The Holy Spirit
Course: Understanding Theology
Lecture: The Holy Spirit
This is a doctrine that has undergone enormous attention and development in the 20th century that is really unprecedented in church history. Until the 20th century, J. I. Packer notes in a book that he wrote, Keep in Step With the Spirit that there was only one full-length treatment, that is, full book-length treatment of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and this by John Owen in 1679. But since the beginning of the 20th century there have been countless numbers of books that have been written on the Holy Spirit on a variety of issues and developments. In my own judgment on this, of course, we are very grateful that there has been this renewed attention to the Holy Spirit. It has benefited all of us in the Church to think more carefully about the fact that we as Christian people are possessors of the Holy Spirit; we are temples of the Spirit. He has come within us and to work within us and to work through us in mighty ways and this has been nothing but beneficial.
I do believe, though, that the major emphasis on the coming of the Spirit in the Bible has not been the major emphasis in the 20th-century development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I think the 20th-century development has focused more on issues that relate to the gifts of the Spirit, the charisma, as it were, of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit, the, sort of, functional aspects of the Spirit. I believe the heart of the Bible’s message on the coming of the Holy Spirit is really that it has to do with the Spirit coming to make God’s people holy. He comes to make them holy by using gifts and other things and by accomplishing mighty things through them; there is no question about that. But it seems as though the real emphasis needs to be upon the main purpose of the Spirit’s coming and that is to make us a holy people.
We will develop this doctrine by looking first at the person of the Holy Spirit. Is he really a person and is he God? Should we affirm both these things of him that he is truly a person as opposed to some inanimate force? Is he truly deity? Following this we will take a look at the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit and trace this through the Bible beginning with his work in the Old Testament and moving through the life and the ministry of Christ and then to the Church.
I. The Person of the Holy Spirit
A. The Personhood of the Holy Spirit
Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person and we ought to think of him that way as the third person of the Godhead. He is a personal being and this can be seen from Scripture by these four different lines of argument:
1. Attributes of a Person
Let me just give you passages and the main point they make. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, “The Spirit searches all things and knows the thoughts of God.” Inanimate objects, wind or electricity or something, don’t know things but here the Spirit obviously has intellect. Ephesians 4:30, the Spirit can be grieved. Again, you can’t grieve the wind. You can’t grieve the electricity that flows through the wires of your house, but you can grieve the Holy Spirit, so he is an emotional being. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says the Spirit distributes gifts as he so wills, so he is a volitional being.
And then, probably most importantly, is the fact that the Spirit has moral characteristics. He is called the Holy Spirit 94 times in the New Testament and obviously this is indicating that his moral character is such that he is a person and a holy person at that. Or consider the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5:22-23 where these fruit of the Spirit are character qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on. These are qualities of a person and it is the qualities of the Spirit as a person.
2. Actions of a Person
John 14:26, he teaches. John 15:26, he bears witness. Romans 8:14, the Spirit leads or guides. Romans 8:26, he intercedes for us as Christ also intercedes. Acts 13:14, he sends out or directs human activities as he sends the disciples. Clearly all these things are activities that persons do and indicating the Spirit as a person.
3. Treated as a Person
Now granted, all the examples I am going to give as I look at my list here are not positive ones; that is, he is not treated well in these examples, but obviously these are ways you treat persons, not inanimate objects. For example, Acts 5:3, he was lied to by Ananias and Sapphira. Again, you can’t lie to the wind or lie to some inanimate object. You lie to a person who is a moral being. You can’t even lie to your dog or your cat. Why? Because they’re not moral beings. You can only lie to persons, but clearly he lied to the Holy Spirit, Ananias did.
Acts 7:51, the Holy Spirit can be resisted. Again, this is in the context of wanting the people to do certain things and clearly it is in the context of the Spirit leading them, directing them in ways that persons do, but he was resisted in this.
Matthew 12:31, the Holy Spirit can be blasphemed. This is remarkable. Jesus said, “Any sin against the Son of man can be forgiven but the sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” So the Holy Spirit is one who can be blasphemed against by sinning against him. So clearly he is referred to here as a person.
Hebrews 10:29, he can be insulted. Again, only persons can be insulted.
4. Masculine Pronoun used of the Spirit
Spirit which is a neuter word, pneuma, and so would normally have a neuter pronoun, but we find in some cases in the New Testament that a demonstrative pronoun, ekeinos, in the masculine case, is given for the Spirit, e.g. John 15:26 and John 16:13-14. It seems to me the only reason we would do this is because the Spirit is understood by the writer, John, to be a person rather than a thing.
B. The Deity of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit is a person and now the Spirit’s deity. Should we affirm the deity of the Spirit? Yes, indeed! Let me give you these reasons:
1. The Holy Spirit is Declared to be God
A number of passages indicate this, not as forcefully, I think, as passages that support the deity of Christ, but nonetheless compelling. Acts 5:3-4, 9 where Peter says to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.” And then he says, “You have not lied to men but to God.” So clearly, lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God.
Or 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Clearly, the Spirit then is identified with God who is in you. The temple of God is what it is because the Spirit of God is within us.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “Whenever man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit.” So again using the word Lord of the Spirit indicates his deity.
Acts 7:51, Steven accused his hearers of resisting the Holy Spirit just as their fathers did. Obviously this is a reference to the resistance that Old Testament Israelites gave to God in their rebellion against him.
One other set of passages where in the New Testament a quotation is made of an Old Testament text that is something that God said in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, the New Testament writer says the Holy Spirit says. So the New Testament writer understands the Old Testament text to have been spoken by God the Holy Spirit. Let me just give you some pairs, you can look at these on your own: Acts 28:25-27 quoting Isaiah 6:8-10; Hebrews 3:7-11 quoting Psalm 95:7-11; and Hebrews 10:15-17 quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. In these cases “the Holy Spirit says” or “the Holy Spirit bears witness” precedes the quote and the quote is clearly something that God said.
2. There are attributes that are true of God alone that are predicated of the Holy Spirit.
Here there are several: eternity in Hebrews 9:14; omniscience, 1 Corinthians 2:10; omnipotence, Luke 1:35, Zechariah 4:6, Acts 10:38; omnipresence, Psalm 139:7-10.
3. Works of God alone done by the Holy Spirit.
For example, creation; not only is Christ creator, but also the Spirit is involved in creation. You can see this in Genesis 1:2. Look also at Psalm 33:6 and Psalm 104:30. Regeneration is the work of the Spirit. Only God can regenerate people (John 3:5-6 and Titus 3:5). Sanctification is the work of the Spirit (1 Peter 2:1 and 2 Corinthians 3:18). Raising the dead is the work of the Spirit (Romans 8:11). So these are all works that only God can do and the Spirit does indicating that the Spirit is in fact God.
4. The Holy Spirit has prerogatives of deity.
He has certain rights and performs certain kinds of things that only God can and should do. For example, Acts 8:29, the Spirit directed Phillip where to bear witness of Jesus. That is God’s prerogative to do that but the Spirit does it. Similarly in Acts 13:4 the Spirit sends out missionaries from the Church. That is God’s prerogative to do that but the Spirit does it. And then on the other hand in Acts 16:6-7 he forbids Paul where to go and again only God has that prerogative.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11, the Spirit distributes gifts to believers as he wills. That is God’s prerogative to do and he does it. Then Matthew 12:31, we mentioned this text before as well, where Jesus says, “Any sin against the Son of man can be forgiven but sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Clearly this indicates, at its very least, the Holy Spirit deserves obedience and worship and instead to sin against him will never be forgiven indicates the deity of this one who is to be honored and not disobeyed.
5. Triadic Passages.
Remember these are passages that speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together. I think the most significant of these are: Matthew 28:19, where we are to be baptized in the name, singular, of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, that clearly connects Holy Spirit with the Father and Son as the one God, one name, but that one name of God is Father, Son, Spirit; and 2 Corinthians 13:14 where this benediction, “May God be with you” comes in the form, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” So here the Spirit is included as the third member of the Godhead in this benediction. Also look at an interesting passage I won’t take time to comment on from the Old Testament that seems to indicate the three together, Isaiah 48:16.
II. The Work of the Holy Spirit
We will do this by looking basically through the canonical witness or through biblical history to understand the work of the Holy Spirit. My reason for doing this is because I believe we can only rightly understand the present work of the Spirit in the Church by looking at what has taken place previously and, when we do that, some remarkable and wonderful truths come to light. We should not assume, in other words, that the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is the same as it is now. We should let the Bible direct us in understanding the nature of his work in the Old Testament, the nature of his work in the life and ministry of Jesus and the nature of his work now in the Church.
A. The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
1. Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit.
It is interesting if you look at the word ruakh, which is the word for Spirit in the Old Testament, it is used 388 times total. Of these, roughly one hundred references are references to the Spirit of God. What are the others? Ruakh can be translated “wind” or “breath” and it can be “spirit,” meaning a human being’s spirit as well as God’s Spirit. So two hundred and eighty-some of those references don’t refer to the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, but about a hundred of them do, the Spirit, who is the third person of the Trinity.
Compare that to the New Testament where instead the word pneuma, in this case, is used 378 times total in the New Testament (notice almost as many times as in the Old Testament; a book that is about one-fourth as long). But more significantly is this, that 261 of those times that pneuma is used, it is used of the Spirit of God or the third person the Trinity. So compare 261 times in the New Testament, a much shorter document, versus 100 times in the Old Testament. That alone is enough to tell you it looks like probably we should anticipate a heightened emphasis on the role of the Spirit as we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
2. The Spirit’s Empowerment in the Old Testament.
Looking at these roughly one hundred usages of the Spirit of the Lord that are found in the Old Testament, that is, the third person of the Trinity, that his work in the lives of Old Testament people can be understood as happening in basically four categories of people. He is said to be involved in the lives of judges, in the lives of prophets, in the lives of craftsmen, and in the lives of what we might call civil leaders or rulers. Let’s just think about each of these for a moment. If you look at the Old Testament and ask where do we see instances of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment taking place in the lives of people? It seems like, it is one of these four categories.
Take for example, judges. We read in the book of Judges 3:10 that Othniel, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel and he judged the people,” similarly Gideon in 6:34, similarly Jephthah in Judges 11:29, Samson in Judges 13:25, 14:6, and 14:19. Now what all of these have in common is that in the book of Judges the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a judge whether it is Othniel, Gideon, or any of the others and as he does that, he grants this human being, this judge, a supernatural empowerment and courage to stand up and fight against the enemies of Israel and bring victory to God’s people. This is the pattern over and over again.
It looks as though the Spirit’s coming, then, is primarily to accomplish a certain kind of task to get something done and it requires that the person be empowered with the Spirit in order to do that. In other words, would Gideon have done this without the Holy Spirit coming upon him? I think the answer from the book of Judges is no, he would not have, nor would Samson, nor would Othniel, and so one. So the Spirit comes upon them to cause them to do this.
Similarly you can see this with Old Testament prophets. There are a number of prophets who are mentioned as the Spirit of the Lord coming upon them: Azariah in 2 Chronicles 15:1-7, Jahaziel in 2 Chronicles 20:14-17, and many others. I won’t take time to list them for you but of significance I think is the fact that when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a prophet, again, it seems as though there is a main purpose for this. Notice he doesn’t come upon all of the people of Israel; he comes upon a prophet. For what purpose? So that the prophet will boldly, courageously, and accurately speak the Word of the Lord to the people. After all, that’s what he was supposed to do as a prophet. So the Spirit comes upon him to enable him to carry out this very important divine mandate of speaking the Word of the Lord to the people.
Again here notice, very similar to the judges, that the Holy Spirit comes upon just a select person or very few and does it primarily for the purpose of empowering some kind of divine task to be accomplished. In the case of the judge it is mostly empowerment to defeat the enemies of Israel. In the case of a prophet it is to speak the Word of the Lord but nonetheless some task is accomplished.
Likewise, think of craftsmen. There is only one real clear case of a craftsman being filled with the Spirit and that is Bezalel in Exodus 31:3, you can read this, and again in 35:31. This is for the building of the tabernacle. And you ask, well, why does God empower Bezalel? Why does the Spirit of the Lord come upon him and perhaps others who worked with him, might be implied by the text as well? I think the answer is clear that the building of the tabernacle needed precision and accuracy; it had to be done just right to the measurements and exactly what the orders that God had given them and the design God had given them to use. So the Holy Spirit comes upon Bezalel, and perhaps others, and he performs the building of the tabernacle just as God wants done. Again, it looks to me like you see the same kind of pattern continuing, that is, the Holy Spirit comes upon a select individual or few people and he comes upon them for a particular function, a task to be accomplished. In this case the building of the tabernacle.
We will spend a few more moments on this last category of civil leaders because it is very fascinating. The Holy Spirit comes upon Moses. Turn with me if you would to Numbers 11 where we can see how this works out in Israel as God takes the Spirit who is on Moses and puts him upon others as well. You will notice in the beginning of Chapter 11 that Israel is complaining against the Lord. They are grumbling again because they are not receiving what they want and Moses is fed up with the people.
Look at Numbers 11:10, “Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent, and the anger of the Lord was greatly kindled and Moses was displeased. Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have you been so hard on your servant? (by that he means himself, of course, Moses) Why have I not found favor in your sight for you have laid the burden of this people on me? Was it I who conceived this people? Was it I who brought them forth that you should say to me carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries her nursing infant, to the land, which you swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat, (which is, of course, what they wanted) meat for them to eat for all these people? They weep before me.’ Moses says, ‘I alone (verse 14) am not able to carry the burden of these people, it is too burdensome.’”
So here is the problem. The people are grumbling. Moses is overwhelmed by the complaints. He cannot bear the burden of the people and so God instructs him, verse 16, “‘Gather for me,’ the Lord says, ‘seventy men from the elders of Israel whom you know to be the elders of the people, bring them to me,’ he says. ‘I will come down and speak with you there and I will take the Spirit who is upon you and I will put him upon them and they shall bear the burden of the people with you so that you will not bear it alone.’” Here is God’s solution to this problem. I will take the Spirit that is on you, Moses. Notice what that implies. It implies Moses has the Spirit, presumably no one else in Israel does, at least that seems to be the implication of it. And we have good reason to think so, even more so, in the account as it continues. This one Spirit is given to seventy others. That is the plan anyway.
Let’s skip down and look to where this is fulfilled. Numbers 11:24, “So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord and he gathered the seventy men of the elders and stationed them around the tent.” They had gone out of the camp to a tent where the Spirit would be distributed upon the seventy. Verse 25, “Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him and he took the Spirit who was upon him and placed him upon the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied, but they did not do it again.”
I take it, by the way, that this is sort of a pre-Pentecost-like event. They prophesied so there would be visible, physical, empirical verification that these people had received the Spirit of the Lord and they didn’t do it again, because the purpose of it was not a prophetic gift per se, it was not meant to continue, it was meant to indicate, yes, this one of the seventy received the Spirit of the Lord. How do we know that? He prophesied.
Keep reading with me. “But two of the seventy,” verse 26, “had remained in the camp.” They didn’t go out to the tent with the other sixty-eight. “Two of them remained in the camp, the name of one was Eldad, the name of the other was Medad, and the Spirit rested upon them. They had been registered among the seventy but they hadn’t gone out to the tent and they prophesied in the camp.” Even though they didn’t go out to the tent God still, while they were back in the camp with the people, God still poured his Spirit upon them and they prophesied. This greatly bothered Joshua as you can tell in verse 28. “Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, ran up to Moses and he said, ‘My lord restrain them.’” Why was Joshua so concerned about this?
Obviously because he was concerned that Moses authority and his rightful standing as leader of the people was now going to be jeopardized by these two, in particular, whom all in the camp heard prophesy; they might turn to these two now instead of to Moses. Notice Moses response in verse 29; it is a very important verse as it relates to the question of the role of the Spirit in the Old Testament as this compares to the New. “Moses said to Joshua, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them.’”
Moses, contrary to Joshua, has a very different vision of what this means. He sees the benefit that comes if the Spirit of God is given not just to him, Moses, but to seventy others. That’s a great blessing. “How much greater”, Moses says, “it would be if the Holy Spirit was given to everyone.” Which, of course, I think, is a glimpse forward toward Pentecost where that very thing happens. But at this time it hasn’t happened. The Spirit is given to a select few.
Also let’s take just a moment and look at David and Saul. This is very interesting. Saul receives the Spirit in 1 Samuel 11:6 and then the Spirit is taken from him in 1 Samuel 16:14. This is important because in the New Testament it is very clear that the Holy Spirit is given as the permanent possession of believers. We are sealed in the Spirit; we are given the guarantee of the Spirit, Ephesians 1:13-14. But here Saul in the Old Testament is given the Spirit, but then he sins grievously against the Lord and the Spirit is taken from him.
The Spirit is given to David instead. David receives the Spirit, 1 Samuel 16:13. Then as we know, David also sins against the Lord, greatly too, in the incident of Bathsheba. You will notice in David’s prayer in Psalm 51, after the sin of Bathsheba, verse 11, he prays, “And do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” I think the clear implication of this is, “O God, in your mercy, do not do to me what you did to Saul when you took the Spirit from him. Because of his sin he went deranged and increasingly mad. The kingdom was taken from him. He was dishonored to the end of his days. Please, O God, in your mercy, do not take your Spirit from me as you did Saul.”
Let me conclude this section on the Spirit’s empowerment in the Old Testament by indicating that there seem to be three main characteristics of the Spirit’s coming in the Old Testament. One is it was selective on a very few number of people; on Moses and then on the seventy, then on an Othniel or a Samson, or a Bezalel but on a very few number of people, selective.
Secondly, his coming was temporary. Cleary we know that from Saul because the Spirit was taken from him but likely the Spirit’s coming was in relation to the third point, task oriented. He comes to perform something through someone; whether it is to be king of Israel or whether it is to build the tabernacle or speak the Word of the Lord; his purpose is task oriented. Presumably the Spirit stays, remains upon the person as long as the task is being carried out. I take it, for example, Bezalel upon whom the Spirit came, has the Spirit upon him while he is building the tabernacle but probably not thereafter. We are not told that the Spirit is taken from him but it seems that the Spirit’s coming is related to that task and his leaving would likewise. Clearly this is the case with Saul so we can understand that to be, at least in principal, possible in the Old Testament. There is another set of passages in the Old Testament besides these that speak of the Spirit’s empowerment upon his people in the Old Testament.
3. Prophetic Vision of the Role of the Spirit in the Latter Days.
This is remarkable because it stands in striking contrast to the actual work of the Spirit in the Old Testament. What is in contrast to that is what the prophets speak of will be the case when the Spirit comes in the latter days. For example, in Isaiah 32:15-20, we read in this chapter in the earlier verses that things are in disarray, destroyed. But in verse 15 the whole tenor of the chapter switches and he says, “‘But this will change when I pour out my Spirit,’ says the Lord.” Then remarkable changes will take place. “When the Spirit is poured out upon high the wilderness will become a fertile field. The fertile field will be so fertile it will be considered a forest. There will be justice and righteousness,” and so on as you read through this passage. Here God indicates that society will be transformed. Your environment will be radically changed when the Spirit comes upon the people.
Chapter 44 also of Isaiah indicates something similarly. I love this passage; it is so beautiful in indicating really the heart of why the Spirit comes. He says in verse 3, “I will pour out water in a thirsty land, streams on a dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, my blessing on your descendants.” Notice in verse 3 that Isaiah links here the pouring out of water with the Spirit. Think of Jesus in John 7 at the last day of the great feast where he speaks of the Spirit as rivers of living water who will flow from your innermost being and this, John tells us, Jesus spoke of the Spirit. Isn’t that beautiful! Also notice in verse 3 that the Spirit is poured out on the offspring, that is, the descendants, not upon the current generation of Israelites.
What will happen when the Spirit comes? Look at verse 4 and 5. “They will spring up among the grass like poplars by streams of water. This one will say ‘I am the Lord’s’, and that one will call upon the name of Jacob and will write on his hand ‘Belonging to the Lord’ and will name Israel’s name with honor.” Clearly, the Spirit coming upon these people will result in these people becoming a holy people, godly people, people who love the ways of the Lord. Just think, during the history of Old Testament Israel, how often were the people proud to be the people of Yahweh? And the answer is, very rarely was this the case. Why is it they wanted a king? They wanted to be like the other nations. Why is it they were attracted to Baal and Ashtoreth? They wanted to worship the gods of the other nations. So here will come a day, says the Lord, when the Spirit is poured out and the result will be my people will name me as their God. They will write on their hand ‘Belonging to the Lord’. What a great day that will be, the prophet extols.
Another really critical passage is Ezekiel 36:22ff where the Spirit is said to bring about complete renewal in the lives of those in whom he now indwells. Let’s begin reading at verse 25, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; and I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and all your idolatry.” There we have again the link between the Spirit and water as we move on to the next verse. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you and remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Isn’t that a beautiful metaphor! Remove the heart of stone, this heart that is cold and dead and hard and instead put in there a vibrant, vital, pulsating, warm heart of flesh, a heart that works, a heart that beats for God, he says. How will this happen? “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. You will be careful to observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers so that you will be my people and I will be your God.” Again we see that the Spirit’s coming will result in holiness of God’s people. They will identify themselves as belonging to the Lord and will live renewed lives of obedience and blessing.
A final passage, one very important because Peter quotes it in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost is Joel 2:28-29 where Joel prophesies in the last days that, “The Lord will pour out his Spirit upon all mankind,” and he lists the different elements of society that are affected. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy,” so both male and female. “Your old men and your young men will dream dreams and see visions,” so old and young. “Even your male and female servants,” so whether you are a king or a servant, “‘I will pour out my Spirit in those days,’ declares the Lord.”
It seems to me this stands in striking contrast to the actual empowerment of the Spirit in the Old Testament. The actual empowerment was selective, temporary, and task oriented whereas what is prophesied of the Spirit’s coming, this day when the Spirit will come, clearly it will not be selective any longer. I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind, on your offspring I will pour out my Spirit, on your descendants, these passages have told us. And so it will be upon all the people of God and it won’t be merely tasks oriented just to accomplish certain things that require supernatural enablement, it will be comprehensive transformation that takes place by the Spirit and presumably, now we only know this for sure because of the New Testament fulfillment, but it won’t be temporary, it will be permanent. The Holy Spirit will come upon the people of God, possess their lives, dwell within them, and be the permanent resident of their lives.
B. The Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus.
1. OT Expectation of the Coming Spirit-empowered Messiah.
The first thing to notice regarding the life and ministry of Jesus is that the promised Messiah who would come was in fact the one who would come as the Spirit-anointed Messiah. I think this is very important in light of, for example, Matthew 12 where Jesus cast out a demon and the Pharisees say, you cast him out by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons, and Jesus’ response, actually he has three responses, but his third response is, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God then you know the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” His point is very clear; you know from the Old Testament, you Pharisees, that when the Messiah comes he will come as Spirit-anointed. He will do what he does in the power of the Spirit. So if that is what I am doing, if I am performing my miracles by the Spirit of God then you know the Kingdom is here and I am the King. That puts them on the wrong side of the fence, doesn’t it, as they are opposed to Christ.
Some passages that talk about the coming of the Messiah as the Spirit-anointed Messiah (I will trust you to look at these on your own later. We will only take time to look at one of the three): Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 42:1-9, and Isaiah 61:1-3, and we will take a look at this last one from Isaiah 61. The reason this one is because Jesus quotes it in Luke 4 as being fulfilled. You’ll remember that Jesus comes back to Nazareth in the power of the Spirit and he takes the Isaiah scroll, reads it to them, reads this passage, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” closes the book, hands it back to the attendant, and he says the most astonishing thing that could be said. He says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What did he read? He read this text, Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
By the way, Jesus quits quoting right there in Luke 4. The very next phrase in verse 2 of Isaiah 61 is, “and the day of the vengeance of our God.” I think this is very significant because in Isaiah 61:2 it looks clear that two comings of Christ are sandwiched together. He comes to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. That is the first coming of Christ, the day of salvation, the day of God’s mercy for those who will turn to him in repentance and faith. But the day of the vengeance of our God hasn’t come yet. That will come when Jesus comes again to bring judgment upon the earth. But here in this one verse they are put together and of course that would lead Old Testament believers to think that when Christ comes everything will be done at one time. We will say more about this later.
Christ quotes this passage and it is very important because it indicates that he understands that he is the Spirit-anointed Messiah, number one, and he understands that his work is accomplished by the power of the Spirit that is at work in him.
2. The Spirit in Jesus’ Life and Ministry.
I think the quickest way to summarize this is simply in the words of Peter in Acts 10 if you want to turn there to verse 38 where Peter summarizes the life, the ministry, the works, the accomplishments of Christ during his life and ministry upon earth. This is how he puts it to Cornelius, “You know about 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.” This is another support for the view I shared in a previous lecture that Christ lived his life as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. Notice Peter does not say in this verse to Cornelius, you know about Jesus of Nazareth, how he was God and how he went about with his divine power doing good and healing all who were oppressed for he was God. He was God; I mean that is true and Peter is not denying the deity of Christ here. He is simply affirming what is very clear from the fact that Christ was the Holy Spirit anointed Messiah. And that is that he lived his life in the power of the Spirit. So the way that Peter puts it is, God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed, for God was with him.
So the Spirit of God worked in Jesus to accomplish the work that he did. This is, of course, confirmed by the passage I mentioned earlier in Matthew 12:22-32 where Jesus makes this remarkable claim, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God,” notice he doesn’t say by my own divine authority or ability but by the Spirit of God, “then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Christ lived his life in the power of the Spirit. He went to the cross in the power of the Spirit. He was conceived by the Spirit and he died as he was enabled to go to the cross by the power of the Spirit. The whole span of Christ’s life, ministry, growth, teaching, wisdom, his miracles were because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit.
By the way, I think a question needs to be asked about this for those who might still be inclined to think that Jesus lived his life by his own power as the Son of God. The question is why would it be necessary for him to be given the Holy Spirit? If Christ lived his life as God then what purpose is it to give him the Spirit? What can the Spirit of God add to the Son of God? The answer to that is nothing. God cannot add anything to God because God is infinite. Clearly the point must be, instead, that the Spirit of God is given to Christ and so much is made of this in the gospels, particularly the Gospel of Luke, but in the gospels generally, because Jesus lives his life as a man anointed by the Spirit and empowered by him to fulfill the will of the Father.
3. Jesus and the Future Coming of the Holy Spirit.
It is very clear that Jesus lives his life by the Spirit, but now he wants to make the disciples aware of the fact that he is about to leave and this is good news. Now this is impossible for them to comprehend as you can imagine. Put yourself in their place. They have been waiting, well not they themselves, but Israel has been waiting thousands of years for the Messiah to come. The longing of every pious Jew was for Messiah to appear. Now Messiah is here. Jesus has made himself known. God is revealed.
You remember in Matthew 16 to Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Father revealed that to Peter. They have been living with the reality for just a period of months, perhaps a year at the most, that Jesus is in fact the Messiah of God. Then Jesus has the audacity to say to them in John 16:7, “I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away.” This must have struck them as ludicrous for Jesus to say this.
Why is it advantageous that Jesus leave? The answer he gives is this, “For if I do not go away the helper will not come, but if I go, I will send him to you.” The point, of course, is this, the Holy Spirit who had empowered Jesus to live his life will now be sent to the disciples so that they likewise will be empowered by the Spirit to live lives of obedience, that are pleasing to God, that accomplish the Will of God and that bring glory to God. We are given the Spirit because we need the very resource Christ had in order for us to live life as God calls us to.
Jesus predicts, prophesied, the coming of the Spirit and of course after he dies and is raised and ascends to the Father then we read in Acts 2 Peter indicating that the coming of the Spirit is exactly what Christ had prophesied. In Acts 2:33 Peter says this, “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of the Father, having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, Christ then has poured forth this,” that is the Spirit, “which you both see and hear.”
And interestingly this matches very closely John’s commentary on what Jesus had said in John 7. You remember Jesus had said, on the last great day of the feast that, those who are thirsty, if they come to him and drink, he who believes in me as the Scripture says, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. Now John’s commentary in verse 39 says this, “But of this Jesus spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in him were to receive, for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Here we have again confirmation of the fact that until Pentecost the people of God generally did not have the Spirit. But when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father and pours forth that which was seen and heard then the Spirit is given to all believers from that point on.
C. The Holy Spirit and the Church
1. Pentecost: the Age to Come Arrives!
If you ask what purpose Pentecost plays? It plays this roll of being the culmination, as it were, of the work of Christ where having now died for sin and paid the penalty, he now sends forth the Spirit by which, first of all on that day of Pentecost, believers are empowered by the Spirit in order to grow and become like Christ in their disposition and become empowered by the Spirit to bear witness for Jesus. The whole goal that Christ has in building his Church for this entire church age has to do with his work through the Spirit who will come as the messenger of Jesus by bringing the gospel and the messenger of Jesus by bringing growth among the people of God. Let’s take a look at these two elements.
2. Empowerment for Witness in the World.
You remember that Jesus said to the disciples before he ascended, they were to wait in Jerusalem for what the Father had promised. And he said to them then in verse 8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.” It is very clear that part of Jesus’ purpose in sending the Spirit, the promise of the Father given to the Son sent then to these believers, look again at Acts 2:38 and you can see this, part of the purpose of this is that the believers would be empowered by the Spirit to bear witness of Jesus. This is a tremendously encouraging and strengthening truth that we are called to bear witness; there is no question about it. Jesus calls believers to bear witness of him but we are not to do this on our own, as it were. There is always in our witness, if it is a true witness of the gospel, there is always with our witness the witness of the Spirit, the Spirit who is bearing witness, empowering us to bear witness of the Gospel of Christ.
Ours is not the responsibility to save people. Ours is the responsibility to bear witness. Even in that responsibility God enables us, with supernatural power, to go forward and proclaim the name of Christ; to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Christ in building his Church wants quantitative growth, that is, he wants the full number of the elect to be saved. He wants the full number, as he puts it in John 6, “Of those whom the Father has given to me” to be saved. He will save them. How will he save them? He will save them in part by his death on the cross, by which sins are forgiven, but in part by his sending of the Spirit and through Spirit-empowered witness, those who have been given to him by the Father but who have not come yet, will hear the Gospel of Christ and will come and be saved. The witness of Christ to the world is the work of the Spirit in us and through us that accomplishes more fundamentally the work of Christ in building the Church.
3. Empowerment for Service in the Church.
Christ doesn’t want just quantitative growth, that is, conversions to take place; he wants qualitative growth. For this he provides the Spirit to work in our lives as service to one another in our own individual lives within the Church. Here, of course, the whole notion of the gifting of the Spirit comes to bear where the Spirit is given to us for the purpose of giving to each one of us gifts that build up the body of Christ.
It is very clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that Paul is concerned that the gifts of the Spirit are given for the edification of the body. Look at 1 Corinthians 14:12, he says, “So also since you are zealous for spiritual gifts seek to abound for the edification of the church.” Look back at chapter 12:7, “Each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” So the gifts of the Spirit are not first and foremost, in fact, they are not at all for the purpose of causing us to think we’re special, because we have such and such a gift regardless of what gift it is, regardless of whether you hold that certain gifts have continued into this age or not. The purpose of the giving of the gifts is not to focus upon us, the ones who have received the gifts, but rather the purpose of the gifts is to be used so that other people benefit and are grown up through the ministry of those gifts.
Another key passage on this is Ephesians 4 where Paul says this, “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the building up of the Body of Christ.” You can see again here that his purpose in this is that Christ, in fact, is formed in us. Look at how this ends at verse 16, “from whom the whole body being fitted together and held together by every joint whichever joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Christ by the Spirit provides gifts for the Church so the Church can be built up to become like Christ, fully formed in his image and living the character of Christ alone. This service in the Church that takes place is not only in the gifts of the Spirit but it also happens as the Spirit conforms us to the nature of Christ and we by our character live out the fruit of the Spirit, we walk in the Spirit, and so provide a tremendous spiritual encouragement and incentive for other people as we live our lives in the power of the Spirit.
In the last moments that we have look with me at Ephesians 5 with the filling of the Spirit where we see that Paul is concerned that we are filled with the Spirit, so that the effect of this will benefit the community of faith. He says in verse 18, “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” In other words, instead of being controlled by wine, be controlled by the Spirit. What effect will this have? “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” The purpose of the Spirit’s taking control in our lives, of us walking in the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, the purpose of bearing fruit of the Spirit has to do with the effect that this will have, not only in our own lives as we grow to be more like Christ, but the effect that it has on others’ lives as they likewise are encouraged in Christ and grow to be more like him.
In summary, the work of the Spirit in the Old Testament was partial and preliminary in comparison to the work of the Spirit at the day of Pentecost as really foreseen in the life and ministry of Jesus. There is a sense in which Jesus should be understood as the prototype Spirit-filled individual. He lived his life in the power of the Spirit, obeyed the Father, went to the cross in the power of the Spirit, and now has given that same Spirit to his followers that they might be empowered to share the good news of Christ to others and be empowered to become more like Christ to his glory and to the glory of God the Father.
©2004 Bruce Ware