Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit?

Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit? November 28, 2016

Luke says in his gospel that “Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work” (Luke 3.23 NRSV). But Jesus had been doing work many years prior as an artisan. The biblical description of Jesus as a tekton is usually translated “carpenter” (Mark 6.3; cf. Matt. 13.55); but it has a wider range of meaning that can include building things with wood, stone, and even metal. But Luke here refers to Jesus’ public, itinerant ministry that he was just beginning as a prophet, sage, healer, and exorcist right after his cousin John baptized him at the Jordan River. All three synoptists record that the Spirit of God came upon Jesus at his baptism (Matt. 3.16; Mark 1.10; Luke 3.22).

Matthew in his gospel repeatedly applies Old Testament texts to Jesus. One is from Isaiah 42.1 that says in Matt. 12.18, with God as the speaker, “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him.” This refers to Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit at his water baptism. Jesus is God’s beloved, chosen servant because he has been well pleasing to God, and that is why God bestowed his Spirit upon Jesus.

All three synoptists also record next that Jesus was then led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4.1; Mark 1.12; Luke 4.1). Luke says after the devil failed in his temptations of Jesus, he was “filled with the power of the Spirit” when he returned to Galilee and “began to teach in their synagogues” (vv. 14-15).

Why this repeated mention about Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit at his baptism, being led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted, and being filled by the Holy Spirit for ministry? Did Jesus need the Holy Spirit in order to conduct his public ministry? The implication is that he did.

But the institutional church says Jesus is God. If so, why did Jesus need the Holy Spirit? Isn’t God totally self-sufficient? If Jesus is God, surely he did his miracles by means of his own power so that he didn’t need anything, including the Holy Spirit or the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ever since the post-apostolic, institutional, Catholic Church began to proclaim that Jesus is God, and confirmed it at the Nicene Council in 325 with the Nicene Creed, it has been difficult for the Church to reconcile its dogma that Jesus is God with the New Testament data that Jesus depended upon the Holy Spirit to accomplish his ministry.

For example, early in Jesus’ public ministry he came to his hometown of Nazareth. Mark then says in his gospel about Jesus, “On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6.2-3).

What! Jesus had lived among them for thirty years. He had been a laborer who likely fixed their homes when they needed repair. So, the residents of that small village of Nazareth would have known Jesus and his family quite well. Why did these men all of a sudden say these things about Jesus and thus take offense at it, probably due to jealousy (cf. Matt. 27.18; Mark 15.10)?

It has be because Jesus had not talked like that and done those things before. He and his family had always gone to the synagogue on the sabbath. Luke says it was their “custom” (Luke 4.16). And the protocol of the synagogue was unlike that of our agenda-meeting churches; they permitted, and even invited, congregational participation (cf. Acts 13.5, 15-16; 42-44; 17.2-3, 17). Thus, Jesus surely would have spoken in synagogue meetings in his hometown, especially since he was articulate and literate. Historians claim all people in Galilee during the time of Jesus were illiterate except for about 3%.

So, why were these villagers of Nazareth so taken back with Jesus’ wisdom and deeds of power? Was it not due to the Holy Spirit now in his life and directing him? Thus, Jesus’ recent reception of the Holy Spirit at his baptism was making quite a difference in his new ministry.

My conclusion about this matter is that the church needs to rethink whether or not the Bible says Jesus is God. The most distinguished New Testament scholars in our day, many of whom are Trinitarians, no longer say that Jesus actually claimed to be God. N. T. Wright, James D. G. Dunn, and Larry Hurtado–all of whom have been professing Trinitarians throughout their Bible teaching ministries–now admit that Jesus did not think he was God. Yet Wright and Hurtado still clearly state that Jesus was God.

Well now, how can so many millions of Christians who have lived throughout the past sixteen centuries or more have believed correctly that Jesus was and is God, yet he himself did not believe that? Are they not adding to God’s word what God has not said?

Now, some Christians say that Jesus only needed the Holy Spirit for his human nature, but in his divine nature he did not need the Holy Spirit. They say that because of the Catholic Church’s Council of Chalcedon that met in 451 and produced a brief statement saying Jesus had two natures, divine and human, in order to reconcile how Jesus could be both God and man. But this “hypostatic union,” as Christian theologians call it, is an explanation that is nowhere to be found in the Bible.

As one who was a Trinitarian Christian for twenty-two years, I have now believed for the past thirty-five years that Jesus needed the Holy Spirit because he was not God, and I think that is the only way we can make any sense out of Jesus needing the Holy Spirit.


To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book,  with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.


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