Did Jesus have the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article about the indwelling Holy Spirit.)

Question: When Jesus was baptized by water, was he also baptized with the Holy Spirit? Did the incarnate Christ experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we do?

Answer: We know that Jesus became human through his incarnation (Philippians 2:7-8; Hebrews 2:14). Yet we also know that Jesus was God at the same time (Colossians 2:9)… and in that way, he was (obviously!) different from us. So your question is well taken. Is the incarnate Christ’s relationship to the Holy Spirit the same as ours... but more particularly, did he experience an indwelling of the Spirit?

I’ll agree that the events at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:10) had the flavor of Pentecost… especially that part where the Holy Spirit came down and began indwelling believers (Acts 2). I’ll also agree that the events at Jesus’ baptism looked like they could be a foreshadowing — or sort of a “first fruits” experience — of the Holy Spirit.

But I think those relationships are just incidental and not probative, and I will give you four reasons why I think that the incarnate Jesus’ relation to the Holy Spirit was profoundly different than ours... and especially as it relates to his indwelling.

First, the timing was wrong. Even if he could have experienced an indwelling, Jesus was not a Christian. In fact, he lived his whole life as a Jew — and here’s a fun fact: Christians weren’t even invented until fifty days after his resurrection! (Acts 2, at Pentecost). Therefore, Jesus was not even in the category of people who were being indwelt because no one was indwelt until after Pentecost… and Pentecost was ten days after Jesus’ ascension.

Second, the functions of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age would be wasted on Jesus. For example, the Holy Spirit is the one who installs us into the Church (1 Corinthian 12:13) … and the Head of the Church would have no need of that! Additionally, the indwelling Holy Spirit is the one who gives us proof that we belong to Christ (Romans 8:15-17) … and it would be absurd to say that Christ had need of this.

Third, John presents the physical presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit as mutually exclusive (or as a zero-sum relationship). Jesus said that he must leave… because if he didn’t, the Holy Spirit could not come. But not only that, he said that by his leaving we will be put in a better position to deal with the age to come (John 16:7-11).

I’m not sure why this is so. I suspect it has to do with the hypostatic union (our next topic … although I wish this teaching showed up in a few more places). Now, I realize we are talking about this age in your question, but think for a minute about the far future. When Christ returns, he will dispatch sin, we will be perfected and have our glorified bodies. Do you think we’ll have the indwelling Spirit at that time?

I do not… and I think this is a natural manifestation of that zero-sum relationship. When we are with Jesus, we will no longer need a translator (Romans 8:26), and we won’t need anyone to convict us of sins.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit was already involved in the hypostatic union. That’s the term we use to describe God the Son’s taking on of a human nature… yet remaining fully God at the same time… and he did this with no mixture or dilution of either nature. This resulted in a person (Jesus) … who is only one person… but who has two natures… and these two natures are united forever.

That’s all well and good… but what about the Holy Spirit?

We human beings are living souls… but we did not become persons until our souls joined with our physical bodies. The wash is, we did not always exist. Both our bodies and souls were created at a point in time. But Jesus always existed. It’s just that he did not always have a physical body.

Now, Jesus has a soul, too. His is called the Logos. This is the Greek word translated as “Word” in John 1:1, and this verse teaches that the Logos is eternal. Note that in the Logos, Christ is also the archetype of humanity. But archetypes notwithstanding, to become a human person, the Logos had to join with a human body. He did this at a point in time (just like we did) … and God used Mary to accomplish this.

But Jesus’ “soul” (his Logos) was decidedly different than ours. We need the Holy Spirit for any number of things… but Jesus simply doesn’t. He is fully God… it’s just that he is also fully human. So, being God, Jesus was still in the Trinity — even when he was getting baptized… and even when dying on the cross!

So, the dove was a symbol of God’s approval, but it did not signal a spiritual indwelling like ours. Therefore, any suggestion that Jesus was indwelt by the Holy Spirit would result in a redundancy of Holy Spirits… as if one weren’t enough! So, the notion is nonsensical — and perhaps even insulting in the light of an orthodox Christology.

I pray that this discussion of the indwelling Spirit helped you more than it hurt you. God bless you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20200106 Did Jesus have the indwelling Holy Spirit?).

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