The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Matthew, Mark, and Luke

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts

In the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, and Luke) the Spirit enables Mary to conceive even though she is a virgin (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:35). There is nothing here like what happens in Genesis 6, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men (Gen 6:4). Nor is the virgin birth comparable to episodes in Greek mythology when the gods took advantage of human women. The text explicitly states that Mary was a virgin (Matt 1:25). The Spirit of God produced in her what would otherwise be impossible: conception apart from male seed.

All four Gospels present John the Baptist announcing the coming of the prophesied one. The OT prophets looked forward to the coming of a uniquely anointed descendant of David, and John came in the power of the Spirit (Luke 1:15) announcing that the one coming after him would baptize in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8 Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The Baptist is not the only one involved in the renewal of Spirit inspired prophecy: his mother was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:41), as did his father Zechariah (1:67). Then when Jesus was presented at the temple Simeon was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (2:25–27). This renewal of prophecy is significant because there are indications in the inter-testamental literature (between Malachi and the birth of the Baptist) that prophecy had ceased (see 1 Macc 4:46; 9:27; 14:41; 2 Bar 85:1–3).

The Baptist’s announcement that Jesus would baptize in the Spirit seems to indicate that he expected the fulfillment of the prophecies that all God’s people would experience the Spirit (Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28–32). Then the Spirit comes on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32–33). The Baptist thereby identified Jesus as the one whose way he was preparing (John 1:31–34), and the authors of the gospels saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophetically generated hopes (Matt 12:17–18). Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit (Matt 4:1; 12:28; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1, 14; 10:21) and promised the Spirit to his disciples (Matt 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 11:13; 12:12). Jesus pointed to the power of the Spirit in his ministry as key evidence that the Kingdom was arriving through his work (Matt 12:28; Luke 4:18).[1] Resisting the Spirit’s testimony to Jesus and opposing what God was doing by the power of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry is probably what Jesus had in view when he spoke of blasphemy against the Spirit (Matt 12:31–32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10). To persist in unbelief in spite of the Spirit’s attestation is to blaspheme the Spirit.[2] It is also worth observing that Jesus understood the authors of the Old Testament to have spoken by the Spirit (Matt 22:43; Mark 12:36). Significantly for our present purposes, Jesus commissioned his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18–20).


[1] For an examination of the already-not yet nature of the Kingdom of God in the NT, see Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 41–116.

[2] For a helpful discussion that comes to a very similar conclusion, see Graham A. Cole’s chapter “What Is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?” in his book Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 19–34.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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