This evening I want to talk to you about an area of the study of Christ that is near and dear to my heart. It’s an area that I honestly believe evangelicals have not seen sufficiently, though it is glorious and it’s in the Bible. We need to see it. We need to see what’s here.
Our Need for the God-Man
Now let me get into this by asking a few questions of you. Do you think that there is any relationship between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of salvation as we know it, as Christians? Put differently, can you have Christian salvation without the doctrine of the Trinity, without a triune God? You must know the answer to this is no. There is no salvation if there is no Trinity.
Why is this? Well, think about it. You have to have, at the most basic level, first of all, one who comes as one of us to be a substitute for us. A human being must substitute. But I remember a question one of my daughters asked me, Rachel, a couple of years ago. She said, “Daddy, couldn’t God have just created a second Adam who lived a sinless life. He could work in him, could he not, so he would never sin?” She was a compatibilist and believed that God was able to work in people so that they would freely do what he willed for them to do.
So I said, “Yes, he could have done that. He could have created a second Adam who lived a sinless life.” And she asked, “Could he not then have offered this second, perfect, sinless human being as a substitute for us? Wouldn’t that pay the penalty of our sin so that he could avoid having to send his own Son from his side, from heaven, to take on human flesh and pay for our sins?”
I thought, “That’s a great question, Rachel.” And the answer is no; it won’t work. Do you know why? Because you see, if a second Adam, a perfect man, takes my sin upon himself, then this second Adam must pay for my sin the way a man would pay for his sin. How would I pay for my sin were I to be responsible before God to pay it myself? What would that mean for me? And the answer is eternal, never-ending, everlasting condemnation. The same would be true for him. He would never finish paying for my sin. The penalty is not paid in full, the victory over sin is not accomplished. I am not saved by imputing my sin to a second Adam who is merely human.
So you know what we have to have. We have to have a substitute for us who is of infinite value, to pay an infinite payment to an infinite God, so that he can make the payment and it’s done. Have you ever wondered why, if we paid for our own sins, we never finish paying for it? This is why hell is eternal. Whereas Christ, when he pays for it, he rises from the dead the third day. It is paid in full, it is over. What’s the difference? The value of his life given is infinite. Therefore, it is paid in full by him.
One to Execute Divine Judgment
Okay, so you have to have one of us, but he can’t be just one of us. He has to be a sinless man, but he has to be the God-man. So there we have one member of the Trinity, the Son who comes, takes on our human flesh, lives his life, and dies for our sins.
Now, is that all we need though? No, we need another member of the Godhead to execute the judgment. Remember, in Isaiah 53 we read what, in my judgment, are the most incredible and sobering words in all of Scripture. Isaiah 53:10 says:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him . . .
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . . (John 3:16).
Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
The Father must execute the judgment against our sin in his Son. He must vent his wrath. The Father must be satisfied by the death of his Son in order for our salvation to be secured. So you have to have a Father and you have to have a Son.
The Work of Redemption Applied
Now, what about the Spirit? Where does the Spirit come into the Christian doctrine of salvation? Well, you’re afraid to say, aren’t you? I can tell. Well, we would all agree on this. We would all agree the Spirit comes in at the point of the application of salvation. In order for us to become recipients of that saving work of Christ, for the objective work of Christ to become subjectively applied in any of our lives, it requires the Spirit to work — to open blind eyes, to regenerate dead hearts, to bring to us the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ so that we believe and turn to him and are saved.
The Spirit is necessary in Christian salvation for regeneration, for bringing people to faith in Christ. So you have to have a Father, you have to have a Son, and you have to have a Holy Spirit for salvation. Now, there’s one thing I left out. Did you notice anything missing in that portrayal of how our salvation occurs?
Life in the Power of the Holy Spirit
Here’s the one thing we left out. This man who lived his life as one of us had to live a sinless life. How did he do this according to the New Testament? He lived his life in the power of the Spirit. There’s so many things here. When you look at the New Testament teaching in particular — all the Old Testament foreshadows this, and there are some there that we’ll see are really significant — about Christ and the Spirit, how they relate together, there are two prominent themes that are evident in Scripture’s teaching that do not come together easily. They seem on the surface to conflict.
One theme is the theme of Jesus submitting to the Spirit and yielding to the Spirit. Jesus is living his life in the power of the Spirit and following the leadership of the Spirit. The second theme clearly announced by Jesus is that it is the Spirit who glorifies Christ, who “takes of mine”, Jesus says in John 16:14, and “discloses it to you. He will glorify me.” So which is it? Is it that Jesus yields to the Spirit, submits to the Spirit, and follows the lead of the Spirit? Is it that or is it that the Spirit glorifies Christ, yields to Christ, and teaches what Christ has to say? Which is it? And the answer is: it’s both. How can it be? Well, let’s take a look. It’s glorious.
Jesus’s Submission to the Spirit
Jesus and the Spirit is our focus for tonight, and we’ll start with the first theme of Jesus’s submission to the Spirit to fulfill his role as the Spirit-anointed Messiah. And we start here with observing Jesus’s life of obedience that is lived in the power of the Spirit.
There are a couple questions I want us to think about at the outset here. Here’s the first one: why would Jesus, who is the God-man, and he was — boy, I appreciated so much the message this afternoon from John Piper on Athanasius, because the whole Christian faith is at stake in whether or not Jesus is God in human flesh — what’s the point of having the Spirit? What can the Spirit of God add to the deity of Christ? Is this just a show? Is it a sham? Is it superfluous?
What’s the emphasis in the New Testament on Jesus coming in the power of the Spirit? Why did the Old Testament prophets prophesy that a Spirit-anointed Messiah would come when the one who comes is the God-man? Why the Spirit when he’s the God-man? Here’s a second question, which is another angle on this issue: how can Jesus, in his sinless obedience and sacrificial service, rightly be upheld as a model for how we should live since he was the God-man and we are not?
Have you ever wondered if it’s fair for Peter to say to us what he does in 1 Peter 2:22–23:
[Follow in his steps who] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
How can Peter rightly say to us, who are not God, follow in his steps who committed no sin? I remember as a boy reading that thinking, “Not fair! This is ridiculous. He’s God, I’m not. How can you demand this of me?” And that’s not an isolated text, is it? Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” How is it that it is right to be commanded to live life as Jesus lived life when he was God and we are not?
Okay, my friends, the answer to these things is this: though he was God, and it was necessary for him to be God in order to provide a substitutionary atonement of infinite value for the sin of the people, he lived his life as a man. He is the Second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, who lived all of his life from beginning to end by the power the Father provided for him in his humanity.
The Provision of the Spirit
What did the Father provide for him? He provided his word. He provided his Spirit. He provided training for the Son of Man. He provided life experiences, so that he would grow in his faith and be able ultimately to undertake the most difficult of all the demands the Father put upon him. And that was to go to the cross. How did Jesus live his life? In the power of the Spirit. Look with me at a number of passages where we see that this is the case. Consider first of all Isaiah 11:1–5:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Now, look back with me earlier in that passage. It says, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord.” Think about what that’s saying. Isn’t it indicating that the reason Jesus had the wisdom that he had, the reason that he was able to fear the Lord to the full extent that he did, and the reason that he had the understanding and the knowledge that he had was because the Spirit was upon him. You see, the alternative to this is to say it really is inconsequential that he has the Spirit because he’s God and he really doesn’t need the Spirit.
Well, my question then is, so why make such a big deal about this if it’s the case that he doesn’t need the Spirit? The fact is he does, because he lives as one of us, a human life of absolute obedience, provided by the strength that the Father gave to him in the power of the Spirit. He lived his life and he exhibited wisdom by the Spirit. He had knowledge by the Spirit. He had the fear of the Lord and obedience by the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord rested on him, the Spirit of wisdom, and so on.
The Spirit Produces Every Good Fruit
Isn’t it very much like the fruit of the Spirit passage In Galatians 5:22?
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience . . .
So when we see these qualities exhibited in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control — don’t we say those are qualities of our lives that are produced by the presence of the Spirit at work in us bearing those fruit through us? Isn’t it the Spirit in us that causes those qualities to come about? Well, it is.
Isn’t Isaiah 11:2 the same thing? The Spirit in Jesus produces these. Let’s look at another text. Isaiah 61:1–3 says:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion —
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
How does this work come about through the Spirit-anointed Messiah, by which this wonderful saving act, this restoration of his people takes place? The Spirit on the Messiah brings it about. It says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He’s anointed me to do these things, to bring about these results, to accomplish this transformative work in the people of God.” The Spirit is necessary for this to happen.
The Spirit-Anointed Messiah
Now this passage, as you know, is particularly significant because Jesus quotes it. In Luke 4, it’s so clear that he has a self-identity of this person. The person spoken of in Isaiah 61 is none other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He goes back to his hometown, walks into the synagogue on the Sabbath, the Scriptures are handed to him. He opens in the Isaiah scroll to where it is written, and we read this in Luke 4:16–17:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written . . .
In other words, Jesus went to this text deliberately. This wasn’t just the daily reading for that day at the synagogue. He intended to read this text to these people on this day in Nazareth. What was it? It says:
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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18–21).
Do you think that Jesus thought it was significant that he was the Spirit-anointed Messiah? Do you think that was important for him in his self-understanding? Obviously, this is paramount because when he comes in and announces to the people who he is, he picks this text and announces that it’s fulfilled.
The First and Second Coming of Christ
Now, this is just an aside here, but I just have to tell you because it’s such a great little nugget. If you look at Luke 4 and notice where Jesus quits quoting in Isaiah 61, he quits quoting with the favorable year of the Lord. Do you know what the next phrase is in Isaiah 61:2? “The day of the vengeance of our God.” Isaiah 61:2 sandwiches together what we now know to be the first and second coming of Christ. Who would have guessed that we would have two comings of Christ separated by 2,000 years, so far, and yet we’ll await the day of the vengeance of our God yet to come.
It’s coming, but not in his first coming. Oh no, not in his first coming. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17). But in his second coming (Isaiah 61:2), it is going to happen.
So here we have the question, has Christ’s kingdom come? How do you answer that question Biblically? Yes and no. Already, not yet. Don’t you have to have this eschatology called “inaugurated eschatology”, this understanding of already-not-yet to make sense of the eschatology of the Bible? It’s so clear, is it not? Okay, back to the main point.
The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus. He realizes that is who he is. He announces to these people that he is the Spirit-anointed Messiah. Now, does it make a difference in how he lives his life, how he does the work that he does? Look at Matthew 12:28. Jesus had cast out a demon and the Pharisees could not deny that a miracle had taken place, so they were sort of backed into a corner. The only thing they could do then was to appeal to a different supernatural source than God. Well, we have one choice. If it’s not God, he casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons. So they wanted to pin on Jesus that the supernatural enablement that he had came from Satan, and Jesus says to them in Matthew 12:28:
If it is by the Spirit of God (he does not say, “by my own deity,” or, “by the power of my own divine nature”) that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
The Pharisees should realize that the mark of the Messiah who would come would be that he would have the Spirit upon him. That’s what the prophet spoke about. The coming Messiah would be Spirit anointed. And Jesus says, “Now that you see that I cast out these demons by the Spirit of God, you need to realize that I’m the king. I’m the long-awaited Messiah. How do you know that? The Spirit is on me. The Spirit is the one who enables me to do this work.”
Anointed with the Spirit and Power
Acts 10:38 is an amazing statement. This is from Peter to Cornelius when Peter has been called to go to Cornelius and preach the gospel to him by which he will be saved. Well, he begins his sermon by talking about Jesus in sort of general terms. How would you, if you were asked, give a one verse summary of the life and the ministry and the work of Jesus? That’s quite a task, huh? Well, Peter summarizes Jesus’s life and work in one verse. Listen to what he says:
[You know about Jesus], how God anointed [him] with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
He doesn’t say, “You know about Jesus, that he was the eternal Son of the Father who came in his divine nature and lived his life and carried out his miracles because he was God.” He was God. Peter by no means is denying that fact, but what he does say is, “Let me tell you how he lived his life. He lived his life as God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power.” Sound familiar? Do you think that Luke, the writer here, is wanting us to connect Acts 10:38 with Acts 1:8? What do you think? Is that possible? In Acts 1:8, Jesus says:
[Wait in Jerusalem and] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .
Acts 10:38 says:
[You know about Jesus] how God anointed [him] with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Boy, you see an application in that one that’s coming, don’t you? Aren’t we supposed to conclude, “Ah, that’s how Jesus lived his life, that’s how he obeyed the Father, that’s how he performed the work that God called him to do?” We’ve been given the Holy Spirit. We’ve been given this same power and we’re called to live life like Jesus. Isn’t that the point? Jesus lived his life in the power of the Spirit.
Jesus Grew in Wisdom and Stature
Now, seeing this in my judgment, helps make sense of texts of Scripture, teachings about Christ, that are otherwise at best confusing, and at worst, contradictory to the frame of mind that we have concerning Christ being divine. Let me give you a few of these. For example, in Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52, we read this:
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40).
Huh, does God increase in wisdom? I don’t think so. I think his wisdom is infinite, perfect, and impossible to increase. But here we see of Christ that he increased in wisdom, the grace of God was upon him, which I agree with Gerald Hawthorne on this. He wrote a book that is out of print, though it is very helpful, The Presence and The Power. Gerald Hawthorne taught at Wheaton College for a number of years. He argues that that phrase “the grace of God was upon him” was a way of expressing the Spirit of God upon him by Luke, and I think that’s probably the case. But in any way, it says that he grew in wisdom. Then Luke 2:52, it says:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Well, here’s the question: how can Jesus, if our conception of him is strictly in terms of his deity, grow in wisdom? And of course the answer is he cannot, not in his deity, but in his humanity he can grow in wisdom. Now, you can’t see this because I have these two verses put there from Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52. Do you remember in Luke chapter two, what comes between these two verses? Do you remember? It’s the account of Jesus with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law in Jerusalem. Think of the context here.
Jesus in Jerusalem at 12 years old, marvels and astonishes the teachers of the law with how much he knows about Torah, how perceptive he is, how insightful he is, and how knowledgeable he is. They are astonished at this 12 year old boy who knows so much about the law of the Lord. Now my friends, let’s not trivialize this by saying, “Of course, he was God. Little did they know who they were up against.” No. Do you know what we ought to think instead? We ought to think, “Wow, at 12 years old, this young boy had been raised in a home by parents and teachers in his synagogue, to learn the law of the Lord. He had a zeal for the things of God. He had a passion for learning the word of God that excelled anyone who has ever lived, so that, at 12 years old, that’s how much he knew. How thoroughly he understood the teaching of the Old Testament.
We should read that and go, “Wow, what an amazing young man is this Jesus. He’s the Psalm 1 individual, if there ever was one. He loved the law of the Lord. It was his delight day and night to meditate on the law of the Lord. So by 12 years old — imagine that — that’s how much he had matured in his understanding. That’s how much he had learned. In his humanity, by the Spirit, he grew in understanding and he grew in wisdom.
The Knowledge of Christ as a Human
Here’s another text I don’t have here, but think for a moment of the counter side of this. Mark 13:32 says:
But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
How do you count for Mark 13:32? I know how Arias accounted for it. He used this text to say of Jesus, “He can’t be God because God knows the hour of the second coming. God is omniscient. God knows everything, but Jesus flatly declares he doesn’t know it. He can’t be God.”
What’s the answer? It’s not that he isn’t God, he is. But that in his humanity there is a veiling of knowledge that he has in his divine nature so that there is a limitation to what he can comprehend in his personhood as the God-man, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He willingly accepts the limitations. He does not set aside his divine nature. He does not set aside any attribute of deity. He sets aside the rightful use of qualities and abilities that he has as God in order to experience life as one of us.
So he didn’t know the hour of the second coming. How much didn’t he know? We’re not told by Scripture, but you know what? He lived his life by faith. He prayed to the Father so he would know who to pick as his disciples. He prayed to the Father so that he would know whether to leave the city and go and minister at another place or not. Why did he have to do that? Why the prayer life of Jesus? In his divine nature, he knows all these things. It’s because as a human, he is longing to know and do the will of his Father in the power of the Spirit.
Christ Learning Obedience Through Suffering
Here’s another text that I think is just so interesting in terms of Christology, and it’s one that has helped as we think about this:
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him . . .
What does it mean that he learned obedience that he was made perfect? Here’s my suggestion to you. “He learned obedience” cannot mean he learned to quit disobeying and start obeying, to move from disobedience to obedience. It cannot mean that. Do you know why? Because Hebrews 4:15 says that he was “tempted in ways as we are, yet without sin”. That’s just a few verses earlier. So obviously the writer of Hebrews does not have in mind that Jesus moved from disobedience to obedience.
What does it mean then? It means that he learned to obey increasingly difficult demands upon him through what he suffered. As he experienced greater hardships, greater testing, he was strengthened to face yet even greater challenges that the Father had to put before him, enabling him ultimately to be ready to accept the greatest of all of the challenges that the Father had for him, and that was obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Think about the garden of Gethsemane. Three times he cried out to the Father, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me,” and he was sweating, as it were, drops of blood. What do you do with this text if the only model you have in mind is that Jesus is God? God doesn’t have any problem with doing anything. With God all things are possible. God does not struggle and strain to do the work he does. He speaks and creation comes into being. What accounts for the enormous agony, difficulty, and excruciating pain that the Son faced and experienced in the garden of Gethsemane? Answer: as a man, he had grown in obedience until now he was ready to accept this greatest of all of the Father’s demands upon him. He learned greater feats of obedience through the things that he suffered. He was made perfect.
The statement, “having been made perfect,” clearly doesn’t mean he was imperfect before. But he became perfect in the sense of becoming mature, able to face all that God had for him. He grew in his character, grew in faith, grew in his ability to trust his Father, never at any point not trusting, but at every point, trusting yet more difficult challenges that the Father put before him.
Submission to the Direction of the Spirit
Jesus then lived his life in the power of the Spirit. As a man, he grew and developed, relied upon what the Father gave him, and so lived his life in what God provided him. Secondly, consider Jesus’s life of submission to the direction of the Spirit. Jesus’s life of submission to the direction of the Spirit is remarkable, that the Son of the Father, the second person of the Godhead in his humanity and incarnational mission, submits fully to the direction and the empowerment of the Spirit. This is the humility of the Son.
Did you catch that? The humility of the Son is shown not only in his incarnation (Philippians 2) to take on our human flesh and be as one of us, a servant for us all. But his humiliation is also shown in his willingness to accept the leadership and the direction of the Spirit, over whom in the Trinity he has rights and authority over, but the Son puts himself in subjection to the Spirit.
So for example, in Luke 4:1–2, we read that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by the devil. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He followed the Spirit. He carried out what the Spirit told him to do. In Mark’s gospel (Mark 1:12) it’s even stronger. It uses the term ekballō (“impelled” or “compelled”). It says, “Immediately the Spirit impelled Jesus to go into the wilderness.” So here you have the sense of the Spirit directing Jesus, moving him where he should go.
Another instance of this is a little later in Luke 4:14, which says:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.
So Jesus lived his life in the power of the Spirit, followed the direction of the Spirit. That’s one of the major themes we see in the life ministry of Jesus in relation to the Spirit.
Jesus’s Authority Over the Spirit
Now here’s the second one. The second one is this: Jesus’s authority and primacy over the Spirit in his role as the Son of the Father. While Jesus submitted to the Spirit for the sake of his incarnational mission, Scripture is clear that the Spirit’s role most fundamentally is to elevate, to extol, to honor, and to glorify Jesus — that is, to put Jesus forward, not the Spirit himself. The Spirit’s goal and mission is always to put Jesus in front of people.
Look at some of the texts that announce this. From Jesus himself, consider John 14:25–26:
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
So he indicates that when the Spirit comes, he’ll teach Jesus’s teachings. Isn’t this very much like in John where Jesus said, “I don’t speak anything on my own initiative. I speak as the Father tells me.” Now Jesus says of the Spirit, “When the Spirit comes, he will teach what I have said.” So there is, as it were, the same relationship Jesus has with the Father, now the Spirit has with Jesus.
John 15:26 says:
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
The Spirit will not testify about himself, but Jesus.
The Spirit from the Father and the Son
Acts 2:33 says:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
So the sending of the Spirit, which we see in John 15 and in Acts 2, comes from the Father through the son. Do you see the Trinitarian relationship here? Look again at Acts 2:33. Look at it carefully:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he (Jesus) has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
So the Father hands the Spirit to the son, as it were, and says, “Son, you bestow the Spirit upon the people.” It’s Father, Son, and Spirit. The order is clear in this text. And the Spirit honors Jesus.
Without question, the strongest statement by Jesus in this regard is John 16:12–15, which says:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (they don’t have the Spirit yet). When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Again, the Trinitarian order is clear. Jesus has received from the Father, and now the Spirit takes from Jesus and passes it on to his disciples. It is Father, Son, and Spirit, in this order.
Consider also 1 Corinthians 12:3 as a normative statement of the job description of the Spirit, the goal of the Spirit, the mission of the Spirit. It says:
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
Obviously, he doesn’t mean that someone can’t utter the words “Jesus is an accursed” or “Jesus is Lord” without the Spirit or with the Spirit. I just did both. So either I’m awfully schizophrenic on this or it doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean merely uttering the words. It means, rather, a heart expression. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. A heart expressing “Jesus is accursed” cannot be performed by one who has the Spirit. “Jesus is Lord” is the hallmark of the inner life of the person expressed in words who has the Spirit.
The Spirit’s Ministry to Glorify Jesus
What has the Spirit come to do? Glorify Jesus. First John 4:1–3 says:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
What’s the hallmark of the presence of the true Spirit? He announces Jesus. He announces Jesus coming in the flesh and Jesus as supreme over his created order that he came to save.
The Spirit’s Inspiration of Scripture
Now, there is another theme I want to look at with you here that really does extend this last point, namely, that the Spirit wants to honor Jesus. I’ll call it this: the Spirit’s uniform purpose to put forward Jesus. And honestly, there are so many things we could look at here that it would take us at least another hour. So I’ve just picked out a few samples that indicate to us ways in which the Spirit does his work, and when he does his work, guess what happens? Jesus gets top billing. Jesus gets displayed. Jesus gets put on display and on the marque in front of people. Consider this one: the inspiration of Scripture is by the Spirit, but Scripture is focused on Christ.
I mean you would think the author of the book would write about himself, but he doesn’t. He writes about Jesus. He inspired scripture, but what is scripture about? Christ, according to Christ himself. Just consider these passages with me. You know these texts. Second Timothy 3:16–17 says:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Scripture is God-breathed. How does this God-breathed scripture come about? Second Peter 1:20–21 says:
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
So Scripture, all of it, the whole of Scripture, is God-breathed. It is God-breathed as the Spirit works in the lives of writers of Scripture to write exactly what the Spirit directs them to write as they write freely what they want to write. It is an amazing doctrine, is it not? It’s an amazing example of compatibilism, of God’s sovereign hand at work and human freedom exercising exactly what it chooses, and the product is what God wants from beginning to end — inerrant.
The Focus of Scripture
Now the Spirit inspires it, the Spirit works to accomplish it, but what is scripture about? In Luke 24:24–27, Jesus meets up with some disciples who are despondent over his crucifixion and we read this:
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Even clearer, a few verses later with more disciples, he says to them:
These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.
That’s the tripartite division of Old Testament Scriptures in Judaism. All three parts — the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings — testify of Jesus. Who wrote it? Who inspired it? The Spirit. What does it speak of? Jesus.
These Things We Have from the Spirit
The same thing can be said in the apostle Paul. I’ll just do this very quickly with you. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, we read this:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
And in 1 Corinthians 1:23, he says:
But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles . . .
First Corinthians 2:2 says:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Galatians 6:14 says:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Now here’s the question. Clearly Paul’s message, what he wanted to talk about, was the gospel of Christ, is the cross of Christ, is Christ crucified. Over and over, we’ll read this in Paul. Now, here’s the question: how did Paul receive this revelation of Christ? First Corinthians 2:10 says:
These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
The Spirit not only reveals the truth (1 Corinthians 2:10), but he provides with those spiritual thoughts and spiritual words — that is, words taught by the Spirit — by which we teach these things that we have learned. So the Spirit provides the revelation of Christ, the Spirit provides the words by which Paul speaks of Christ, and the Spirit provides illumination for us, readers of it, so that we can comprehend and see the beauty of Christ. The Spirit wants us to see Jesus in his word.
Evangelism in the Power of the Spirit
Here’s a second example of this. Evangelism by the Spirit proclaims the gospel of Christ. Evangelism by the Spirit proclaims the Gospel of Christ. You may know that there is a growing movement in evangelicalism that is deeply troubling. It’s called Inclusivism. Clark Pennock has advocated it. John Sanders has advocated it. In more recent publications, Terrence Tiessen, who is a Calvinist, has advocated this view in a rather substantive book that he has written. This view holds that the Spirit works in the world in a saving way independent of knowledge of Christ. So they incorporate the notion of Christ and the Spirit as the two hands of God.
So here is the one hand of God, Christ, performing the objective work of salvation, but now the Spirit is independently working in a saving way in areas of the world where there is no knowledge of Christ, bringing people to salvation. Now, honestly my friends, this just absolutely cuts against the grain of what the Spirit wants to do. He is not interested in some kind of generic salvation out there that does not proclaim the glory and the beauty and the excellency of Christ. He wants people to know about Christ.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .
The Spirit does not work in a saving way, in nations of the world and peoples of the world who have never heard of Christ. They must hear the gospel. In Romans 10:13–15, Paul says:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (a glorious truth).” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
My friends, this view that is being proposed by professing evangelicals is contrary to scripture’s clearest teachings.
The Spirit and the Gospel of Grace
Cornelius was not saved. In Acts 10, when we read of Cornelius, we hear that he was a godly man. He prayed to God daily. He gave alms to the Jewish people. He sought God with all of his heart. When we read that in Acts 10:2, Clark Pennock concludes, “See? He was saved.” Acts 11 differs. Acts 11:14 tells us that it was not until Peter came and preached words to him by which he would be saved, that Cornelius was forgiven of his sins, which just goes to show you how pious you can be and not be saved. That’s the lesson of Cornelius in Acts 10:2. It shows us what piety is possible for people who are unforgiven and need to hear the gospel of Christ. The Spirit works to bring the message of Christ, and he doesn’t work in a saving way apart from that; hence, missions is necessary.
We cannot take comfort in thinking God has some other way to get the message to these people than the proclaimed word of the gospel. May God help us to see what Scripture teaches and believe it and act on it by his grace.
The Spirit Empowers Likeness to Christ
Here is the third and last example. Salvation is brought in our lives by the Spirit to conform us to whose likeness? The likeness of the Spirit? No, the likeness of Christ. The whole thing is about Christ, isn’t it?
John Piper talked about this briefly in one of his concluding reflections on Athenasius this afternoon. How do we first come to Christ? Second Corinthians 4:4–6 says that we have to be able to see the glory of Christ in order to be saved, so he opens our eyes to see the beauty of the glory of the gospel of Christ, and we come.
How is it we are conformed, transformed in the likeness of Christ? We behold his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and from glory to glory — that is, in increasing degrees of glory — we become more like Christ.
How will we be conformed in the end to the fullness of the likeness of Christ? First John 3:1–2
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are . . . What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
The Spirit puts forward Jesus. Behold the glory of Jesus. See his majesty, see his beauty. And as we see that, we are compelled to become like what we love, to take on the characteristics of what we adore. This is how transformation takes place. Adore Christ and become like Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Marvel at the Submission of the Incarnate Son
All right, let’s consider some applications. We’ve seen that Jesus lived his life in the power of the Spirit, submitted to the Spirit, but then as the exalted Savior at the right hand of the Father, he commands the Spirit. The Spirit is sent by Jesus and the Spirit comes to glorify Jesus, and both of these things come together.
What application points can we take from this? First of all, marvel at the submission of the incarnate Son, the Son in human form, to the leading and empowerment of the Spirit. Marvel at the humility of the Son who did not chafe at his Father’s demand upon him, not only to become one of us, but to submit to the very Spirit over which he had authority in the Trinity. Marvel at the humility of the Son corresponding to that, marvel.
Marvel at the Spirit’s Humility
Second, marvel at the Spirit’s deep and abiding willingness to serve unnoticed, as it were, without overt recognition and honor that is reserved for the Son to the glory of the Father. Marvel at the humility of the Spirit. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this. Now you will, because I’m going to tell you. Just notice how frequently you’ll hear from up here on this platform, from worship leaders and from preachers and those leading us, expressions of how we want to bring glory to God. We want Christ to be honored.
Guess what’s missing? You don’t hear, “We want the Spirit to be glorified.” And you know what? You shouldn’t hear that, because the Spirit doesn’t want to be glorified himself. If we are a Spirit-filled community, we are a community marked by longing to see Christ honored and glorified in the power of the Spirit. This is what the Spirit wants. He does not put himself forward.
I mean, just realize our whole context here of Trinitarian understanding that the Spirit is equal in his essence. He possesses identically the same essence as the Father and the Son. And he accepts without chafing, without bucking it, no resentment that the Father shines the spotlight on whom? On his Son. The ultimate glory goes to the Father, and the Spirit is in the background and he accepts this role eternally.
Even in Revelation 5, the scene we have is of the Lamb who was slain and is now at the right hand of the one who is on the throne. And everyone bows down and gives worship to the Lamb and to him who’s on the throne. Where is the Spirit? Now, I think the Spirit is there. He’s back in Revelation 5:7–8, where the Lamb has the seven spirits who represent, I take it, the Holy Spirit. So here is the Lamb in Revelation 5, who comes still as the Spirit-anointed Messiah. I believe the Spirit is there, but boy, the Spirit is in the background. The Spirit is not front and center. Marvel at the humility of God, the Spirit.
I mean, really just think about this. If the Holy Spirit can accept joyfully, willingly, and gladly an eternity of not receiving front-and-center recognition, do you think it’s possible that we, filled with the Spirit, might be able to do good works that no one notices? Do you think we might be able to do hidden things that are honoring to God and helpful to others that we know will not receive recognition? And can we, in not receiving recognition, be joyful that in this Christ is honored? Can we be filled with that Spirit? God help us.
Marvel at the Son’s Sinlessness
Third, marvel at the absolute sinlessness of the Son, who as a man lived his life in the power of the Spirit in strict and unqualified obedience to the Father. I cannot tell you how astonished I am at this being a man, knowing my propensity to sin:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.
That’s my testimony. I am astonished that Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, by the power of the Word of God that saturated his life, by praying to the Father, by trusting in all that the Father would provide for him, would live his life as a man every moment sinless.
Look at that and hear the admonition of Scripture again to follow in his steps. He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth. And pray by God’s grace that the Spirit who empowered Jesus and the word that filled Jesus’s life would so empower you, would so fill you that you would grow to be more like Jesus, victorious over sin for the glory of his name.
Marvel at the Son’s Place at the Center
Fourth and finally, marvel at how the Son is placed in the spotlight. Now we’ve seen it from two angles, both by the Father in his position of authority over the Son and by the Spirit in his position subordinate to the Son. Marvel at how the Son, by the will of the Father and by the will of the Spirit, is to be central in all that we honor and worship and glorify about God.
Ultimately, the Father receives the glory through this, but the means by which the Father is glorified is through the Son, through the worship of the Son, not apart from it. So may we, with whole heart, worship Christ to the glory of the Father in the power of the Spirit. Amen.