Purpose of the Spirit in the Gospel Accounts (3)

We will look at this topic under three headings: the Holy Spirit in the life of the Savior, in the lives of the saints and the role of the Holy Spirit in the living Scriptures.

The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Savior.

The first reference to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus was at His miraculous conception, for the word concerning Mary was, “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:18-21). Luke, the beloved physician, gives us the words of Gabriel to the young virgin who, like Abraham, staggered not at the promise of God: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee” (1:35). We cannot understand all of this but are well advised to accept the simple but profound words of the Spirit relative to this blessed event, rather than attempt to go beyond where the Word will take us. Let us wonder and worship but let us not intrude into that which God has not revealed.

In this Gospel of the Manhood of the Lord Jesus, Luke takes us to His baptism and gives us a glimpse of the Trinity. We see a Dependent Son praying, a Descending Spirit coming and remaining upon Him, and a Devoted Father speaking out of Heaven as to His pleasure in His Son (2:21-22). This visible coming upon Him of the Spirit was evidently a means whereby the Father would seal that this was indeed the Son of God (John 1:32-34, 6:27).

This One on Whom the Spirit has descended is next seen, full of the Holy Spirit, being fully controlled by that Spirit, directed (“driven” Mark 1:12) into the wilderness where He was tempted by the Devil (Luke 4:1). He is the perfect Man, led by the Spirit, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps (1 Pet 3:21).

After this testing, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). This expression no doubt summarizes the life of a Man in Whom God could fully delight — the Dependent Man of Psalm 16 Who always lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning of His Galilean ministry, He went, as was His custom, into the synagogue and unrolled the Scroll to the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel What a majestic scene it must have been as this One, anointed by the Holy Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, read from the words that were inspired by that same Holy Spirit, the things concerning His (Christ’s) own ministry! He announced, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:20). In Matthew 12:15-32, we see the One of Whom God says, “I will put My Spirit upon Him”, casting out demons by the Spirit of God. Thus we see the omnipotent Son of God as the dependent Man performing miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the life of the Lord we learn again the lessons of direction, dependence, and power.

The Holy Spirit in the Lives of the Saints

What teaching is found in the gospels concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the saints? Perhaps the first great lesson is that taught to Nicodemus concerning a saving work of the Holy Spirit. He was told that there was going to be a kingdom established in the hearts of men and women and that the only entrance into that kingdom was by a new birth “of water and of the Spirit”(John 3:3). Whether this water refers to the cleansing power of the Word as in John 15:3, or, as is more probably the case, to the Spirit as in 7:39 and Titus 3:5, we know that regeneration, (that action by which one is born anew and enters the Kingdom of God) is the work of the Spirit.

There is a work that precedes this saving work of regeneration. It is the striving work of the Spirit referred to in John 16:8-11. Peter deals with this in what we could call “pre-conversion sanctification” (1 Pet 1:1-2), when he writes that the believers were “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” The person is dealt with by the Spirit and is brought to obey the truth of the gospel and to salvation as depicted in the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Spirit Who is in the world to convince of sin, of righteousness and of judgment does this by striving in the hearts of sinners to bring them to a realization of their need. He then “bears witness concerning the Lord Jesus” (John 15:26).

The Savior then introduces us to the satisfying ministry of the Holy Spirit. In John 4, the Lord Jesus teaches the Samaritan woman about Living Water which is able to do what Jacob’s well could never do. When the Lord Jesus mentions living water again (John 7:37-39), He is speaking of the Spirit, Who at this time had not been “given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” This indwelling Spirit would satisfy the person He indwelt (4:14).

The Lord Jesus introduced us to another ministry of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 10:20 when He was speaking of the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. When the evangelists, because of the persecution they would face, would be brought before the magistrates, they were not to take anxious thought as to what they would speak for it is “The Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”

This is a ministry of the Spirit in our speaking. This attitude of dependence on the working of the Spirit transcends all dispensations. However, we should point out that this is not an excuse for a lack of preparation in the feeding of the flock of God. In the public ministry in the local church and in the gospel, a preacher is ” to give good heed and seek out and set in order acceptable words” (Eccl 12:9-10). Being thus filled with the Word, the dependent servant will be used by the Holy Spirit to nourish the souls of others out of a fully nourished soul.

When we return to the Gospel according to John, we see the Lord introducing the ministry of the Holy Spirit as that of “another Comforter” who was at that time abiding “with them” but Who, after the glorification of the Lord, would be given in a special way and would then be “in them” (John 14:16-17). So many conclusions are to be drawn. He is called “allos Paracletos.” “Allos” indicating that He was not another of a different kind (heteros) but another of the same kind. This means that while there is a distinction in persons, there is an identity in subsistence and a continuation and continuity in the ministry. The Holy Spirit would perpetuate in an uninterrupted fashion the work of the Lord Jesus to the disciples, the work of a “paracletos.” This last refers to one called along side to help, an advocate, a defender, one who would not leave the disciples as orphans.

Let us call this a succoring ministry of the Spirit. In Hebrews, the Holy Spirit uses this word to describe the present ministry of the Lord as High Priest. (2:18, 4:16, 13:6) It refers to one who runs in response to a cry for help.

We also see in the Upper Room discourse a ministry in the school of the Spirit for “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance” (14:26). “When He the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Do we not see the need then for the one who will learn his Bible to meditate and study in lowly dependence on the gracious Spirit to show to him the riches of the Word?

He is the great Teacher and His teaching is always consistent with the written Word, the truth. There are professing believers who are “long on experience but short on truth.” Experience can never be the judge. We must always ask, “Does the experience line up with the Scriptures of Truth?” (Acts 15:15).

His ministry is also a sanctifying ministry for He is called the Holy Spirit (14:25). He Who is holy will use the Word in our lives in such a way as to fulfil the words, “Be ye holy for I am holy” (IPeter 1:16). “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The disciples had just been given a great commission from the risen Lord to be witnesses of Him among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. How were they to do it? They were promised the strengthening ministry of the Holy Spirit. This being “clothed with power” took place at Pentecost when the disciples were baptized by the Lord in the Holy Spirit into the newly created body, the church (compare I Cor 12:13). They were to be filled with the Spirit, meaning that they were to be fully under His control (Acts 2:4, Eph 5:18). They received a preview of this in the upper room. Following His resurrection, the Lord breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). They were being sent with a gospel of remission of sins and were to preach in that power which would come with His indwelling.

If we study carefully the references to the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles we will see that the expression “filled with the Spirit” is an experiential expression. The expression “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” however, is not experiential but historical (Mat 3:11-12). When John the Baptist preached, he stated that, “He shall baptize you in (en – in the power of) the Holy Spirit and fire. The context clearly shows that the fire refers not to the Holy Spirit but to the judgment that would be the portion of those who did not obey the Gospel and would therefore not be baptized in the power of the Spirit into the Church which is His Body. The baptism in the Spirit took place, once for all, at Pentecost. The omission of the reference to fire in Acts 1:5 shows that, as in Luke 4:18-21, the Day of Vengeance of our God was to be postponed until after the Dispensation of the Church was complete.

The Holy Spirit in the Living Scriptures

“For David Himself said by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36, Mat 22:43) We will not go into the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures. However, let us take this little intimation here as sufficient to show that in a study of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, we are made to see that, in the words of the Lord Jesus, the Book which we hold is nothing less than the “out-breathings” of the blessed Spirit of God. Paul wrote to Timothy concerning that which God has given to us: “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2Tim 3:16 literal). Let us follow the example of the Dependent Man in His walk, being filled with His teaching concerning the Holy Spirit, and feeding on the Scriptures with the reverence which belongs to that which the Spirit has provided.