The Presence of God – The Holy Spirit and Pantheism

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The bible speaks of “the presence of God” as the Spirit of God.  In Psalms 51 when David was talking about “the presence of God” he compared it with the Holy Spirit. holy spirit pantheism adventist

Psalms 51:11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

The reason for this article is because of some of the major misunderstandings regarding His presence that have been coming about, especially some pantheistic views that have come from these misunderstandings.

In John 14 Jesus explained that God was going to send the comforter to his disciples after he left.

John 14:16-17  And 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; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

In this passage Jesus tells us that the comforter is dwelling with them.  We should note that it is Jesus himself dwelling with them, and telling them that he is the one that “shall be in you”.  In verse 18 he continues:

John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

We understand this to be our “hope of glory”.   In Colossians 1 we read the words “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27).  This is no small matter to understand.  We also read that “the comforter…Even the Spirit of truth” is likened to the experience of being born into the family of God.

John 3:5  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

1Co 12:13  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body

You are the temple of God the bible tells us, and it tells us that because you are that temple, then God dwells in you.   You can’t be a member of God’s church without this.

2Co 6:16  …ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The Holy Spirit is the presence of God inside of the believer.   It is not only Christ who comes to dwell in the believer, but it is also the Father who will “dwell in them”.

Joh 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.

The Father and Son will come to us, we are God’s house, building, temple, etc.., this is our hope of glory.   But the question is how do they come to us.   For instance when you pray, do you pray and say “My Father who dwells in brother Joe”.  No, we say “Our Father, which art in heaven” (Matt 6:9)

My Father is dwelling in my brother Joe, but not physically, materially, bodily, intelligently or consciously.  The bible says that we have “the mind of Christ.” (Phi 2:5)  Some have gone to extremes in assuming that they were Christ because they have his mind.  They come to believe that since they have “the mind of Christ” they must therefore have his thoughts and intelligence.  God’s thoughts are a little higher than our thoughts.  He is so smart that even just speaking can be creative.  We have but a small measure of His spirit.   Misunderstanding this leads to the danger of worshipping the man himself or the creation.

In the early 1900’s Adventism went through something similar, and this is what we will look at in some of the quotes below from the Spirit of prophecy.  John Harvey Kellogg was promoting pantheistic theories especially in his book “Living Temple” and Ellen White gave a number of warnings.   She said:

“Living Temple contains the alpha of these theories. I knew that the omega would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people. I knew that I must warn our brethren and sisters not to enter into controversy over the presence and personality of God…” (Ellen White Selected Messages Book 1-Page 203)

The point of interest and focus in this study has to do with “the presence of God”.  For a study on the Omega and “the personality of God”.  See HERE.  But before you do, please read this one through.  Ellen said:

“I saw what was coming in, and I saw that our brethren were blind. They did not realize the danger. Our young people, especially, were in danger. They delighted in the beautiful representation–God in the flower, God in the leaf, God in the tree. But if God be in these things, why not worship them?  {Ellen White 1 Sermons and Talks 344}

Ellen was definitely against the teaching that God is in the tree.  But WAIT one second.  Notice the following, she said:

The Lord puts His own Spirit into the seed, causing it to spring into life. Under His care the germ breaks through the case enclosing it and springs up to develop and bear fruit.” (Ellen White 8 Testimonies, p. 326)Sunflower_Seeds_Kaldari

Knowing that the Holy Spirit is “the presence of God”, if we were quick to read this we could conclude that Ellen was teaching that God was in the seed.   But let us stop right there.  Just because the Spirit is in the seed, this does not imply that God is in the seed.  Unless you believe in a doctrine such as “God the Holy Spirit”.

God is not physically or consciously in the seed.   You cannot pray to the seed and say “Our Father who dwells in the seed, hallowed be thy name.”  But yet the spirit of God is in the seed.  In fact God is everywhere present by His Spirit, yet he is a personal being who dwells at His throne.  We need to understand that God is not everywhere present physically, or consciously.  God is at His throne in heaven.  And when we pray we address Him “In heaven”.  Here are but a few quotes from the bible on this matter:

Mat_5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Mat_5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Mat_5:48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Mat_6:1  Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Mat_6:9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Mat_7:11  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Mat_7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Mat_10:32  Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

Mat_10:33  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Mat_12:50  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Mat_16:17  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

And that is just a few verses from Jesus in the book of Matthew.  Clearly the Father is in heaven.  We will look at how the words of heaven, which are spirit and life reach us.   But we should take careful note.

“He[Christ] represented God not as an essence that pervaded nature, but as a God who has a personality.” (Ellen White MS 24, 1891)

As we can see above, God is not pervading nature, he is not everywhere around us, we don’t address our Father as “Dear Father, who art in the air we breathe.”  But we address Him as our Father which art in heaven.

Yet, we need to be clear, His Spirit is in the seed, but He is not in the seed physically or consciously.  His Spirit is in the born again Christian, but He is not inside the man in a physical or conscious way.  If you wanted to talk to your Father, you wouldn’t go to a brother who you perceive has the Holy Spirit and start praying to Him saying “Well the bible says that my Father is in you.”  You wouldn’t pray to yourself because you believe your Father is inside of you.

One may object and say that the bible does say that God is everywhere.  In Psalms 139 we read about it:

Psalms 139:7-9  Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there…

In this passage we are told that God is everywhere present by his spirit.  Therefore the conclusion of some is that He is everywhere.   But we must understand that only by His Spirit He is everywhere.

Notice what Paul says about his own spirit and being present in other places.

1 Cor 5:3 “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit”

Paul was “present in the spirit”.   Paul’s spirit was his presence.  But yet Paul was physically not with the brethren.  Nor was Paul consciously with the brethren.  Yet, Paul’s presence was with them.   Some may object and say that God is physically and consciously everywhere.  And I understand that this teaching is very prominent.

But I will recommend as did Ellen White that we distinguish between “God in the flower” and “the Spirit in the flower”.   She wrote:

“Christ could not be in every place personally… He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent.” (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, pages 23, 24; written February 18 and 19, 1895)

Christ is at His throne in heaven right now interceding.  He is not everywhere personally in any way other than by his Holy Spirit.  In this sense only is Christ omnipresent.

So what does it mean to have “Christ in you”.  It means you have His spirit, which is his life, his power, his character, his love, joy, peace, long suffering, etc.  You also have precious gifts such as the gift of prophecy.   We have Christ “absent in body, but present in spirit”.   To deny that Christ is in you is an antichrist doctrine.  (1 John 4:2-4)

Christ is in us by the Holy Spirit.

So if Christ is at his throne, how then does he speak to us?  In John 16 we are told:

John 16:13-14  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to comeHe shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Notes regarding the “comforter” or “spirit of truth”:
1.  He will not speak of himself.
2.  He will glorify and speak of Christ.
3.  He must be someone else other than Christ.
4.  He will show things to come.

So who is this?  John was given a message that was to “speak of Christ”.  It is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.   We notice that this Revelation was to “shew you things to come”.

Revelation 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

The order here is seen:
1.  God
2.  Christ
3.  Angel
4.  John
5.  Servants

Don’t miss it.  Who came to give John the message?  The angel.  Did the angel speak about himself?  No, He was giving the blog_photo_4“Revelation of Jesus Christ”.  Did the angel show John things to come?  Absolutely, the very word Revelation means “revealing” of “things which must shortly come to pass”.  (Rev 1:1)  Angels have the spirit of prophecy,(Rev 19:10, 22:8) and therefore, like the prophets are vessels by which God gives His words, which if we allow to be written in us on our heart are spirit and life.(John 6:63):  Thus God lives through us.

Furthermore,  we see the seven messages to the churches being given to seven angels which stand before the throne.  At the end of each message to each church we hear the words “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)  Who is the spirit? The angel.  It is Christ speaking through the angel.  At the beginning of every message to each church we read the words “Thus saith” then a description of Christ is given.  So the spirit is speaking, but in reality it is God through Christ, to the angel, to us.

And in that sense this is “the spirit of truth” that was to teach us things to come, guide us into all truth, would not speak of himself, etc.   There is much more to be said on this point from scriptures, but for lack of space, let me conclude with a few quotes from Ellen White regarding the angels and the Holy Spirit.

How many blessings come through Christ by the angels?  Answer:  “Every blessing”

The angels of God are ever passing from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The miracles of Christ for the afflicted and suffering were wrought by the power of God through the ministration of the angels. And it is through Christ, by the ministration of His heavenly messengers, that every blessing comes from God to us. In taking upon Himself humanity, our Saviour unites His interests with those of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, while through His divinity He grasps the throne of God. And thus Christ is the medium of communication of men with God, and of God with men. {DA 143.1}

When the Holy Spirit comes down as the representative of Christ, who is sent?  Answer:  More Than angels.

All the intelligences of heaven are in this army. And more than angels are in the ranks. The Holy Spirit, the representative of the Captain of the Lord’s host, comes down to direct the battle. Our infirmities may be many, our sins and mistakes grievous; but the grace of God is for all who seek it with contrition. The power of Omnipotence is enlisted in behalf of those who trust in God.” [Ellen White Desire of Ages 352]

How is the Spirit imparted to humanity?  Through the angels.

“From the two olive trees, the golden oil was emptied through golden pipes into the bowl of the candlestick, and thence into the golden lamps that gave light to the sanctuary. So from the holy ones that stand in God’s presence, His Spirit is imparted to human instrumentalities that are consecrated to His service…As the olive trees empty themselves into the golden pipes, so the heavenly messengers seek to communicate all that they receive from God. The whole heavenly treasure awaits our demand and reception; and as we receive the blessing, we in our turn are to impart it. Thus it is that the holy lamps are fed, and the church becomes a light-bearer in the world.—[Ellen White The Review and Herald, March 2, 1897]

God spoke to Cain.  How did God speak to him?  Didn’t He come down and speak Himself?  (Gen 4:6, 9, 13)  Answer: Yes, Through his angel.

“God condescends to send an angel to Cain to converse with him.” [Ellen White Story of Redemption page 53]

When they built the tower of Babel, God said “Let us go down, and there confound their language”(Gen 11:7)  Who did God send to confound their language?  Answer:  His Angels

“They had built their tower to a lofty height, when the Lord sent two angels to confound them in their work.… The angels confounded their language….”—[Ellen White The Spirit of Prophecy 1: 92, 93]

He confused their tongues at Babel through the angels.  Now on Pentecost, how did he give them the gift of tongues, the gift of His Spirit?  Answer:  Through the angels.  We read again:

“When the truth in its simplicity is lived in every place, then God will work through His angels as He worked on the day of Pentecost, and hearts will be changed so decidedly that there will be a manifestation of the influence of genuine truth, as is represented in the descent of the Holy Spirit.” [Ellen White My Life Today 58]

We need to truly understand how God is working for us.  That the spirit is not a person like the Father and Son.  That it is not God the spirit that dwells in the plant, yet His spirit is in the plant, or in the seed. (EGW 8T 326) That God himself is a personal being and that the spiritual view destroys our understanding of the throne in heaven and the personality of God in heaven, and our understanding what the bible means when speaking of the presence of God.

We need to be careful to understand that the angels are the channel through which the spirit is given, the vessels which contain the spirit.   The spirit itself is imparted unto the angels as well.  The spirit is not limited to the angels.  The spirit is the testimony, the word.  And this spirit is clearly seen even in the things that are made. (Rom 1:20)  The seed, etc.

One thing must be clear though, that is that “the theory that God is an essence pervading all nature is one of Satan’s most subtle devices.” (Ellen White 8 Testimonies Page 291)

God is not pervading nature.  However, His Spirit is pervading all nature.  As we read  “The Lord puts His own Spirit into the seed”  We read:

“A mysterious life pervades all naturea life that sustains the unnumbered worlds throughout immensity, that lives in the insect atom which floats in the summer breeze…From Him all life proceeds… Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action… a life sustained by receiving the life of God, a life exercised in harmony with the Creator’s will. To transgress His law, physical, mental, or moral, is to place one’s self out of harmony with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin.”  [Ellen White Education Page 99]

What life is this that pervades all nature?  From Him all life proceeds.  From his throne proceeds “the river of life”. (Rev 22:1)  Though temporary life for those who refuse it, eternal life to those who accept it.  It is the Holy spirit, the life of Christ.

 “…the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in the soul.” (Ellen White, Review & Herald, October 26, 1897)

For more on this issue, please read the book:  The Omega of Deadly Heresies.

 

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