Chapter 2: Incarnation to Calvary

The Old Testament anticipates the teachings of the New Testament. Promises were made which concern the kingdom of God, the new age, the Holy Spirit, and the new covenant. Although there was a robust spiritual life in the Old Testament, many of the promises are fulfilled in the New Testament. Jesus, the Son of God, is central to the New Testament fulfillment.

Concerning the kingdom of God, Ladd (p. 69) states: “God’s Kingdom was active in the Old Testament. . . However, in some real sense God’s Kingdom came into history in the person and mission of Jesus.” As he points out, this age includes the old age and the new age of salvation. He says (p. 69), “the old age goes on, but the powers of the new age have irrupted into the old age.” According to him, in the New Testament (p. 69), “God’s will is done in heaven; his Kingdom brings it to earth. In the Age to Come, heaven descends to earth and lifts historical existence to a new level of redeemed life (Rev. 21:2 3).”

As far as the Spirit is concerned, we move from Old Testament experience to New Testament experience. Christ is central to the transition. The great transition comes through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, the years of His earthly ministry lead up to this. Here and in the next chapter we will study the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus and in the lives of the disciples during these years. Our purpose is to present the data from Luke-Acts, but we will include relevant Scriptures from the other gospels.

John the Baptist and Jesus

The birth and childhood narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus introduce us to the new age of salvation. John is the forerunner; Jesus is the Son of God. John prepares the way for Jesus.

The Forerunner

A new age was soon to dawn in which the Holy Spirit would work abundantly. It was important for all to know that John ministered in the power of the Spirit. The parents of John, as well as John, were “filled” with the Spirit.

The angel Gabriel (Luke 1:13 17) announced to Zacharias, the priest, that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. This son, John (verse 15), “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” I believe, with many, that this was fulfilled when John leaped for joy in his mother’s (Luke 1:41) womb. This was in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Marshall (Gospel, p. 77) states, “Here is the beginning of John’s witness to Jesus.”

Significantly, the parents of John were filled too. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, she (Luke 1:41) “was filled with the Holy Spirit.” As a result, she spoke with prophetic inspiration. Without anyone telling her, she knows what has happened. With a “loud voice” she pronounces blessing upon Mary and the fruit of her womb. Later, when John was born, Zecharias (Luke 1:67) “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied.” With regard to the prophecy, Marshall (Gospel, p. 90) writes: “What we have here is initially a psalm of praise giving a divinely inspired commentary on the significance of the events which have begun to take place.”

John was the forerunner of Jesus (Luke 3:4-6) in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5 (Compare: Mt. 3:3Mark 1:2 3; and John 1:23). As Lenski (p. ) points out, “the Jews expected Elijah to come in person in order to introduce the Messiah.” Malachi (4:5) wrote: “‘Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.'” Hailey (p. 425) says, “the Elijah here is not to be thought of as Elijah in person, but his spirit in another. John denied that he was Elijah in person (John 1:21), yet Jesus said he was the Elijah of promise (Matt. 17:11 13).” Compare: Mt. 11:14 and Mark 9:13.

Gabriel announced (Luke 1:17) that John would minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” The source of Elijah’s power was the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Elijah was empowered by the Spirit of God. John, filled with the Spirit, would minister in like manner. Unlike Elijah, John did no miracles; Jesus would do that. However, like Elijah he preached a powerful message to an impenitent and unbelieving nation. John was empowered throughout his ministry for his task.

With regard to John’s early development Luke (1:80) tells us that he became “strong in spirit.” Here, the reference is to the human spirit of John. Luke does not typically connect the Holy Spirit with inner qualities. However, nothing that Luke says excludes the possibility that the Spirit had a key role in helping John develop the strong personality his task would demand.

The Son of God

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a son (Luke 1:31-33). Because Mary was a virgin, she asked (verse 34): “‘How can this be?'” Then, the angel answered and said to her (verse 35), “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'” NAU

The Holy Spirit will come upon Mary, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. Some writers equate the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. Rather than equating these terms, it is better to say that the Holy Spirit manifests the power of the most High. The phrase “‘for that reason'” indicates that the powerful presence of the Spirit brought about the results described in this verse.

The next clause says, “the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” NAU According to Marshall (Gospel, p. 71), “The syntax is disputed. [These are the options:] 1. ‘The child shall be called holy, the Son of God’ . . . [or] 2. ‘The holy child shall be called the Son of God.'”

Assuming the first interpretation is correct, then Jesus would be called “holy.” His pre-existent nature already was holy. So, Jesus would be called what He already was. However, it is possible to hold that the Holy Spirit contributed in some way to the holiness of Christ’s human nature. This would not preclude the impact of His divine nature on his human nature.

The alternative is that Jesus shall be called the “Son of God.” Along with Lenski, I prefer this option. The subject is the Sonship of God, not the holiness of the Son of God. According to Lenski (p. 73), “The sense is that he shall be called what he really is.” The Son of God is both divine and human. The preexistent Son of God became man. Thus, it was His human nature that was created.

We know that the Holy Spirit performed a creative act. Mary was surprised that she would have a child because she was a virgin. The angel’s pronouncement implies that the conception of her child would be due to the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. This harmonizes completely with Matthew’s record. According to Matthew 1:20, an angel revealed to Joseph that Mary’s baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Several truths stand out in the Biblical record. Jesus was both holy and Son of God in His preexistent life, He became man and was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15) while on earth, and He is the holy, divine-human Son of God now.

When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem (Luke 2:22) “to present Him to the Lord,” they went to Simeon. According to Luke, the Holy Spirit “was upon” (verse 25) Simeon, the Spirit had revealed (verse 26) to him he would not see death until he had seen Christ, and he came (verse 27) “in the Spirit” into the Temple. Simeon held Jesus in his arms and prophesied. The prophecy bore witness to the universal extent (v. 32) of the mission of Jesus.

The development of Jesus in His childhood is mentioned in Luke 2:39-52. As verse indicates, Jesus “continued to grow and become strong.” When Jesus and his parents went to the Feast of the Passover, Jesus revealed (Luke 2:), that he was conscious to some degree of His Sonship. Then, Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke does not mention the Holy Spirit in this passage, but we cannot exclude His role in the development of Jesus.

The Ministries of John and Jesus

The ministry of John the Baptist prepares the way for the ministry of Jesus. Their ministries overlapped in time. As the ministry of Jesus developed, the ministry of John decreased.

John’s Ministry

Zecharias prophesied (Luke 1:77) that John would go before the Lord “‘To give His people the knowledge of salvation.'” This salvation would be “By the forgiveness of their sins.” According to Luke 3:18, he preached “the gospel to the people.” His message contains elements of repentance, forgiveness, salvation and judgment. Salvation and judgment would come through Christ.

When John arrived on the scene, he came preaching (Luke 3:3; compare Mark 1:4) “a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” The theme of repentance was strong in his message. Matthew (Mt. 3:2) says he preached this message: “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” John’s baptism did not produce their repentance and forgiveness; it was an inauguration into the life of repentance. It was a public testimony to the fact that the one being baptized had repented of their sins and had been forgiven.

John preached a powerful message. When the people came to the Jordan (Luke 3:7Mt. 3:6), he preached. It was a strong message, calling for repentance. Some of the people began to wonder “whether he might be the Christ.” (Luke 3:15) It was then that John distinguished between his ministry and the ministry of Christ.

Jesus’ Ministry

In Luke 3:16-17 (compare Matthew 3:11) John contrasts the ministry of Jesus with his. In contrast to his water baptism, Jesus will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire (Mark 1:8 and John 1:33 omit “fire”). This verse is the subject of much discussion. According to Luke:

16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17 “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” NAU

Literally John says “in [en] Holy Spirit and fire.” The phrase just includes the preposition “in” once. Thus, the debate ensues over whether or not Holy Spirit and fire are one element or two. Grammatically, Holy Spirit and fire clearly can be viewed as one element, but the view that two elements are involved is not excluded.

What did John mean? Many views focus on individuals. They hold that individuals are cleansed and judged. There are variations of this view, but the essential results are that believers are cleansed and unbelievers are judged. Some believe that both the cleansing and judgment are accomplished by “Spirit and fire.” Others believe that the cleansing is done by the Spirit and the judgment is by fire.

Another approach is possible. According to Menzies (p. 130), John held that the baptism in the Spirit would cleanse Israel nationally, not individually. The blast of the Spirit would separate the wheat and the chaff. In the view of Menzies (p. 130 ), the action of the Spirit and the fire of judgment are separate. He holds that John probably thought they would occur together.

Unquestionably, John believed that the baptism “in Spirit and fire” would separate the wheat and chaff. Also, it is clear that the fire in verse 17 refers to the judgment of the wicked. The question is, “How was this prophecy fulfilled?” It is generally acknowledged that John expected all this to happen together. Thus, he was puzzled (Luke 7:19) by the ministry of Jesus. The unfolding of the ministry and the timing of judgment were different than John expected.

Six passages in the New Testament, including Luke 3:16, refer to the baptism administered by Christ. Three of the passages directly cite John: Matthew 3:11Mark 1:8; and John 1:33. In Acts 1:5, Jesus connected John’s prophecy with the coming outpouring of the Spirit. Later, in Acts 11:16, Peter recalls that Jesus often cited John’s prophecy. Only Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 include the word “fire.” All the others simply mention the Holy Spirit. We will comment briefly on John 1:33Acts 1:5; and Acts 1:8. The focus of these passages is mainly on believers. Several points are important.

First, the message of the gospel is paramount in bringing about the sifting and judging of all people. John preached (Luke 3:3, and 9) repentance, forgiveness, and judgment. All of these themes were carried forward and extended by Jesus. The message of Christ focused on the Kingdom of God. Jesus commanded His disciples to preach these same truths. According to Carter (p. 96), John Wesley understood that the winnowing fork was “the word of the gospel.”

Second, none of these passages deal explicitly with the inner cleansing of individuals. It may be that the apostle John thought of the entire work of the Spirit when he quoted John the Baptist in John 1:33. This would include (John 3:6) being “born again.” However, this is not explicitly stated. Both John and Paul deal extensively with the inner transforming work of the Spirit, but this is not a theme of Luke’s. Luke’s emphasis is on empowerment.

Third, in Acts 1:5 and 1:8, Jesus very explicitly identifies John’s prophecy with the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The outpouring would result in the disciples being empowered to be witnesses. When Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit we are enabled to witnesses and to fulfill the mission of the church. The witness of the disciples would result in the separation of the righteous and unrighteous.

John the Baptist himself (John 1:33) said that he baptized in water “in order that He [Christ] might be manifested to Israel.” Given this, we may conclude that Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit would include the purpose of making Christ known to the world. This is in complete harmony with the comments of Christ in Acts 1:5 and 8.

Did John understand that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to witness? We do not know, but we must remember that John was filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:15) while still unborn. Moreover, he himself ministered (Luke 1:17) in the “spirit and power of Elijah.” Whatever John understood, empowerment is the application that Jesus made of John’s prophecy.

Fourth, at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44), the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles. Then, Peter baptized them in water. While defending his actions, Peter remembered the words of Jesus and how He used to say, “‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” The presence of the outpoured Spirit was an evidence that (Acts 11:18) God had granted the Gentiles “repentance that leads to life.”

Fifth, on the Day of Pentecost the disciples heard “a noise like a violent, rushing wind” and saw “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2 3). Here, the wind and fire are emblems of the Spirit’s presence and power.

Until John

Thus, John contrasts Jesus’ ministry with his. Both John and Jesus say more. According to Luke, John “preached the gospel” (Luke 3:18). He pointed people (Acts 19:4) to Jesus. However, his understanding (Acts 18:25) was incomplete. John stood on the border. Jesus (Luke 16:16) said, “‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached.'”

John, in prison, began to doubt. He sent his disciples to Jesus asking (luke 7:20), “Are you the One who is coming, or do we look for someone else?'” Jesus sent John’s disciples back with reports of His ministry. Then Jesus declared that John was not only a prophet (Luke 7:26) but “‘more than a prophet.'” He was the forerunner. He was himself an object of Old Testament prophecy. Then Jesus said (Luke 7:28), “‘among those born of women, there is no greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.'”

How are the disciples of Jesus greater than John? John was a part of the kingdom in the sense of salvation. But he didn’t serve directly under Jesus. He didn’t get to see the results of His ministry. He didn’t hear all that He said. Thus the disciples with Jesus had far greater privilege. (Compare: Luke 10:23-24Mt. 13:16 17) The ministry of Jesus was so much greater that even His disciples were greater than John. They imparted a fuller understanding of the gospel.

In a sense the gospel began with John (Acts 1:21 22), but the focus of the transition is on Jesus. It is on the things that Jesus did “after” the baptism which John proclaimed (Acts 10:37). Concerning their ministries, John said ( John 3:30): “‘He must increase, but I must decrease.'” Jesus has a far greater revelation of the gospel. He (John 3:34) has the Spirit without measure.

Jesus at Jordan

Jesus came to John at the Jordan river and was baptized, the Spirit descended upon Him, and a voice came out of heaven. We will take up these topics in order. In Luke 3:21-22, he writes (compare Mt. 3:13 17Mk. 1:9 11John 1:32 33):

21 “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” NAU


There was some overlap in the ministries of John and Jesus with regard to water baptism. Both Jesus and John (John 3:22) baptized. However, as Marshall (Gospel, p. 152) holds, the baptism of Jesus in water was the climax of John’s ministry. Luke does not deal with the subject of why Jesus was baptized, but Matthew does.

John (Matthew 3:14) felt his own need and wondered why Jesus would come to him. Jesus answered (Mt. 3:15), “‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'” Commenting on Matthew 3:15, Carter (p. 101) says: “Fundamentally, Christ’s baptism signified His public identification, in His incarnate state, with the sinful human race which He had come to redeem and reconcile to God. This He did by meeting all the demands of the law which were designated for the ultimate redemption of sinful man, though He himself was without sin (II Cor. 5:21).” As Beasley Murray (p. 54) says, baptism “is an instance of the way in which Jesus must fulfill all righteousness.”

Through baptism, Jesus expressed a fourfold identification. First, He identified with John the Baptist, his message, and his baptism. By identifying with John, Jesus recognized his role and scriptural authority. Second, Jesus identified with righteousness. When He was baptized, He upheld righteousness and took His stand for it. Third, Jesus identified with His own mission. Jesus not only preached salvation, but salvation would come through Him. Fourth, Jesus identified with us as sinful men. He was without sin, but he endured the same temptations we experience. It was important for Him to take His place alongside us as sinners.

Jesus became man from the moment of His conception. He lived without sin. However, at baptism He publicly identified with man. Beasley Murray emphasizes solidarity. Jesus took his place “alongside the sinner.” As long as we maintain that Christ was sinless, the idea of solidarity has value. It is another way of saying He identifies with us.

Descent of the Spirit

While Jesus was praying, heaven was opened. Literally, Luke says (Luke 3:16) “having been baptized” (aorist participle), and “praying” or “continuing to pray” (present participle), heaven was opened. Matthew does not mention that Jesus was praying, but he does add a detail. In Matthew 3:16 we read, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water.” NASU At this point the heavens opened and the Spirit descended upon Jesus. John adds (John 1:33) that the Spirit remained on Jesus.

The Spirit descended upon Jesus “in bodily form like a dove.” Both Jesus (Matthew 3:16) and John (John 1:33) saw the Spirit of God descending. Many believe that John and Jesus had a vision and saw the Spirit descending. However, there is no reason not to take the statement literally. The Spirit can appear in any form He wishes. He chose the form of a dove. Ideas vary widely as to why, but Luke does not say. The dove can be symbolic of many characteristics such as friendliness, purity, meekness, graciousness, and others.

What was the purpose of the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus? One view is put forward by Dunn. He defends the thesis that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a part of becoming a Christian. Thus it is an initiatory experience. This impacts His view of the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus.

According to Dunn (Baptism, p. 32), Jesus was empowered by the Spirit, but this was just corollary to the main purpose. The main purpose of the Spirit’s descent was initiation. Jesus did not undergo conversion, but it was at this event that the new covenant era begins. Jesus enters the new covenant era as the representative man. The disciples will enter the new covenant later. The descent of the Spirit on Jesus was His first experience of the Spirit under the new covenant.

Among the objections to this view, I will mention two. As Lampe (p. 32) points out, the advent of the new covenant awaited (Hebrews 9:16) the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was the testator of the new covenant. Two, Dunn’s view of the relationship of the Spirit to salvation history is imposed on Luke rather than being derived from his writings. The concern of Luke is primarily with empowerment.

The new covenant includes all that the old covenant does. But the essential element of the new covenant is a new heart. Jesus did not need this. He was already holy. Nor did he need to receive the Spirit for this purpose in order to identify with man. However, He did identify with man in being empwered by the Spirit.

According to Dunn (p. 29 ), the descent of the Spirit made Jesus the new Adam. Walvoord (p. 227) says, “probably the best view is that Christ entered His work as the last Adam in His resurrection from the dead. This is the inference of the mention of this doctrine in I Cor. 15:45 (ASV) where Christ as the last Adam is said to have become ‘a life-giving spirit.'” The life Jesus imparts before the resurrection is still not new covenant life. In a sense he became the last Adam (or new Adam) at conception, but entered this work at the resurrection.

The central purpose of the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was to empower Him for His Messianic ministry. This was the anointing (Luke 4:18-19Acts 10:38Acts 4:27) for His ministry (Matthew 12:18-21). Along with being empowered, Jesus was authenticated by the presence of the Spirit upon Him. This was an inauguration of Him as prophet, priest, king, and servant. Swete (p. 46) writes, “As he had been conceived by the Spirit, so He must now be anointed by the Spirit for His supreme office as the Prophet, the Priest, the King of Israel of God.” To this we should add Servant. As Messiah, He fulfills all these roles.

Turner (p. 199) writes: “In other words (exactly to reverse Dunn’s emphases), the reader is almost bound to interpret the Jordan experience primarily as an empowering for the messianic task of one who is already the eschatological Son (by the Spirit), and if this brings any developments in Jesus’ own experience of divine sonship these are merely a corollary of that empowering and of the events wrought by Jesus through it.”

The Voice out of Heaven

A voice out of heaven said (Luke 3:22; compare Mt. 3:17Mk. 3:11), “‘Thou art My beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.'” Generally, it is agreed that this verse cites Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1.

Psalm 2:7 says, “‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee.'” The voice out of heaven cites the first half of the verse. Jesus is the preexistent Son of God. Ladd (p. 164) states, “Sonship and messianic status are not synonymous. Rather sonship is the prior ground and the basis of Jesus’ election to fulfill his messianic office.” As we have seen from Luke 2:, Jesus already had a consciousness of sonship.

Paul quotes the entire verse of Psalm 2:7 in Acts 13:33. The fulfillment of the latter part came at the resurrection. According to Lenski (p. 537), “begotten” is figurative “regarding Jehovah’s placing this everlasting King on his throne.” His kingly power is seen before, but resurrection is the full installation. His Servanthood precedes His Kingship.

Isaiah 42:1 says, “‘Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen in whom My soul delights.” In this verse the Servanthood of Jesus is emphasized (compare Mathew 12:18-21). As Beasley-Murray (p. 61) says, He is the representative of the people needing deliverance and the suffering servant (Isaiah 53:3).

Drawing from Isaiah 42:1, the voice says “in thee I am well pleased.” According to Ladd (p. 164), this may be translated, “on whom my good pleasure has settled.” This involves choice. Thus, the meaning may be, “I was well pleased in choosing thee.” The choice took place long ago. The voice expresses God’s good pleasure now.

In Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1, Jesus further enriches our understanding of His anointing. His prophetic task is emphasized. Jesus is the prophet like Moses (Acts 3:227:37). In Luke 24:19 Jesus is a “prophet mighty in deed and word.”


Several questions now appear. Was the experience of Jesus unique? Or, was His experience a prototype of Christian experience? According to Dunn, Jesus entered the new covenant era as representative man. Therefore (p. 32), he was the prototype of what all of us do as believers. We have disagreed with this thesis. Jesus did not need to enter the new covenant. Rather, He chose to limit the exercise of His divine attributes to some degree. Because of this, He relied on the Holy Spirit to empower Him for His mission.

Therefore, the relationship of Jesus and the Spirit was unique. Yet, in His human nature, He was empowered by the Spirit. As His followers, we are empowered by the Spirit who is outpoured by Him upon us. We need the regeneration of the Spirit, but also we need to be empowered. Through this empowerment, we carry on the mission of Christ in bringing salvation to the world. With regard to empowerment, Jesus is a prototype for us.

Jordan to Calvary

We will now consider the time between Jordan and Calvary. Two questions attract our attention. To what extent did the Spirit minister in and through Jesus? Did the disciples experience the Spirit during this period?


After the Spirit descended upon Jesus, He was impelled into the wilderness. In Luke 4:1 (compare Mark 1:12Mt. 4:1) we read that “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.” NAU Jesus was full of the Spirit, and He was led of the Spirit.

In the wilderness Satan tempted Jesus. He was offered the “kingdoms of the world,” but He did not yield to temptation. After the temptation, Jesus (Luke 4:14) “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” According to Turner (p. 85), “The notice that Jesus returns with the power of the Spirit corresponds to the victory won in the wilderness over Satan, and is to be demonstrated in the release of Satan’s victims.”

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus (Luke 4:18-19) applied the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2 to Himself. Broadly speaking Jesus was anointed to preach (Luke 4:43) the kingdom of God. When Jesus quotes Isaiah, He deals with Kingdom matters. He makes His mission clear. He would preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, proclaim recovery of sight to the blind, set free those who are oppressed, and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. The Holy Spirit would empower Him to do these things. His message was one of forgiveness. He preached the message with power and did many mighty works.

In Luke 10:21 Jesus “rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit.” He was rejoicing over the results of the ministry of His disciples. Marshall (Gospel, p. 433) says, “The force is that Jesus is filled with joy and the Spirit before an inspired saying.” The rejoicing itself was charismatic. In addition we may say that He was empowered to speak to the disciples.

Turner and Menzies both minimize the direct role of the Spirit in inspiring joy. According to Turner (p. 265), the Spirit inspired Jesus with charismatic wisdom and that was accompanied with joy. Others hold that the Spirit inspired joyful prophetic speech. However, we need not deny that the Spirit inspired joy to recognize His role in inspiring prophetic speech and in providing charismatic wisdom.

According to Acts 10:38, God anointed Jesus with the Spirit and with power to do good and to heal (Acts 10:38) the sick. Jesus said (Luke 11:20) that He cast out demons by the “finger of god.” In contrast to “finger of God” Matthew (12:28) says “by the Spirit of God.” Clearly, the term “finger of God” can be a figure of speech for the “Spirit of God.”

Quite often Luke emphasizes what Jesus did with authority and power or simply with power (Luke 4:365:176:19; and 8:46). He commanded unclean spirits to come out of people (Luke 4:36), performed healings with the power of the Lord (Luke 5:17), released healing power to those who touched Him (Luke 6:198:46).

When Luke speaks of the Holy Spirit, he mainly has in mind inspired utterance, prophetic activity, and empowerment for service. When he talks about exorcisms and healings, he normally uses the word power (dunamis). Even though this distinction is customary for Luke, the Holy Spirit is regarded as the source of power. Sometimes Luke combines “Spirit and power” in one expression.

The Disciples

The Spirit was present in the words and deeds of Jesus. Many responded to His proclamation. To respond to the proclamation is to open up to the spiritual power expressed in it.

Jesus commissioned (Luke 9:1-6; compare Mark 6:7-13) the twelve disciples. He gave them (Luke 9:1-2) “power and authority over all the demons,” and He commanded them “to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing.” Similarly, He appointed the seventy disciples (Luke 10:1-21). They returned from their mission and said (Luke 10:17) “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.'”

Some scholars say the disciples were commissioned on the model of Moses. The Lord took the Spirit that was upon Moses (Numbers 11:25) and placed Him on the seventy elders. In the case of the disciples, they acted in the name (Luke 10:17) of Jesus. Nevertheless, we can assume it was in the power of the Spirit. According to Thomas (p. 14), the deeds of the seventy disciples “confirm them as charismatic followers who participate in the work of their leader.”

The disciples are to pray for the Holy Spirit as a gift. Matthew (7:11) says “what is good.” In Luke 11:13 we read, “‘how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?'” Some scholars hold that this principle only applies before Pentecost. They focus on the work of the Spirit in salvation. In my view Luke has in mind the empowerment of the Spirit. The principle spans the dispensational divide. Both before and after Pentecost, the empowerment of the Spirit is needed.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to proclaim His name without fear of opposition. Then, He said (Luke 12:10), “‘And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him.'” NAU The first clause applies to unbelievers who reject the Son of Man. Whether the second clause applies to believers or unbelievers is debated.

Unbelievers blaspheme the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) by speaking against Him and refusing His leading. Here, in Luke 12:10, some hold that believers blaspheme the Spirit by their refusal to properly proclaim His name. Either way the ministry of the Spirit is rejected.

The Spirit will speak through the disciples in difficult times. In Luke 12:12 Jesus says, “‘the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.'” No doubt both the form of speech and the actual content are involved. These sayings are prophetic, but there is no reason they did not apply immediately as well.

In Luke 12: Jesus says, “‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!'” What does the metaphor “fire” represent? A concise and simple explanation is that fire is the Holy Spirit in action. The Spirit endues us with the message of the cross. One result of the preaching of the message is discord and division. This division, too, may be considered as a part of the fire.


We have surveyed Luke’s treatment of the Spirit from the time of John the Baptist right up to Calvary. A great transition in the role of the Spirit is underway. Jesus Christ is central to the transition. We have seen how the Spirit empowered Jesus. He is both unique and an example for us.

In the next chapter we will study the role of the Spirit from Calvary to Pentecost. All of this will culminate in the great outpouring of the Spirit by Christ on the Day of Pentecost. The church will be inaugurated and empowered to carry out the mission of Christ on earth.

For Further Study

Beasley-Murray, G. R. Baptism in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962.
Carter, Charles W. The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974.
Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London: SCM Press Ltd. 1970.
Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974 Lampe, G. W. H. The Seal of the Spirit. London: SPCK, 1967. Lenski, R. C. H. St. Luke’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. Exeter, The Paternoster Press, 1978.
Menzies, Robert P. Empowered for Witness. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
Swete, Henry Barclay. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.
Turner, Max. Power from On High. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1996. Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969.

Copyright © 2003 By George M. Flattery

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