Relevant Verses: John 14-17
Leading Question: What do we learn about the Holy Spirit from Jesus and the Gospels?
1. How should we understand John 7:37-38:
37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Note: God’s “spirit” is everywhere present in the Old Testament, though it is not always a “personal” spirit as Christians would say of the Spirit as seen in the New Testament. In Genesis 1:1, for example, the “spirit” of God was moving – but that same word could be translated as “breath” or as “wind.”
2. How do we compare the teachings of Jesus and Gospels with what we can learn from the Old Testament about the Holy Spirit or the “Spirit of God”?
Note: John’s Gospel is most explicit in teaching that the Spirit would be given only after Jesus was glorified.
John 7:39: The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 14:26: The coming of the Spirit (the Comforter) was still future, and would fulfill a teaching function.
John 16:7: The Comforter cannot come until Jesus departs.
John 16:13: The Spirit would guide the disciples into all truth.
3. Why did the early Adventist community resist seeing the Holy Spirit as God?
Note: The resistance to seeing the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity was part of a larger 19th century impulse against the Trinity. Prior to the emergence of the Seventh-day Adventist church as a formally organized community of faith, many early Adventists had belonged to the Christian Connection, an anti-trinitarian movement. And this feeling lingered on. LeRoy Froom cites a letter from R. A. Underwood (May 5, 1930), in which Underwood tells of giving several camp meeting presentations on the Holy Spirit as a “Person of the Godhead.” But “the ministers by vote asked him not to speak further on the subject.” – LeRoy Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, D. C.:Review and Herald, 1971), p. 266
A 2002 Review and Herald book, The Trinity, authored by Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon, and John Reeve, explores the issues from a biblical and historical perspective, documenting the change in Adventist thinking. In recent years, a strong anti-trinitarian backlash has developed in some conservative Adventist circles. These opponents of the Trinity revert to the early Adventist position and do not hesitate to cite the anti-trinitarian Adventist pioneers in support of their case.