June 20, 2024

The Spirit of Christ

Sinclair Ferguson
The Spirit of Christ

Jesus, in His human nature, relied on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish the work of our redemption. Today, Sinclair Ferguson reflects on this truth to deepen our appreciation for our Savior and the Spirit.


We’ve been reflecting this week on the podcast on who the Holy Spirit is—not just what He does, His work in our lives, but who He is who works in our lives, His identity. This is the One who comes to indwell us when we come to faith in the Lord Jesus. And yesterday we were thinking about Jesus’ well-known words to His disciples in John 14:17, telling them that they had seen and known the Spirit, but the Spirit they had seen in Jesus was now going to indwell them. And I was suggesting that Jesus’ words there are not about the difference between an Old Testament believer and a New Testament believer as such, but the difference between seeing the Spirit in Jesus and then experiencing the very same Spirit of Jesus in our own lives.

I think it’s wonderful to think about that because it helps us on the one hand to appreciate our Savior all the more, and it certainly helps us to appreciate the Spirit all the more when we think that the Spirit—who is, as the older writers used to say, the bond of love between the Father and the Son—actually comes to indwell every single believer. I want to draw attention to this a little because it’s the reason the Spirit is called the “Spirit of Christ.”

So here are some interesting texts. Luke 1:34–35, “Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, this virgin conception?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And the child to be born will be called holy.’” And Matthew 1:20, “Joseph, son of David, don’t fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” So, from the very moment of Jesus’ conception, the Holy Spirit was engaged in His life.

And then later, in Luke 2, when he tells us that Jesus increased in wisdom and in favor with God, he’s actually reminding us that this was what was said about the Messiah in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 11:2. He would be full of the Spirit and therefore full of wisdom. And then, of course, at Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit came upon Him to anoint Him for His public ministry. And then, immediately following that, full of the Spirit, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Mark actually uses even stronger language. He says the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. It’s a striking picture of the way in which the Holy Spirit directed Jesus as He fulfilled His Father’s plan.

And then you remember how in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus said that the ancient prophecy, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor,” was fulfilled in Him. And then you remember that when He was accused of being in league with the devil, He demolished that criticism and said that He cast out demons by the finger of God, or by the Holy Spirit. In our human nature, He was enabled to exercise that power because He was trusting in the Holy Spirit’s power. And so Matthew tells us that in His healings and in His grace, Jesus fulfilled the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah about the coming Servant of the Lord on whom God would put His Holy Spirit.

So, what becomes clear is that in everything Jesus did for us, He was relying on the Spirit’s presence and power. He wasn’t injecting a measure of deity into His human nature to enable Him to be a superman. Remember that the two natures of Christ are never mixed or confused in that way, but each acts in accordance with its own character.

And so eventually, although much is left unsaid in the New Testament, Hebrews 9:14 seems to suggest that it was undergirded, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that the Lord Jesus was enabled in all the weakness of His crucifixion to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. And then as Paul says in the opening words of Romans, Jesus “descended from David according to the flesh,” entering our weakness, bearing our sin, “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3–4).

Now, why do I mention these verses when we’re talking about the Holy Spirit? Simply to make this point, that from womb to tomb, and eventually to the throne, the Lord Jesus was indwelt by the very Holy Spirit that He promised to give to His disciples. That’s mind-stretching, isn’t it? But it’s also heartwarming. The very same Spirit who was there for thirty-three years in the life of the Lord Jesus is the Spirit about whom Jesus spoke to the Father when He said, “Father, the time has come for Us to send the Holy Spirit to My disciples.” And on the day of Pentecost was the very first day that Christians experienced what it meant to be indwelt by the other, who is just like Jesus Himself, because He was there with Jesus these thirty-three years.

There’s a wonderful hymn that I say to myself quite often that has this line in it, “Think what Spirit dwells within you; what a Father’s smile is yours.” And that’s one of the great things Jesus was teaching the disciples in the upper room.