The Holy Spirit: The Power of the Spirit in Incarnation

The following three articles touch on the work of the Spirit of God in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus.


The ministry of the Holy Spirit toward men in the Old Testament was temporary. He did not then indwell them. Bezaleel alone was filled with the Spirit of God for a particular purpose (Exod 31:3, 35:30-35). The Spirit of God did “come upon” some, and “clothe” others, but the only other person prior to the present day of grace who was filled with the Holy Spirit, was John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).

The first man who was indwelt in this present day was our Lord Jesus Christ. It was after He returned to heaven that the present ministry of the Holy Spirit on earth began, due to His exaltation at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:32-33). The Holy Spirit is designated as “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7, JND), “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9), “the Spirit of his Son” (Gal 4:6) and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:19). Each of these titles can be profitably viewed in its own context.

The Typical Aspect

Much profit has been gained from a careful study of the five main offerings in the opening chapters of Leviticus. Each can be seen to reveal differing typical aspects of the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The meal offering in chapter 2 is a beautiful foreshadowing of the holy manhood of Christ. Oil in Scripture has long been seen by the spiritual mind as a type of the Holy Spirit, and was to be used in two particular ways in the meal offering. The Israelite was to bring his offering of fine flour which had been saturated or mingled with oil. Here the oil was integral with the flour, it could not be separated from it. But we also read that it was to be anointed with oil, it was to be put upon the meal offering. In the latter we see the typical foreshadowing of the public anointing of our Lord Jesus Christ at Jordan by the Holy Spirit (Isa 11:2; Matt 3:16-17). The “mingling with oil” foreshadowed the importance of the subject of the present article: the mystery of His incarnation and the vital role of the Holy Spirit in it. “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 1:20).

The Prophetic Aspect

It is most fitting that the first mention of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is in relation to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 1:18-25). Matthew records in chapter 1:18 to 3:23 the required proofs that Israel’s true Messiah would fulfill the Old Testament promises. This is unfolded in a fivefold way, the first being dealt with from 1:18 to 1:25. Certain basic facts are emphasized to make clear that (a) Mary was “with child” during the espousal period and (b) this was before they “came together”. Then a moral description of Joseph is given which makes clear that he was “a just man” The Spirit of God could not inspire such words if Joseph had participated in an illicit and forbidden moral relationship. The doubtful thoughts of Joseph at this time, concerning Mary, were quickly brought to an end by a visit from the angel of the Lord. In a dream, the angel made clear to Joseph that the conception which had taken place within the womb of Mary was miraculous, it was “of the Holy Ghost”. Matthew is careful to record that all of this was the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Many have asserted that “virgin” here should be properly translated “young woman”, but cannot prove their case.

The Historical Aspect

The birth of Christ is an attested fact of history. It is remarkable that although it is the fulcrum of human history and unwittingly accepted by all generally, yet the facts stated in the official records of His birth are disbelieved by so many. It has often been said that those records are either correct, or the claims of the Bible and of Christ prove Him to be the greatest deceiver ever. Matthew states explicitly of Mary, “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (1:18). It is good to remember here that Matthew alone tells of the concern of Joseph when he learned that Mary was “with child”. Only he tells of the dream of Joseph when he learned by direct revelation from the angel of the Lord, “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (1:20). Matthew clearly connects the activity of the Holy Spirit with the truth of the virgin birth. Mark does not comment but Luke gives more detailed information than any. This is because he was not merely a physician, but because he was selected of God to record in his Gospel the moral aspects of the priestly manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have made a comparison between the offerings and the four Gospels have shown that Luke is closely linked to the meal offering. Thus he speaks more of the doctrinal implications of the “mingling” mentioned earlier than any other.

The Doctrinal Aspect

It is perhaps helpful to distinguish between the virgin birth and the incarnation. Although both are closely linked, it is important to note the distinction. The former is the miracle of history which could only take place through the instrumentality of divine power. The latter is the embodiment in flesh of the divine person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both are referred to in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son” (the virgin birth), “and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (the incarnation). Two similar statements are found in Isaiah 7:14. Luke teaches the same truth in slightly different language (ch. 1:31).

We have seen from Matthew I that the divine information was given to Joseph by the angel of the Lord, but from Luke we learn that Mary received it in a different way. The angel Gabriel was sent to her from God. We should also note that Mary was told before the conception took place, whereas Joseph was told retrospectively.

It is here we learn the amount of detail which God would have us know. When told that she would conceive in her womb, she asked a perfectly natural question (v. 34). The answer made clear that no man would be involved, a divine activity would take place. The whole of the divine trinity is spoken of here. The Holy Spirit would come upon her. The power of the Highest would overshadow her. The term “overshadow” is the very word used in Matt 17:5, when the bright cloud was over them in the Transfiguration. The voice which was heard came out of the cloud indicating the presence of God. It is the equivalent of the Old Testament cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat. Here is the shekinah glory of God’s presence (the Highest). The result of this is, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Many have attempted to lift the lid from this very holy ark. We must listen and learn and worship. Thus the Incarnation was dependent upon the Virgin Birth. The conception was a wholly miraculous divine activity within the womb of Mary the virgin, and the later birth was natural. God was manifest in flesh, humanity and deity being inextricably linked in one blessed person. As many of have been taught down the years, He became at Bethlehem what He had never been before, and what He became then, He will never cease to be. He is a perfect Man forever, yet verily God.