IN HIS RESURRECTION AND EXALTATION, Christ did far more than return to us our humanity. Even as the Son of Man departed from the earth, he sent us his Spirit. This was a pivotal event, unprecedented in the history of God’s saving deeds. As Peter points out, it was also the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God would pour his Spirit out in the “last days” (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:17–21).
True, the Spirit of God was active before the coming of Christ. Scripture speaks of the Spirit’s involvement in both creation (Gen. 1:2) and redemption (Isa. 63:7–14). From Peter and Paul, we know that the Spirit was also the agent of God’s self-revelation through Scripture (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:14–17). But it is especially in the life and ministry of Jesus that we make our acquaintance with the Holy Spirit. In the words of Sinclair Ferguson, “In the coming of Jesus, the Day of the Spirit had finally dawned.”
The Holy Spirit was intimately connected with Jesus throughout his entire life. Prior to Jesus’ virginal conception an angel said to Mary, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35; cf. Matt. 1:18, 20). When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the Father anointed him with the Spirit (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). Then Jesus was immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for a season of testing (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). Luke says that Jesus was “full of the Spirit” when this happened; he afterward returned to Galilee in “the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
In his death, Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice through the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14). Paul tells us that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). After Jesus’ resurrection he breathed on his disciples, saying “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Then followed Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the church, as the Spirit of Christ.
The exaltation of Christ inaugurated the new age of the Spirit. Jesus, the quintessential Spirit-filled one, the Last Adam, has lived and died in our place. He is now exalted in glorified humanity. In this exalted position, the Spirit so identifies with the risen Lord Jesus that Paul speaks of Christ as “life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45) and the “Lord of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). As Sinclair Ferguson writes,
From womb to tomb to throne, the Spirit was the constant companion of the Son. As a result, when he comes to Christians to indwell them, he comes as the Spirit of Christ in such a way that to possess him is to possess Christ himself, just as to lack him is to lack Christ.
This is important for us to grasp because the Spirit, as given by our exalted Lord, is the agent who personally effects our transformation. When we embrace Christ revealed in the gospel, he gives us his Spirit. The Holy Spirit remakes us after Christ’s likeness, changing us by the sight of his glory into his very image (2 Cor. 3:18). We are dependent on the Spirit for every inch of progress in our pursuit of holiness and transformation.
- If you are a Christian, you have received the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). But are you living in conscious dependence on the Spirit?
- Have you recognized your need for the ongoing ministry of the Spirit?
- Have you asked him to fill you and give you strength?
Father, I am weak and need your strength. I am helpless and need your power. Would you strengthen me today by the power of your Spirit? Help me to live in glad and grateful obedience to you, empowered by your own might. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
From To Be Like Jesus: 40 Meditations for Your Journey Toward Christlikeness by Brian G. Hedges