Jesus and the Power of the Holy Spirit
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Saturday, August 29, 2009 at 9:22am
ONE OF MY FB FRIENDS asked this question: “Is this statement true: ‘Jesus’ strength does not come from His individual power, but from His relationship with the other persons of the Trinity.’ I am hesitant to say it because I want to exalt Christ, and yet the Bible speaks of Him going about in the power of the Spirit.”
IN MY ANSWER I SAY that this is true, but I would say it like this: “Jesus’ strength comes NOT ONLY from His own power, BUT ALSO from His relationship with the other persons of the Trinity.” In my answer I also say that I discuss this whole issue in great detail in my book on the Holy Spirit, “Power from on High: What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit” (College Press, 2007), in ch. 4, “The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ,” pp. 127-153.
HERE I AM PASTING THE CONCLUSION to that chapter:
WHATEVER WERE the relationships among the persons of the Trinity prior to creation, prior to the incarnation, and prior to Pentecost, in their works in relation to the world and especially in relation to redemption these divine persons have taken upon themselves relationships that did not necessarily exist in their eternally preexistent state. One type of relationship that the persons of the Trinity assumed in their creative and redemptive purposes was a relationship of authority and submission. Since this kind of relationship was assumed (voluntarily entered into) by the Trinitarian persons, it implies no inequality in their essence, authority, and power.
THE INCARNATION itself is a major example of how these assumed relationships of authority and submission take shape in the course of God’s working out of the redemptive plan. In the incarnation the eternal, divine Logos became a human person, Jesus of Nazareth. The result was that this unique person has two natures: a fully divine nature, and a fully human nature.
IN HIS DIVINE NATURE, Jesus is fully God, with all the attributes of God in place. In the incarnation he did not lose or surrender any of his divine essence or attributes. But this raises a serious question: if Jesus was fully divine, why did he need to be filled with the Spirit? The answer is, because he was also fully human, and for the purposes of his redemptive mission his human nature had to be fully operative. For this to be the case, in his divine-human personhood as Jesus of Nazareth, God the eternal Logos voluntarily placed himself in the role of a servant to God the Father. As Jesus of Nazareth he submits himself to the Father’s will and authority. (See Cottrell, Faith Once for All, 255-257.)
ALSO, IN ORDER TO allow his human nature to be fully operative, in his incarnation Jesus voluntarily surrendered or suspended the use of at least some of his divine attributes. (This is the point of Phil 2:6-7.) He came to earth as a man; he was born, he grew up, and he lived among men as a man. But what he had to accomplish as the Messiah required more than human nature by its own resources can achieve. However, rather than using his own divine nature for his tasks, he used the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Explaining how this was so is what this chapter has been about. We have seen, as Boles says, that Christ assumed a “dependence upon the Holy Spirit” (Holy Spirit, 128), not necessarily for his holy living, but for his supernatural works. As Ware says, “Although Jesus was fully God, as a man he chose to rely not on his own divine nature but on the power of the Spirit” (Father, 91).
HOW WAS HIS DEPENDENCE on the Spirit different from OT prophets, priests, and kings? The difference is not qualitative, but quantitative. This is the point of John 3:34. The uniqueness of Christ’s mission required that the Father give him the Spirit without measure, to empower and equip him for this mission. If this is indeed the main way the Spirit worked in the life of Jesus, and I believe it is, we must not try to draw too many parallels between the Spirit in Jesus’ life and the Spirit in our own lives as Christians.
AS AN ADDED NOTE, it is commendable to want to exalt Christ in every appropriate way, but it is unbiblical to exalt Christ in all possible ways. A major example is the desire to make Christ (his example, his work of redemption, his teachings in the gospels) the ultimate norm for all ethics and all theological truth. I call this the “Christological fallacy,” exalting Christ in the area of epistemology when we should be focusing on his primary work of redemption. I discuss that a bit in my book on God the Creator, in a section called “The Primacy of Creation,” pp. 171ff.