This article shows the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This relationship is seen through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ.

Source: Clarion, 2012. 7 pages.

The Spirit and the Saviour


Life is filled with relationships. "No person is an island unto himself," English poet John Donne once said. We all have parents and grandparents. Many of us also have brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews. Family is all about relationship.

And so is marriage. When a man and a woman marry they are said to enter into a formal and legal relationship; however, before that even happens there is already a love relationship. And should all go well, this relationship will deepen over time as husband and wife love, share, forgive, beget, nurture, travel, and spend time together. Marriage is about relationship.

The same can also be said about the Christian faith. It too is all about relationship. When a person comes to faith, that faith must have an object, and the object is God. More specifically, it is common to hear evangelical Christians speak about having "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." And indeed, that is at the heart of the faith; however, while the believer's relationship is personal, it is not just with God the Son, it is also with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes Christians run the risk of elevating one person in the Godhead at the expense of the other two. Christians really live in a covenantal relationship with the God who is Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yes, and out of this relationship flows another, namely a relationship with other believers. The Bible speaks about "the fellowship of the believers." The Apostles Creed confesses "the communion of saints." Because Christians share together in the Triune God, they stand in a relationship with him and with one another. They may have a personal relationship with the Triune God; however, that relationship is never isolated and individualistic. It is also corporate and communal.

Now, suffice it to say that we can go on and on about this matter of the various relationships that we have in this life; however, we need to stop for a moment and consider what is surely one of the strangest, most mysterious, and most wonderful relationships of all. Can you guess what it might be? It is the relationship between God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, or between Jesus and the Spirit.

Why do I say that? It has to do with what the Holy Scriptures reveal about the conception, baptism, ministry, and ongoing work of Christ, and the Spirit's involvement with all of these events and developments.

The Spirit and Maryโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Long ago the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Galilean town of Nazareth and to a virgin who was pledged to be married to a certain man named Joseph. To her the angel said,

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.Luke 1:30, 31

Thus far, the nice news, but immediately thereafter comes some startling news. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32, 33).

Now, this is quite the birth announcement! Mary is told by a very strange source that she will have a son, a very special son, with a very special name and a very special throne. On the one hand he will bear the common name "Jesus" but on the other, he will receive the exalted title โ€“ "the Son of the Most High." In addition, he will inherit the throne of his great ancestor King David and this time it will prove to be an eternal throne for an eternal kingdom. Little wonder that Mary is stunned.

Yet she is not so stunned that she forgets to ask a very important question. And the question is this, "How will this be since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34) In other words, how will this utterly impossible promise come to fulfillment?

Thankfully, Gabriel is not stuck for an answer. He replies, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

I suspect that this answer raised even more questions in the mind and heart of Mary. "Did I hear right? Did Gabriel say that the Holy Spirit is going to come to me and overshadow me? Did he say that I am going to conceive and in due time give birth to 'the Son of God'?" How all of this must have perplexed Mary. Still did not make her doubt. After she has heard it rail, she replies "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). Mary submits without knowing all of the details. She trusts that her God will take care of the details.

Indeed, she trusts that her God will take care of the miraculous details, for that is what they are. Still today we are no closer to understanding what this all entailed and how it was that the Holy Spirit conceived the Christ Child in Mary. All of this belongs to the realm of mystery and majesty.

Of course, some are not content to leave it at that. They want to know more, and because there is no further explanation forthcoming, they become doubtful. As well, there are those who simply deny what the Bible says here. They maintain that all of this about a special conception of Christ is an invention or a fabrication of the early church. The church wanted a special leader so it concocted this tale about a unique and miraculous conception.

A Critical Birthโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

What such doubters and deniers fail to realize, however, is that this birth is not just miraculous and mysterious. It is also necessary, absolutely necessary. Indeed, it is critical and crucial to the Christian faith and to our very salvation.

How so? In what way? Well, imagine for a moment that the conception of Jesus did not happen this way. Imagine, as the skeptics insist, that Jesus is really the product of a premature union between Mary and Joseph. What would be the consequences of that?

Would it not be a tainted, polluted Saviour? Would it not be a powerless Redeemer? If he were of the flesh and blood of Joseph and Mary, he would be infected with a special hereditary disease.

We know something about such diseases today. If your parents have something wrong with their genes, then the likelihood is high that you will also have something wrong with your genes. At best, the problem can be identified and something can be done about it. At worst, it is incurable and you have to cope with it as best as you can.

Yes, and Mary and Joseph had something wrong with their genes, their moral genes. It is called "original sin." They were both infected with the sin of Adam and Eve. The Belgic Confession describes it as "a corruption of the entire nature of man and a hereditary evil which infects even infants in their mother's womb. As a root it produces in man all sorts of sin." (Art 15)

Hence if Jesus had been born of Joseph and Mary, he would have come into the world with a corrupt and infected nature. He would have been sinful.

"But that cannot be," says God. "That will never secure the redemption of my people. So what I am going to do is see to it that he is conceived in a vastly different way so that the result will be a vastly different person, a Redeemer and a Mediator who can really save my people from their sins."

So what does the Lord God do? He decides to call on the Holy Spirit. He will be given the charge to conceive the Messiah. In this way the endless cycle of hereditary disease will be broken. In this way a godly child can be conceived, a new and pure Adam can appear, a real Son of God. And because he will be born of the virgin Mary, he will also be truly and fully human, a real Son of Man.

A Miraculous Birthโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

What a miracle this is! Indeed, what a miracle he is! In commenting on the uniqueness of Jesus with respect to his two natures, the Heidelberg Catechism drives the point home when it asks,

Why must he be a true and righteous man?

He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner cannot pay for others.Q/A 16


Why must he at the same time be true God? He must be true God so that by the power of his divine nature he might bear in his human nature the burden of God's wrath, and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.Q/A 17

Hence the first involvement that the Spirit has with Jesus as far as his earthly life and work is concerned is that the Spirit conceives him. The Spirit brings about a most unique beginning for a most unique ministry.

In this connection it may also be noted that the involvement of the Spirit did not stop with Mary. The gospels reveal that also Elizabeth, the kinswoman of Mary, was filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41). In addition, Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth, was told that the baby that Elizabeth was expecting would also be special, for he too would "be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:15). As such this filling did not extend to conception, but it did underline the fact that in these days of Herod and Augustus, God was doing mighty things for his people through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit and the Baptism of Jesusโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

But then if the Spirit was very much involved with the conception of Jesus, the Holy Scriptures also reveal that the same Spirit was very much involved with the baptism of Jesus. When John the Baptist grew up and began his work as the forerunner to Jesus, the people wondered about whether or not he might be the Messiah. Upon hearing this John said to them,

I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.Luke 3:16

Notice that John says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit; however, before he can baptize others with the Spirit he needs to be baptized himself by the Holy Spirit.

The Eventโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

And that too is what happened. For one day Jesus comes to John and requests to be baptized. First, John is scandalized, but then when Jesus persists and tells him that this has everything to do with righteousness being fulfilled, John relents and baptizes him. No sooner does he do so and both God the Father and God the Spirit spring into action.

Matthew writes,

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.Matthew 3:16, 17

Mark tells us,

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.Mark 1:9-11

Luke records that,

as he was praying heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.Luke 3:22

John, the gospel writer, comments about the John the Baptist and quotes him as saying,

I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. John 1:32-34

In comparing these passages we cannot miss the involvement of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in harmonizing all of these accounts it would seem that no sooner has Jesus been baptized by John, he comes out of the water praying, and immediately the Spirit came down on him.

How did the Spirit come and in what form? The gospel writers all say that it was "like a dove" or in the form of a dove. What this means precisely is hard to say. Most likely what John and the people saw was some dove-like shape or image come down from above. Earlier John the Baptist had been told that the Spirit would come on Jesus in this way and that he was to watch for it (cf. John 1:32-34). Well, now he sees it, and he knows that this is it. This must be the moment!

In addition, he also hears the voice of God the Father himself confirming that Jesus is his Son, revealing his love for him and expressing his approval of him. Hence there is ample proof that the Spirit has come on Jesus Christ.

The Meaningโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Now that is interesting, but we need to ask, "Why did this happen and what does this mean? What significance does this have?"

First, there is the fact that this baptism and coming of the Spirit upon Jesus represents empowerment and endowment. It is something that we see time and time again in the Old Testament, wherein the Spirit comes upon men appointed by God and chosen by him to be priests, prophets, and kings and equips them with the skills that they need to fulfill their office and calling. It is the same with Jesus. He does not begin his messianic work in his own strength and rely solely on his own abilities. No, he too receives and needs the gifts, talents, and abilities of the Spirit to fulfill his special mission and calling.

Second, while the baptism of Jesus by the Spirit identifies and connected him to his Old Testament predecessors, it also sets him apart. For only in his case is the voice of the Father heard testifying and confirming that Jesus is unique. This is God's Son who is being baptized. This is the Son of his love. This is the Son who has his approval. Indeed, what we have here is confirmation that here at last is the great Messiah, the One who will fulfill all righteousness.

Today we look around in the world and we see confusion among many who do not know what they need when it comes to salvation. We also see rejection in that many laugh and mock the whole idea that they need a Saviour. As well, we see opposition in the fact that there are any number of religions and cults who either deny that Jesus is Saviour or else they claim the need to supplement him with human prophets and teachers. In the face of such a world of conflicting opinions it is good to hear God the Father proclaim loud and clear for all to hear that Jesus is it. There is no other Son like him. There is no other who is so loved. There is no other who is so able and willing to save. There is no other who is so visibly and publicly baptized with the Spirit. Jesus is the one, the only one.

In other words, no one needs to look anywhere else for anyone else. Just look to Jesus! Already at the start of his saving work the stage is set for what Peter will later proclaim,

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.Acts 4:12

The Spirit and the Leading of Jesusโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Thus far we have seen that Jesus is conceived and baptized by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Spirit is there at the beginning of his earthly life as well as at the beginning of his special ministry. For after his baptism, the work begins in earnest, the working of saving a people.

Yet it is important for us to realize that also this work was not done in isolation or apart from the Spirit. Interestingly, all of the gospels remind us of this. They all mention the fact that after his baptism Jesus "was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil" (Matt 4:1) or that "at once the Spirit sent him out into the desert" (Mark 1:12) or that he "was led by the Spirit in the desert" (Luke 4:1).

What is of particular importance here is first of all the fact that the gospel writers all reveal that it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the desert. In other words, he did not go there of his own accord. It was not a matter of his own choosing. Rather, the Lord Jesus was following the agenda of the Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit was guiding him.

Why are we told this at the outset of his work? It is probably to make us realize that there is a sense in which all through his ministry it is also the Spirit who is setting the agenda. Jesus is no Lone Ranger Saviour.

Rather he goes about his messianic work in close communion with the other Persons of the Triune God. Regularly He prays to the Father and consults with him. Continually as well the Spirit is leading and guiding him in his ministry.

Yet there is more, for while the Spirit leads him into the desert, the Spirit also leads him in such a way that he is tested and tempted by the devil. Why did he do this? Perhaps the best answer is to remember that God has two earlier sons, and they both failed the test. First, there was Adam. He too had been clothed with great talents and ability, but then he failed the temptation test. Instead of resisting the devil, the first Adam succumbed to the devil and his evil devices.

Second, there was another son. This son was called Israel. The prophet Hosea records God as saying, "When Israel was a child, I love him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (11:1). Later Matthew applies these words to Jesus (Matt 2:15).

The thing to note about this second son is that he was also tested. As a matter of fact he was tested by the devil in the desert of Sinai. What happened during those forty years? He too failed the test and was defeated by the devil.

In light of the failure of God's two great Old Testament sons, is it any wonder that the third son is also put to the test? Is he like his brothers? Will he fail as well? Must God go looking for still another son? Thankfully, the answer is "No!" Armed by the Spirit with the Word of the Spirit, he resists the devil time and time again. He shows himself to be the obedient Son, the perfect Son, and the best equipped Son. The Spirit helps him to triumph and to enter into his saving work in fine form and with good confidence.

The Spirit and the Remembering of Jesusโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Thus far we have seen that Jesus was conceived, baptized, and led by the Spirit, and now we expect that as Jesus takes up his mission in earnest we will hear a lot more about the Spirit. Only that is not the case. Of course, from time to time the Spirit is mentioned. Jesus quotes Isaiah's words about the Spirit (Matt 12:18). He speaks about blasphemy against the Spirit (Matt 12:31). He mentions that David spoke by the Spirit (Matt 22:43). He is even described as being "full of joy through the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21). Also, in the gospel of John we come across Jesus making reference to the Holy Spirit (3:5, 6, 34; 7:39; 20:22). Still, the references are not numerous.

Naturally, this raises a few questions, "Why does the Spirit who was so prominent in Christ's conception and baptism fade into the background? Why does Jesus not mention him more?" In all truth we have to acknowledge that we have no ready answers to these questions except to deduce that it is the intention of the Triune God that Jesus should be in the spotlight during these years of active ministry. Now it is his time to step forward and it is the time for the Father and the Spirit to take a step back into the limelight.

The other Counselorโ†โค’๐Ÿ”—

Only we must be careful not to drive this point to the extreme, for the fact of the matter is that there are at least two places in the gospel of John where special and extensive attention is given once again to the Spirit. Turn first to John 14, where Jesus says to his disciples,

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever โ€“ the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you ... The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.John 14:15-18, 26

Later on in chapter 16 Jesus comes back to this subject and elaborates on it when he says,

Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.John 145-15

Naturally, it takes some time and effort to digest the full import of these words of the Lord Jesus.

Nevertheless, some things do stand out. One is that the work of the Holy Spirit will continue and will even expand. In the future Jesus predicts that he will be sent by the Father to the church and function there as "another Counselor." The name "Counselor" suggests that the Spirit will act as someone who stands beside the believers to comfort, support, and defend them. The fact that he is called "another Counselor" means that he will continue the work that Jesus himself has been doing. All through his life and ministry he has been busy counseling people. When he goes away, the Spirit will continue his work.

Another thing that stands out here is that the Spirit when he comes will not be acting as a free and independent Spirit. No, what he will be doing more than anything else is promoting Jesus. The Father will send him in the name of Jesus. He himself will constantly refresh the memory of the disciples when it comes to the words and works of Jesus. Indeed, when he comes he will not only cause them to remember these things but he will also teach them about these things. He will cause their knowledge to deepen and give them an even greater understanding of the truth.

Indeed, when you listen carefully you cannot help but conclude that after the departure of Jesus the Spirit will be the great and primary teacher in the church. Twice Christ calls him "the Spirit of truth" (15:17; 16:13). In other words, he will continue the work of him who is called "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). He will speak the truth, guide into the truth, and promote the truth.

And one more thing, he will cause this truth to travel with his followers. As such Jesus says that this truth will accompany them for he says that it will be "with you" (v. 6). Furthermore, he declares that it will be with them "forever" (v. 16). Why, it will even become a very part of them and be internalized in them. Jesus says to his disciples that the Spirit "lives with you and will be in you" (14:17). Those who embrace Jesus will never be without the Spirit and his teaching ministry. They will never live in ignorance and superstition again.

At the beginning of this article I told you that one of the greatest and most mysterious relationships is the one between Jesus and the Spirit. In light, however, of what we have just learned we may want to expand on that. For actually the most amazing relationship of all may well be the one between Jesus, the Spirit and the children of God. Those who believe in Jesus are taken up into the most unimaginable of relationships. They are united both with Jesus and with the Spirit. They become rich beyond measure.

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