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3. Putting Pentecost in Perspective (Part 2) The Holy Spirit in the Gospels (Acts 2:1-13)


In Acts 1 our Lord promised the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost by indicating three ways in which the event was anticipated:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).

The first prophecy of the Spirit’s coming was referred to as the “promise of the Father,” which I understand to be the prophecies of the Old Testament pertaining to the coming age of the Spirit. The second line of prophecy came from our Lord, for He spoke quite often of the Spirit and of His future role in the lives of His disciples and of those who believed in Him. The third line of prophecy came from John the Baptist. Almost every time we read of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” we do so in the context of John’s baptism and John’s words.

Our last lesson focused our attention on the ministry of the Holy Spirit as described in the Old Testament and as prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. In this lesson, we will turn our attention to the ministry of the Holy Spirit as depicted in the Gospels. We will concentrate on three aspects of the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

(1) The role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people other than Jesus;

(2) The role of the Holy Spirit in the teaching of John the Baptist; and

(3) The Holy Spirit in the ministry and teaching of the Lord Jesus.

We will thus be prepared for the event of Pentecost as described and explained in Acts chapter 2.

Those Filled with the
Holy Spirit in the Gospels

In a manner very similar to the “filling” of the Old Testament personalities, there were a number of people who were described as being filled with the Holy Spirit:

15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:15-17).

80 And the child {John the Baptist} grew and became strong in {the?} spirit {Spirit?}; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel (Luke 1:80).

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed … (Luke 1:41-42).

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied … (Luke 1:67).

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying …” (Luke 2:25-28).

From the passages above we learn that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit” while still in his mother’s womb. His “filling” was with the “spirit of Elijah.” I understand this to mean that it was the same Spirit which empowered Elijah, the Holy Spirit, and that it was the same essential ministry and message. As Elijah was sent to call the nation Israel to repentance in preparation for God’s future blessings, which would be prophesied by Elisha, so John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.

I believe John was “filled with the Spirit” in his mother’s womb for two main reasons. The first reason was that his first inspired (“Spirit filled”) ministry was carried out from the womb—his introduction of Messiah, who was also in the womb of Mary (cf. Luke 1:39-41). Here was a “Spirit-filled” leap, of such proportions that it was recognized as divinely enabled. The second reason was that he would need to grow up, instructed by the Spirit (in seclusion from society in the wilderness), so that his ministry and message was an indictment of the evils of that day, calling his culture to repentance, rather than simply confirming or reiterating their evils (which were a part of the fabric of their society, especially in their religious culture). John, much like Paul in later days (cf. Galatians 1:13-24), would learn the things of God in solitude and isolation and not as a student of the religious leadership of that day.

At the times of the conceptions and births of John and Jesus, there were several “Spirit-filled” utterances spoken, so that they were to be received as a direct word from God. Specifically identified as such were the utterances of Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45), Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), and Simeon (Luke 2:25-35). Also implied to be “Spirit-filled” utterances were the “magnificat” of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and the praise of Anna (Luke 2:36-38).

The Holy Spirit as
Prophesied by John the Baptist

In His ministry, John seemed to speak frequently about the future ministry of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the ministry of Messiah. The “baptizing” ministry of our Lord was closely linked with the baptism of John, both by comparison and contrast. It was indeed by the baptism of Jesus that He was divinely disclosed to be the Messiah:

Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:32-33).

Thus, the “Spirit baptism” of Jesus at the time of His water baptism was a divine designation, a divinely ordained identification of Jesus as the promised Messiah, whom John was to publicly introduce as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

While John baptized with water, a baptism of repentance, he spoke of Messiah as baptizing men as well, a baptism that was both similar to and different from his own:

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8).

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:16-17).

The ministry of John was intertwined with the ministry of Messiah. His message was two-fold: burning or blessing; the outpouring of divine wrath on the disobedient, or the outpouring of divine blessings on those who are faithful. John’s ministry and message were shaped by the final words of the Old Testament, spoken through the prophet Malachi:

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:1-6).

In addition to fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy, John’s words reiterated the warnings of other Old Testament prophets:

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9).

Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it? As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood! Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; under his pomp a fire will be kindled like a blazing flame. The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers. The splendor of his forests and fertile fields it will completely destroy, as when a sick man wastes away. And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few that a child could write them down (Isaiah 10:15-19).

“Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord; O house of David, this is what the Lord says: “‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord—you who say, “Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?” I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the Lord. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you’” (Jeremiah 21:11-14).

John spoke of the two options of Israel’s destiny as “baptisms” of Messiah, either the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” or the “baptism of fire.” The Old Testament prophets did not use the term “baptism,” however. The Old Testament counterpart for John’s term “baptize” was “pour out.” Note these specific prophecies which speak of the two “outpourings,” the two “baptisms,” of “fire” or of the “Spirit”:

The Baptism of the Fire of Divine Wrath

So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart (Isaiah 42:25).

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn and not be quenched’” (Jeremiah 7:20).

4 Like an enemy he has strung his bow; his right hand is ready. Like a foe he has slain all who were pleasing to the eye; he has poured out his wrath like fire on the tent of the Daughter of Zion.… 11 The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations (Lamentations 2:4, 11).

“I will pour out my wrath upon you and breathe out my fiery anger against you; I will hand you over to brutal men, men skilled in destruction” (Ezekiel 21:31).

“‘As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath upon you’” (Ezekiel 22:22).

“So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 22:31).

“I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him” (Ezekiel 38:22).

Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him (Nahum 1:6).

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them—all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger” (Zephaniah 3:8).

He, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb (Revelation 14:10).

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire (Revelation 16:8).

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3).

“I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:29).

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29).

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).

“Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:45).

John the Baptist could not have put the matter more concisely. Summed up in the fewest possible words, the ministry of Israel’s promised Messiah would be either (1) a baptism of the Holy Spirit, on those who believed in God and received Messiah by faith, or (2) the baptism of fire, on all who rejected Him and who had rebelled against God and His word.

John’s ministry and message were similar to that of Jesus in that both were “baptizers.” Theirs was a similar ministry in that both came to the nation Israel, and both spoke with reference to the kingdom which God had promised His people. Their ministries were different in that John’s was an introductory one—he was to prepare the way for Messiah. Jesus’ ministry, on the other hand, was to bring matters to their consummation, either the baptism of the Spirit and times of refreshing (the promised kingdom and its blessings) or the baptism of fire and God’s wrath on sinners. Put differently, John’s ministry terminated the old order, for he was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus’ ministry inaugurated a new order by the enactment of a new covenant, a covenant in His blood.

Incidentally, that “baptism of the Holy Spirit” of which John spoke was only possible because Jesus, the Messiah, personally experienced the “baptism of fire” of which he and the prophets spoke. He bore the penalty of the fire of God’s wrath:

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:49-50).

The Holy Spirit and Jesus, the Messiah

We have already seen from our study of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament that the Spirit would play a very decisive role in the ministry of the Messiah. This is clearly the case when we come to the Gospel accounts of the birth, life, ministry, and teaching of the Lord Jesus. We first see the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of the Christ:

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).

It is not until the time immediately preceding the public presentation of Jesus as the Messiah that we again see the Holy Spirit at work in the life of Messiah. At the time of Jesus’ baptism by John, the Spirit came upon Him in a visible form:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him (Matthew 3:16).

As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove (Mark 1:10).

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:32-33).

I find it noteworthy that while the descent of the Spirit came in close proximity to the baptism of our Lord by John, it was not at the moment of His baptism but afterwards, thereby distinguishing His water baptism from His “Spirit baptism.” Matthew’s account, along with that of Mark, makes this distinction clear. Luke does also, adding the additional detail that the Spirit came upon Jesus as He was praying, thus associating the descent of the Spirit more closely with our Lord’s prayer than with His baptism. Since Jesus will later promise the gift of the Spirit in response to the disciple’s prayer (Luke 11:11-13), this should come as no surprise.

John’s Gospel supplies us with another important insight. John says that he would not have known the Messiah apart from the visible descent of the Spirit upon Him. It was revealed to him that the One on whom the Spirit descended and remained was the Messiah whom John was to introduce to the nation Israel. Thus, Jesus’ baptism (if we would choose to call it that) was the indication of His identity and of His endowment with power, in a way not unlike what we have seen in the Old Testament. Luke will tell us that from this time on Jesus went forth “full of the Holy Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1ff.), and He commenced His public ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14ff.).

At the outset of His public ministry, Jesus claimed to be Messiah and to have the anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower His ministry. He did this by citing Isaiah 61:1-2 and claiming that it was fulfilled in Him that day:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed (Luke 4:18).

This Jesus did in the synagogue at Nazareth, in the village where He had grown up. Nowhere would this power be more evident.

Elsewhere, Jesus maintained that the evidence of the Spirit’s power in His life was proof that He had come down from heaven as Messiah:

“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit” (John 3:31-34).

Repeatedly the presence and power of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus was presented as proof of His identity as Israel’s Messiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations (Matthew 12:18).

28 “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

Thus, to reject Jesus as the Messiah required some explanation as to where His power came from. As no one could deny that His miracles were genuine and that there was the evidence of supernatural power, men who persisted in rejecting Christ as God’s Messiah had to attribute His power to Satan. In so doing, they became guilty of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, as I understand it in the Gospels, is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ to Satan.) Since this sin was against the instrument by whom God saved men, those who blasphemed the Spirit were forever doomed.

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit” (Mark 3:29-30).

“And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10).

In His teaching ministry, Jesus had a great deal to say about the Holy Spirit. For example, He taught that David spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, … (Matthew 22:43).

David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”’ (Mark 12:36).

Somehow I have come to the conclusion that Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit only (or at least primarily) to His disciples. He did speak much of the Spirit to them, and we will look into this in a moment. But first let us consider some of what our Lord taught more broadly about the Holy Spirit. The most interesting and crucial text is that found in John’s Gospel:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast {Tabernacles, v.2}, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:37-39).

These words of our Lord were spoken in Jerusalem on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. They were not spoken in private to a select group of his disciples, but rather they were cried out publicly to all who would hear. These words are a public promise of the Holy Spirit to all who “thirst.” The words which Jesus spoke are a direct allusion to two Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the Holy Spirit:

“But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel (Isaiah 44:1-5).

“Come, all yo who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1)

I have come to the conclusion that one of the symbols used to represent the Holy Spirit is that of water. Jesus’ offer of water to those who thirst is no new use of this symbolism, but rather His use of it as a familiar image. Isaiah’s prophecies contain many allusions to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, the books of the Law, as written by Moses) and to the work of God as recorded there. Thus, in Isaiah, God is often referred to as the Creator, for that He is. He is also spoken of as the One who brought Israel through the Red Sea. In that incident, God caused the sea to part, and the Israelites walked through on dry ground (not muddy ground). Poetically, it is described as God making a desert in the sea. This imagery is frequently found in Isaiah, but it is also reversed so that God is described as the One Who not only made a desert in the sea but Who will make a watered place, an oasis as it were, in the desert—streams in the desert. This imagery is utilized to depict the future outpouring of the Spirit of God on Israel, on dry and thirsty ground, bringing new life and vitality. This is that to which our Lord has made reference in John 7.

This “thirst” imagery is found throughout the Bible, beginning very early in the Old Testament. For example, God caused water to flow from the rock in the wilderness (cf. Exodus 17:1-6; Numbers 20:2-13). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that that “spiritual rock” was Christ. I am inclined to think that the “water” which came from the smitten rock (Rock = Christ) was the Spirit of Christ. Notice that in our Lord’s offer of “water” to those who “thirst” in John chapter 7, the “water” comes through “Christ,” not apart from Him. He is the source of the water, which we are told, was the Spirit. He sends the Spirit, Who quenches our thirst.

This passage in John 7 opens up a whole new world to me. It informs me that Jesus spoke often and openly of the Spirit, not just to His disciples but to men in general. Thus, when I go to earlier chapters in John’s Gospel, I am not surprised to find references to the Holy Spirit. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, a leading teacher in Israel (John 3:10), He spoke of the Holy Spirit’s role in the new birth, which came as an unknown matter to this teacher. And when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in the next chapter, He spoke of the “living water” which He would give, which would quench her thirst. This “water,” once again, was the Holy Spirit, I believe. And for this Samaritan woman, who thought of worship in terms of a certain place, Jesus taught that true worship must be enabled and inspired by the Holy Spirit:

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

When Jesus was dying on the cross, John reports that He uttered the words, “I thirst” (John 20:28). These words, John tells us, were spoken in order to fulfill the Scripture, apparently the text in Psalm 69:21. I think it may also be true that Jesus’ “thirst” here was very significant. If Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross, and there He was abandoned, for a time, by God (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46), then would the Spirit not have departed from Him? Would He not have thirsted in a much deeper sense, in the sense of which our Lord spoke in John 7 and elsewhere? I think so.

Little wonder that in the closing words of the Bible the matter of thirst and its satisfaction occur again:

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:6).

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).

The Holy Spirit is the “water of life” which comes without cost through Christ, and which gives life and satisfaction to all who will take of it.

And so it is that in His teaching, Jesus indicated that men are saved by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who communicates and illuminates the truth of God, and who brings men to life:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit… The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-6, 8).

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:8-11).

Jesus not only taught men generally about the Holy Spirit; He also taught His disciples a great deal about the Holy Spirit and the ministry which He would play in their lives and ministry to come. Earlier in His ministry He promised the Holy Spirit to those who would ask for Him:

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

As the time for His departure approached, Jesus spoke more of the Spirit’s coming, and especially of the ministry which the Spirit would have in manifesting His presence and power to His disciples:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:15-18).

The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would teach and guide them in His absence (perhaps I should better say that He would be present with them, teaching and guiding them through His Spirit):

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26).

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).

“All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15).

When the disciples were arrested for proclaiming the gospel, the Holy Spirit would give them the words to speak in their defense, thereby eliminating the need to worry or think about this before hand:

“For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:20).

“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:12).

The Great Commission which Jesus gave the disciples just before His ascension, was predicated on the power which He gave them through His Spirit. Thus, they were also commanded to wait for the Spirit to come upon them, enduing them with power:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

“You are witnesses to these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me; but you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:2-27).


The Holy Spirit played a central and crucial role in the life and ministry of our Lord. It was He, the Spirit, Who brought about the miraculous conception of Jesus. It was He Who endued Him with the power by which He conducted His earthly ministry. And it was He, as well, Who would comfort, encourage, and empower in the absence of the Lord Jesus, after His ascension. The Holy Spirit was (and is) the divine solution to the “thirst” which men have for God, and that thirst can only be quenched through the Spirit. Men are seeking to quench it in other ways, but it never satisfy. And the “living water” which the Spirit will give comes only through Christ, the Rock, Who was smitten on the cross of Calvary. Have you had your thirst quenched with this water? The offer of the Book of Revelation still stands, until the day of judgment comes:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).

For a more complete outline of the texts referring to the ministry of the Holy Spirit as found in the Gospels, please see Appendix A.

Related Topics: Christology, Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Gospels

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