The Holy Spirit and Jesus

The Holy Spirit was an active participant in the ministry of Christ.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

In a study of this nature, two preliminary points need to be made before proceeding.

The first is that the Holy Spirit is not merely a sacred “energy,” as some cults allege. Rather, he is a divine, personal entity (cf. Jn. 16:13; Acts 5:3-4 ASV). He is but one personality of the Godhead (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

Second, while the Holy Spirit maintains a close relationship with Jesus Christ, he is not the same person as the Lord—although some sects so assert (see Mt. 12:32; Jn. 15:26).

The bond between Christ and the Spirit of God is a fascinating topic and may be studied from a number of angles. One can only touch upon such matters in a limited presentation.

The Spirit and Christ in Prophecy

The Spirit of God worked to accommodate the coming of Jesus in two ways.

First, there is the apologetic value. He spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament era, heralding the coming of the promised Messiah with numerous details (1 Pet. 1:10-11 ). According to Dr. Pierson, there are no fewer than 333 Old Testament prophecies expressly cited in the New Testament, which find their fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth (189).

Second, the prophets declared that God’s Spirit would endow the Lord with knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, and reverence for Jehovah, thus helping to qualify the Savior for his redemptive role (Isa. 11:1 ff; 42:1 ff; 61:1 ff).

The Spirit and the Birth of Jesus

Isaiah foretold that Christ would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14). Both Matthew and Luke argue at length that this became the historical reality. Matthew employs eight solid arguments for the Savior’s virgin birth (Mt. 1:16-25).

Both Matthew and Luke contend that the Lord’s conception was a miracle effected by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18; Lk. 1:35). Luke’s testimony is especially meaningful inasmuch as he was a physician (Col. 4:14), and would require compelling evidence to convince him of such an event.

The Holy Spirit at Jesus’s Baptism

When Christ was immersed in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit visibly appeared in the form of a dove. Additionally, the Father himself spoke from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3: 16-17; cf. Mk. 1:10-11; Lk. 3:22).

Thus, both visually and audibly, the carpenter from Nazareth was authenticated as the unique Son of God. John the Baptizer later would verify that this event documented the identity of Jesus as God’s Son (Jn. 1:32-34).

The Spirit in the Hour of Temptation

Following his immersion, Matthew says that Christ was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (4:1). Luke expresses the matter similarly; Christ was “led” into the wilderness (and “led up” to a high mountain; cf. 4:1, 5).

Curiously, Mark records that the Spirit “drove” (ekballo) Jesus into the wilderness (1:12). While the word generally implies force (cf. “cast out,” Jn. 2:15), in this case, the thought is more reserved. It merely indicates that the Lord was “entirely under the powerful impetus of the Spirit” (Balz 406).

The Spirit in Jesus’s Ministry

When the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ at the time of his immersion, such was viewed as an “anointing” that bestowed special divine power for the working of signs that would verify his divine nature (Acts 10:38; cf. Lk. 4:14; 10:21).

When Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth, he selected Isaiah 61:1-2, which spoke of a Spirit-anointed ministry that included miraculous signs, e.g., opening of the eyes of the blind. It is interesting that though the Jewish scroll was in Hebrew, Luke’s quotation is from the Greek version, which is less ambiguous in terms of the miracles. Christ then declared to his hometown Jewish audience: “Today this scripture stands fulfilled” (Lk. 4:21).

Depending upon how the count is made, there are at least 35 specific miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospel narratives. In addition, John, with hyperbolic emphasis, notes that if all the things that the Savior did had been recorded, one supposes that all the world’s books could not have embraced the accounts (Jn. 21:25).

Christ did not hesitate to attribute his miracle-working ability to the Holy Spirit, whose power he possessed “without measure.” The design of these signs was to confirm the message that he brought from God—that he was the Christ, the Son of God (Jn. 3:34; cf. 20:30-31 ).

On one occasion, after the Lord had expelled a demon from an afflicted man (Mt. 12:22), the Pharisees charged that Jesus was operating by the power of satanic demons. The Savior refuted the allegation with two arguments.

First, he showed the inconsistency in their position. Satan would be acting against his own interests in such a case.

Secondly, he affirmed that his miracle-working power was by the Spirit of God. He further observed that this Spirit-energized activity was a token of the fact that the kingdom of God “is come” (v. 28), or in a more literal sense, is “at hand” (Mt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; cf. Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:4).

Jesus then warned that a rejection of the Spirit’s ministry would leave one without access to the forgiveness of sin (Mt. 12:31- 32).

The Spirit and the Resurrection

Did the Holy Spirit play any role in the resurrection of Christ from the dead?

While the Lord’s resurrection is generally attributed to God (Acts 2:32; Rm. 10:9, etc.), it is also a fact that Christ, in some manner, participated in his own resurrection (Jn. 2:19; 10:17-18). And many scholars believe there is evidence that the Spirit also cooperated in that event.

For example, one view of Romans 8:11 is that Paul argues that the believer’s body will be raised from the dead eventually by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, as was also the case with reference to the resurrection of Jesus.

As Barmby expressed it, “The same Divine Spirit that raised [Christ] from the dead will in us too at last overcome mortality” (208).

Another says that Jesus was raised “by the action of the Spirit by which [God] had anointed him” (Sadler 165; see also Edwards 206).

John Murray, in contending for this point, says this. “The persons of the Godhead are co-active in the acts of redemption and will be also in the consummating act” (292).

Some also see Romans 1:4 as providing support for the view that the Spirit, called “the Spirit of holiness,” was involved in the Savior’s resurrection (Cottrell 75).

Another disputed passage is 1 Peter 3:18. In some versions (e.g., KJV, NIV) and according to several commentators, this text may suggest that while Christ was “put to death in the flesh,” he was “made alive by the Spirit,” i.e., “raised from the dead by the power of God” (Hillyer 113; cf. Lard 261 ). While this is not the most common view of the passage, Kistemaker contends that “the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be ruled out” (140).

Christ—The Administrator of Holy Spirit Baptism

In summarizing the preparatory ministry of John, Matthew records a conversation between the Baptizer and Jesus. John said (regarding Jesus), “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 3:11).

The verb baptizo is here used metaphorically, with the sense of “to imbue richly with the Holy Spirit” (Thayer 94) or, more precisely, to generously bestow an overwhelming measure of the Spirit’s power.

From subsequent New Testament information, we learn that the apostles received a unique outpouring of the Spirit’s power (Acts 1:2, 4-5, 8). What was the nature of this gift to the apostles?

First, the manner and degree by which Christ provided his apostles with the power of the Holy Spirit was never intended to be universal (i.e., to all Christians), nor was it to extend beyond the apostolic era.

For example, Holy Spirit baptism had certain responsibilities associated with it, e.g., the imposition of spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands; only the apostles possessed this aspect of Spirit baptism (cf. Acts 8:14:ff).

It is clear that the type of “baptism” that was to continue to the end of the Christian age was water baptism, a baptism that was administered by disciples (Mt. 28:19-20). Since, water baptism was to be age-lasting, and yet, by the time the Ephesian letter was written, only “one baptism” remained (Eph. 4:5), by default Spirit baptism is demonstrated to have been a temporary gift in the divine plan.

Moreover, in explaining to the Jerusalem Jews about the outpouring of the Spirit that was given to Cornelius, Peter was forced to appeal to the events of Pentecost for an appropriate illustration of the phenomenon (cf. “the beginning” Acts 11: 15). This indicates that Spirit baptism had not been bestowed in the intervening years.

Second, we would note that the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) had a tremendous apologetic value in several ways.

First, inasmuch as the outpouring of the Spirit was administered by Christ, such constituted resounding evidence that the Lord had been raised from the dead (Acts 2:32-33).

Second, It likewise had the secondary effect of establishing the reality that Jesus was now seated upon the “throne” of David (2:30-31 ). The enthronement is not scheduled to begin, therefore, at the Savior’s return (preliminary to an alleged “millennium”). Rather, Christ’s reign commenced immediately subsequent to the resurrection and ascension events.


The relationship of Christ to the Spirit of God is a rich and rewarding study, and we have by no means exhausted the theme.

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  • Barmby, J. 1950. “Romans.” The Pulpit Commentary. Vol. 18. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Cottrell, Jack. 1996. The College Press NIV Commentary—Romans. Vol. 1. Joplin: College Press.
  • Edwards, James R. 1992. New International Biblical Commentary—Romans. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992.
  • Hillyer, Norman. 1992. New International Biblical Commentary—I and 2 Peter, Jude. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992.
  • Kistemaker, Simon. 1987. New Testament Commentary—Peter and Jude. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Lard, Moses. n.d. Commentary on Romans. Cincinnati: Standard.
  • Murray, John. 1968. The Epistle to the Romans. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Pierson, Arthur T. 1906. “Many Infallible Proofs.” London: Morgan & Scott, n.d. Sadler, M. F. The Epistle to the Romans. London: George Bell and Sons.
  • Thayer, J. H. 1958. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh: Clark.