“…Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
Jesus grew from infancy to adulthood, lived among a family, worked a job, ate meals, increased His knowledge through learning, told jokes, attended funerals, had male and female friends, celebrated holidays, went to parties, loved His mom, felt the pain of betrayal and lies told about Him, and experienced the full range of human emotions from stress to astonishment, joy, compassion, and sorrow. Furthermore, Jesus experienced the same sorts of trials and temptations that we do,5 with the exception that He never did sin.6 Subsequently, Jesus lived the sinless life that we were supposed to live but have not, both in our place and as our example.
Sadly, all of the major creeds compiled during the early church ignore the missional life of Jesus between His birth and death. The Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed all declare that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary and then skip forward to His suffering under the rule of Pilate without speaking a word about the years in between. What is lost is the example of Jesus’ life, in general, and His exemplary relationship with God the Holy Spirit, in particular.
Regarding the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, theologian Abraham Kuyper wrote:
This ought to be carefully noticed, especially since the Church has never sufficiently confessed the influence of the Holy Spirit exerted upon the work of Christ. The general impression is that the work of the Holy Spirit begins when the work of the Mediator on earth is finished, as tho [sic] until that time the Holy Spirit celebrated His divine day of rest. Yet the Scripture teaches us again and again that Christ performed His mediatorial work controlled and impelled by the Holy Spirit.7
In the charismatic and Pentecostal traditions of the church there has been a great devotion to the person and work of God the Holy Spirit. However, sometimes the emphasis on the Holy Spirit comes at the expense of a full appreciation of the person and work of Jesus and/or a subtle impression that somehow Jesus and the Holy Spirit are competing for glory. This is Holy Spirit-olatry.
In some Reformed and dispensational traditions there is a devotion to Jesus that results in a practical denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus and in the church today. This is Jesus-olatry. They affirm the reality of the Spirit, but in their zeal to glorify only Jesus and to protect the uniqueness of the Bible, or in their fear of falling into emotionalism, they stress the cessation of the work of the Spirit. They limit the work of the Spirit in pointing to Jesus instead of empowering the church to continue the mission of Jesus.
To truly live a Spirit-filled life, we need to understand that Jesus lived a Spirit-filled life and the same Spirit wants His life to increasingly be lived through us.
What have you previously thought about the concept of being “Spirit-filled”? Was it a positive or negative concept for you?
5 For example, Matt. 4:1–10 and Heb. 4:14–16.
6 John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:14–16; 1 Pet. 1:19.
7 Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henri de Vries (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), 97.