What role did the Spirit of God play in the gospels and in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ? These three articles address these questions .
The Holy Spirit has given four records concerning the life and work of one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospels are four portraits bringing out e different facets of the glory of the Lord Jesus as to His character and work.
Matthew tells us, Christ is a descendant of David, Israel’s greatest king. To him was promised a greater to come. He is also son of Abraham, to whom God promised the land. The Holy Spirit through Matthew unfolds the drama of Jesus the Messiah and says, ‘Behold your King,’ and then proceeds to take us through chapter after chapter. He is born King; then follows the good news of the kingdom. The disciples are sent out as ambassadors of the kingdom, and the King unfolds the secrets of the kingdom. From chapter seventeen, the Spirit traces the progress of the King until we find the Lord Jesus sitting on the throne of His glory (25:31).
There is no ascension in Matthew’s account, because the Spirit of God throughout this gospel has before Him the scope of the kingdom. The King does not ascend, but is seen in risen power with all the authority of heaven and earth in His hand. So the Spirit’s purpose in Matthew’s gospel is Christ’s Kingship.
Mark provides a fast moving account of Jesus. Here is the Servant King, transforming other people’s situations. The first eight chapters describe a thrilling series of healing and exorcisms carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Next, Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, is seen sweeping into action, setting Galilee alight with works of deliverance. He is the Son of Man come to “seek and to save that which was lost”. The Holy Spirit presents a threefold picture:
(1) Christ uplifted on the cross. He came to give Himself a “ransom for all” (10:45).
(2) Christ’s call to follow. Bartimaeus “followed Jesus in the way” (10:52).
(3) Christ’s inviting to faith. “Have faith in God” (11:22).
Luke, the doctor, who had never seen a perfect man, is used by the Holy Spirit to record the history of Christ, God’s Perfect Man. Here is a glowing account of Jesus the Savior. He fills his account with all the different people who met Jesus. There is Mary Magdalene, Peter the fisherman, Zacchaeus the government official and the leper who could not be touched. Jesus the Savior rescues a prostitute, chapter 7, redeems a swindler, chapter 19, and converts a criminal, chapter 23. Here is the Christ who came to seek and to save the lost. Luke records the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the widow who pestered a magistrate. He is guided by the Spirit of God to tell of the coming of the Savior (chapters 1-2), and the call of the Savior (chapters 3-8). The remainder of Luke’s gospel gives the journey of the Savior (chapters 9-24).
John writes years after the events. Here is a man who lived close to the Son of God. John leaned on the Savior’s breast and learned the secrets of His heart. He begins his gospel by transporting his readers into eternity to show them Christ in that eternity Then he brings them into time and shows the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among men. John crowds his gospel with characters that met the Son of God. There is Nathaniel, Nicodemus and the unnamed Samaritan woman. An anonymous blind man receives his sight. Mary and Martha sob out their sorrow, and Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple, waits too long to declare his faith in the Lord Jesus and then discovers it is not too late after all. The Spirit of God in John’s gospel is selective in the material He uses to bring in His great purpose. “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not found written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name” (20:30-31). John records the seven sign miracles with dramatic skill, leaving us in no doubt that here is “God manifest in the flesh”. The ministry of Christ in the upper room flows out from the questions the disciples asked at the table. In His answers the Lord reveals Himself to His disciples, unfolds the reality of the cross and His resurrection and explains the coming of the other Comforter. In chapter 21, John confirms the commission of the risen Christ to Peter and records the truth of His coming again. The ultimate purpose of the Spirit in John’s gospel is to bring men and women to the life-giving knowledge of God through the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God.
The Gospel records open with the Spirit’s activity in relation to Christ. Matthew indicates that His coming into manhood was not only different, but also, unique. Mark tells of the Man who lived for others. Luke reminds us that the Holy Spirit controlled and directed the growth of Jesus in boyhood days and made Him the perfectly developed Son of Man. John records, “Him hath God the Father sealed” (6:27). He is marked out as Messiah, the Son of God.
The Spirit’s Purpose in the Gospels in relation to the Savior’s Mission.
The Lord Jesus Christ came as the “Sent One” of the Father. The Father endorsed the position He had taken before and amongst the people by the descent of the Holy Spirit who sealed Him as the “Sent One” and marked Him as the “Competent Savior”. Peter looking back to this event said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil”(Acts 10:38). At the commencement of His mission, four statements are made concerning the Lord Jesus’ relationship to the Holy Spirit.
1) “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him” (Mark 1:10).
2) “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1).
3) “Was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matt. 4:1).
4) “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
At Nazareth where He was brought up, He entered into the synagogue, and standing, read the words of Isaiah the prophet. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Not that the Holy Spirit imparted anything to Christ. When He came upon Him, perfection was already there. But the Lord, like Aaron, was anointed to serve (Exodus 28:41), and like Saul, He was anointed to save (1 Samuel 9:16); then He was anointed to rule like David (2 Samuel 5:3). Lastly, Isaiah prophesied that He would be anointed to preach (Isaiah 61:1-2).
When the Lord Jesus came into His public sphere He took that place in absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit. Writing of the Temptation in the wilderness, Matthew records ‘He was carried by the Spirit’ (4:1 JND Translation). Mark says, ‘He was driven by the Spirit’ (1:12) and Luke says,, ‘He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness’ (4:1).
Throughout the temptation, the Lord Jesus took His place in absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit. He would not use the power He possessed to alter His circumstances. To fulfil His mission, He moved in dependence on the Holy Spirit to preach good tidings to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. His whole mission was accomplished under the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit. When He began to read out of the Scriptures concerning His anointing by the Holy Spirit, He clearly indicated for what purpose that anointing was bestowed.
He would act, speak and bear witness in entire separation to the Holy Spirit. John gives the revelation of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the mission of the Son of God, “Therefore He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, for He giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (3:34).
In Capernaum, He faced Satan’s kingdom and its power. He is confronted by a demon possessed man and then by a woman, whom Satan had bound eighteen years. By the power of the Spirit of God, He stormed the kingdom of darkness and delivered these who were oppressed by Satan. When accused by the Pharisees of using demon power in casting out demons, the Lord said, “I cast out demons by the Spirit of God.” Attributing all the outcome of the holy life of the Son of God to the unclean powers of hell, was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for which there was no pardon.
He walked on earth, a living man among men, energized and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because He was the Son of God, the Lord could have done every work by His own power, but had He done so, how could He have said, “The works that I do shall ye do also”? But if He set aside His own powers, kept them in abeyance that the power of the Spirit of God alone might act, then as He gives that same Spirit to His own, He can say, “The works that I do shall ye do also, and greater works than these shall ye do because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).