Jesus Depended on the Holy Spirit. How About Us?

Holy Spirit
Tongues of Flame, Creative Commons

Jesus’ whole life was Spirit-dependent (Spirit-Christicism). The Lord depended on the Holy Spirit at every turn. He was conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35), baptized and anointed through the Spirit (Luke 3:22; Luke 4:18), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1), lifted up in crucifixion through the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), and raised by the Spirit (Romans 8:11). What more was left? Nothing. Jesus’ whole life was and is constituted by the Spirit. Here are the biblical texts that I referenced in order of their appearance in the account above:

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[a] will be called holy—the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35; ESV).

“And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22; ESV).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18; ESV).

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1; ESV).

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[a] conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14; ESV).

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[a] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11; ESV).

Just as Jesus instituted our humanity as the God-human, so the Spirit constitutes our humanity in relation to Jesus. Based on this perspective, nowhere do we find any justification for going it alone, or to think of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. Nor does our Spirit-based constitution suggest that we are to be passive. Jesus was not a passive bystander in his incarnate state, as he was led by the Spirit. He actively resisted the devil, the world system and the flesh in his life-long mediation and atoning work in service to the Father through his dependence on the Spirit on our behalf.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 would keep the Spirit at bay with their view that God helps those who help themselves. But if God is not a distant deity, and if we are not so capable of living lives pleasing to God apart from Jesus, then we need the Spirit of God and Jesus to transform, indwell, and enliven us. If Jesus depended on the Spirit throughout his earthly life, what gives us the idea that we could proceed any differently? As John 14-16 indicate, apart from Jesus in the Spirit, we can do nothing.

Given how dependent we are on the Spirit of Jesus, we cannot pull ourselves by the bootstraps. In fact, the Spirit must give us the bootstraps that the Spirit pulls! Thus, there is no place for a Nike campaign in the church that says: “Just do it.” Rather, just depend. Just respond and keep in step with the Spirit wherever the Spirit empowers, pulls, and leads (See Galatians 5:16-26). Wait for the Spirit. Wait upon the Spirit, just as the Lord commanded (Acts 1:4-5). And when we do wait, we will be Jesus’ witnesses through the Spirit who will fall upon us: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; ESV). Come, Holy Spirit, come!

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