While the Holy Spirit has an incredible ministry directly to believers, that is certainly not His only role. Before the Spirit’s present ministry in the church, He also interacted with Christ in several profound ways. As we understand the relationship of Christ and the Spirit, and their relationship to the Father, we can be encouraged and strengthened, knowing that we also have a relationship with all Three, and that they are doing amazing things so that we can have life (Eph 1:3-14), and walk with Him (Jn 17:3).
His Purpose in Christ
The Holy Spirit bore witness to the fact that Christ was sent from the Father, and by so doing provided a testimony to Israel that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Note the fourfold witness identified in John’s gospel: (1) John (Jn 5:33-35) was the forerunner prophesied by the Holy Spirit (Mal 3:1; Lk. 1:67-79), (2) Jesus’ works (Jn 5:36), many of which were accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit, (3) the Father (Jn 5:37-38)—through His word, which is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17), and finally, (4) the Scriptures (Jn 5:39-47), which are the words and testimony of the Spirit (Is 59:21; Zech 4:6; Acts 21:11; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). His words were provided by method of inspiration—or God breathing (2 Tim 3:16), as He moved men to speak His word (2 Pet 1:20-21).
The Holy Spirit’s activity is present in each of the four witnesses to Jesus’ authenticity. He also was intimately involved in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry—particularly in fulfillment of prophecy, and bearing witness by truth and remembrance to the Person of Jesus the Christ (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13).
In the Conception of Christ in His Humanity
Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied a child, a son, whom would be “Mighty God.” While Christ is eternally the Son of God (having nothing to do with origin, but everything to do with His rights and authority—see Col 1:15-19), in His humanity Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35), leaving no doubt that Christ did not have imputed sin from Adam (as in Rom 5:12), and that He was qualified as the seed of Eve (Gen 3:15) to take away the sin of humanity.
In The Anointing of Christ (As Upon Him)
The Hebrew meshiyach refers to the process of rubbing or pouring (as in oil) to indicate one who is consecrated,1 appointed, or commissioned.2 The corresponding Greek chrio describes the same action.3 The anointing by the Spirit indicated several things: (1) Jesus’ deity (Ps 45:6) as the covenant making, covenant keeping YHWH (Is 61:1-2, 8; Lk 4:18-21), (2) Jesus’ acceptability and chosen-ness by God (Is 42:1) in regards to His qualification as the Messiah, the Christ (both meshiyach and chrio are forms of the Messianic title), (3) Jesus’ power (Acts 10:38), (4) Jesus’ kingship (Ps 2:2, 6; 45:6-7; Heb 1:9), (5) Jesus’ sonship (Ps 2:2, 7; Mt 3:16-17; Mk 1:10-11; Lk 3:22), (6) Jesus’ rejection (Ps 2:1-3; Acts 4:23-31), and (7) Jesus’ authority to baptize in or by the Holy Spirit (Jn 1:33).
In the Filling of Christ
Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:1) and with power (Mic 3:5,8; Lk 4:1), armed with the word of God to pronounce judgment and to prove His perfection. Why did Jesus, the image of the invisible God and ruler over all (Col 1:15-19) need to be filled with the Spirit? Had Jesus given up His deity at His incarnation? Was He in need of divine assistance due to some human limitation? Certainly not! The Holy Spirit of God filled Jesus Christ in fulfillment of prophecy and as a testimony to the identity of the incomparable Christ, demonstrating the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and as God.
Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit at the things done by the Father (Lk 10:21), who had hidden things from the wise and revealed them to infants, as Jesus put it. Notice the joy of the Son in the Father, is expressed in the Spirit. In short, this context gives us a glimpse into the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, and shows us how the Three relate to each other.
Immediately after the Holy Spirit’s evidencing of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, the Spirit leads Jesus into temptation (Mt 4:1), and yet it was the word of the Spirit which was Jesus’ means of thwarting temptation. Again we see the Spirit providing confirmation of the perfections of Jesus the Christ, and aiding in the completion of Jesus’ qualification as the faithful High Priest (Heb 2:17-18).
In Miracles/Casting Out of Demons
The Holy Spirit was a part of Jesus’ miracle working ministry, as an attestation that the Messiah had indeed come (Mt 12:28,31; Mk 3:22-30; Lk 11:14-23). Ryrie explains the significance of this function: “He also gave sight to the blind because the Spirit was upon Him (Lk 4:18). In the Old Testament giving sight to the blind was a prerogative of God (Ex 4:11; Ps 146:8) and something Messiah would do (Is 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). Thus when the Lord restored sight to blind people He was making a clear claim to be Israel’s long awaited Messiah.”4 It is worth noting that Christ performed miracles both by the Spirit (Mt 12:28) and also in His own power (Lk 5:17; Jn 18:6). Christ was deity, yet He worked in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to accomplish His particular purposes.
In His Death and Resurrection
In these remarkable works we see the very close relationship of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Neither were working independently, and they were both accomplishing tremendous things in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:4; Heb 9:14, 1 Pet 3:18).
In light of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, when we are told that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 1:14) and that the Holy Spirit of God bears witness that we are children of God (Rom 8:16), that our position is secure and that we are in Him (Rom 8:9)—we can take Him at His word. We can know it to be true.
John wrote his Gospel as a testimony that we might know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name (Jn 20:30-31). John later writes his first epistle in order that we might know (know factually, eidete, from oidos) that we have eternal life (1 Jn 5:13). Because of the Holy Spirit’s testimony in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, no longer is our understanding of our position simply a matter of faith (of course it was granted to us by faith, and of course we are to walk in faith), it is also a matter of assuredness. We know it to be fact. He is the Covenant Keeping God who has taken the time not only to keep His promises, but to repeatedly demonstrate His faithfulness to us—the undeserving.
Praise be to God for His holiness and His mercy!
1 Benjamin Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 519.
2 Brown, Driver, and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford,UK: Oxford University Press, 1906), 602-603.
3 Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 4th Revised and Augmented Edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1952), 895-896.
4 Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: IL, Victor, 1982), 350.
Dr. Christopher Cone serves as Chief Academic Officer and Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Southern California Seminary. He formerly served as President of Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, Professor of Bible and Theology, and as a Pastor of Tyndale Bible Church. He has also held several teaching positions and is the author and general editor of several books. He blogs regularly at drcone.com.