The Spirit of Christ

The Jews then gathered around Jesus, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

John 10:24

In the Old Testament, the act of anointing individuals signified that they had been chosen by God for a specific task or office.  The Hebrew word for anointed is mashiach, which we translate as “messiah,” and both kings and priests were consecrated for service by virtue of being anointed with oil:

You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me.
Exodus 30:30

Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?”
1 Samuel 10:1

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.
1 Samuel 16:13

Hence being anointed was an endorsement of sorts, a visible sign that God had chosen an individual to represent and serve Him in a certain way and for a particular purpose.  And while it conveyed a measure of unquestioned honor and authority, being anointed also came with a high calling.  Because God didn’t allow kings and priests to do whatever they wanted or serve Him however they saw fit, they were still accountable to Him and responsible to adhere to the prescribed terms and expectations of the office to which they were called.

God’s anointing was therefore not something to be taken lightly or capriciously, and failing to abide by His guidelines could not only result in death…

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
Leviticus 10:1-2

but as Saul found out when he tried to excuse his actions – rather than confess his sin and truly repent of it – being anointed necessarily entails our consistent obedience and submission to God’s will.…

But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you.”
1 Samuel 15:26-28

So while both priests and kings were messiahs by virtue of being anointed, it is worth noting that the designation of mashiach was primarily used in reference to Israel’s King; moreover, the Greek word for anointed is christos, or “christ.”  Thus as The Messiah, God’s supremely Anointed One, when we acknowledge Jesus as Christ we are really honoring Him as God’s Chosen King. 

“There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed.”
Psalm 132:17

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.
Acts 2:36

As with all messiahs, though, Jesus’ supreme title comes with an equally high calling.  For as The Messiah, Jesus was appointed by God to carry out the one mission that He alone was able to complete – redeeming all of creation and thereby securing the Kingdom of God once and for all.  It was a calling that cost Him His life.

Filled with The Spirit

Without a doubt, Jesus’ status as God’s Chosen King is fundamental to our understanding of His singular designation as “Son.”  That being said, the means of His anointing is just as significant as His office.  For whereas earthly kings were anointed with earthly accoutrements, it only makes sense that Jesus’ anointing was just as distinctive as He was:

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Acts 10:38

Indeed, when Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river – in keeping with His humanity – He was simultaneously anointed with the Holy Spirit in light of His divinity!  To be clear, this reality should not be confused with the heresy of Adoptionism, which states that Jesus did not “become God” until the moment of His baptism.  For just as David’s anointing served to inaugurate his mission without fundamentally changing who he was, it’s not as if Jesus was a mere man prior to being baptized.  Jesus’ anointing was likewise a sign that was primarily given for John’s benefit, a ceremonial act that signified the “official” start of His public ministry by confirming whom Jesus already was

John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:32-34

Thus in conjunction with the multitude of verses which attest to Jesus’ connection with the Holy Spirit, the nature of His anointing gives further credence to the assertion that His identity as the Son is not on account of being united with the “second person” of some supposed Godhead; rather, Jesus’ union with God the Father is via the Spirit of God directly, through the same “Holy Spirit” that indwells all believers even today.  In short, Jesus’ intimacy with God is the “first fruits” of the kind of relationship that God desires to have with all of His children, one that is now possible on account of Christ’s atoning sacrifice which has reconciled us to God:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:13-20

After all, why do you think that Jesus tells the apostles that if He does not go away, the Spirit cannot come?  Because Jesus knows that until He has paid the penalty for sin, the kind of familiar, direct relationship that He has with the Father simply isn’t possible for anyone else:

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
John 16:7

For whereas the Spirit could only “come upon” and assist God’s agents under the Old Covenant, Christ’s victory over the Serpent has changed everything.  Hence when Paul says that Jesus will come to have first place in all things, it speaks not just to the fact that Jesus was the first of His brethren to be resurrected from the dead, but as the firstborn of all creation it testifies that Jesus was the first person to experience a direct relationship with God via the indwelling of God’s own Holy Spirit!  His relationship is both the first of its kind and the prototype of things to come, such that when we receive Christ as Lord we are subsequently given the privilege of calling ourselves God’s children by virtue of the same Holy Spirit:

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:6

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:12-13

That being said, it goes without saying that God is Jesus’ Father in a very different sense than He is our Father, because Jesus’ union with the Holy Spirit is perfect whereas we continue to resist the Spirit’s efforts to circumcise our fallen, sinful hearts.  And yet, despite our ongoing struggle to crucify our flesh and submit to the Spirit, the tri-partite designation of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” reminds us that God is indeed our Father if we have been born again.  So when we compare Jesus’ relationship with God to our own, His incomparable union with God is essentially the superlative example of what Scripture refers to as being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  It’s what we aspire to as God’s adopted children, and it’s what the Son has been all along. 

I’m sure that Trinitarians are taken aback by this notion, since the doctrine simply cannot account for it.  But not only is this connection between Jesus and God via the Holy Spirit forthrightly declared in the New Testament, it is clearly prophesied in the Old:

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:2

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
Isaiah 42:1-3

And of course there is the passage from Isaiah 61 which Jesus attributes directly to Himself:

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Jesus. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:17-21

It is almost impossible to read these verses through the lens of the Trinity without introducing all sorts of difficulties that are simply not present if you assume that the “Son” was anointed by and filled with the same Holy Spirit that now indwells all of God’s adopted children.  How else could Jesus say that He will be with us after His departure to Heaven?  Because we all partake of the same Spirit!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:19 (NRSV)

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:6

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.
1 Peter 1:10-12

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

Fully Man, Fully God

It seems clear that the prompting, leading, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit cannot be restricted to God’s interaction with all human beings except for One; to the contrary, as the Son of Man it is also true of Jesus Himself.  And since the activity of the Holy Spirit involves advancing the Kingdom of God – particularly when it comes to God working through human agents – why wouldn’t it also be true of The Messiah, the Son of Man who was called upon to wage the decisive battle in the war to establish God’s Kingdom?  

Furthermore, when you think about Jesus’ accountability to God in light of His predecessors, it makes sense that even the Son would be subject to the Father.  After all, every other mashiach prior to Christ both received their authority from God and were answerable to Him for how they used it, so why would Jesus be any different?  Indeed, aside from Jesus’ sinlessness, the primary difference between Him and every other mashiach is in the scope of His authority as well as the magnitude of His calling, not His accountability to the One who called and empowered Him in the first place. 

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.
Acts 2:36

All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
1 Corinthians 3:22-23

Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:3

Again, reconsider the dozens of verses where Jesus testifies to His inability to act on His own initiative.  Or the passages that testify to His authority being something that is received rather than owned.  Or even the passage which triumphantly declares that the title of Lord – which is truly the Name above all Names – is an honor that is nevertheless bestowed upon Jesus by His Father:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

I know this sounds strange to contemplate, since we have been conditioned to accept that Jesus is the incarnation of the so-called “second person of the Trinity” rather than the “third person,” but that’s only because we don’t listen to our Bibles.  Regardless, the Holy Spirit is not the “third member” of some hypothetical “Godhead,” it is a reference to the way that all human beings, Jesus included, hear from God and experience His presence at a spiritual level.  Hence even when Jesus speaks in terms of obeying the Father, He is simply doing what God is telling Him to do by virtue of listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to Him…just like the rest of His fallen, redeemed brethren.

The critical difference between Jesus’ connection with the Holy Spirit and ours, then, is that as the unique, “only begotten” Son of God, His union with the Holy Spirit was not only His lifeline but also His birthright.  For whereas we have “become partakers of the Holy Spirit” by virtue of being born again, Jesus’ entire life was marked by a complete and perfect union with God.  He was always and ever the fullness of Deity in human flesh, except for that fateful transaction upon the Cross when the Father had to look away and separate Himself from the One who temporarily became sin for us:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Matthew 27:46

Jesus’ question is not merely an allusion to Psalm 22, it is a literal cry of anguish from Christ who has never lived a moment outside of the presence of God.  The Father withdraws His anointing, indeed His own Holy Spirit, from Jesus – just as He had done previously with Saul – but not on account of anything that Jesus has done.  On the contrary, the only thing that Jesus did to warrant being cast away from His Father was volunteering to die in our place.  He offered Himself and paid for the sin of all mankind, in His own blood, once and for all.  Not merely out of obligation or necessity, though, but out of the great love He has for His Father and the measureless compassion that He has for all of us.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 Corinthians 5:21

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

And so with this perspective in view, go back to the passages that refer to Jesus being “driven by the Spirit” or “filled with the Spirit.”  We’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that “the fullness of the deity” dwelling in Christ was “God the Son,” but if Jesus’ designation as the “Son” is actually on account of His utter unity with the Holy Spirit, then those verses make perfect sense.  There is no confusion because there are not multiple persons.  Moreover, asserting that Jesus’ deity is on account of His union with the Holy Spirit takes nothing away from His majesty as Immanuel, since the only necessary condition for Him to be “fully man and fully God” is a fully divine participant in the equation.  Wouldn’t the Holy Spirit qualify in that regard?

To be clear, there is no fundamental difference between how Jesus and the rest of God’s adopted children hear from their Father; it’s the degree, depth, and permanence of that relationship that sets Him apart.  And even though this concept seems almost too rudimentary, it certainly clears up the confusion of the earlier passages that the Trinity struggles to explain.  Because if Jesus is filled with the same Holy Spirit that indwells us, then once again “Son” functions primarily as a title that sets Jesus apart from everyone else…and rightfully so!  It has nothing to do with a “second person” in a divine triumvirate but calls attention to the uniqueness of Christ as God Incarnate, the only person to experience perfect communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit. 

So which perspective rings true?  Is it the Trinity’s assertion that there are three persons eternally existing within a Godhead – in spite of the fact that there is not a single verse in the Bible that clearly and unambiguously substantiates it – or is it the notion that Jesus’ incomparable union with God was the result of a complete infilling of God’s Spirit made possible because Jesus was uniquely unfettered and untainted by sin? 

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

Scripture has plainly spoken on the matter.  Maybe the only real question is whether or not we’re listening.

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