Monday, March 31, 2014

Divine Duet: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit

Today I've been reading Fred Sanders' excellent The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything published by Crossway in 2010. In the fourth chapter of his book, titled "The Shape of the Gospel," Sanders reflects on the trinitarian shape of the gospel and the economy of salvation. In that discourse, he makes a beautiful connection (via R.A. Torrey) of the deep involvement of the Son and the Spirit in the economy of salvation. He writes:
Jesus works in company with the Holy Spirit [...] When we look from Jesus to the Father, we see a great depth: the ultimate source, power, and purpose of the mission of Jesus. But when we look from Jesus to the Holy Spirit, we see a great breadth: the magnificent complexity and completeness of the economy [of salvation]. This scope becomes visible because of the way the Holy Spirit surrounds the ministry of Jesus on all sides. The work of the Spirit precedes the ministry of Jesus in that the Spirit is the one who brings about the virgin conception, the incarnation, and the forming and setting apart of Christ’s human nature (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35). 
Lest we overlook the Holy Spirit’s role at the beginning of Christ’s earthly life, the ancient Apostles’ Creed picks it out as one of the few things it mentions prior to the crucifixion: “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Here the creed has good insight into the Gospels, which are silent about the Spirit’s role in Christ’s ministry for chapters on end but set the stage with a cluster of references to the Spirit at the beginning of the story of Jesus. This is obvious in Matthew and Luke with their accounts of the virgin conception, but even Mark’s Gospel, which neither narrates the virgin conception nor mentions the Holy Spirit often, begins with a cluster of Spirit references (1:8, 10, 12).
The story of Jesus starts with the Holy Spirit. His life and ministry also continue in the power of the Holy Spirit. Simply reviewing the biblical statements on this subject is powerful. R. A. Torrey’s summary of Christian doctrine, What the Bible Teaches, gathers up the lines of biblical evidence helpfully:  
1) Jesus Christ was begotten of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:35) 
2) Jesus Christ led a holy, spotless life, and offered Himself to God, through the working of the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 9:14) 
3) Jesus Christ was anointed for service by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:38; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:14, 18) 
4) Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit in His movements. (Luke 1:4) 
5) Jesus Christ was taught by the Spirit who rested upon Him.The Spirit of God was the source of His wisdom in the days of His flesh. (Isaiah 11:2; compare Matthew 12:17, 18) 
6) The Holy Spirit abode upon Him in fullness and the words He spoke were the words of God. (John 3:34) 
7) Jesus Christ gave commandments to His apostles whom he had chosen, through the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:2) 
8) Jesus Christ wrought His miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12:28; compare 1 Corinthians 12:9–10) 
9) Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:11). 
Fred Sanders continues:
The Holy Spirit is also involved in the carrying out of Christ’s work after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It is through the Holy Spirit that the work of Christ is applied to believers so that they are born again, become temples of God, and are empowered for discipleship. When Christ ascended into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to minister God’s presence among his people. Indeed, when the Holy Spirit is poured out on Pentecost, his personal presence in salvation history after the finished work of Christ inaugurates a new era in God’s ways with the world. Thus the work of the Holy Spirit surrounds the work of Jesus Christ, as he goes before and after the incarnate Son like a set of holy parentheses embracing the story of salvation in Christ (135).  
If you belong to a community which doesn't emphasize enough the work of God's Spirit in all aspects of what we mean when we talk about the gospel, Sanders' work here will open eyes and ears by showing the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit! Be blessed.