Heavenly Trio in a Nutshell

“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.” {BTS March 1, 1906, par. 2} (The Bible Training School) Click HERE for an original copy.

There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ….” {SpTB07 63.2} (Testimonies for the Church Containing Messages of Warning and Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists) See pics below.

Ellen White published “three living persons of the heavenly trio” statement twice in 1906. One was in a periodical, “The Bible Training School” and the other in a pamphlet, “Testimonies for the Church Containing Messages of Warning and Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists” and four other times in subsequent publications. She never published “three living personalities.”

People (namely non-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists) today are trying to act as if she did not control her own 1906 publications and are promoting a conspiracy theory that the “three living persons of the heavenly trio” quote is a corruption. Their theory has no credibility and the evidence is against them. 

Original typed manuscript source of "heavenly trio" used for the Bible Training School publication.

For those who doubt the legitimacy of Ellen White’s published writings, please consider the following statements. Ellen White had the oversight. She would always read her articles and books to see that they expressed what she wanted BEFORE they were published. She explains herself: 

“EVERY ARTICLE I prepare to be edited by my workers, I ALWAYS HAVE TO READ MYSELF BEFORE IT IS SENT FOR PUBLICATION… {Lt84-1898.18}

“I READ OVER ALL THAT IS COPIED, TO SEE THAT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE. I READ ALL THE BOOK MANUSCRIPT BEFORE IT IS SENT TO THE PRINTER. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied. Besides writing, I am called upon to speak to the different churches, and to attend important meetings. I could not do this work unless the Lord helped me.” {Lt133-1902.4}

“I WISH TO WRITE WORDS THAT SHALL REMOVE FROM THE MINDS OF ANY OF MY BRETHREN THE IMPRESSION THAT I DID NOT, BEFORE THEIR PUBLICATION, READ THE PAGES IN TESTIMONY FOR THE CHURCH, VOL. 9, relating to Sunday labor…” {Lt94-1910.1}

This is why she could say, with absolute confidence, that if anyone back then wanted to know her views then they should read her public works instead of heeding hearsay. 

“And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning which she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said. {5T 696.1}

Thus when people come along and say that EGW did not mean “persons” but “personalities” and that someone altered the publication, they are making a claim that is not supported by the facts in anyway. Mrs. White had the oversight of her articles and books and she published this quote TWICE.

An interesting background

Without a doubt, sister White would have known about John Harvey Kellogg’s profession as a trinitarian, as well as his pantheistic teachings.

On October 29, 1903, A. G. Daniells (then General Conference president) wrote a letter to W. C. White wherein Daniells related his concerns regarding Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s proposal to revise and republish his book, The Living Temple and his newly embraced trinitarian theology.

“He [Kellogg] then stated that his former views regarding the trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement: but that within a short time HE HAD COME TO BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY, and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was, and believed that he could clear the matter up satisfactorily. He told me that HE NOW BELIEVED IN GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY GHOST; and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost, and not God the Father, that filled all space, and every living thing.” (bracket supplied) (Click HERE for the original letter)

Please note that Daniells’ tone of disapproval of Kellogg’s recently embraced belief in the trinity was a telling indication of Kellogg’s departure from the consensus view of the non-trinitarian stance of the SDA church’s doctrine at that time.

On November 4th, 1903, W. C. (“Willie”) White responds to A. G. Daniells’ Oct 29, 1903 letter:

 “MOTHER AND I HAVE JUST READ YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 29 in which you speak of the various plans that have been proposed for the revising and reproduction of ‘The Living Temple’. . . I think she will write to you soon expressing her views regarding this. . . “I believe it will be necessary to issue a special Testimony soon, and this must contain a very full and clear statement on the positive side of this question, as well as articles pointing out the errors in the teaching of those who have departed from the truth through fascinating and deceptive theories” (Click HERE for the original letter)

Consequently, Ellen White wrote several Letters (including “Kellogg J.H.” Lt253, “Teach the Word” Lt211-1903, “Leaders in Our Medical Work” Lt216-1903) concerning the erroneous teachings of J. H. Kellogg.

What’s worth noting is that while some conflate the phrase, “heavenly trio” as being decidedly trinitarian, Ellen White’s usage of the phrase was very much distinguished from the other traditional trinitarian expressions; and she used it to admonish and to correct Kellogg’s (pantheistic/newly adopted trinitarian) position. The proof of this, I believe, is that when writing against Kellogg’s beliefs she condemned illustrations that trinitarians used to describe God as three-in-one:

“I have not been able to sleep during the past night. Letters have come to me with statements made by men who claimed to have asked Dr. Kellogg if he believes the statements that Sister White bears. . .” (“Come Out and Be Separate”, {Ms21-1906.1}

10 paragraphs later, we find:

“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ. {Ms21-1906.11}

Furthermore, W. E. Boardman’s book “The Higher Christian Life” provides some revealing clues as to the source for deriving the expression, “heavenly trio” and yet how she carefully avoided Boardman’s trinitarian expressions.

W. E. Boardman (trinitarian) had written a very popular book called ‘The Higher Christian Life’ 1858 (too much to explain here). In his book, he gave illustrations that trinitarians would use to support their three-in-one belief. Ellen White, in her testimony against Kellogg ( Ms21-1906), borrowed what B
oardman wrote almost word-for-word but when she came to where Boardman had described the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as, ”tri-personality of the one God” and that they are the “living personalities of the living God” (p. 104) or “living persons of the living God” (p.105) — which is a basic trinitarian confession (not unlike the modern SDA’s profession today), she said instead that they were the “living persons of the heavenly trio.” The difference is that Boardman‘s expressions were trinitarian (three “persons” or “personalities” making one God) while Ellen White‘s trio statement was not—though some try to claim that they are. Ellen White also never used such trinitarian expressions as, “Triune God.”

Furthermore, Boardman’s usage of “IS” in describing each of the three persons’ attributes are of noteworthy:

“THE FATHER IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD INVISIBLE.

THE SON IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD MANIFESTED.

THE SPIRIT IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD MAKING MANIFEST.”

(W. E. Boardman, Higher Christian Life, pg. 106; see pics below-click to enlarge)

Instead, Elle White wrote:

“The Father IS all the fulness of the Godhead bodily and is invisible to mortal sight.

“The Son IS all the fulness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be “the express image of His person.” [Hebrews 1:3.] “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] Here is shown the personality of the Father.

“The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit IN all the fulness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.”

To put it in a simple equation:

Father = all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (invisible to mortal sight)

Son = Father manifested

Comforter = Spirit IN Father

Now, let’s compare again at the modifications Ellen made to these three statements.

  • Boardman: “THE FATHER IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD INVISIBLE.”

  • White: “The Father is all the fulness of the Godhead BODILY, AND IS INVISIBLE TO MORTAL SIGHT.”

Here, Ellen affirms the corporeal materiality of God, using the term “bodily” and indicating that the invisibility of God is only “to mortal sight”. Thus she affirmed the “personality of God” as she received from her first visions (“I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. I gazed on Jesus’ countenance and admired his lovely person. . . . I ASKED JESUS IF HIS FATHER HAD A FORM LIKE HIMSELF; HE SAID HE HAD, BUT I COULD NOT BEHOLD IT.” (Letter From Sister Harmon, Day-Star, March 14, 1846, par. 7) and also as outlined in her husbands pamphlet.

  • Boardman: “THE SON IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD MANIFESTED.”

  • White: “The Son is all the fulness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be ‘the express image of His person.’ ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Here is shown the personality of the Father.”

Here, Ellen felt the need to add a great deal more than Boardman. She adds a verse from Hebrews 1:3 which speaks of Christ as the reproduction of God (express image) and quotes from John 3:16. Her final words, “here is shown the personality of the Father” are a reflection on that vision where Jesus said to her that He is the “express image” of His Father’s person. So, Ellen White confirms that both Father and Son have forms.

  • Boardman: “THE SPIRIT IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD MAKING MANIFEST.”

  • White: “The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit IN all the fulness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour.”

It is evident that Ellen White is clearly reading and journalling her thoughts on Boardman’s book. Again, Boardman’s book is full of trinitarian expressions, like “tri-personality of the one God” and “the Triune God”. It even has a phrase “living persons of the living God” but Ellen White isn’t satisfied with any of these expressions. She deliberately avoids quoting any of these trinitarian expressions and COINS A BRAND NEW TERM –“heavenly trio”. So to say that “heavenly trio” was just like any view of trinitarianism of her day, or even like the consubstantial trinity of her Methodist origins, is to miss the point. Ellen White’s “trinitarianism”, if you could call it that, was a complete overhaul of trinitarianism such that she didn’t dare use traditional trinitarian terminology. She coined her own term to describe what she believed. So it is lazy theologizing to conclude too much about her conception of triunity by tying it to any version that existed in her day. The same as it would be premature to insist that any modern version of the trinity is the same as her own.

Moreover, while the above statements clearly demarcates the personality of the Father and Son, Ellen White further distinguishes the Holy Spirit from Father and Son by the use of the preposition, “IN” rather than “IS.” This indicates the location of the “Comforter” (Holy Spirit) as being within the Father and Son. If “Father IS all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” and the Son IS all the fulness of the Godhead manifested as the “express image His [Father’s] Person” and if the Spirit is “IN all the fulness of the Godhead,” then the Spirit is INSIDE the Father and Son. In other words, Father and Son are the possessors of the Spirit. This is why we see most of the expressions
referring to the Holy Spirit in the possessive, as in “God’s Spirit” and “His Spirit, Spirit of Christ, etc.”

Again, Ellen White, when quoting Boardman, carefully and deliberately avoided using any trinitarian expressions. This shows (a) she was making some clear distinctions regarding trinitarianism and (b) that she knew what Kellogg was professing. After all, why else would she speak out against these trinitarian sentiments in a testimony against what Kellogg was teaching. If you want to read more about this in detail, go to Chapter 27 of the Terry Hill’s study, “The Seventh-day Adventist Godhead Debate”.

The problem is, the SDA trinitarians use this “three living persons of the heavenly trio” quote from Ellen White but they fail to understand the context in which she wrote it. If Ellen White had been a trinitarian, why did she not just quote Boardman as he wrote it instead of deliberately changing it to “heavenly trio?” There must be a reason. The reason is, she did not agree with trinitarianism nor Kellogg’s profession. 

“persons” vs “personalities”

There are much debates as to the expression “persons” vs “personalities” attached to the “heavenly trio” statement. Many non-trinitarians argue that because Ellen White’s original handwriting shows “personalities,” that the published writings must have been compromised. The contention, according to (some, but not all) non-trinitarians, is based on the photocopy of her handwriting (often a cropped version) where she had made a notation, “alities” above the phrase, “persons” in the noted paragraph, where the letter “s” at the end of “persons” appears to be crossed out suggesting a correction. The Idea behind the non-trinitarians’ objection is that the word, “persons” connote more strongly, the idea of a separate individual being (supporting trinity) whereas the expression, “personalities” would more easily convey the idea of “character of office” or “agency,” which do not necessarily denote a separate individual, etc (see attached pic below). The preference for “personalities” in favor of “persons” is a straw-man argument, for Ellen White used both expressions in a very similar fashion. This, however, does not negate the fact that both “persons” and “personalities” have range of meanings that needs to be defined clearly based on the context.

Photocopy of Original Ellen G. White's Manuscript in her own handwriting. The blue highlight was added by me for emphasis.

What Ellen White originally wrote was somewhat different than what was published. While the persons/personalities discrepancy is one that is mostly discussed, there is however another notable detail in this handwriting which is overlooked and that is the endorsement of the Matthew 28’s three-fold title for baptism where the phrase, “in the name of Jesus Christ to them” is crossed out.

She wrote in her own handwriting (as far as we can tell from the survived copy):

The Father is not to be described by the earthly 

Fathers person For God so loved the world that he gave 

Invisible to motal earthly sight.

The Son is all the fullness of the God head

Revealed manifested, He is the express image of his

*Fathers person* For God so loved the world that he gave

his only begotten Son that whosoever

believeth in him Should not perish but have

everlasting life. Here is the personality of the Father

The Spirit the Comforter whom Christ

promised to send after he assended to heaven

Is Christ is the Spirit in all the fullness 

of the God head making manifest to the 

All who receive him and believe in Him

“There are the living three persons alities of the heavenly 

trio in which every soul repenting of their 

sins, believing receiving Christ by a living 

faith, to them who are baptized in the name 

of Jesus Christ to them in the name of the 

Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 

Ghost-three high dignified personalities

Give power because they are Gods property

to be called the Sons of God, What is the sinner

to do, believe in Jesus Christ because they

are his property which he hath purchased

with his own blood though the test and trial

to which he was subjected to redeem from the slavery

The two variations of the published words were:

“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.” {BTS March 1, 1906, par. 2}

There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ….” {SpTB07 63.2, 1906}

How do we account for the changes in the wording when it was published? All I can say is, it is unknown. We do have the typed manuscript, and based on Ellen White’s own testimony, I am more inclined to believe that she approved the manuscript before it was published.

One thing which I find it ironic is that there are many non-trinitarians who advocate the “corrected version” (personalities) of the original handwriting but also promote the “baptism by Jesus’ name only” while invalidating the Matthew 28’s three fold title baptism; they see the tri-fold titles in the text as an interpolation and therefore spurious due to trinitarian influence. Yet not a single word is mentioned regarding the crossed out “in the name of Jesus Christ” pertaining to baptism in the statement. Point being, if we are to be consistent, then it is only fair to acknowledge all that is endorsed here in favor of what was corrected or crossed out.

Moreover, those who advocate the corrected version (with “personalities” instead of “persons”) should do well to note how Ellen White used “personalities” in the following statements:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”  

Above statements are just a few examples of how Ellen White used the expression, “personalities” to indicate two separate individuals. I am not saying this to affirm the idea that heavenly trio is a trinitarian statement but to show that sometimes non-trinitarians, in their zeal to repudiate trinity hold to an untenable position. 

And should I add to this the multiple times she published that the holy Spirit is the “third Person”?

“Evil had been accumulating for centuries, and could only be restrained an
d resisted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the THIRD PERSON of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fulness of divine power. Another spirit must be met; for the essence of evil was working in all ways, and the submission of man to this satanic captivity was amazing. {SpTA10 25.2}

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. {SpTA10 37.1}

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… {DA 671.2}

He determined to give His representative, the THIRD PERSON of the Godhead. This gift could not be excelled. He would give all gifts in one, and therefore the divine Spirit, converting, enlightening, sanctifying, would be His donation. {ST December 1, 1898, par. 2}

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 fulness of divine power… {RH May 19, 1904, par. 3}

He determined to give his representative, the THIRD PERSON of the Godhead. This gift could not be excelled. He would give all gifts in one, and therefore the divine Spirit, that converting, enlightening and sanctifying power, would be his donation. {SW November 28, 1905, par. 2}

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 fulness of divine power.. {RH November 19, 1908, Art. B, par. 5}

So that is twice that SHE published “three living persons” and that is seven times that SHE published “third person.” Again, not once did she publish “three living personalities” or “third personality.”

Again, sentiments among some non-trinitarians are that, rather than honestly making an effort to reconcile these seemingly contradicting statements, some immediately regard them as corrupted and will resort to some form of conspiracy theory and say that Mrs. White’s writings have been tampered with and even make it their personal goal to zealously promote them as such. Unfortunately for some, as soon as Inspiration teaches something that seems to go against one of their cherished positions, they resort to denying particular Testimonies altogether.

I have no doubt that those who are pursuing this course are doing it with all the good intentions to protect the rest of us from error, but it’s my humble opinion that they are doing so to their own detriment and are causing much more harm then actually helping the cause, for what they are really doing is unwittingly or intentionally sowing the seeds of doubt on the Testimonies as a whole and Satan is well pleased with these approaches because he can make void the testimonies by the very means.

One thing to take notice regarding the first publication of the “heavenly trio statement is that although Ellen White rightly acknowledged the “three living persons of the heavenly trio,” she identified Father’s “personality” as “God” in the paragraph just prior.
It reads,

“The Father can not be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. The word of God declares Him to be ‘the express image of His person.’ ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Here is shown the personality of the Father.” {BTS March 1, 1906, par. 1}

W. C. White on “personality”

This “heavenly trio” statements is one of the chief “proof texts” Adventists use today to prove Trinitarianism. However, a study of Sister White’s writings reveals that she did not use the terms “being” and “person” interchangeably as some do today. She stated that Christ was,

“the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God.”Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 34

“none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will.” — ibid p. 36

“Christ the Word, the only-begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father,—one in nature, in character, and in purpose,—the only being in all the universe that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God.” — The Great Controversy, 493

“In order that the human family might have no excuse because of temptation, Christ became one with them. The only being who was one with God lived the law in humanity…” — ST October 14, 1897, par. 3

These statements (and more could be cited) denote only two “beings.” If the Holy Spirit was a “being” in the same sense as Christ, then why is the Holy Spirit not able to enter into all the “counsels and purposes of God”? or why is Christ “only being who was one with God?” The conspicuous absence of the Spirit in some narratives should give us pause in that respect. 

Furthermore, there is a distinction that can be made between “person” and “personality” and the manner in which “personality” can be defined. In a letter dated January 24, 1935, Elder H. W. Carr wrote to W. C. White requesting Willie’s understanding of his “mother’s position in reference to the personality of the Holy Spirit.” Elder White responded in part:

“This I cannot do because I never clearly understood her teachings on the matter. There always was in my mind some perplexity regarding the meaning of her utterances which to my superficial manner of thinking seemed to be somewhat confusing. … My perplexities were lessened a little when I learned from the dictionary that one of the meanings of personality, was characteristics. It is stated in such a way that I concluded that there might be personality without bodily form which is possessed by the Father and the Son.” — Letter of W. C. White to H. W. Carr, April 30, 1935

Below are the three views of the trinity:

1. Modalistic Trinitarianism (1 divine being, 3 “MODES” of operation) *Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit are all one being operating in 3 different modes. 

2. Consubstantial Trinitarianism (3 non-corporeal, indivisible-undivided personalities/substance making ONE supreme divine being ) *This is the Catholic/orthodox version; some SDAs adhere to this version.

3. Tritheistic Trinitarianism-(3 independent co-eternal Gods without any ontological relations to each other-Jesus being the ‘unbegotten Son’, but 3 are united in purpose, thus making one God)  *Most SDA church members adhere to this version of trinity.

Below is how I understand what Ellen White meant when she wrote, “heavenly trio.” I believe this to be the Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy’s view of the personalities of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit:

The Heavenly Trio-Three Distinct 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)

“The Father IS all the fulness of the Godhead [divinity] bodily and is invisible to mortal sight.” (bracket supplied by me)

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

-Begotten Son (Jesus is the real pre-incarnate begotten 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)

“The Son IS all the fulness of the Godhead manifested [blended with humanity].” (bracket supplied by me)

The expression, the “Godhead bodily,” is found in Col. 2:9. It simply means that dwelling in the flesh of Jesus Christ was all the power of the Godhead (divinity); simply an equivalent of chapter 1:19, “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell.

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

-Holy Spirit (Non-corporeal aspect of the Father and Son’s personality-divested of personality of humanity, wherein they are omnipresent)

“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}

John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said unto him, 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.”

Romans 8:9 “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.”

Thus the Spirit is IN all the fullness of the divinity without a form and stripped of humanity. The divinity of the Father is shed through the son hence divinity blending with efficacious human experience and coming to us in a mysterious non-corporeal, and yet distinct personality. The spirit is not angels and it’s not words, these are just conduits used to stream it.

Lest I’m misunderstood, while I would identify the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and Christ, the inspired evidences do suggest the Spirit as being operative outside of God and Christ and interacts with its subjects with such attributes that are not unlike a personal being. This is the mystery of the nature of the Holy Spirit which I cannot explain but I find these attributes (though it may be directed by the Father and the Son) sufficient to warrant the labeling of “person” and, apparently, so did Mrs. White.

“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:

Example:

“The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but not in person.”

2. “Person” and “personality” can refer to an economic office, character or role:

Example:

“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}

“When trials overshadow the soul, remember the words of Christ, remember that He is an unseen presence in the person of the Holy Spirit, and He will be the peace and comfort given you, manifesting to you that He is with you, the Sun of Righteousness, chasing away your darkness. “If a man love me,” Christ said, “he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Be of good cheer; light will come, and your soul will rejoice greatly in the Lord.”—Letter 124, 1897. {DG 185.2}

“The one who sees the value of Christ’s character is to reveal that character. Husband and wife each have a personality, as far as the salvation of their souls is concerned.” {EA 289.4}

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.

“They have ONE God and ONE Saviour; and ONE Spirit–the Spirit of Christ–is to bring unity into their ranks.” — (E.G. White, 9T 189.3, 1909)

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:

“Christ, our Mediator, and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding in man’s behalf, but the Spirit pleads not for us as does Christ, who presents His blood, shed from the foundation of the world; the Spirit works upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving. The gratitude which flows from our lips is the result of the Spirit striking the cords of the soul in holy memories, awakening the music of the heart.”

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 in heaven, while His Spirit’s intercession is on our hearts (His transformative power working through the Word).

Is Heavenly
Trio a Biblical teaching?

The word “trio” is defined as a set or grouping of three things (or three persons). Therefore in order for the concept of trio to be Biblical (assuming we understand that Ellen White was speaking of God the Father, His Son and His Holy Spirit), we must find these 3 grouped together in Scripture. Please keep in mind that the set or the grouping of the three does not necessarily constitute a doctrine trinity as it is promulgated today in Adventism; the mere mentioning of the three does not necessarily make the unity of three into one God or a triune God:

“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

Here we see a mentioning of 3 – love of God, grace of Jesus, communion of the holy Ghost.

Moving on,

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. — 1 Peter 1:2

Here again we see the trio. Foreknowledge of God, sanctification of the Spirit and blood of Jesus.

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all — Ephesians 4:4-6

Notice one Spirit, one Lord [Jesus implied] and one God. Again we see trio. 

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all — 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Here again we see the Spirit, the Lord [Jesus implied] and the God.

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” — Revelation 1:4, 5

Here we see an apostolic salutation of “Grace and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come” [God the Father], “from the seven Spirits” [the holy Spirit] “And Jesus Christ” [the Son of God]. Here we see a trio greeting by the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

“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

Here we find a grouping of 3 – Father (1), Son (2) and holy Ghost (3) under the heading of name (singular). Thus we have a “name” trio.

And in all the aforementioned references, we see a trio at work involving the Father, Son and Spirit for the benefit of humanity’s salvation. Thus EGW is most certainly correct to speak of a “trio.”

So now what about the adjective “heavenly?” Contextually this means of or from heaven in terms of origin:

Of God the Father:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16

Of the Son of God:

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” — John 3:13

Of the holy Spirit:

“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” — 1 Peter 1:12

Thus the expression “heavenly trio” is justifiable via Scripture.

The real question here is whether you are a non-trinitarian opposing the inspired expression or a trinitarian have taking the expression to justify their trinitarian dogma.

Related articles:

Who is the third person of the Godhead?

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

 

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24 Responses

  1. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

  2. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

  3. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

  4. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

  5. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

  6. I was able to follow this train of thought and it helped clear up some confusion I had on the persons, personality and trio wording. Thank you.

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