As we celebrate the incarnation anew, fixing our minds on the wonders of the mystery of Christ, let’s remember the presence and activity of the Spirit in the events surrounding the nativity. The Spirit who was forming a human nature for the Son in the womb of the virgin Mary and bringing the Son back from the dead in the darkness of the tomb is the same Spirit who indwells believers and conforms us to the image of the Son. That’s the Spirit of Christmas we most desperately need.
Written by Nicholas T. Batzig |
Sunday, December 31, 2023
One of the most neglected parts of the incarnation accounts in the gospel records is that which touches on the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Christ. We rightly wonder at the coming of the eternal Son of God into the world in true human form while wrongly neglecting to wonder at the accompanying role of the Spirit of God in the ministry of the Redeemer. Some of that is understandable. What greater mystery can there be than the mystery of Christ? He is the eternal mystery of God (1 Tim. 3:16). All God’s revelation points to Him, and everything necessary for salvation flows from Him (Col. 1:15-22; Heb. 1:1-3). Yet, throughout the gospels the Spirit is revealed as the accompanying agent of redemption. He was active, from start to finish, in the life and ministry of Christ. This opens the important question, “Why was it necessary for the Spirit to be at work in the life and ministry of Christ from the virgin conception to his resurrection from the dead?”
1. The Spirit came to indwell Jesus to sustain him as the Last Adam. The Spirit was the agent of the virgin conception, the anointing of Christ for ministry as Prophet, Priest and King at His baptism, and the leading of Christ into the wilderness to be tempted by the evil one. The Spirit is also the one by whom Christ cast out demons and overcame the kingdom of darkness. He was indwelling Christ as the Last Adam in order to enable Him to present Himself without blemish to God on the cross. The Spirit is also said to be the agent by whom Jesus was raised from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11).
To be the head of the new redeemed humanity, Jesus had to do all that he did in humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit. This began even before His birth. When Mary asked the Angel Gabriel how she would carry the Redeemer in her womb, since she was a virgin, Gabriel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters of creation, so He hovered over the virgin Mary at the great work of bringing about the new creation through the incarnation of the Son of God.
Christ was dependent upon the Spirit for His miraculous works. If Jesus had simply performed miracles by his divine nature, then the divine nature of the eternal Son would have imparted to the human nature something (e.g. omnipotence) that is not proper to human nature and so destroy the human nature. Jesus acted as fully God and fully man in one person in all that He did. However, as the Last Adam, he had to rely on the Spirit to impart to him the grace He needed to do such things as perform miracles of healing.
Jesus also needed the Holy Spirit for His own consecration and to sustain Him in sinlessness. Fallen humanity doesn’t not need a superhuman holiness; what we need is a human holiness.