The Holy Spirit #6: The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ
If I was to give you a map to a secret treasure, a treasure that was so valuable that it would completely change the way you live at present, you would be willing to learn some things about the geography of the place where it was hidden and about the various modes of transportation by which a person could get there, and about other skills that might be needed to actually get the treasure into your hands. Well, there is a secret treasure, more valuable than any money or jewels or possessions. And it will completely change the way we live. But there’s some learning we have to do first, learning that will give you access to something that makes all the difference in the world.
We’ve been studying the Holy Spirit. In this article we will examine the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. It is quite striking how intertwined their ministries are. And it is amazing how much there is in the Bible about this.
There are three great episodes in the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the ministry of Jesus. And each one of the three episodes signals a great transition.
In fact, the life of Jesus can be divided by three great developments in this relationship with the Holy Spirit. First, Jesus is conceived by the Spirit in Mary's womb (Luke 1:35). Then, He is anointed by the Spirit at the Jordan River. Finally, He receives the Spirit at His exaltation in order to pour out the Spirit upon His church. Let’s look at each one of these three...
In Luke 1:35 Gabriel says to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God." In Matthew 1:18, 20 we learn that "Mary ... was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." and that "... that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."
What does this mean? It means that a human nature was miraculously wrought by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, formed in perfect holiness. In prior studies we have seen that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity whose role it is to deal directly with men. And so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Spirit is the One who comes and does this miraculous deed. This was the transition of the incarnation: the Son of God becoming the Son of Man.
But another transition occurred when Jesus was thirty years old. Up until that point Jesus had done no preaching, he had performed no miracles. Except for the fact that He was morally perfect, he had lived a rather normal life. But now He is ready to transition into His public ministry, and we come to the next great Holy Spirit event in the life of Jesus. Luke 3:21-22 tells the story: "Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."" After this something has changed. From this point on Jesus is spoken of as being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:1 picks up the story, "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness." Luke 4:14 says, "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit; and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district." And in Luke 4:18 Jesus Himself says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden." From this point on we see that the whole life of Jesus is lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is interesting that as soon as He received the Spirit, He began to do miracles: healing, casting out demons, etc. (Luke 4:33-41). Even the strength to face death came through the Holy Spirit, for in Hebrews 9:14 we read, "...how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Jesus was also raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit (see 1 Peter 3:18, Rom. 1:4 and 8:11). After the resurrection, He continued to minister by the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, Acts 1:2 refers to "the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen."
It is also interesting to note that God had told John the Baptist how to recognize the coming "anointed one": it was the One who was anointed by the Spirit:
John 1:32-33 "And John bore witness saying, ‘I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He [the Spirit] remained upon Him [Jesus]. And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, "He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit."’" "Remaining upon Him" in this verse is very significant. Up until now the Spirit had come in whatever measure was necessary for whatever time was needed for a certain task to be done. But now He comes and remains. And now He comes without measure: John 3:34 says "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit [to Him] without measure."
What’s going on here? What does it mean that Jesus was filled with the Spirit? Why did Jesus need the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t in terms of personal righteousness. Jesus was perfect. It was in terms of power. It was to equip Him with supernatural powers for His great work.
It was by the Spirit's power that He performed signs and wonders (Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38), it was by the Spirit’s power that He cast out demons (Matthew 12:28), and it was by the power of the Spirit that He proclaimed the gospel (Luke 4:18; Matt. 12:18; Acts 1:2). Just as He was directed not by His own agenda, but by His Father's (John 5:19-20,30; 8:26-29,42; 14:10,24), so He was driven not by His own power, but by the Spirit's. Jesus was sent to earth by the Father with a mission to fulfill. When the time for the mission arrived, God gave Him the Spirit to empower Him to fulfill the mission.
But why would the Son of God need the power of the Holy Spirit? It was not the divinity of Jesus but His humanity that was being anointed and that needed the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38 Peter says, "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him." When it says "God anointed Him" it literally means, "God made Him Messiah." The Greek word for anoint is chrio, which is where christos comes from, meaning "one who has been anointed" or "anointed one." Christos is the Greek word for the Hebrew messiah, both words meaning anointed one.
This is the same thing that is happening in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden..." (See also Acts 4:27.)
At the moment of His baptism, in one sense, Jesus became the "anointed one," i.e., the messiah. Now He is referred to as the Christ before this (e.g. Matt.2:4, Luke 2:11), but even those designations seem to be pointing primarily ahead to this point when He would be anointed by the Holy Spirit at the Jordan. Although this may sound strange to our ears, it would seem that messiahship is a function or office that Jesus assumed at His baptism. He was the One promised of old who would receive the Holy Spirit in a peculiar way. Centuries of human history had proven that man on his own strength could not be what he needed to be. But now a Man was sent who was not going to live by human power but by the power of God’s Spirit. And in this way He would succeed where all the others had failed.
Jesus had been alive for about 30 years, the Kingdom of God was still something future for John the Baptist. But once the Spirit had come upon Jesus, all attention turned to Him and the time was now fulfilled.In the OT, God had promised David that his son would be king of Israel, and that his son's kingdom would be an everlasting one. Now, Jesus, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1, 21:9), is anointed as King of Israel in fulfillment of this Davidic promise. So, in one sense when the King was anointed it marked the coming of the Kingdom. (Probably this anointing was also for the offices of prophet and priest - see Heb. 5:5-6; it is very interesting that Jesus did not function in any of these three roles until after His baptism by John.)
And so Christ's baptism in the Spirit at the Jordan was not only a change in Jesus Himself in terms of empowering. It was also a change in salvation history. A new creation had begun, a new covenant was being established, a new age was entered into. At His baptism Jesus entered into a new age, an age into which He would eventually lead His people at Pentecost.
All through the ministry of John the baptist and Jesus Himself, there was an expectation that at some point in the future Jesus would give the Holy Spirit to His followers. Each gospel includes verses like Luke 3:16 where John the baptist says, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." And Jesus continued this theme that John began. Just ten days before Pentecost He said to His disciples, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:5, Cf. Acts 11:16)
Well, on the day of Pentecost what had been long anticipated finally happened. The disciples were baptized with the Holy Spiirt. Speaking of Jesus, Peter declared to the gathering crowd at the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, "having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear." (Acts 2:33)
As one reward for the successful completion of the mission Christ was given the Holy Spirit to pour out on His followers to empower them to continue to fulfill the task that He had begun. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit must be viewed as part of Christ’s work, just like His teaching and His miracles and His atoning death and His resurrection and His ascension. In fact, in many ways it is the climax of all He came to do. It is what all the rest was for. Just as the Spirit came down upon Christ's physical body at the Jordan, now Christ pours the Spirit down upon His churchly body at Pentecost. What Jordan was to Christ, Pentecost was to Christ's followers.
Jesus and the Ministry of the Holy Spirit
We have talked about the Holy Spirit’s role in the ministry of Christ, let’s now talk about Christ’s role in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s role is to glorify and confirm Christ to His people. We see that clearly in the words Jesus spoke in John 16:12-14 "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you." (Cf. John 15:26 where Jesus says of the Spirit that "He will bear witness of Me.")
JI Packer calls this the Holy Spirit’s "floodlight ministry." Here’s what he says, "When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them, you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained...This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior...The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always, ‘Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him, and hear His word; go to Him, and have life; get to know Him, and taste of His gift of joy and peace.’ The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together. As the second Paraclete, the Spirit leads us continually to the original Paraclete, who Himself draws near...through the second Paraclete’s coming to us."
Christ with/in Us Today through the Holy Spirit
In John 14:16-20 Jesus says, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."
Notice the italicized parts. Jesus is talking about the fact that after His ascension to heaven He will be with His disciples through the Holy Spirit. In John 14:20 He says to His disciples, "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." After the Holy Spirit comes, they will know three things:
That Jesus is God and now with God again in glory
That through being in Christ they are saved
That Christ is in them through the Holy Spirit
In the familiar words of Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, "...lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." How is Jesus with us until the end of the age? Once again, it is through the Spirit. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." How does Christ live in us? Through the Holy Spirit! In two places the Holy Spirit is actually referred to as "the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9 and 1Pet.1:11). 1Corinthians 15:45 says it this way: "So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." Jesus is referred to as a life-giving spirit. What does this mean? Jesus lived His life and now comes back to us, not in body but in Spirit, that is, in the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of spiritual life to us.
If Jesus needed the Spirit, how much more do we! This helps us to see how much our lives are supposed to involve the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some readers have concerns such as this: Does all this talk about the Holy Spirit diminish our focus on Jesus? Isn’t Jesus the One that really matters? Aren’t Christians who talk all the time about the Holy Spirit just asking for more than Jesus? If focussing on the Holy Spirit distracts a Christian from Jesus then it is not the Spirit working at all. When the Spirit works, He points to Jesus. There are not Holy-Spirit-empowered Christians and Christ-centered Christians. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of a Christian he makes him a Christ-centered Christian. The person who thinks most highly of Jesus, the one who adores Him and exalts Him and obeys Him the most, is the person who is most filled with the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit is at work in a person’s life, then He will be drawing their attention to Christ and exalting Christ in their eyes.
How do you tell which movements and which churches have more of the Holy Spirit today? It is those which exalt Christ the most. The vast majority of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is imperceptible. He doesn’t draw attention to Himself. He points to Christ.
Jesus is with us. We have real fellowship with Him. As it says in 1John 1:3, "indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." There is no difference between the Holy Spirit in you and Jesus in you. Christ is present in us through the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is better for us now than when Jesus walked on the earth. This is what Jesus said in John 16:7: "I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." That’s how significant the coming of the Holy Spirit is!