The Son’s dependence on the Holy Spirit (Christmas 2022)

I made extensive use of ‘Jesus and the God of Classical Theism’ by Steven J. Duby (Baker Academic, 2022).

Introduction

Last Sunday, which of course was Christmas Day, we were thinking about the incarnation when God the Son came into the world as one of us to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us eternal life in the presence of God. And I want to continue on that theme today. But before we get to today’s topic, let me remind you of what we were studying last week.

Last Sunday morning we thought about the Son’s relationship to God the Father. And we looked at John 1 where John made clear in verse 1 that there’s a distinction in God, because John wrote about the Word who was with God in the beginning and who is himself God. So, there’s God; and, with him, there’s the Word who is also God. And in verse 14 of John 1, we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So, he came to earth as one of us. And John described the Word as ‘the One and Only’ or ‘the Only Begotten Son’ who is from the Father. And when John says that he is from the Father, he means that he is eternally from the Father. So, God’s Only-Begotten Son, who is eternally from God, came into the world as a man.

That’s what we learned from John 1. And we also looked briefly at Hebrews 1 where it tells us that the Son is the radiance of the Father and the exact representation or imprint of God’s being. Just as rays of light come from the sun in the sky, so the Son has come from the Father. And being the exact imprint of the Father means he’s not different from the Father, but he’s a repetition of the Father. There’s an exact likeness between them.

And so, this tells us that the one who took on flesh and who dwelt among us is none other than God the Son, who was with the Father from all eternity and who is himself true God, Light from Light and true God from true God. In the past people said God would not become flesh, because God is holy and the world and everything in it is unholy. God might send someone else to represent him, but he would not come himself. But God has come himself in the person of his Son and he has come to deliver us from our sin and misery and to make us holy and to raise us up to everlasting life in God’s presence.

That’s what we were thinking about last Sunday morning. Last Sunday evening we thought about the Son’s relationship to his human nature. John tells us that the Word became flesh. And the word ‘flesh’ signifies that we’re made of flesh and bone; and it signifies that we’re weak and mortal. And so, the Word became flesh and blood like us and he became weak and mortal like us so that he experienced hunger and thirst and tiredness and pain and death. And he not only possessed a body like ours, but he also possessed a soul or spirit like ours. And we’re told he grew in stature and wisdom and there were things which, as a man, he did not know. He became like us in every way, apart from sin.

And it’s not that he only appeared to be a man, but he wasn’t really a man. And it’s not that the Word entered into the body and soul of a man who already existed and he used that man’s body and soul to accomplish his purposes on the earth. He did not fill another person with his presence the way the Holy Spirit fills us. It was not someone else’s body snd soul which he possessed, but it was his own body and soul. He really did become one of us and he made human traits his own so that the Bible frequently refers to him as ‘a man’.

And yet, though he became flesh, he remained the same person as he was before the incarnation. He did not become another person, but he remained the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. John tells us in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory. Whose glory did they see when he became flesh and dwelt among us? They saw the glory of God’s One and Only Son. Before the incarnation, he was God’s One and Only Son. And after the incarnation, he was God’s One and Only Son. When he became flesh, he did not cease to be what he had always been.

And the reason the Eternal Son of God became one of us was so that he would give up his life on the cross to pay for our sins. As God, he could not die, because God is immortal. But as one of us, he could suffer and die in our place and on our behalf, taking the blame for what we have done wrong, suffering the penalty we deserve to suffer. And yet it was important that he remained God the Son, because throughout the Old Testament, God had revealed himself to be the Saviour of his people. He revealed himself to be the only Saviour. And therefore it could not be someone else who saved us. It had to be God. And God did save us in the person of his Son, who, without ceasing to be God, became flesh and died in our place.

And so, that’s what we were thinking about last week. This morning I want us to think about the Son’s dependence on the Holy Spirit. And this evening we’ll think about his obedience and suffering.

Biblical witness

And so, we’re thinking now about the Son’s dependence on the Holy Spirit. And the biblical witness to the Son’s dependence on the Holy Spirit begins in the Old Testament. Isaiah 11 tells us about the shoot that will come up from Jesse. The passage is referring to Jesus Christ who, according to his human nature, was descended from Jesse who was the father of King David. And according to Isaiah 11, although David’s kingdom had become small and weak, Jesus Christ will come from it and he will be an even greater King than David ever was. And we’re told in Isaiah 11 that the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him: the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding; the Spirit of counsel and of power; the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And, as a result, righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness will be the sash around his waist. That is to say, he will be known for his righteousness and faithfulness. He will faithfully do what is right in the sight of God.

Then in Isaiah 42 we read about the Servant of the Lord. This is another prophecy about the coming of the Lord Jesus. And God says about his Servant that God will put his Spirit on him and he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the street. A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. He will be a light for the Gentiles and he’ll bring freedom to those who are suffering.

And in Isaiah 61 the Servant says about himself that the Spirit of God is on him because the Lord has anointed him to preach good news to the poor and to bind up the broken-hearted and to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness to the prisoners and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God and to comfort all who mourn. This is another prophecy about the coming of the Lord Jesus. And each of these prophecies from the book of Isaiah makes the point that the Holy Spirit will help God’s Servant to be what he needs to be and to do what he needs to do. And, of course, when the Lord Jesus began his public ministry, he went into a synagogue one Sabbath Day and read from Isaiah 61. And afterwards he announced that the words of that prophecy have now been fulfilled. They have been fulfilled because he is God’s Spirit-Anointed Servant.

When John the Baptist was preparing the people for Christ’s coming, he said about him that he will baptise with the Spirit and with fire. John baptised with water only, whereas the Coming One would baptise with the Spirit. In fact, we learn from John’s Gospel that John the Baptist had been told that the Holy Spirit would come down and remain on Christ. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would come on people to equip them to prophesy. But then, afterwards, the Spirit would leave them. The Spirit would come and go. But God revealed to John the Baptist that the Holy Spirit would come on the Lord Jesus and would remain on him permanently. And sure enough, when the Lord was baptised by John in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. And after he was baptised, the Spirit did not leave him, because we read that the Spirit led the Lord Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. And then, afterwards, according to Luke 4:14, the Lord Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit did not leave him. The Spirit did not come and go on him. The Spirit remained on him.

And the biblical witness makes clear that he was able to perform his ministry because of the Spirit. And so, according to the Lord in Matthew 12:28, he was able to drive out evil spirits by the Spirit of God. And according to Peter in Acts 10:38 God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power so that he was able to go about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. In other words, the Spirit enabled him to heal the sick and to perform other miraculous works of power. And according to the Lord in John 3:24, the reason he was able to speak the words of God is because God the Father gave him the Spirit without limit. And so, he cast out demons and healed the sick and performed works of power by the Spirit; and he also proclaimed God’s word by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled him to conduct his ministry and to do the things he needed to do.

And then, the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 9:14 that the Lord Jesus offered himself unblemished to God as the perfect sacrifice for sins ‘through the eternal Spirit’. In other words, by means of the Holy Spirit, he was able to offer up to God his life as an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.

When God’s Only Begotten Son became flesh and dwelt among us, he lived on earth as a man. And, as a man, he received the Holy Spirit without limit or measure from the Father to enable him to do what he needed to do in order to deliver us from our sin and misery. So, by the Spirit he proclaimed God’s word. And by the Spirit he cast out demons and performed other miracles. And by the Spirit he offered his life up to God as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

However, as I said earlier, the Holy Spirit also enabled him to be what he needed to be. When Mary asked the angel how she could have a son when she was still a virgin, Gabriel explained that her son would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, her child will be called holy. That is to say, he would be sanctified from the moment of his conception and kept free from sin.

And that means that the coming of the Holy Spirit as a dove at his baptism was not the first time the Spirit came upon him. He received the Spirit from the time of his conception; and the descent of the Spirit as a dove at his baptism was really only a visual confirmation of what had always been the case.

And let’s go back now to what Isaiah foretold about him in Isaiah 11. Isaiah foretold that the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him: the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding; the Spirit of counsel and of power; the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness will be the sash around his waist. The coming Saviour would be all of those things because the Holy Spirit would make him like this. This explains that story from his childhood when the Lord Jesus was only 12 years old. He went to Jerusalem with his parents and ended up in the temple where he sat among the teachers. And everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Where did he give his knowledge? Where did he give his insight and wisdom? He was only 12 years old. How could he amaze the teachers of the law who had spent a lifetime studying the Scriptures? Where did this boy get such wisdom? He got it from the Spirit who sanctified him from the time of his conception and who is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and of counsel and knowledge. Because of the Spirit, his knowledge of God was greater than the teachers.

And then, since the Spirit enabled him to be righteous, he always did what was right. And since the Spirit enabled him to be faithful, then he was always faithful to God his Father. Whereas we are sinners from birth so that sinning comes naturally to us, he was holy from birth because of the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit continually enabled him to do what was right in the sight of God. And so, he not only proclaimed God’s word by the Spirit, and he not only cast out demons and performed miracles by the Spirit, and he not only offered himself as the perfect sacrifice by the Spirit, but by the Spirit he was what he needed to be: he was full of understanding and wisdom; and he full of righteousness and faithfulness. From the moment he was conceived by the Spirit, he was holy; and so, his every inclination was to do the will of God. And this was so because he received the Holy Spirit without limit or measure from the Father.

Why was the Spirit necessary?

Someone might be wondering why the Lord Jesus needed the help of the Holy Spirit, when he was, after all, God’s Only-Begotten Son and the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of the Father’s being? Why did he need the Spirit’s help when he is, along with the Father, infinitely and eternally and unchangeably wise and good and powerful? Why did he need the Spirit’s help to be wise? Why did he need the Spirit’s help to be good? Why did he need the Spirit’s help to be powerful? Being God, was he not already all of these things from all eternity?

Well, he is all of those things from all eternity. Being the Son of God, he is infinitely and eternally and unchangeably wise; and he is infinitely and eternally and unchangeably good; and he is infinitely and eternally and unchangeably powerful. As God, he knows all things. As God, he always does what is good. As God, he is all-powerful and can do whatever he pleases. That’s what he is as God.

And as a man, he was also filled with wisdom and goodness and power. But he was filled with those things as a man because he received the Spirit without limit or measure from the Father. And because he received the Spirit without limit or measure from the Father, every inclination of his human heart and human soul and human mind and human strength was to do his Father’s will. Not every inclination of our heart and soul and mind and strength is devoted to doing God’s will. Because we’re sinners, the inclination of our heart and soul and mind and strength is often to do wrong and to do evil and to disobey our Father in heaven. But the Lord Jesus received the Spirit without limit or measure; and he was sanctified from the moment of his conception so that he was always inclined to do the Father’s will.

But what about his works of power? What about his miracles? Surely the only reason he could perform those miracles is because he’s the Son of God? Didn’t he perform those miracles by his own power and not by the power of the Spirit? Since he was the Son of God, surely he didn’t need to rely on the Spirit to perform his miracles?

Well, the first thing to say in answer to that is that the Son’s power and the Spirit’s power are one and the same, because the Son and the Spirit as well as the Father possess the same divine power. It’s not as if the Father’s power is different from the Son’s power; and it’s not as if the Son’s power is different from the Spirit power. Their power is one and the same. But to keep things straight in our own mind and to make sure that we don’t disregard the Son’s true humanity, what we need to say is that every time the Son of God performed a miracle, he was acting through his human nature; and he was acting by the Spirit of God. Let me say that again: every time the Son of God performed a miracle, he was acting through his human nature; and he was acting by the Spirit of God. And so, the Son of God reached out his human hand and touched a blind man’s eyes. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, he restored the blind man’s sight.

The whole Trinity

And this leads me to my next point which is that the whole of the Trinity was involved in our salvation. God the Father was involved because he sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us eternal life in his presence. And God the Son was involved because he was sent by the Father and he became flesh and dwelt among us and he died to pay for our sins with his life. And the Holy Spirit was involved because the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit; and the Son was sanctified and made holy by the Spirit from the moment of his conception. And the Holy Spirit’s continual influence on the Son enabled the Son to be what he needed to be and to do what he needed to do in order to save us. The Spirit enabled the Son to proclaim God’s word and to perform works of miracles. And the Spirit also enabled the Son to live a life of perfect human obedience to the Father and to offer himself unblemished to God the Father as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. All three persons of the Trinity were involved in our salvation.

And this makes sense because the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are undivided. They possess the same divine essence with the same divine will and purpose and plan, which is the eternal salvation of all of God’s people. That was God’s will for us. And so, when the time was right, God the Father sent the Son; and God the Son was sent into the world as one of us; and God the Spirit filled the Son’s human nature and enabled him to obey the Father even to the point of death on a cross. And in obedience to the Father, and by the Holy Spirit, the Son offered up to God a perfect human life as the sacrifice for our sins.

The Son’s perfect offering

And Jesus Christ was able to offer up to God a perfect human life as the sacrifice for our sins because his life among us was both human and perfect.

It was human, because he became flesh and he dwelt among us as one of us. He was like us in every way with the exception of sin. And it was a perfect human life, because he received the Holy Spirit without limit or measure from the Father; and he was sanctified and kept holy by the Spirit throughout his earthly life.

And so, he offered up to God a perfect human life as the sacrifice for our sins. And he therefore satisfied the justice of God for us. God could not punish the angels or some other creature for what we had done wrong. He had to punish one of us. But none of us is able to offer him a perfect human life, because all of us are sinners. And so, God the Son became flesh; and, by the Spirit, he lived a perfect human life among us. And so, he was able to offer up to God a perfect human life to pay for what we have done wrong.