Christ needed the Holy Spirit at his birth, in his growth, in his ministry, in his suffering, and in his exaltation.


What was the role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s life on earth?

1. The Holy Spirit in Old Testament predictions

There are three ways in which the Old Testament indicated that the Messiah would be filled with the Holy Spirit while on earth:

Old Testament offices: The typical Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king were anointed with oil. This signified their need and God’s supply of the Holy Spirit’s gifting and empowering (Isa. 61:1)

Old Testament vocabulary: The future Savior was called the Messiah, meaning the Anointed One.

Old Testament prophecies: The Old Testament predicted that the Christ would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1).

The Old Testament offices, vocabulary, and prophecies indicate the indispensable necessity of the Holy Spirit in the future Messiah’s person and work.

2. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Birth (Luke 1:35)

The Holy Spirit was involved in Christ’s birth in two ways:

Christ’s Conception: The Holy Spirit framed, formed, and conceived the body of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary and using part of Mary’s body.

Christ’s Sanctification: Christ’s human nature was sanctified at moment of his conception. His humanity never existed for one second without perfect holiness. As soon as he was human, he was holy.

How much do we trace our physical and spiritual life to the Holy Spirit, the giver of life?

3. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Growth (Luke 2:40)

As Christ grew, he depended on the Holy Spirit in these ways:

His Communications: The divine nature did not communicate directly with his human nature but only via the Holy Spirit.

His Education: The Holy Spirit was responsible for all Christ’s mental development in his human nature (Isa. 50:4-9). This involved not just accumulating facts but an ability to use them.

His Communion: He communed with his Father in his human nature by the Holy Spirit and received the comforts and joy of that communion via the Holy Spirit.

His Graces: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to exercise trust, love, and all other necessary holy affections and graces. His personality was heavy with the fruits of the Spirit.

His Work: Christ needed the Holy Spirit for every act that took place in his life. In his human nature, he was entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

How much do we depend upon the Holy Spirit for our growth in knowledge, communion, grace, and work?

4. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Ministry (Luke 3:22)

If Christ needed the Holy Spirit in his early life, he needed him even more through his three years of ministry.

Equipping: The Holy Spirit was incessantly active in conferring every conceivable gift upon him and in increasing them as needed.

Assuring: The Holy Spirit gave Christ an assuring sense of his Sonship and divine calling to his work (Luke 3:21-22)

Overcoming: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to overcome temptation (Luke 4:1-13).

Guiding: Christ was led by the Spirit in his daily life and everyday decisions (Luke 4:14-15)

Empowering: It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ worked miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick, and saved the lost (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; Acts 10:38)

Teaching: The Holy Spirit gave Christ what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and who to say it to. Nothing was said or done without Spirit’s prompting (Luke 4:18).

How much do we seek the Spirit in ministry—to equip, assure, overcome, guide, and empower?

5. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Sufferings (Heb. 9:14)

If Christ needed the Holy Spirit for his entire ministry, he needed him most for his work of suffering.

Submission: It was the Holy Spirit that enabled Christ to submit to God’s will, even though it was so painful and hard.

Motivation:  The Holy Spirit motivated Christ for his suffering by filling him with love for God and people

Suffering and offering: It was through the Holy Spirit that Christ suffered and offered himself a perfect sacrifice to God (Heb. 9:14)

Preservation: The Holy Spirit preserved Christ’s body in the grave (Acts 2:27).

How much do we ask for the Spirit’s help to submit to our sufferings and motivate us to persevere through them?

6. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Exaltation

The Holy Spirit’s work in Christ did not end with his perfect offering and his body being perfectly preserved in the tomb.

Resurrection: The Holy Spirit raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11; 1 Tim. 3:16)

Glorification: The Holy Spirit glorified the human nature of Christ and made it ready for eternal residence with God (Acts1:2-3).

Donation: He gives the Spirit to others (John 14:17-18). The Lord Jesus is the cause, source, and pattern of the Spirit’s ministry in the believer (John 16:7).

Question: If Christ needed so much of the Spirit’s presence and work throughout his earthly life, how much more do we?

  • David Beirne

    Good stuff, a great reminder of how inter-”dependent” (can we use that word in reference to Him?) the Trinity is.

  • johntjeff

    I am sure that you are aware of this, but for your readers who may not be, I must highly recommend on this subject Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henri De Vries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1900; 1979 reprint of Funk & Wagnalls, London, original), pp. 79-111, s.v. Vol. I, Ch. 5, “The Incarnation of the Word;” and Vol. I, Ch. 6, “The Mediator.” This is available as a free digital download on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/kuyper/holy_spirit.html [accessed 2 JAN 2018]; on Google Books at http://books.google.com/books?id=ndEOAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 2 JAN 2018].
    It is also available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Work-Holy-Spirit-Abraham-Kuyper/dp/114349430X/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278947618&sr=1-7
    [accessed 2 JAN 2018]; and, on Logos at http://www.logos.com/product/6243/the-work-of-the-holy-spirit [accessed 2 JAN 2018].

    Words that come to mind in attempts to describe Kuyper’s contributions in this volume are provocative, thoughtful, startlingly different, etc. One has but to read B. B. Warfield’s “Introductory Note” (Kuyper, op. cit., pp. xxv-xxxix) to appreciate the value of this work, and I would add that this note by Warfield is a profitable read in its own right. Warfield describes Kuyper’s work as “a very valuable gift,” “a comprehensive treatment,” (Warfield, I., pg. xxvi), and “admirably executed” (Warfield, op. cit., pg. xxx). Also: “The significance of Dr. Kuyper’s book is, therefore, in part due only to the fact that he has had the courage to attack and the gifts successfully to accomplish a task which few have possessed the breadth either of outlook or of powers to undertake….If we can not look upon it as breaking entirely new ground, or even say that it is the only work of its kind since Owen, we can at least say that it brings together the material belonging to this great topic with a systematizing genius that is very rare, and presents it with a penetrating appreciation of its meaning and richness of apprehension of its relations that is exceedingly illuminating.” (Warfield, op. cit., pg. xxvii) Finally: “…Dr. Kuyper’s book comes to us not as something of a novelty, but as a specially finely conceived and executed presentation of a topic on which we are all thinking.” (Warfield, op. cit., pg. xxix)

    • David Murray

      Thanks John. I’ll be sure to look up these resources.

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  • Scott Melhuish

    Yes, we are indebted to the Holy Spirit for His work in Christ’s birth, growth, ministry, suffering, and exaltation. The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself (John 16:13), but we would be undone without Him.

    Your Point 2 regarding Christ’s Conception – The Spirit prepared the body by which Christ was to redeem us to the Father:

    Hebrews 10:5 “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.”