Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bruce Ware on Christ and a Spirit-Empowered Ministry

We are all blessed in many and different ways, but a personal joy for me is the fact that I have a theologian for a father-in-law. Deep question come up? Write an email. Theological incongruity emerge? Ask your in-law. Mysterious doctrine baffle the mind and heart? Pull up a chair after dinner. I don't often publicly mention how blessed I am to be the son-in-law of the humble, gifted, godly Bruce Ware, but I want to today. It is a privilege and a great help to me--I am so thankful for my father-in-law, for his ministry to church, academy, and world, and for his great personal kindness to his family. I don't deserve to be related to him, but I am honored to be so.

I say all this because my friend, "JV," (also known as Josh Vincent, a Florida pastor and SBTS grad) asked a great question in reference to my blog last week about the role of the Spirit in Christ's life prior to his anointing by the Spirit at His baptism. Here is JV's series of questions in full: "What are your thoughts on the presence of the Spirit with Jesus prior to his descending upon Jesus. Was Jesus without the Spirit prior to this? Also, do you think there is a qualitative or quantitative difference in the way that we have the Spirit or the communion enjoyed and that which Christ himself lived in?"

I found this a difficult and thoughtful question, and so wrote Dr. Ware for his thoughts on the matter, which I sought to present as he teaches (though if I made any errors, they are my own, not his). I present his answer here with his consent in hopes that it will help others as it has helped me to understand the relationship between Christ and the Spirit in Christ's lifetime. Here goes:

"Since the OT predicts, among other things, that the coming Messiah would have the Spirit upon him, the Spirit who would manifest in him understanding, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord (e.g., Isa 11:1-2), I take it that he would have had the Spirit from the very first instant of his life as the God-man. So, Luke 1:35 means, among other things, that when the Holy Spirit brought about the miraculous conception in Mary of this God-man, Jesus the Christ, the Spirit would have indwelt him from the instant he was conceived. A couple other reason for thinking so are: 1) if John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, was filled with the Spirit while in his mother's womb (Luke 1:15, 41), wouldn't the Messiah even more so be filled from the start? 2) the reference in Luke 2:40 that Jesus grew in wisdom and that the grace of God was upon him is best understood, in my view, as a reference to the Spirit upon Jesus enabling him to have the wisdom and understanding that he had, even to the point of marvelling the teachers of the law at the temple as a 12 yr old boy (Luke 2:41-52).

So, what happened at his baptism? I understand this as a special and powerful anointing of the Spirit, much as the Spirit came upon prophets or judges or civil rulers in the Old Testament, and as he came upon Peter or other apostles even after Pentecost when they had already permanently and previously received the Spirit. Jesus' baptism marked the beginning of Jesus' public ministry wherein his teaching, miracles, resisting more severe temptations, etc, were all about to start. So, while Jesus was already indwelt with the Spirit from the moment of conception, the Spirit came upon him in a special way for the outward ministry to which he was embarking. Also, the public display of the Spirit coming on him as a dove was an empirical marker to others that he was none other than the Spirit-anointed Messiah (John 1:29-34).

All of this upholds the thrust of what you argued in your blog -- that Jesus lived his life in the power of the Spirit, and as such, he truly is an example for how we too are to live. As Packer has put it, "Jesus the Spirit-bearer became the Spirit-giver." The empowerment for his obedience and resistance of temptation is the empowerment given to his followers -- note: see the obvious and intended (I think) connection between Acts 1:8 about how we are enabled to fulfill God's mission, and the description of how Jesus lived his life in Acts 10:38. And so, yes, Jesus' first 30 years were also lived in the power of the Spirit, while his last years of ministry, teaching, cross, and resurrection evidenced even greater outpouring of Spirit-empowerment. Well, it is a great and glorious truth: we are to follow in his steps (1 Pet 2:21ff) and have the same attitude in ourselves that was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5ff). This is only possible because the Spirit-indwelling and empowerment in us was the same that was in Jesus.

By the way, Sam Storms has also written about this recently (in the past month), and an excellent book on this subject is Gerald Hawthorne's The Presence and the Power."

There you have it--the words of a master theologian on a difficult but important topic. I hope that this information encourages you by helping you to realize the depth of access you have to the might of God, and that this realization fuels a life of courage, boldness, and humble dependence on the Spirit.

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