Why Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit?
As we make our way through the Gospel records, we quickly discover that Jesus needed the Holy Spirit at every step and in every stage of His life and ministry. While the human nature of Jesus was inseparably united to the Divine nature of the second Person of the Godhead, Jesus needed to live a perfectly sinless life in the power and by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It was not sufficient for Him--as the second Adam and representative of a new humanity--to merely live according to His Divine nature. What we need as fallen men is a human Redeemer who would gain a human holiness for His people and would die a human death in their place. As was true for Adam so it was for Jesus--the Last Adam. The Savior needed the Holy Spirit to sustain and empower Him to obey His Father, even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:10).
Jesus needed the Holy Spirit in every act that took place in His life and for the work of redemption. The Holy Spirit had to overshadow the virgin Mary at Jesus' incarnation (Luke 1:35); Christ needed the Spirit at His anointing for public ministry when John baptized Him (Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:22); He needed the Spirit when driven into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12); He needed the Spirit when casting out demons in order to establish the kingdom of God (Matt. 12:28); He needed the Spirit to enable Him to offer Himself without spot to God as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of His people (Heb. 9:14); and, He needed the Spirit to raise Him from the dead (Rom. 8:11). At every step in the Messianic ministry, Christ relied upon the Third Person of the Godhead.
In his masterful work on The Holy Spirit, Sinclair Ferguson succinctly summarized the various stages in Jesus' life in which the Holy Spirit was at work:
The Spirit who was present and active at Christ's conception as the head of the new creation, by whom He was anointed at baptism (John 1:32-34), who directed Him throughout His temptations (Matthew 4:1), empowered Him in His miracles (Luke 11:20), energized Him in His sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14), and vindicated Him in His resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:4), now indwells disciples in this specific identity.1Somewhat surprisingly, while theologians have righty devoted much time to unpacking and systematizing the biblical teaching about the two natures of Jesus, very little has actually been written--in a concentrated way--on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus. In addition to Ferguson's work, there is R.A. Finlayson's collection of short essays titled, Reformed Theological Writings, in which he contributed two short articles--"The Love of the Spirit in Man's Redemption" and "The Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ"--to flesh out the essence of this all-important aspect of Christology. However, it was John Owen, the Prince of the Puritan theologians, who has written what is arguably the most substantial treatment on this subject. In vol. 3 of his works, Owen set out eleven ways in which the Holy Spirit is said to have worked in the life and ministry of Jesus in the Scriptures:
"First, the framing, forming, and miraculous conception of the body of Christ in the womb of the blessed Virgin was the peculiar and especial work of the Holy Ghost...2
Second, the human nature of Christ being thus formed in the womb by a creating act of the Holy Spirit, was in the instant of its conception sanctified, and filled with grace according to the measure of its receptivity...3
Third, the Spirit carried on that work whose foundation he had thus laid. And two things are to be here diligently observed:
- That the Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections; for he acted grace as a man, "made of a woman, made under the law."
- The human nature of Christ was capable of having new objects proposed to its mind and understanding, whereof before it had a simple nescience...
Fourth, the Holy Spirit, in a peculiar manner, anointed him with all those extraordinary powers and gifts which were necessary for the exercise and discharging of his office on the earth...4
Fifth, it was in an especial manner by the power of the Holy Spirit he wrought those great and miraculous works whereby his ministry was attested unto and confirmed...5
Sixth, by him was he guided, directed, comforted, supported, in the whole course of his ministry, temptations, obedience, and sufferings. Some few instances on this head may suffice...6
Seventh, He offered himself up unto God through the eternal Spirit, Heb. 9:14...7
Eighth, there was a peculiar work of the Holy Spirit towards the Lord Christ whilst he was in the state of the dead; for here our preceding rule must be remembered,--namely, that notwithstanding the union of the human nature of Christ with the divine person of the Son, yet the communications of God unto it, beyond subsistence, were voluntary...8
Ninth, there was a peculiar work of the Holy Spirit in his resurrection, this being the completing act in laying the foundation of the church, whereby Christ entered into his rest,--the great testimony given unto the finishing of the work of redemption, with the satisfaction of God therein, and his acceptation of the person of the Redeemer...9
Tenth, it was the Holy Spirit that glorified the human nature [of Christ], and made it every way meet for its eternal residence at the right hand of God, and a pattern of the glorification of the bodies of them that believe on him...10
There is yet another work of the Holy Spirit, not immediately in and upon the person of the Lord Christ, but towards him, and on his behalf, with respect unto his work and office; and it comprises the head and fountain of the whole office of the Holy Spirit towards the church. This was his witness-bearing unto the Lord Christ,--namely, that he was the Son of God, the true Messiah, and that the work which he performed in the world was committed unto him by God the Father to accomplish..."11
1. Sinclair Ferguson The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1996) p. 72
2. Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 160). Edinburgh: T&T Clark. p. 160.
3. Ibid., pp. 160-161.
4. Ibid., p. 162.
5. Ibid., p. 168.
6. Ibid., p. 171.
7. Ibid., p. 174.
8. Ibid., p. 174.
9. Ibid., p. 176.
10. Ibid., p. 180.
11. Ibid., p. 181.