top of page

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Working through Systematic Theology III, and specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Last time we talked about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

Today we are going to begin talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and specifically, we’ll spend most of our time talking about the Holy Spirit and Jesus.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament:

Now, before we get into the role of the Spirit with regard to Jesus, the Holy Spirit actually shows up in the Gospels before He interacts with Jesus.

And so, the first time that we see the HS showing up in the NT is actually with John the Baptist.

John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit.

First of all, we see John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even before birth.

Luke 1:15 - "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.”

This was unique.

It is not a normative reality anywhere in Scripture, and we should not try and build a theology of the HS, the nature of salvation with babies, or Holy Spirit filling.

The Gospel of Luke is historical literature, and simply records what took place.

It is not a “go and therefore do likewise” passage, nor is it a passage that teaches anything about the normal work of the HS.

So to attempt to build a theology of the Spirit off this one verse would be inappropriate and irresponsible.

Second, John starts his ministry by picking up on the OT theme of expectation (which we talked about last time. John spoke of a new, fresh, unprecedented outpouring of the HS-- but, then, he heightens that expectation by associating it with the Messiah (i.e., he invokes the language of the Christ), who is described as being the One Who will baptize them in the Holy Spirit.

So nothing in the OT speaks of the coming Spirit as being associated with the Christ.

Perhaps there would have been a loose association because OT leaders were understood to have an anointing of the Spirit (e.g., Kings, Judges, etc.).

But John then speaks about an outpouring of the HS, in which this Messianic figure will baptize God’s people in the HS.

Luke 3:15-17Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, John answered and said to them all, "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. "His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

So, here, we can see 2 expectations. And the first is heightened because of the second:

So first, the OT anticipation of the a pouring out of the HS.

But this is, then, heightened, because it was about to be fulfilled within their very generation. All of history was about to come to a head.

Side Note: There’s a lot of talk these days about “fire” or “baptism of fire” or “Holy Ghost Fire,” particularly in the charismatic movement. But nowhere is the use of fire, especially when associated with the Spirit, ever a good thing. Fire is associated with judgment. Notice, Jesus is going to cleanse His floor—that is, He’s going to get rid of all the false, bad things claiming to be of Him, but for the specific purpose of making room for His wheat. He will then burn up the chaff—all that is false, or not of Him.

So “Burning with the Holy Spirit,” or “longing for Holy Spirit fire” is not a good thing within this context.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit:

- Incarnation -

The Gospel accounts emphasize that Mary is a virgin. Therefore, the conception of Jesus is viewed as a miracle wrought about by God.

And so, specifically, the Holy Spirit is the One credited as bringing forth the incarnation of the eternal, second person of the Trinity.

- Baptism -

The Father speaks words of commendation over the Son--

Luke 3:21-22 “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also 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. ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’”

So, here, the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus as of a dove.

Now, this event is a fulfillment of OT prophecy (c.f., Isa. 42:1).

Isa. 42:1 - “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”

The descension of the dove is an OT symbol of God anointing His “Anointed One.”

The event marks Jesus out for Messianic ministry; and He would now represent God to the people of Israel (which was always the role of “God’s Anointed” in the OT).

Note: Something worth noticing, is that none of the Gospel accounts record any particular immediate manifestations or visible effects with the coming of the Holy Spirit onto Jesus. 

Now, Jesus’ baptism was unique in that the Holy Spirit was “seen in bodily form,” but no manifestation or visible effect happened to Jesus Himself, even though He was now described as being “full of the Holy Spirit.” 

Contrast this with much of what we see happening in charismatic circles—the desire to seek a fuller experience/power/manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

- Temptations in the wilderness -

Immediately after baptism, the Holy Spirit leads (drives/compels-- aggressive language) Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted.

Mark 1:12-13 “Immediately the Spirit impelled (ekbaino – “to cast out”) Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan…”

Matthew 4:1“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” [infinitive of purpose].

Luke 4:1-2 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”

Here, the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s in sending Jesus out to be tempted was to prepare Him for the many hardships and difficulties of ministry that lay ahead.

Many tend to think of Jesus’ wilderness temptations as His most difficult. This is a misunderstanding. They were simply the first of many and reflected much of what awaited Him.

And so, while we can view Jesu’s temptation as a model for how to fight temptation and resist the devil, the overt emphasis is to reveal how Jesus perfectly accomplishes the obedience we cannot (active obedience).

Now He is described as being in the wilderness for 40 days.

This harkens back to Israel's failure to obey God and resist temptation in their wilderness episode.

Israel sinned in unbelief, not trusting God’s promises and Word. 

However, here, Jesus, believing the Word, perfectly obeys God’s will; and therefore, vicariously obeys on our behalf.

In fact, you can see the strong contrast in how Israel sinned by grumbling because of their hunger. And yet, Jesus is recorded as not becoming hungry until after the 40 days were complete (Lk. 4:2). And so, His desires were controlled by the Word and will of God alone.

The point is that Jesus had to be prepared via temptation to be able to say “yes” to the ultimate temptation that would be presented at the cross (i.e., Satan’s “opportune time” -- Lk. 4:13).

In fact, this is why he was able to pray that His desire at Gethsemane be delivered, and yet, was still controlled by a greater desire to fulfill the Father’s will. His resistance of Satan in the wilderness was propleptic of His defeat of Satan on the cross.

Note: Many (esp. charismatics) equate being filled with the Holy Spirit as the impetus for being able to do wonders/miracles/and possess unique power/experiences.

The Gospels record it as the impetus for the beginning of spiritual/satanic attack.

It’s important that we not miss how the first role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus was to put him into a difficult situation, where many undesirable things abounded.

- Ministry -

Jesus is empowered for 3 years by the Spirit to teach, disciple, heal, and rebuke the religious critics. And the entirety of His ministry is done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Again, this is an unprecedented working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person. It is unlike any other anointing of the Spirit upon a person in previous times. Indeed, it is a filling. It’s unique, power, and the very fulfillment of the Isaiah 61:1 passage Jesus quotes when He is teaching in Lk. 4.

Remember, the Spirit had not yet come in the New Covenant sense.

So Jesus is still under the Old Covenant, and yet the Spirit is filling Him in an unprecedented way.

*Again, this is why we cannot take the Gospels (or the book of Acts) as necessarily normative. It is a hinge period in redemptive history, and very unique things are taking place.

Side Note on Jesus’ miracles: There is a growing movement today called “Spirit-Christology.”

The major emphasis is to show Jesus was a man filled with the Holy Spirit like no one else (par-excellence). The claim is that Jesus was so dominated and filled by the Spirit that this is the reason He was able to do any/all that He did (esp. the miracles). This has its roots in Docetism (i.e., Adoptionism)—an ancient heresy that Jesus received the Spirit because He was a man of virtue.

This is not correct. The role of miracles is not meant to draw attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit, but to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the very Son of God. They were powerful manifestations of His divine nature.

For example, the 7 signs in the Gospel of John are always followed by a statement that these were done so that it might be shown that He is the Son of God. So again, this is the point of miracles, even for the Apostles throughout the book of Acts. They are meant to demonstrate that Jesus is Who He said He was). 

Having said that, Jesus does nothing apart from the Spirit because He is the triune God (cf. Matt. 12:25-32). So the movement of “Spirit-Christology” is flawed, primary because it does not properly understand the nature of the Trinity.

- Death -

Hebrews 9:14“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?”

So what’s abundantly clear is that Jesus offered Himself up as an atonement for our sins without blemish through the eternal Spirit. Also, this is a reference to Jesus’ obedience on account of the Holy Spirit.

The phrase, “though the Spirit” is ambiguous.

So is it a reference to the Spirit empowering Him to offer Himself as a sacrifice? On this reading, the presence of the Spirit empowers Him to be obedient to this final act of offering Himself unto death.

Or is it a reference to the fact that Jesus was able to offer Himself by His own will, but this offering would be an offering that is “without blemish”? 

So on this reading, the presence of the Spirit empowered Him to obey His whole life. And so, now, this final sacrifice can be one of perfection. 

In other words, the Holy Spirit protected Him throughout His entire life, and so His entire life is without blemish.

Well the former is probably best, as he was still sinless before receiving the Spirit at His baptism. However, it is tricky because He qualifies the Spirit with the term “eternal,” which signifies that Christ was never without the Spirit. Christ is still the eternal God.

And so, as such, He was able to to obey before baptism, as He was in some way, never without the Spirit since eternity past.

In either reading, the point to know is that the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus was an empowerment of obedience; and particularly, playing a significant role in His death.

- Resurrection -

Romans 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him [the Father] who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He [the Father] who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

[Possibly] 1 Tim. 3:16“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

So what’s clear is that it was the Father Who raised Jesus from the dead, but He did it through the power of the Holy spirit.

In the same way, the Father will raise those who have died in Christ, but He will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is keeping in step with a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit--- that He is the one who gives life.

We see the Spirit giving life in bringing order in the creation account.

We see the Spirit giving life (indeed, new life) to a new believer in John 3. The Spirit regenerates and gives life to a dead, unregenerate, heart.

And so, in a similar way, it will be the Spirit Who will bring resurrection life to those in Christ, by raising them from the dead.

Some comments on Jesus’ life in association with the Holy Spirit:

Like John the Baptist, Jesus heightened the anticipation of a fresh, new outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17, 7:37-39; Lk. 24:45ff.; Acts 1:4-5).

A prominent one is John 14:14-17.

John 14:16-17 "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 see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

So, here, not only does Jesus promise the coming of the Holy Spirit to abide with His disciples, but He heightens the expectation by saying that the Holy Spirit will also dwell in them.

John 7:37-39 “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

What’s clear at this point in history, is that there were certain events that had to take place before the Spirit would come and work in a special way.

The point, however, is that it’s not as though the Spirit was somehow absent before Pentecost. Rather, it is that His economic role would not change until certain things took place-- the final event being Christ’s ascension.

We see this also in Lk. 22:46-49 (and esp. Acts 1:4-5). Jesus continues to heightened this fresh, new, unprecedented outpouring of the HS. And so, post-resurrection, He emphasizes to His disciples that this promise of old is about to happen to them in just a few days.

Jesus also taught directly (explicitly), on the Holy Spirit. His major teaching is recorded in John 14-16 (14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15).

A summary of the teaching on these passages is that: 

First, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as coming from both the Father and the Son (15:26).

John 15:26 - “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me…”

Rom. 8:9  fills this out by saying that the Father sends the HS in the name of Jesus. And likewise, Jesus also says that He sends the Spirit in the name of the Father.

This Spirit is called the “Spirit of the Father”. 

And He is also called the “Spirit of the Son.”

Second, we spoke a little on this last time, but it is important to distinguish the language of “send” and “proceed.”

The term “send” is future, which is in reference to Pentecost.

But the term “proceed” is a present term, and it’s speaking of an ongoing relationship.

In fact, the language of “proceed” is why we embrace the filioque clause (“and the son”).

This created that split between the East (modern EO) and the West (Rom. Cath.).

Again, let us remind you that this is an important concept.

Many think that you can reach the true God through other means and religions (e.g., Buddhism, naturalism, etc.) because the Spirit of God is present in the world. As such, you can access God the Father via His Spirit through many means (e.g., icons).

Many also think that people who feel a sense of God, or a creator, can ultimately be saved, even if they never heard the name of Jesus (or the Gospel). [Think of distant tribes who don’t have access to the Gospel, yet they very much believe that a Creator exists, and want to connect with Him].

But since the Spirit is sent from Jesus to bear witness of Jesus, the true work of the Spirit is only present at the announcement of Jesus.

This is why there is no name under heaven that can save, but Jesus. It is Jesus’ Spirit which regenerates at the announcement of Jesus’ Gospel.

God works salvation through no other means than the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hence Paul’s burned in Rom 10:14.

Rom. 10:14 - “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Third, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “The Helper. (14:16)”

His favorite word is paraclete.

He is described as “another helper.” The first helper is Jesus, but He is going to send another like Him. Jesus will not abandon His disciples.

In fact, this is what He means in 14:18 when He says He will not leave them as orphans. He is promising to send them the Spirit.

Fourth, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “The Spirit of Truth (14:17).”

Now, it’s important to know the language of “truth in the Gospel of John.

Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the life.” As such, the Spirit is associated with Jesus.

Just as Jesus is “the truth,” so also He describes the Spirit as “the truth.”

Similarly, in John 8:32, we read, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

This is in reference to understanding the Gospel and Who Jesus is. It is that body of doctrine (“The Truth”).

In light of that, the Spirit is said to guide us in all truth (Jn. 16:13).

Here, the preposition is important. The Spirit doesn’t guide  us into more truth or greater revelation.

Rather, the Spirit guides us in the realm of truth that has already been revealed. 

The assumption, then, is that we have everything that we need; and so the Spirit functions to bring understanding and enlighten our hearts to that already revealed truth.

Fifth, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as empowering the disciples in their witness of Jesus (16:13).

So, here, Jesus promises the disciples that when they go out with the message of the Gospel, they will not be on their own. The Spirit will actually prompt their minds to accurately portray what Jesus has taught them.

This is true in their proclamation, but especially in their writings (i.e., the Spirit-inspired writings).

In fact, this is why John repeats throughout the Gospel, “We have this confidence…”

The Spirit bore special witness, reminding, affirming, and strengthening the truth Jesus previously taught them.

Sixth, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as being with us forever (14:16).

In other words, we have a lasting seal of promise.

This is picked up by Paul in Ephesians 1:13 - “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…”

So as New Covenant members, we never have to pray David’s prayer of Psalm 51-- “Don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me…” This was a permanent promise.

Seventh, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as glorying Jesus (16:13-14).

So here, we see that the HS never speaks on His own authority, but only what is given to Him by the Son (13).

In fact, the major role of the Spirit is to point to Jesus. This is where much of charismaticism gets it wrong. Anytime a big deal is made of the Spirit, they have now stopped the true role of the Spirit, which is to get out of the way and make much of Jesus.

Eighth, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as dwelling with us, but also in us (14:17).

So there is intimacy.

This is a privilege only for believers. For the world cannot receive Him.

Ninth, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as declaring the future (16:13).

So the Spirit is going to make certain things known.

This would have been uniquely encouraging to John as He’s on the Isle of Patmos receiving a revelation by the Spirit on what’s to come.

 Some final comments on Jesus and the Holy Spirit:

There’s no evidence of growth of the Holy Spirit's presence in Jesus’ life. The Spirit comes onto Jesus at His baptism, but no series of growing/fuller/or secondary experiences are portrayed in the Gospel accounts.

There were times when Jesus was seized by a sense of urgency for a task (Jn. 9:4), and yet, there was no charismatic phenomena present, like how some teach we see being reported in Acts, 1Cor. 12-14, etc. It is simply not part of Jesus’ life and experience.

It is important to know that all Jesus did as the God-Man, He did by the Spirit. 

This includes everything, even all the way down to His very emotions.

For example, Jesus is described as being “full of joy in the Holy Spirit” (Lk. 10:17).


The Holy Spirit becomes far more prominent in the New Testament, and so it will take us a couple of episodes to cover everything.

We saw the Spirit’s role with John the Baptist, and pretty well covered everything mentioned regarding the Spirit and Jesus-- not only Jesus’ interactions with the Spirit, but also His own personal teaching on the Spirit.

We hope this has been of some help. Next time we’ll jump into Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, and seek to develop Luke’s record of what took place in Acts Ch. 2.


bottom of page