Tag Archives: Christ

The Singular Role of the Third Person (Part 3)

by Marv

In parts one and two of this series, we have been considering how the Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit, following the model of how Christ Himself, in the wisdom of the Father’s plan, ministered on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is the role of the Holy Spirit to empower the Church to serve as the Body of Christ.

So what does this look like? The Scriptures make it clear that the works of Christ on earth continue, but with various functions spread out through the different individuals who make up the Church. Each individual does a part of this ministry, contributing to the whole, the community, the Body. It is the Body that does the work as a whole, and to the various individuals are distributed the various works.

One image that the Bible uses to describe these apportioned functions is “gifts.” These gifts the Spirit distributes as He wills throughout the Body:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-7)

Accordingly we see the individual church members doing these works as Christ did them. Let us see what this looks like:

1. Prophecy

Jesus gives a personal prophecy to Peter in John 21:18-19:

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)

In context this prophecy of Peter’s death was very much as Paul tells us for Peter’s “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” (1 Cor 14:3) He had failed in his love when he thought he wouldn’t. Jesus promises he will ultimately succeed in his love for Christ, to the very death, even though he now thinks he cannot.

Similarly, prophesy in the body of Christ has this same role. It is not only proclamation of the gospel, but also “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”

Prophecy also serves to convict the unbeliever:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor 14: 24-25)

By prophecy God is exposing the secrets of the person’s heart, “reading his mail,” as they say. This is what Jesus said the Spirit would do, “convict the world concerning sin” (John 16:8). Why? Because Jesus was going to the Father, and that was one of the works that He did on earth, as He prophesied to the woman at the well:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. (John 16: 16-19)

Her response?

Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (v. 29)

“Can this be the Christ?”

God is really among you.”

So while the prophesies themselves are individual, personal in their content, they serve to point to Christ, to glorify the Father, to drive home the gospel:

2. Knowledge

Prophecy is just one example. We have also reference to the “utterance of knowledge’ (1 Cor. 12:9). What is this? Well consider this exchange:

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:46-51)

Now it seems very clear to me that here Nathaniel understood Jesus’ seeing him sitting under a tree to be something other than natural sight. He reacted to this knowledge as miraculous. As a miracle, it is rather modest, yet through it God revealed Himself to Nathaniel, opened His heart to believe in Christ.

Similarly, New Testament believers experienced sight beyond the natural, instances of knowledge given by the Spirit for ministry.

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” (Acts 14:8-10)

It is difficult to know how Paul would be able to see “faith,” apart from the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. He understood that apart from Christ he could do nothing. Indeed, he saw what God was already doing in this man. Jesus Himself said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”(John 5:19)

If this was so for the Lord Jesus, how much more do we as His Church require the knowledge given through the Spirit to carry out His works?

3. Other gifts

Is there any need to demonstrate from the gospels how healing, miracles, distinguishing spirits, speaking wisdom, acts of service, teaching, showing mercy, exhortation and such are all works performed by Christ in his earthly ministry? And they are also works said to be performed by the body of Christ on earth (Rom 12:5-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30).

Many of the gifts however, explicitly entail communication through the Spirit. In one way or another, certain information, certain content comes to exist in the mind of the individual. The Scripture indicates that as in a human body, the head connects to and coordinates all the various members of the body (Eph. 4:15-16). A human body accomplishes this in part through the efferent and afferent pathways of the nervous system. It should not be surprising that Christ’s body similarly maintains interconnection through flow of information, sensation, and activation from the head.

This necessary and essential flow of information should not be confused with communication of a different kind.

The message of the Church is the gospel, the good news about Christ’s finished work. Proclamation of this message is the primary mission of the Body. It is sometimes asserted that true prophecy and any utterance of knowledge will express this message and only this message. Yet this is not at all what we find in Scripture, which indicates that the Body not only communicates with the world but within itself for such purposes as “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3). This may involve matters quite mundane, such as Nathaniel sitting under a tree or contain crucial and time-sensitive information for specific believers in a given time and place (Acts 11:28). All these are ultimately oriented toward the good function of the Body, and in that way serve the proclamation of the gospel, though not every individual message is in itself a gospel message.

Second, communication through the Spirit should not be confused with expression of doctrine or expansion of the Canon. This is simply not what the continued practice of New Testament prophecy and similar speaking gifts is intended to do. Only a tiny percent of what Jesus Himself said and did in His life is recorded in the Scriptures (John 21:25). In His ministry He spoke to many people the things given Him by His father to say (John 12:49). The Spirit uses what He wishes to effect His results.

So then, Jesus Himself, who functioned in the power of the Holy Spirit (though He was Himself God), carried on his ministry be being in continual communication with the Father, through the Spirit, as we saw above:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. (John 5:19-20)

We have already seen the similar statement in regard to us vis-a-vis Christ:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Communication through the Spirit then, constant contact with Christ, is not only not presumption or denial of Christ’s work or pointing away from Christ. It is of the essence of the Church being His Body, and of the individual being a member of that Body.

In summary, the Holy Spirit empowers the church, yes, to proclaim the good news of the unique Son of God and His finished work on the cross. But He also empowers the Church to be the Body of Christ that does the proclaiming. The Holy Spirit in several places in the New Testament effects works of communication. This includes proclamation of the gospel, communication specifically about the person of Christ and about His work. However, this is not the only subject He communicates about. He also is described and exemplified as speaking to specific details of individual lives. This is the way He operated through Christ in His earthly ministry, and by multiple statements we are assured that He also operates in the body of Christ in these same ways. This understanding is quite basic to the concept of the body of Christ, and according to Christ is to continue as long as the Church serves on earth as His body, that is until the end of the age.

The Singular Role of the Third Person (Part 2)

by Marv

In part one, we considered God’s plan to have Jesus minister through resources that He would later make available to the Church. That is, He planned for Jesus, though Himself fully divine from all eternity, to minister as Man, anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and so in turn for the Church to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This explains Jesus’ sending language:

As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. (John 20:21)

This passing of the torch, so to speak, is also exemplified in Jesus’ instructions about carrying on as His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse:

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15: 8-10)

This abiding is the disciple’s source of power:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (vv. 4-5)

This source of power is, as we have seen in the case of the Son of Man, the Holy Spirit:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16)

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)

…if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16: 7-15)

The disciples, the Church, then is sent by Christ as Christ was sent by the Father. The Church testifies to Christ as Christ testified to His Father. The Church is empowered by Christ’s sending the Spirit to them, as Christ was empowered by the Father sending the Spirit to the Son.

Jesus makes it clear that this chain of sending and empowerment will have some astonishing results:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-13)

Jesus’ plan is that empowered works by His Church not only testify to Him but bring glory to the Father. This is because everything Christ does is to glorify His Father:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3)

So much so that Jesus proclaims: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8).

He is empowered by the Spirit, in order to represent—in an ambassadorial role—to be the Father:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:10)

Amazingly, the Scriptures describe the function of the Church by similar expressions The Church testifies to Christ, represents Christ, and in an ambassadorial role is Christ for the world to whom the Church is sent.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12: 12-13)

The language is vivid. Christ came in human flesh, with hands and feet and eyes and ears and mouth, and He ministered through these. His plan, coming as a human, being empowered by the Spirit, making disciples, sending disciples to make disciples, was after his ascension, to continue to minister in human flesh with hands and feet and eyes an ears and mouth, through His Body, the Church. Thus Luke can begin Acts, the sequel to his gospel:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up… (Luke 1:1-2)

He continues to do and teach, through the Church, through His body. There is such identification that Christ asks Saul, then a persecutor of the Church: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

The purpose of the Spirit among the Church is not only to point back to Christ, but to point to Christ by being His body. His unique work is finished. Yet He continues to be actively at work through His Church.

Is this activity in the world something He no longer does? Is that something that is completed in the apostles’ foundational ministry? How long does Christ intend for the Church to function as His body empowered by the Holy Spirit? Does He tell us?  I believe He does.

Peter says of Christ, in His empowerment:

…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

God was with him” is an astonishing way to speak of One who is Himself God—but once again, we see the Father’s wisdom in empowering Christ’s earthly ministry through the Holy Spirit.  For God to be “with Him” is precisely an expression of that anointing, that empowering. 

Now this is exactly what Christ Himself promises us, His “being with” us, His continued empowering of His Church through the Holy Spirit.  For how long?  Until the death of the apostles?  Until the close of the Canon?  No, this is what the Lord says:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18-20)

This expression “I am with you” is so familiar, we may tend to think of it as sort of a warm, fuzzy encouragement, expression of Christ’s concern for us. Yet in context it also is a statement of the Church’s Spirit-empowered mission. Let me state, that in distinction with various theories of cessationism, Christ’s tells us that His empowerment lasts until “the end of the age.”

The Singular Role of the Third Person (Part 1)

by Marv

The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully Man.  In our time believer’s have so had to contend in support of His divinity, that we often underplay His role in His Father’s plan as Man.  First, and most importantly, His obedience and His sacrifice were accomplished as Man. Christ, the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:14), accomplished what Adam failed to do, and brought life whereas Adam brought death (Rom. 5:12-21). This work is unique and finished and is indeed the good news that we proclaim.

Another aspect of Christ’s being the Last Adam and the Son of Man is that He is not just a man, but the Man. He is everything that man ought to be. As such the Son of Man is not only the unique sacrifice but also the ultimate example. The nature of an example, of course, is to be anything but unique. God’s eschatological purpose for His people is that they all would be transformed into Christ’s image.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom. 8:29)

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb. 2:10)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

This destiny of the redeemed is, as I mentioned, an eschatological promise, a “not yet,” but there is also an “already,” both in progress and in current reality. In terms of progress, we are undergoing sanctification:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)

This example aspect of Christ’s mission is deeply ingrained in God’s plan for Christ’s ministry with specific application to the Church that Christ was building. He not only came to give His life as a ransom, but He also established disciples and gave the Church the continuing mission of making disciples (Matt. 28:19). Jesus states clearly that the purpose of being a disciple is to resemble the master:

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40).

This explains much of the reason why the Son of God performed His earthly ministerial duties in His capacity as the Son of Man. What I mean is this: the Second Person of the Trinity, fully God, has all power in Himself. He created and sustains the world (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). Nevertheless, we see Him do something rather striking. Fully God yet fully man he nevertheless takes on and operates in the Power of the Third Person of the Trinity:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt. 12:28)

The Kingdom of God had come upon them because Jesus was the King. In fact, He came as the fulfillment of a long string of titles, including: Seed of the Woman, Seed of Abraham, the Prophet like Moses, the Son of David—that is, the ultimate King of Israel and more, the King of kings. In God’s theocratic economy the king was anointed with the Holy Spirit:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam. 16:13)

Similarly at Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit came upon Him:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. (Matt. 3:16)

His very title, Christ, “the Anointed One” is testimony that the Second Person of the Trinity as Man was empowered by the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

For whatever purpose God was pleased to do this, it was at least because His plan was to have Jesus minister through resources that He would later make available to the Church. That is, He planned for Jesus to minister on earth in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then to continue to minister through His Church in the power of the Holy Spirit.