Spirit and Mission
In the Second Psalm, the Messiah is identified as the Son of God and the ideal king who is anointed by God to rule over the nations, the one to whom the “Kings of the Earth” will pay homage. In the four gospel accounts, he is anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan River, equipping him for the proclamation of the “Kingdom of God” to the people of Israel.
Unlike the kings and high priests in the Hebrew Bible, Jesus of Nazareth is anointed with God’s Spirit rather than olive oil, an event that sets him apart for ministry as the Herald of God’s Kingdom and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh - (Psalm 2:6-9, Isaiah 61:1-2, Psalm 45:7, Isaiah 11:1-5, 42:1, 59:21).
|[Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash]|
All four gospel accounts record how the Spirit descended on him at his baptism, and how his messianic status was confirmed by visual and audible effects (“descended like a dove… This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” - Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:22, John 1:32).
In the Old Testament, certain men were endowed temporarily by the Spirit when necessary for specific tasks. In contrast, the Spirit descended and remained on Jesus. Moreover, he had the fullness of the Spirit, “not by measure,” as was the case with the prophets, kings, and priests of old - (John 3:34).
Following his baptism, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness to be tested by the Devil. But where Israel failed during its sojourn in the wilderness, Jesus overcame the Adversary by submitting to the Word and will of his Father. Not only so, but afterward, he “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” - (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:13-14).
Jesus attributed his miracles to the Spirit of God, not to any inherent superhuman power that he possessed. When he was accused of exorcising demons by the power of Satan, he retorted, “But if I, by the Spirit of God, cast out demons…” Moreover, if the Spirit of God was manifesting among men in his words and deeds, “then is the Kingdom of God come upon you.”
This last point is also the understanding of the early church, and this is reflected in the epistles and the Book of Acts:
- (Acts 10:38) - “How God anointed him with Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the adversary, because God, was with him.”
- (Romans 1:4) – “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated unto the glad message of God, which he promised beforehand, through his prophets, in holy scriptures, concerning his Son who came to be of the seed of David, according to flesh, who was distinguished as the Son of God by power, according to a Holy Spirit, through means of a resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
LORD OF THE SPIRIT
The presence of the Holy Spirit is integral to the identity, mission, and deeds of the Messiah, but he is also the one who dispenses the Spirit to his followers, and he promised to send the same Spirit that “bears witness of me”:
- (John 7:37-39) – “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believes on me, just as said the Scripture, river from within him shall flow of living water. Now, this spoke he concerning the Spirit which they who believed on him were about to receive; for not yet was there Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified!”
- (John 15:26) – “Whensoever the Advocate shall come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which from the Father comes forth. He will bear witness concerning me.”
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Having ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Thus, the possession of the Spirit and the authority to distribute its gifts belong to Jesus - (Luke 24:45-49, Acts 2:33-38, Ephesians 4:8-12).
After his ascension, Jesus “sent the promise of his Father upon” his disciples to empower them to preach the Gospel. That was and is part and parcel of how the Spirit “bears witness” to him. Since he now reigns over the Earth, he has “received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit.”
Just as the Spirit set the Son apart to declare the “Kingdom of God” to Israel, so the Gift of the Spirit sets his disciples apart and empowers them to preach the Gospel to “all the nations of the Earth.” Since his ascension, this has remained the primary task of his saints, but they cannot carry it out without the presence of the Spirit.
Prior to his ascension, the disciples asked him about the timing of the “Kingdom of God.” He responded by stating that such matters were in the hands of God alone – “It is not for you to know times and seasons.”
Instead, he commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the “Promise of the Father,” the Gift of the Spirit, and then they would become his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the Earth” - (Luke 24:45-49).
Just as the Spirit of God set the Messiah apart for service and empowered him to proclaim the Gospel, so, also, the Gift of the Spirit separates his disciples as heralds of his Kingdom, and it empowers them to execute this task throughout the Earth.