Come near me and listen to this: ‘From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.’ And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his Spirit. This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’
We have already thought about the eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son in relation to creation and redemption (Heb.13:20). But what was the role joyfully assigned to the Holy Spirit? He was to anoint and equip the Mediator in all that was required for the work of creation and redemption. This relationship with the Spirit was emblazoned in the title by which Jesus is known throughout the Scriptures and to this day. He is the Anointed One (Christ / Messiah); and His anointing was foreshadowed in the anointing of every Prophet (e.g. I Kings 19:16), Priest (e.g. Ex.29:4-9), and King (e.g. I Sam.9:15-16) in the Old Testament. It is worth noting that in the Gospels and the book of Acts no-one is ever ignorant of the fact that such an Anointed One is prophesied. The only dispute is whether Jesus was the Christ (see Matt.2:4; Jn.1:41; Jn.4:25 etc.).
The Scriptures testify to this at every step and stage of Christ’s incarnational ministry. When Mary asks how she will conceive since she is a virgin, the angels simply declares: ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you…’, thus the One born to her shall be holy (Lk.1:35). It is the Holy Spirit who prepares a body for Christ, ensuring it neither contracts guilt from Adam, nor corruption from the sinful flesh of Mary, and equally ensuring His own righteousness even in the womb (contra the experience of all other humans, Ps.51:5). Christ is inconceivable (in both senses!) without the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who gave Him all the capacities and gifts necessary for His life and work; who bore His fruit exclusively in the character of Christ throughout the hidden years, enabling Him to understand from the Scriptures a full consciousness of His person and work, to be inwardly aware of His Son-ship, and to grow in wisdom, stature and in favour with God and people (Is.11:2; Lk.2:49-52; I Cor.2:14). It was the Holy Spirit who confirmed the sinlessness of Jesus’s humanity and who sustained it’s righteousness, enabling Jesus to resist temptation at every point (Lk.4:1 & 14).
It was the Holy Spirit who descended on Him in His baptism, equipping Him for His public ministry, communicating His Father’s vindication and pleasure, and conferring on Him the supernatural gifts which had been promised throughout the Old Testament (Matt.3:16; Jn.1:33). The Spirit remained on Him to an unprecedented degree (John 3:34), enabling a ministry that is unrivalled in power, consistency and effect (see e.g. Matt.12:28). Jesus the Man is thus empowered to speak the words of God and to do the works of God, filling His heart with joy (Lk.10:21; Gal.5:22) and an unrelenting zeal for the cause of His Father, and commitment to His call on His life. And in the end it is by the Spirit that Jesus offers Himself to the Father as an unblemished sacrifice (Heb.9:14); and it is by the Spirit that He is raised from the dead (I Pet.3:18).
In is critical that we recognise the integrity of Jesus’ incarnation. As a Man, living a real human life in the reality of this fallen world He doesn’t ‘cheat’. He doesn’t draw on the power of His deity in order to resist temptation or do the work of his Father in a way that categorically alien to us (Acts 10:38). Many of the prophets perform spectacular miracles but they did not have a Divine Nature. But the purpose of ‘their’ miracles was the same as that of Jesus’ own miracles - to testify to the truth of Jesus (Jn.6:35; 11:25).
The recognition that it is by the Spirit that Jesus lives His life and fulfils God’s call on that life raises some profound questions for the Church. For the Jesus who was anointed with the Spirit, now anoints the Church with that same Spirit (Acts 2:33). It is the greatest display of His exaltation, for no-one other than the exalted Lord could bestow the Spirit on another. In fact this was His purpose: He redeemed us … so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal.3:14).
Do you think that because we have the same Holy Spirit as Jesus that we should expect to see the same miraculous powers at work in the life of the Church as we see in the life of the Christ?
What do you think Jesus means when He says we will do greater things than He did (Jn.14:12)?
Can you think of any miracles Jesus did in His earthly life that are without precedent in the Old Testament?
Read Acts 2:42-47
What does a Spirit-filled Church look like? How would we know the Holy Spirit was present in the midst of His people?
What does ‘devoted’ (v.42) mean? Does that describe our attitude at MIE to the aspects of Church life listed in v.42?
What is the significance of the fact that the wonders and signs were being performed by the Apostles (v.43)?
Do you think vv.44-45 should be the economic policy of MIE? Why / why not? Is it wrong for Christians to retain private property?
Do you think this level of worship and hospitality is realistic? Sustainable? Why did they want to spend so much time together? Do you think that is normal for Churches? Should we seek to cultivate this at MIE?
Do you think that ‘enjoying the favour of all the people’ is always a mark of a Spirit filled Church? Why / why not?
What do you make of the evangelistic fruitfulness of v.47? Would you say that a Spirit filled Church should see people becoming Christians as a regular feature? What would you say about a Church that wasn’t seeing people saved?
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Is.61:1-3, see also Lk.4:16-21
For further reflection:
One of the key aspects of the life of the Spirit in the Apostolic Church relates to the inspiring of the Scriptures (Jn.16:12-14; I Cor.2:10-14). There is extraordinary resonance and symmetry between the two ‘words’ of God. In both, the Father is breathing out His Word by the Spirit, and both are revealed in and through humanity. The Word became flesh and is testified to by a word that is also fully human. For all their Divine origin, the Scriptures are penned by human authors. But the humanity of the authors does not call into question the trustworthiness of the words they wrote. Christ provides a model of how to understand the nature of Scripture. So B.B. Warfield, writing just over a century ago:
“As in the case of our Lord’s Person, the human nature remains truly human, yet can never fall into sin or error because it can never act out of relation with the Divine nature … so in the case of the production of Scripture. The human factors have acted as human factors, and have left their mark on the product as such, and yet cannot have fallen into error, because they have not acted apart from Divine factors, by themselves, but only under their unerring guidance”.
Of course we don’t press the analogy too far. There are important differences, not least that the Word is a Person and the word is a book (albeit a personal book). But the point of the analogy still stands. And so we rejoice in our confidence that the Spirit has given the Church a full, reliable and trustworthy testimony to the person and work of Christ. For Christ the Revealer needs also to be revealed (Matt.11:27).