The Promise of the Holy Spirit – Part 1

The Promised Outpouring On the Son of God

Recently, in our ruminations through the prophecy of Joel, we observed that something more was promised beyond the blessing of restoration as a response to Israel’s repentance in the face of coming calamity. That promise was the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, which according to Joel was to be made manifest through prophecy, dreams, and visions. As we learned, in Acts 2 Peter saw the fulfillment of this promise as happening, or we might say being inaugurated, at Pentecost where he references Joel’s prophecy in his sermon (Acts 2:14-41). But the prophet Joel was not alone in mentioning the promise of the Holy Spirit and Peter didn’t reach his conclusion on Joel’s prophecy in a vacuum. In fact, the Old Testament witness to the coming Spirit is a significant theme that could only be fulfilled through the birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

The evidence for the existence of the Holy Spirit can be found all the way back at creation as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters awaiting the directorial command from the Creator God (Gen. 1:2; Hebrews 1:1-4). The Holy Spirit was indeed active in the Old Testament as we read of multiple instances of Him rushing on individuals to empower them for certain tasks and it is impossible for salvation to take place through a changed heart without the operation of the Spirit. Those evidences are seen throughout the Old Testament (see Judges; and the life of Saul in 1 Samuel), but something different or at least more or better stated, New, is promised with the coming of Christ. If there was simply a continuation of the Spirit’s operation from Old Covenant to New Covenant, then there would be no need for Joel and numerous other prophets to make such bold declarative statements about the coming Spirit (a key to remember). Further, when one makes such claims as overemphasizing continuity of the Spirit from Old to New Covenant it waters down the significance of Christ’s own endowment with the Spirit and His own promises to give another Helper at His ascension. Indeed, something more was to come; a distinct and different operation than what had previously occurred in history.

As mentioned, Joel is not alone in his prophecy of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was to be marked by signs and wonders. In order to rightly understand how a certain people would evidence the outpouring of the Spirit, we must first see how the initial outpouring was promised to Christ.

In Isaiah’s prophecy we read of the expectation that the Spirit would rest upon and fill the Righteous Branch of Jesse, an obvious reference to our Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:1-5). Again in Isaiah 42:1 the connection between the coming Messiah and the Spirit is made. In Isaiah 48:16 we read of the Messianic speaker stating that He had been endowed with the Spirit. Next, we read of a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son where the former declares that part of the covenant promises, discussed below, include the perpetuity of the Spirit on the Son and the abiding eternal word in Him and His offspring, thereby creating a relationship between the Spirit – Son – offspring (Isaiah 59:21). Finally, in Isaiah 61:1-4 an additional reference is made to the coming of our Lord and the Spirit of God poured out upon Him as He preaches the good news to the poor. Significant here is not only that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Son by the Father, but that it was a direct anointing. In other words, God the Father anointed God the Son with God the Spirit. These actions were promised and fulfilled as the Intra-Trinitarian Covenant of Redemption unfolded. An additional reference of the anointing of Christ which will be significant for us as we examine how this is fulfilled may be found in Psalm 45:6-7
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
    you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions

Psalm 45:6-7
The connection between the Son of God and anointing should not be surprising as the very title of Messiah means the ‘Anointed One’. We are, or at least should be, familiar with Christ as the Messiah, but what often gets ignored is the what (or Who) He was anointed with? The answer of course is the Holy Spirit. Imbedded in this language of anointing is the concept of priestly consecration which we first find prescribed in Exodus 28:40-43 (see also Exodus 29:1-37). As we know, Old Covenant priests were washed with water and anointed with oil to be set apart for service in the temple.

The promise of outpouring, or anointing, of the Spirit of God on the Son of God has three principle fulfillments or grades (see Smeaton, 1882). First at our Lord’s incarnation. Second at His baptism. Third at His ascension. In Matthew 1:18-20 we find that this relationship begins with the Holy Spirit conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary (also Luke 1:35). This divine incarnation assured the genealogical and seminal link with sinful Adam was broken with the miraculous birth of the God-Man the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus grew we are told that he became strong in spirit.

Just prior to the baptism of our Lord, John the Baptizer proclaims that, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). While this passage is a clear statement of the Spirit’s procession from the Son, first the Spirit must be poured out on the Son. At His baptism, specifically as recorded in John 1:32, the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove, offering a public inauguration that could be seen and testified to while creating an interesting link between the Spirit and baptism (He was anointed and washed). This public anointing of Jesus at His baptism sets Him apart for His tri-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. In this we see the full Trinity on full display as the Father commends the Son for ministry and the Spirit anoints the Son for ministry.

Continuing in John’s gospel account, in John 3:34 Jesus states that God the Father has sent the Son and has given Him the Spirit without measure to speak the words of God, likely a clear reference to the passage from Isaiah 59:21. At the conclusion of His baptism, our Lord is led into the wilderness by the Spirit, being full of the Spirit (Luke 4:1) to be tempted by the devil, a forty day fast in which He successfully resisted the assaults of the devil through His thrice citation of Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11). After securing victory in His own garden temptation (vis a vis Adam in Genesis 3), our Lord begins His ministry (according to Luke) with a proclamation of Isaiah 61:1-2a, specifically including the section on the anointment from the Spirit. As we alluded to earlier, the anointing spoken of in this passage is nothing less than a designation of the Son of God as High Priest, Prophet, and King, the roles He now steps into after being anointed by and with the Spirit of God.

Specifically referencing this anointing of Christ and alluding to His Priesthood, the opening chapter of Hebrews sets the stage for a letter that revolves around the proclamation of Christ as High Priest in the New Covenant. By setting up a contrast with the Old Covenant priests who were appointed after the order of Levi (Aaron for High Priests), offered sacrifices for themselves and then the people, and offered the blood of bulls and goats, Hebrews establishes the superiority of Christ’s High Priesthood because He is after the order of Melchizedek, was sinless needing no personal sacrifice, and offered the blood of Himself. It is by the means of the Spirit’s anointing that these Priestly duties can and do occur. However, this outpouring on the Son is not the final word. There is more to come following the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Having seen the first two grades of the Son’s anointing by the Spirit, in the next post we will finalize our study with a look at the procession of the Spirit from the Son at Christ’s ascension. It is there that the connection is made from the Spirit’s anointing on our Lord to the procession of the Spirit from Him to all those in union with Him through faith. In other words, Christ is the conduit through Whom the Holy Spirit is transmitted or proceeds to believers.

The Old Testament references that we’ve now seen, specifically those in Isaiah, concerning the coming Spirit are prophecies that the Spirit will have a special abiding and outpouring relationship on God the Son. As mentioned, this is significant for understanding how Joel’s prophecy would be fulfilled and how the promised Holy Spirit was given to people after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as we will see. It is a clear witness from Scripture that the promise of the Holy Spirit was given to our Lord and that His ministry was marked with the presence of the Spirit given to Him without measure which empowered Him to preach God’s Word and perform divine miracles. This outpouring relationship between God the Son and God the Holy Spirit at the will of God the Father speaks to the Trinitarian nature of the Covenant of Redemption made before the foundation of the world.

The prophecy of Joel related to the outpouring of the Spirit, a prophecy which Peter saw fulfilled at Pentecost, can only be properly understood by realizing that the Spirit was first given to the Son as a result of this covenant made within the God-head. As we will see in the next post, the giving of the Spirit to believers is directly related to the finished work of Christ and is THE promise of the New Covenant in Christ.

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Christian saved by grace through faith.


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