The Concept

If you are a Trinitarian, your concept of the Holy Spirit is a third co-equal and co-eternal God-Person like the Father and the Son.   This is not the same as the Pioneer understanding.  Although there are similarities, the differing concepts set the two beliefs far apart.

So what is the difference between the two views?

Pioneer view:    The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Father, the great Source of all.  “By His Spirit He is everywhere present.   Through the agency of His Spirit and His angels, He ministers to the children of men.”   The Ministry of Healing.  417.

“The greatness of God is to us incomprehensible. ‘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.”    
Education. 132.

They believed that when God’s Son was begotten at an undefined point in eternity, He inherited all the divine attributes of His Father, including His omnipresent Spirit.   Thus the Son was also able to be everywhere present by His Spirit.   Because the Spirit is part of the Father and Son respectively, when operating outside of their divine being, their Spirit is able to speak for them, convicting, teaching, guiding and sanctifying the believer in Christ.  To encounter the Spirit is to encounter God and Christ.

Trinitarian view:   The Holy Spirit is a co-equal and co-eternal member of a triune Godhead.  He has a separate identity to the other two members, but cooperates with them in all divine activities.   “God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption.”  Seventh-day Adventists Believe… 27 Fundamentals. 58.

The Holy Spirit “is truly God”.  He “has a personality.  He strives, teaches, convicts, directs church affairs, helps and intercedes, inspires, and sanctifies.  These activities cannot be performed by a mere power, influence, or attributes of God.  Only a person can do them.”  
27 Fundamentals. 60.

These two views are very different, but both claim that the Spirit has a personality, with the ability to convict¸ guide and sanctify believers to live the Christ-life on earth and be prepared for heaven.

What does the prophet say about the Holy Spirit?

She says the nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery, and “Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.”  
Acts of the Apostles 52.

This is important, as both views have questions that cannot be answered.

The prophet states specifically when we should be silent.  "In regard to the personality and prerogatives of God, where He is, and what He is, this is a subject which we are not to dare to touch. On this theme silence is eloquence."   
Medical Ministry 92.

“None are to indulge in speculation regarding His nature.   Here silence is eloquence.”  
Faith I Live By 41.  

We need to be careful we do not overstep the wording of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy.    Our study of the Bible must be true study.   We must ask ourselves – is this what the Bible says?   What evidence do I have from this text that my understanding is correct?    Have I added a thought of my own to the text?   Do I have evidence elsewhere for my interpretation of this verse?

Sister White spoke of men who had “fanciful views” and who put together a number of texts to prove their point.  “They put a human construction on them,” she said.  One instance was a Brother Chapman.  Often when his letter is quoted, it is dismissed immediately with the words ‘Oh, the Chapman letter.’   But this letter is just as important as any other letter, and we need to take notice of it.

The prophet told Brother Chapman that the subjects He mentioned (the 144,000 and the Holy Ghost) “do not harmonize with the light which God has given me.  The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery not clearly revealed, and you will never be able to explain it to others because the Lord has not revealed it to you.”  

Brother Chapman knew what the church believed, as he wrote, when introducing his subject to the prophet,  “My idea in reference to the Holy Ghost’s not being the Spirit of God, which is Christ, but the angel Gabriel….”  

Later in her letter the prophet advised, “I hope that you will seek to be in harmony with the body… You make the mistake that many others have made, of thinking that you have new light, when it is only a new phase of error.   You need to come into harmony with your brethren…” 
Ibid.  1891.

Remember, the belief of the church was the Pioneer view --  the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Christ who came personally to the believer.

Below are quotes from Ellen White on the subject.

Of the Bible reference in John 20:22.23, where Jesus breathes on His disciples, she says,  “Christ breathed on his disciples, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’. This is the great gift of heaven. Christ imparted to them through the Spirit, of His own sanctification. He imbued them with His power, that they might win souls to the gospel.  Henceforth Christ would live through their faculties, and speak through their words.  They were privileged to know that hereafter He and they were to be one. They must cherish His principles and be controlled by His Spirit…. No longer were they to live their own selfish life; Christ was to live in them and speak through them.”   
General Conference Bulletin. October 1. 1899. p12.

Look at what she has said in more detail.

  • Jesus breathed the Holy Ghost on His disciples.
  • The Holy Ghost is the great gift of heaven.
  • In giving the Holy Ghost, Christ imparted His own sanctification.
  • He imbued the receiver with power to win souls.
  • Christ would now live through their faculties.
  • He would now speak through their words.
  • The receiver was privileged to know he was now one with Christ.
  • The receiver must cherish Christ’s principles.
  • He must be controlled by Christ’s Spirit.
  • He was no longer to live His own selfish life.
  • Christ would live in him and speak through him.


The statement said that in giving the Holy Ghost, Christ is giving the believer His own sanctification.  This means He is giving Himself to live through the faculties of the recipient

Another quotation.  “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:   Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through cooperation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence.”  
My Life Today 49. John 20:22

  • Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit.
  • It is the life of His own life.
  • The Holy Spirit gives its highest energies in the heart and mind of the receiver.
  • The grace of God multiplies the receiver’s faculties, giving assistance in saving souls.
  • As they cooperate with Christ, they are complete in Him.
  • Their human weakness is able to do the deeds of Omnipotence.


A number of terms are used here -- Christ’s own Spirit, His own life, the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, Christ, Omnipotence.  It is obvious these all speak of the same person.

Paul also interchanges various expressions.  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin;  but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ form the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” 
Romans 8:9.10.11.

  • Spirit of God dwell in you.
  • If not have the Spirit of Christ.
  • If Christ be in you.
  • Spirit of Him that raised Jesus (the Father) dwell in you,.


The interchange of terms tells us that the Spirit belongs to both the Father and His Son, and to receive the Spirit, is to receive both the Father and His Son.  However, in giving His Spirit, Christ gives a life of victory over suffering and temptation.

In spite of the clear passages, there are words in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy that can be confusing.  One of those words is ‘another’.

When speaking to His disciples, Christ said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you.” 
John 14:16-18.   

Many see this as another Person and not Christ.   

In John 14, 15, and 16, Christ speaks grammatically in the third person as if the Spirit is another Person.   This is not unusual for Jesus.   He spoke of Himself as ‘the Son of man’, and some enquired, "Who is this Son of man?"   
John 12:34.   It was not obvious to all that He spoke of Himself.   Sister White also spoke of herself in the third person, such as in 3 Selected Messages 164.173.   The reason people generally do this is to not speak of themselves all the time -- I did, I will, I am, I, I, I.   Jesus may have spoken this way that the sincere would study and not surface read.   Or it may have been to prevent Christ’s enemies from hearing a message applicable only to His followers.  His parables were given for this very reason.

Regarding the word ‘another’.   It was said of Saul of old, “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.” 
1 Samuel 10:6.   This is a Bible example that should become part of our study of the term ‘another’.  

Certainly the words ‘another Comforter’ do sound like Christ is sending another person, but the pioneers did not see it this way.    They understood Christ as saying, ‘I am sending My Spirit as your Comforter’.  

We need to keep all these things in our mind when studying the Holy Spirit.

Sister White’s use of the word ‘representative’ is also confusing.  “The Saviour was pointing forward to the time when the Holy Spirit should come to do a mighty work as His representative.” 
Acts of the Apostles. 47.48.

“When He should come forth from the tomb, their sorrow would be turned to joy. After His ascension He was to be absent in person; but through the Comforter He would still be with them, and they were not to spend their time in mourning. This was what Satan wanted. He desired them to give the world the impression that they had been deceived and disappointed; but by faith they were to look to the sanctuary above, where Jesus was ministering for them; they were to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit, His representative, and to rejoice in the light of His presence.” 
Desire of Ages 278.

There is no question this statement does appear to say that the Holy Spirit was Christ’s representative, in the sense of another Person.  To the Trinitarian, it says the Holy Spirit will bring the Spirit of Christ, but to the pioneers it said the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Christ.  

It is not an easy subject.

We must understand that there is only one Holy Spirit, and yet it is shared by the Father and the Son.  Not that there is a limit so that they need to share it. The Father is the Source of the Spirit.  It is this Spirit which “proceedeth from the Father” to the Son. 
  John 15:26.   Christ then gives it to His children.   1 Corinthians 12:13.   Ephesians 4:4.5.6.

In John 14, a disciple asked Jesus how He would manifest Himself to them and not the world.  Jesus replied, “If a man love me, he will keep my words:  and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”  
John 14:23.   Both the Father and the Son would come to the believer, obviously not in body, but in Spirit.

At another time Jesus said of the Comforter,  “… ye  know him;  for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” 
John 14:17.   He is speaking of Himself as the One dwelling with them, and promising that He who would be in them.

Jesus did not need to rely on ‘another’ Spirit to bring comfort and power to His people.  He would send His own Spirit -- His omnipresent Spirit.   This is the means by which He can be anywhere in the universe.

“There is no comforter like Christ, so tender and so true. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. His Spirit speaks to the heart…. The influence of the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in the soul. This Spirit works in and through everyone who receives Christ. Those who know the indwelling of this Spirit reveal its fruit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”  
Review and Herald. Oct 26. 1897.

“Christ is to be known by the blessed name of Comforter.”  
Ms 7. 1902. (Jan 26.1902) par 10.

“The reason why the churches are weak and sickly and ready to die, is that the enemy has brought influences of a discouraging nature to bear upon trembling souls. He has sought to shut Jesus from their view as the Comforter, as one who reproves, who warns, who admonishes them saying, ‘this  is the way, walk ye in it.”   
The Review and Herald, Aug. 26, 1890

“The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ.”    
The Desire of Ages. 805.

“O precious possibilities and encouragement!  In the human heart cleansed from all moral impurity, dwells the precious Saviour, ennobling, sanctifying the whole nature and making the man a temple for the Holy Spirit. Christ therefore is a personal Saviour….”   
Signs of the Time. Sept. 3. 1896.

Sister White says clearly that Jesus is the Comforter in these quotations, but she is even more specific in the following quote.

“We want the Holy Spirit, which is Jesus Christ.”  
Lt 66 1894. (Apr 10.1894)

Do we believe the prophet?

The book of Adventist Fundamental Beliefs states the following of the Holy Spirit, “Cumbered with humanity, the Man Jesus was not omnipresent, which was why it was expedient that He depart. Through the Spirit He could be everywhere all the time…” 
27 Fundamentals. 64. 

In this statement, the compilers of the book are not saying that through His own Spirit He would be everywhere all the time, but through another Spirit, the third God-Being of a triune Godhead.  The book continues, “Not only does He bring the message about Christ, He brings the very presence of Christ…”   
Ibid.     

Is this true?   Is another God-Person bringing the very presence of Christ?    Or does Jesus come Himself in Spirit?

When speaking to His disciples, Christ said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you.” 
John 14:16-18.

A Trinitarian mind will see this statement as Jesus sending ‘another Comforter’, but in fact, He is saying He would return in Spirit as the comforter of the disciples and abide with them forever.   This part of the sentence is in the third person, but the next part is first person.  “I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you.”    Jesus is stating the truth openly.

"In giving His commission to His followers, Christ did not tell them they would be left alone. He assured them that He would be near them. He spoke of His Omnipresence in a special way. Go to all nations, He said. Go, to the farthest portion of the habitable globe, but know that My presence will be there.  Labor in faith and confidence, for the time will never come when I shall forsake you."
   
Ms 138-1897. December 2. 1897. par. 21.

 Note again the details.

  • Christ assured His disciples He would be near them.
  • He spoke of His omnipresence in a special way.
  • My presence will be with you anywhere in the world.
  • Labour in confidence because I will NEVER forsake you.


If we are going to have confidence in Jesus, we must believe His words.   He is speaking the truth directly and not in proverbs or parables – I will never forsake you.

Jesus would send His own victorious omnipresent Spirit.

“It is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, ‘the Spirit of truth, which the Father shall send in My name’…. This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter.”
[John 16:12, 13].  14 Manuscript Release. 179.

Sister White and the other pioneers believed the Comforter to be Jesus in Spirit.

What about you dear Reader?

There are many clear statements  that cannot be mistaken, however, you need to allow the pioneer concept of the Spirit to enter your mind.   If you hold strongly to three God-Persons in a triune Godhead, you will never see the Pioneer view.   You must allow your mind to open to another possibility.   

In fact, it isn’t just another possibility, it was the view given by God to those He called to bring the final message to the world.   It was a non-trinitarian belief. This fact is acknowledged and understood by our leaders and historians.  Our pioneers were not Trinitarians.   Even in 1888, when Jesus was preparing to return in a very short time, they were still non-trinitarians.  He began to pour the dew drops of the latter rain upon men and women who did not believe in the Trinity.   

Believe the precious promise.  “God has opened to us all the treasures of heaven through the precious gift of His Son, who is fully able to uplift, ennoble and fit us, through His perfection of character, for usefulness in this life and for a holy heaven.” 
5 Testimonies 579.

We don’t understand everything.   The ‘how’ of the Spirit eludes us;  the ‘nature’ is still a mystery, but we can believe the things God has revealed through the Word and His prophet.   Most of all we can believe Jesus has the power to fulfil His promise.  

It is said by church leaders today that we 'have matured in our understanding of God, Christ and the Spirit', and that our pioneers were 'not theologians'.  We must remember that our doctrinal pillars came through diligent Bible study and the testimony of the Spirit.  This is our denominational history.  Dare we say that we have matured away from these truths?  Are we more mature and intelligent than the Spirit who inspired the prophet?

We do well to think seriously about our position, for the prophet has said, “The waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit.  He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority.” 
1 Selected Messages 208.

Will you make a stand to preserve the fundamental principles of truth?