The Heart of It All: The Holy Spirit

April 30, 2013

by Peter Amsterdam

The Holy Spirit and the Messiah

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(For an introduction and explanation regarding this series overall, please see The Heart of It All: Introduction.)

In the previous article, we saw how the Spirit of the Lord was manifested in the Old Testament. God’s Spirit moved in the lives of specific individuals, empowering them, causing them to prophesy, and anointing them with other abilities. In the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord generally came upon or interacted only with specific individuals and only on a temporary basis. It was prophesied, however, that a time would come when God would pour out His Spirit in abundance upon all His people.[1]

The Messiah

The Old Testament also includes prophecies about the Messiah who was to come, who would be powerfully filled with the Spirit of God and would do great things in God’s name. While the Jewish people did not think that this Messiah would be the Son of God, as they had no concept that God was a Trinity, they understood that the Messiah, an anointed king, would be greatly empowered by God’s Spirit.

The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels states:

A major strand of Judaism anticipated a Messiah mightily endowed with the Spirit, as both the Spirit of prophecy (affording unique wisdom and knowledge of the Lord as the basis of dynamic righteousness) and the Spirit of power.[2]

Referring to the Messiah, the book of Isaiah says:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.[3]

This prophecy tells us that the Messiah would descend from the lineage of David, the son of Jesse, and that God’s Spirit would rest upon Him, meaning that the Spirit would remain on Him. He would be endowed with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, and the fear of God. Isaiah prophesied further about the Messiah, declaring again that God’s Spirit would be upon Him.

Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations … He will not grow faint or be discouraged till He has established justice in the earth.[4]

Later it was again prophesied in the book of Isaiah that God’s Spirit would be mightily upon the Messiah and that He would be anointed and do His work with the power of the Spirit of the Lord.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zionto give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.[5]

Fulfillment of Prophecy

These prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus, the promised Messiah. All four of the Gospels speak of Jesus being filled with the Spirit at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized by John the Baptist.[6]

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”[7]

John [the Baptist] bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”[8]

Later, when asked about Jesus, John the Baptist said:

He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.[9]

On the advent of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him without measure and remained on Him permanently. Immediately after this, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the Devil tried to defeat Him, to no avail.

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the Devil.[10]

After overcoming the temptations, Jesus began ministering to others in the power of the Spirit. He gained popularity and was highly praised by all.

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about Him went out through all the surrounding country. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.[11]

When Jesus returned to Nazareth, the village where He grew up, He was chosen to read from the Scriptures in the synagogue. The passage He read was from Isaiah, about the ministry of the Messiah, and at the end of the reading, Jesus made it clear that it was speaking about Him—that He was the Messiah upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had fallen.

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[12]

Jesus was stating that His ministry had begun, that He would proclaim the good news, bringing liberty to the captives, healing and freeing those who were oppressed, with God’s Spirit upon Him. The apostle Peter later stated that Jesus did these very things through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.[13]

The “Promise of the Father”

The Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus, played a major role in His ministry—leading, guiding, and empowering Him. Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that He would send the “promise of the Father,” which was the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they received this power from on high.

Behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.[14]

While staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”[15]

The Holy Spirit which led, guided, and empowered Jesus was going to do the same things for His disciples. Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, saying that in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, He had to leave, but that once He was gone the Spirit would come to them.

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.[16]

Jesus said it was necessary that He ascend to heaven, to return to the Father and be glorified, before the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, the Helper—could come. This was exactly what happened, as the apostle Peter testified to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, right after being filled with the Spirit.

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.[17]

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.[18]

Jesus had been with His disciples for about three and a half years. They had traveled with Him, lived with Him, learned from Him, heard Him preach to and teach the crowds. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They had private instruction from Him and watched how He interacted with others—the rich, the poor, the outcasts, the religious. They saw Him get arrested and crucified. They knew He was dead, yet He stood before them in the upper room alive again. Then came the time for Him to go. He had been many things to them, and now He was going to depart. He had told them He would ask the Father to send them another Comforter or Helper.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever …[19]

The Paraclete

The word Helper or Comforter used in this verse is translated from the Greek word paraklētos, (pronounced parr ra clee tas), which is defined as called to one’s side, to one’s aid, a helper, aider, assistant; as well as one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, counsel for defense, an advocate.

Jesus is saying the Father will give the disciples another Comforter, which infers they presently have one. Jesus, the Helper, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate they presently have is going to depart and in His place the Father is sending the Holy Spirit, the “Paraclete.” (The word Paraclete is used in many modern Christian writings in the place of Helper, Comforter, etc.)

What Jesus had been to the disciples, and what the Holy Spirit was going to be to them, were very similar.

  • Both “come forth”/“are sent” from the Father into the world.

Jesus: I have come in My Father’s name … I came from the Father … For this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.[20]

Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name … When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father … When the Spirit of Truth comes …[21]

  • Both are called “Holy” and are characterized by “the truth.”

Jesus: We [Jesus’ disciples] have believed, and have come to know, that You [Jesus] are the Holy One of God ...[22]

Holy Spirit: The Helper, the Holy Spirit …[23]

Jesus: I am the way, and the truth, and the life.[24]

Holy Spirit: He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth …[25]

  • Both teach.

Jesus: You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.[26]

Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance ...[27]

  • Jesus bears witness of God and reveals things about Himself and the Father. The Holy Spirit bears witness of and reveals God the Son.

Jesus: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known … For He whom God has sent utters the words of God.[28]

Holy Spirit: The Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me: When the Spirit of Truth comes … He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.[29]

  • Jesus came to convince and to convict the world, though many did not receive Him, as is also the case with the Holy Spirit.[30]

Jesus: He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God …[31]

Holy Spirit: I will send Him [the Holy Spirit] to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. … The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.[32]

While Jesus was Helper and Comforter to the disciples, as well as teacher and truth-teller, and a witness, He said that after He departed He and the Father would send another Comforter who would do these things as well. This Comforter would mightily anoint the disciples in their mission. That was exactly what happened, as we’ll see in the next article.

[1] It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit (Joel 2:28–29).

[2] Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 342.

[3] Isaiah 11:1–2.

[4] Isaiah 42:1,4.

[5] Isaiah 61:1–3.

[6] Matthew 3:13–17, Mark 1:9–11.

[7] Luke 3:21–22.

[8] John 1:32–34.

[9] John 3:34–35.

[10] Luke 4:1–2 NKJV/ESV.

[11] Luke 4:14–15.

[12] Luke 4:17–21.

[13] Acts 10:37–39.

[14] Luke 24:49.

[15] Acts 1:4–5.

[16] John 16:7.

[17] Acts 2:33.

[18] John 7:37–39.

[19] John 14:16.

[20] John 5:43, 16:28, 18:37.

[21] John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13.

[22] John 6:69.

[23] John 14:26.

[24] John 14:6.

[25] John 14:16–17.

[26] John 13:13.

[27] John 14:26.

[28] John 1:18, 3:34.

[29] John 15:26, 16:13–15.

[30] Points 1–5 are from Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 349.

[31] John 1:11–12.

[32] John 16:7–11, John 14:17.