operating in a different capacity than when He was on the earth. While on earth He was not omnipresent in Spirit; He was localized. No one can be a true human personality if omnipresent in Spirit. That is an attribute of Divine personality not human. Thus upon His return to heaven Christ stripped (divested) His Spirit of this restriction and is now acting in an omnipresent capacity. 

“The HOLY SPIRIT is the SPIRIT of CHRIST, which is sent to all men to give them sufficiency,” — (E.G. White, 14MR 84.3)

“The Lord is soon to come. We want that complete and perfect understanding which the Lord alone can give. It is not safe to catch the spirit from another. WE WANT THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST. If we commune with God, we shall have strength and grace and efficiency.” — (Letter to Prescott W.W. E.G. White, Lt66, April 10, 1894)

“but it is the leaven of the SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST, WHICH IS SENT DOWN FROM HEAVEN, CALLED THE HOLY GHOST, and that Spirit affects the heart and the character.” — (E.G. White, Ms36-1891)

Option 3: It is a different personality because the holy Spirit is not just the Spirit of Christ. It is also the Spirit of God. Thus the mutually shared Spirit of Two Persons is being experienced by the believer. Thus It is not just One or the Other but Both. However it is the Man Christ Jesus who is being personified because He is the One who knows, experientially, what it is like to go through the entire gambit of human experience and have overcome. Christ would be taking the representative lead, if you will. 

"He will send his representative, the Holy Spirit; for He says, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” BY THE SPIRIT the Father and the Son will come and make THEIR abode with you. {BEcho January 15, 1893, par. 8}

"If a man love me, he will keep my words; and the Father will love him, and WE WILL COME UNTO HIM.' WE, that is, THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY GHOST, and make our abode in him. -Letter 44, 1893. (To A. T. Jones, April 9, 1893.)

"We will come unto him"

Christ has his own spirit: “Searching what, or what manner of time the SPIRIT OF CHRIST which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Peter 1:11) 

Father has his own spirit: “For it is not ye that speak, but the SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER which speaketh in you.” (Mattew 10:20)

But John talks of both the Father and the Son dwelling in us by the the Comforter/Holy Spirit (one spirit).

In John 14 verse 23, Jesus says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and WE [Father and the Son] will come unto him, and make OUR abode with him.” Because scripture tells us that Christ dwells in us while God dwells in Christ:

John 10:38 “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the FATHER IS IN ME, and I in him."(compare 14:10,11)

John 17:23 "I IN THEM, AND THOU IN ME, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."

“The Father gave HIS Spirit without measure to his Son,” — (E.G. White, RH, Nov 5, 1908)(John 3:34)

Note: The Holy Spirit is "distinct" or different because when Christ comes to us as our Comforter/Holy Spirit, through the medium of His own Spirit (one Spirit), it is not just Himself but He is also imbued with the presence of His Father's Spirit dwelling in Him and thus, we can have fellowship with both the Father and the Son together. This is why John says in 1 John 1:3, “...truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”-(It is not that the Holy Spirit is another separate being but rather, it is THROUGH the Spirit, we can experience the Father and the Son)

Additionally, the term "distinct" doesn't always mean separate or different.

Notice how Sister White uses the same expression below:

WE NEED TO HAVE MORE DISTINCT VIEWS OF JESUS and a fuller comprehension of the value of eternal realities. The beauty of holiness is to fill the hearts of God’s children; and that this may be accomplished, we should seek for divine disclosures of heavenly things.”
— Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 99.3, 1892

"LOOKING UNTO JESUS WE OBTAIN BRIGHTER AND MORE DISTINCT VIEW OF GOD, and by beholding we become changed. Goodness, love for our fellow men, becomes our natural instinct." {COL 355.1; 1900}

"The disciples did not yet understand Christ’s words concerning His relation to God. Much of His teaching was still dark to them. They had asked many questions that revealed their ignorance of God’s relation to them and to their present and future interests. CHRIST DESIRED THEM TO HAVE A CLEARER, MORE DISTINCT KNOWLEDGE OF GOD." {CCh 75.10}

"A blessed unity will be enjoyed by those who are indeed children of God. They will not, by their words and acts, lead anyone to doubt in regard to the DISTINCT PERSONALITY OF GOD, or in regard to the sanctuary and its ministry." {14MR 216.3}

 “Thou shalt make no covenant with them,” God had said; and those who had recently rededicated themselves to the Lord at the altar set up before the ruins of His temple, realized that the line of demarcation between His people and the world is ever to be kept UNMISTAKABLY DISTINCT. They refused to enter into alliance with those who, though familiar with the requirements of God’s law, would not yield to its claims. {PK 570.1}

"Remember in Him dwelt all the fullness of the God-head bodily. IF CHRIST IS ABIDING IN OUR HEARTS BY FAITH, we shall, by beholding the manner of His life, seek to be like Jesus, pure, peaceable, and undefiled. We shall reveal Christ in our character. We will not only receive and absorb light but will also diffuse it. WE WILL HAVE MORE CLEAR AND DISTINCT VIEWS OF WHAT JESUS IS TO US. The symmetry, loveliness, and benevolence that were in the life of Jesus Christ will be shining forth in our lives."—Manuscript 24, 1890. {2SM 22.4}

"The Lord draws out the soul in prayer, and gives us to feel His precious love. WE HAVE A NEARNESS TO HIM, AND CAN HOLD SWEET COMMUNION WITH HIM. WE OBTAIN DISTINCT VIEWS OF HIS TENDERNESS AND COMPASSION, and our hearts are broken and melted with contemplation of the love that is given to us. WE FEEL INDEED AN ABIDING CHRIST IN THE SOUL. We abide in Him, and feel at home with Jesus. The promises flow into the soul. Our peace is like a river, wave after wave of glory rolls into the heart, AND INDEED WE SUP WITH JESUS AND HE WITH US. We have a realizing sense of the love of God, and we rest in His love. No language can describe it, it is beyond knowledge. We are one with Christ, our life is hid with Christ in God. We have the assurance that when He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. With strong confidence, we can call God our Father." (Letter 52, 1894). {3BC 1147.8}

"The Lord has been waiting long to impart the greatest, truest joys to the heart. All those who look to him with undivided hearts, he will greatly bless. Those who have thus looked to him have caught MORE DISTINCT VIEWS OF JESUS as their sin-bearer, their all-sufficient sacrifice, and have been hid in the cleft of the rock, to behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. When we have a sense of his all-sufficient sacrifice, our lips are tuned to the highest, loftiest themes of praise. When the students thus beheld Jesus, the suspension of their studies was counted as no loss. They were catching glimpses of Him who is invisible. They earnestly sought the living God, and the live coal of pardon was placed upon their lips. The Holy Spirit wrought not only for those who had lost their first love, but also for souls who had never placed themselves on the Lord’s side. The holy Watcher drew these souls, that there might be an ingathering to Jesus Christ. THE HOLY SPIRIT WROUGHT SO THAT THE LORD’S PRESENCE COULD BE DISTINGUISHED, and his work acknowledged." {SpTEd 78.1}

"These faithful bearers of truth had been slain by those to whom they were sent, even as the faithful servants were slain by the wicked husbandmen. In the beloved son whom the Lord of the vineyard finally sent to his disobedient servants, and whom they seized and slew, the priests and rulers suddenly saw unfolded before them, A DISTINCT PICTURE OF JESUS and his impending fate. Already they were planning to slay Him whom the Father had sent to them as a last and only appeal. In the retribution visited upon the ungrateful husbandmen was portrayed the doom of those who should slay Christ." {3SP 33.1}

Note: In all the statements above (There are much more statements but this will suffice to make a point here), Sister White is using “distinct” to mean “clear or unmistakablefree from obscurity or ambiguity rather than to mean “separate or different”.

Christ came to John on the Isle of Patmos

Ellen White comments on John’s encounter with Christ Himself on Patmos:

“The revelation of Christ to John is a wonderful, dignified, exalted, solemn message. To present this message with decided emphases, demands all the talents of capabilities that God has given to man. When John received it , he was worked (upon) BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, FOR CHRIST HIMSELF CAME FROM HEAVEN and told him what to write.” {The Upward Look, p. 310.5}(Compare Revelation 1:9-20)

"Christ came to John on the Isle of Patmos to show him symbols and representations and to explain their meaning. He desires us to study this instruction." {Lt100-1906.9}

Ellen White's own encounter with Christ or with His Spirit

“Friday, March 20, I arose early, about half past three o’clock in the morning. While writing upon the fifteenth chapter of John, suddenly a wonderful peace came upon me. The whole room seemed to be filled with the atmosphere of heaven. A holy, sacred Presence seemed to be in my room. I laid down my pen and was in a waiting attitude to see what the Spirit would say unto me. I SAW NO PERSON. I HEARD NO AUDIBLE VOICE, but a heavenly Watcher seemed close beside me. I FELT THAT I WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. The sweet peace and light which seemed to be in my room it is impossible for me to explain or describe. A sacred, holy atmosphere surrounded me, and there were presented to my mind and understanding matters of intense interest and importance. A line of action was laid out before me AS IF THE UNSEEN PRESENCE WAS SPEAKING WITH ME. The matter I had been writing upon seemed to be lost to my mind and another matter distinctly opened before me. A great awe seemed to be upon me as matters were imprinted upon my mind.” {Ms12c-1896.1}

“I arose early Thursday morning, about two o’clock, and was writing busily upon the True Vine, when I FELT A PRESENCE IN MY ROOM, as I have many times before, and I lost all recollection of what I was about. I SEEMED TO BE IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. HE WAS COMMUNICATING TO ME THAT WHICH I WAS TO BE INSTRUCTED. EVERYTHING WAS SO PLAIN THAT I COULD NOT MISUNDERSTAND. I was to help one whom I thought I should never again be called upon to be troubled with again. I could not understand what it meant, but at once decided not to try to reason about this, but follow the direction. Not an audible word was spoken to my ear, but to my mind. I said, “Lord, I will do as Thou hast commanded.” {Lt36-1896.3}

"...While I am writing out important matter, He is beside me, helping me. He lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. I feel that every time I ask, even while I am still speaking, He responds, “Here am I.” {Lt127-1902.10}

Note: These statements clearly demonstrate that, while Christ was physically in heaven, ministering in the sanctuary above, Christ Himself, not as His physical self but in the Person of His own Spirit (with the personality that is distinctly his own) appeared to Ellen White. These accounts should dispel any notion (held by most Trinitarians) that because Christ is “cumbered with humanity” He cannot be with us even in His Spirit. As you can see from the few statements above, the way sister White interacted with Christ, though unseen, it was distinctly Him. This explains such statements as, “The human agent, the seen instrument, is to preach the Word, and the LORD JESUS, THE UNSEEN AGENCY, BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT is to make the Word efficacious and powerful.—Letter 105, 1900.” — (E.G. White, 2SM 18.3)

So how are we to understand the "distinct personality"?

EGW speaks of the human and divine as "two expressions" in Christ that each "had a distinct individuality."

"The two expressions human and divine were, in Christ, closely and inseparably one, and yet THEY HAD A DISTINCT INDIVIDUALITY.... {ST May 10, 1899, par. 11}

‘Here we have plainly revealed to us that if we preserve the meekness and lowliness of Christ, if we walk humbly by the side of the Burden-bearer, if we come in close contact with our Redeemer, in being thus yoked up with Him, HE WILL IMPART TO US HIS OWN INDIVIDUALITY. {Ms70-1896.33}

"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” CHRIST IS NOT HERE REFERRING TO HIS DOCTRINE, BUT TO HIS PERSON, THE DIVINITY OF HIS CHARACTER... {RH April 5, 1906, par. 12}

Note: Here, Christ is NOT imparting another Being independent of hImself but "HIS OWN INDIVIDUALITY" which refers to His divinity, divested of humanity. Christ's divinity has a "distinct individuality" or a distinct personality" that is different than His humanity. In similar fashion, the individual Agency or the “personhood” of the Holy Spirit does not make It (or Him) a separate Personage from God the Father or His Son.

“The Holy Spirit is the SPIRIT of CHRIST; it is HIS REPRESENTATIVE. Here is the DIVINE AGENCY that carries conviction to hearts. When the power of HIS SPIRIT is revealed through the servants of God, we behold DIVINITY flashing through humanity.” — (E.G. White, 13MR 313.3, 1895)

Note: Again, the "Holy Spirit" or the "Spirit of Christ" is distinct from Christ because HE/IT operates under a different capacity (office/agency) with different nature (the divinity of Christ, divested of humanity) compared to Christ's human personage. The Holy Spirit accomplishes what Christ cannot do physically, since it can be everywhere present, whereas Christ in his humanity accomplished what the Holy Spirit cannot do in that He identified with humanity on earth and has flesh and blood to make atonement for us in the heavenly sanctuary.

Three Economic Personalities

1. There is ONE Sovereign Most High God - the Father “OF whom are all things” (1Cor 8:6)

-Father (real Father; corporeal, personal divine being-has bodily form and shape; has a local presence i.e. “our Father which art in heaven”-Mt 6:9)

2. There are Two Equal Divine Beings - the Father and the Son

-Begotten Son (real pre-incarnate Son; corporeal, personal divine being-has a bodily form and shape, has a local presence i.e. “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”-Heb 8:1; “BY Whom are all things” -1Cor 8:6)

3. There are Three Economic Personalities - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

-Holy Spirit (non corporeal aspect of the Father and Son’s personality wherein they are omnipresent)

The words such as "person" and "personality" in the Spirit of Prophecy have a range of meanings, but two are important to this matter:

1. "Person" and "personality" can refer to a whole being.

2. "Person" and "personality" can refer to an economic office or role.

We may refer to the first of these the "Capital 'P' Person" and the second of these the "lower case 'p' person" definitions.

God the Father and Christ are whole beings and thus fit the first of these definitions. But there are three distinct ACTIVITIES of deity. 1) There is what the Father is doing in His immediate locality, 2) what the Son is doing in His immediate locality, and 3) the WORK They are performing (TOGETHER) throughout the universe. These constitute three economic offices or "persons"/"personalities" in the sense of roles.

When Ellen White speaks of the Spirit as a "distinct personality" she is speaking of the DISTINCT WORK that the Spirit has in contrast to the immediate work of Christ in His physical location in the Heavenly Sanctuary. When she speaks of the Holy Spirit interceding not as Christ intercedes, it is the same individual doing the intercession, but Christ's physical intercession is before the Father, while His Spirit's intercession is on our hearts (His transformative power working through the Word). 


Person, Personality, Office, Agency

Holy Spirit is characterized as a person, personality, of having an office or is describe as an agency.

Following definitions are taken from of Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary, a dictionary which Ellen White had in her library.

person (noun)

Definition 6 "Character of office.
How different is the same man from himself, as he sustains the person of magistrate and that of a friend."

personality (noun)

"That which constitutes an individual a distinct person, or that which constitutes individuality. The personality of an intelligent being extends itself beyond present existence to what is past, only by consciousness."

office (noun)

Definition 2 "A duty, charge or trust of a sacred nature, conferred by God Himself; as the office of the priest, in the Old Testament; and that of the apostles, in the New Testament"

agency (noun)

Definition “1. The quality of moving or or exerting power; the state of being in action; action; operation; instrumentality; as, the agency of providence in the natural world.

Definition "2. The OFFICE of an agent, or factor; business of an agent entrusted with the concerns of another; as, the principal pays the charges of agency.”


"The Holy Spirit exalts and glorifies the Saviour. It is his OFFICE to present Christ, the purity of his righteousness, and the great salvation that we have through him. Jesus says, “He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” [John 16:14.] The Spirit of truth is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. How must God esteem the human race, since he gave his Son to die for them, and appoints HIS SPIRIT to be man's teacher and continual guide." — CE 59.2 • EGW

Note: When Ellen White speaks of the office of the Holy Spirit, She is speaking of none other than God appointing His own Spirit.

"The incarnation of Christ, HIS DIVINITY, His atonement, His wonderful life in heaven as our advocate, the OFFICE of the Holy Spirit—all these vital themes of Christianity are revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Each is a golden link in the perfect chain of truth. Why, then, should not the Scriptures be exalted in every school in our land?" — {CT, p. 427.3} EGW

Note: Before she says, "all these vital themes of Christianity," she lists:

  • "The incarnation of Christ, HIS DIVINITY," 
  • "His atonement," 
  • "His wonderful life in heaven as our advocate," 
  • "the OFFICE of the Holy Spirit"

Folks, in light of what we've been reviewing, it's not that difficult to see that all the "vital themes" mentioned in above quote refers to Christ; He is the one who will "IMPART TO US HIS OWN INDIVIDUALITY" {Ms70-1896.33} which is "THE DIVINITY OF HIS CHARACTER" {RH April 5, 1906, par. 12} via His own Spirit. 

Just reiterate, the "agency" or the "office" which Ellen White speaks of does NOT connote "another being" but rather an "operational distinction" that defines the "character of it's office." The agency of the Holy Spirit brings with it the personality of Christ's divinity that is distinctly different than Christ's humanity. And this is precisely the reason why the Inspiration, both Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy, gives personal attributes to the Holy Spirit.

Personal attributes applied to the Holy Spirit

THE HOLY SPIRIT SPEAKS...

  • He "expressly says" that some will depart from the faith - 1 Timothy 4:1
  • The Spirit spoke and gave directions to Philip - Acts 8:29
  • He spoke to Peter and gave him charge concerning the Gentiles - Acts 10:19-20
  • He spoke to the brethren at Antioch concerning Paul and Barnabas - Acts 13:1-4

THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES...

  • He was to teach the apostles all things - John 14:26
  • Please note that Jesus consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as "He", not "it" (implying a personal being, not an impersonal force) - cf. Jn 14:16-17

THE HOLY SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS...

  • He was to testify of Jesus - John 15:26-27

THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDES, HEARS, SPEAKS, TELLS...

  • He would carry on and complete the work started by Jesus - John 16:12-13
  • Jesus consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as "He"

THE HOLY SPIRIT FORBIDS...

  • He prevented Paul and his companions from going into certain areas of Asia - Acts 16:6- This He did by "forbidding" them, and "not permitting" them, despite their initial efforts 

THE HOLY SPIRIT INTERCEDES...

The "Spirit Himself makes intercession for us" - Romans 8:26; Just as Christ "also makes intercession for us" - Romans 8:34

HE HAS A MIND and HAS KNOWLEDGE...

  • "the mind of the Spirit" - Romans 8:27; This suggests thinking on His own
  • He "knows the things of God" - 1 Corinthians 2:11

HE POSSESSES AFFECTION...

  • Paul speaks of "the love of the Spirit" - Romans 15:30

HE HAS A WILL...

  • "selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. - 1 Corinthians 12:11; The Spirit decides what person received which gift.

THE HOLY SPIRIT SUFFERS PERSONAL SLIGHTS AND INJURIES

HE CAN BE GRIEVED AND INSULTED

  • "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" - Ephesians 4:30
  • One who has "who hath trodden under foot the Son of God" has also "hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" - He 10:29

HE CAN BE LIED TO...

"...why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...?" - Acts 5:3; As Ananias and his wife Sapphira were guilty of doing.

Note: The Word of God reveals clearly that the attributes of life and the personhood are applied directly to the Holy Spirit. Why should it be a surprise to any of us that God has a living Spirit and that It operates throughout the universe as a living Person, interacting with angels and men on His behalf? Even the human spirit has amazing abilities that we cannot fully explain so then how much more so God's Spirit, especially since He can project It outside of His bodily presence. And especially since It is more than just Himself but also the Spirit of His Son? The point here is that the Bible evidence clearly affirms what Mrs. White's wrote and it shows that referring to the Holy Spirit as one of "three living persons of the heavenly trio" (Ms21-1906.11) or "the third person of the Godhead" (DA 671) or as "a person" (Ev 616.6) or having "a personality", and that "he must also be a divine person" (Manuscript 20, 1906; Ev 617.1) are all very much appropriate, but not to be understood as a separate being.

Two kinds of "personally"

"I testify to my brethren and sisters that the church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard. While He extends to all the world His invitation to come to Him and be saved, He commissions His angels to render divine help to every soul that cometh to Him in repentance and contrition, and HE COMES PERSONALLY BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT into the midst of His church. “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” “Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” {CET 206.1}

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative, but divested of the personality of humanity, and independent thereof. Cumbered with humanity, CHRIST CHRIST COULD NOT BE IN EVERY PLACE PERSONALLY. Therefore it was for their interest that He should go to the Father, and send the Spirit to be His successor on earth. No one could then have any advantage because of his location or his personal contact with Christ. By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all. In this sense He would be nearer to them than if He had not ascended on high. {DA 669.2}

Note: The second quotation comes from The Desire of Ages p. 669 and this quote is often cited to contend that Christ cannot be the Holy Spirit because He "could not be in every place personally." And yet we find in the preceding quotation that Christ does come "personally by HIS Holy Spirit. You see, The first quote saying He comes personally by His Holy Spirit, I believe is referring to His divinity, as explained by the second quote, that “divested of the personality of humanity” He could be “accessible to all” “by the Spirit.” The “personally” references apply to different natures (humanity vs divinity) in these quotes; He could not come personally in His humanity but He can come personally by His divine Spirit.

Conclusion

Thus, “He [Holy Spirit] personifies Christ, yet is a distinct personality” can be understood as:

 Ellen White used expressions like "Person", "Personality" to describe the Holy Spirit for the Holy Spirit is the very presence of the Father and the Son; they are NOT "IT" they are "Persons", Their own Spirit is not devoid of their "Personality"; thus, designations such as "He" or "Person" is rightly ascribed in describing the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, when Christ gives us Himself (by His own Holy Spirit, embodying the victorious humanity of the Man Christ) it is not just some impersonal force or essence. No, it is very personal and intimate and distinct. It is Christ’s own presence, though in Spirit and unseen, but having Christ’s very own personality. 

Holy Spirit is imbued with the very mind, power and the presence of the Father and the Son with a distinct (different and yet unmistakably their own) personality. Therefore, it would make perfect sense why she would describe the Holy Spirit as having a “distinct personality” but not to be understood as another being.

We also need to be mindful that the "person" theology protects and guards us from spiritualistic interpretation of the personality of God.

Ellen White was clear that the Holy Spirit was the divine activity of God and of Christ apart from where They are bodily located. Please consider that there are volumes of statements by Sister White clearly describing the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. Below are just a few:

“After the Saviour’s ascension, THE SENSE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE, FULL OF LOVE AND LIGHT, WAS STILL WITH THEM. IT WAS A PERSONAL PRESENCE. Jesus, the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who had spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of peace was upon His lips, been taken from them into heaven. As the chariot of angels received Him, His words had come to them, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.” Matthew 28:20. He had ascended to heaven in the form of humanity. They knew that He was before the throne of God, their Friend and Saviour still; that His sympathies were unchanged; that He would forever be identified with suffering humanity. They knew that He was presenting before God the merit of His blood, showing His wounded hands and feet as a remembrance of the price He had paid for His redeemed ones; and this thought strengthened them to endure reproach for His sake. Their union with Him was stronger now than when He was with them in person. THE LIGHT AND LOVE AND POWER OF AN INDWELLING CHRIST shone out through them, so that men, beholding, marveled.” {AA 65.1}

“Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that he should leave them, go to his Father, and send the Holy Spirit to be his successor on earth. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HIMSELF, DIVESTED OF THE PERSONALITY OF HUMANITY, and independent thereof. HE WOULD REPRESENT HIMSELF AS PRESENT in all places by HIS HOLY SPIRIT, AS OMNIPRESENT.” -Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 93; {Lt119-1895.18}

“This [Holy Spirit] refers to the omnipresence of the SPIRIT OF CHRIST, called the COMFORTER. Again Jesus says, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth" [John 16:12, 13]. Manuscript Releases vol.14 p. 179 {14MR 179.2}

“Let them study the seventeenth of John, and learn how to pray and how to live the prayer of CHRIST. HE IS THE Comforter. He will abide in their hearts, making their joy full.” — (E.G. White, RH, Jan 27, 1903)

“Once it was my privilege to speak in a smaller tent, which was crowded full of young men and young women. Soon after I began speaking, older ones tried to crowd in. I had great freedom, and the tender Spirit of God was with me. The Saviour seemed to be close beside me. I dwelt upon the Christian experience to be gained from the ministration of the Holy Spirit promised in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. All hearts were touched. I was much refreshed and strengthened. It is the earnest of the spirit of life through Christ that every soul needs now, just now. There is not the least excuse now for any one’s departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Those who follow their own sophistries do this from their own choice, in the face of light and evidence. THE LORD JESUS RECOGNIZES THE REAL VALUE OF SINCERE BELIEF IN HIS PERSONALITY, WHICH THO UNSEEN, IS VIEWED BY THE EYE OF FAITH.” (Letter 248-1906.4)

A LIAR IS ONE THAT PRESENTS FALSE THEORIES AND DOCTRINES. HE WHO DENIES THE PERSONALITY OF GOD AND OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST IS DENYING GOD AND CHRIST. “If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father.” IF YOU CONTINUE TO BELIEVE AND OBEY THE TRUTHS YOU FIRST EMBRACED REGARDING THE PERSONALITY OF THE FATHER AND THE SON, YOU WILL BE JOINED TOGETHER WITH THEM IN LOVE. There will be seen that union for which Christ prayed just before His trial and crucifixion: {Ms23-1906.20}

For a related study, click HERE to take a look at our article, Who is the Third Person of the Godhead.