by Chester K. Lehman
Chapter 3 of The HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY LIFE


Anointing with oil as a religious rite early gained a deep religious significance both among the Hebrews and among other ancient nations. Through anointing, priests, kings, and sometimes prophets were set apart for their respective duties. God gave commandment that Aaron and his sons should be consecrated to the priesthood by anointing with oil (Ex. 29:7; Lev, 8:10-13, 50). The expression anointed priest was used (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22, 21, 10, 12). This laid the foundation for the idea developed in the Epistle to the Hebrews of the Anointed One's being consecrated as High Priest (Heb. 9:11-14). God commanded Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet. This anointing is associated with the anointing of the Servant of the Lord, for his work was "to bring good tidings to the afflicted"; "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives," and "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Isa. 61:1, 2)--prophetic indeed.

Perhaps the most sacred of the anointings, certainly the most popular, was that of the king at his coronation. Its significance for Israel suddenly rose to extraordinary importance when, after the anointing in turn of both Saul and David, "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon" (I Sam. 10:1, 6, 10; 16:15) each of them. This special endowment of the Holy Spirit given at the anointing of these two kings had a profound effect on Israel's attitude toward all regal anointings. It led the nation to interpret the anointing with oil as being the symbol of anointing with the Spirit of God.

Especially was this true as the concept of "the Anointed One" unfolded. This teaching perhaps had its beginning with God's promise of a son to David II Sam. 7:14). It took definite form in Psalm 2, where the psalmist spoke of the Lord's anointed, the king whom the Lord had set in Zion. Great dignity was attached to this king because God addressed him, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Psalm 2:7). The psalmist of Psalm 45:6, 7 was attaching the same sort of dignity to the one whom God had anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. These statements prepare the way for the understanding of Isaiah 61:1, which reads, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted." The speaker in this verse is likely the Servant of the Lord, the towering figure of chapters 40-66 of this book (See 42:1-9; 49:1-9a: 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-4). In 42:1 the Lord had said, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations." In 48:16 the Servant said, "And now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit." Bringing together these strands of thought, we gather that God had put His Spirit upon the Servant of the Lord. The oil of the anointing was the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jesus laid solemn claim to being this Servant and to having been anointed to preach good news to the poor (Luke 4:8). Matthew in similar fashion held that Jesus fulfilled the Isaiah 42:1-4 picture of the Servant. It would appear that Peter was reflecting on this passage when he said, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power." (Acts 10:38). Swete has put the matter very succinctly thus: "The Spirit is Ghrisma (anointing) which makes the Christ" (Hastings, op. cit., article, "Holy Spirit," by H. B. Swete, Vol. II, p. 403).

In almost the same language Isaiah had spoken earlier concerning the shoot that should come forth from the stem of Jesse: "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11:2).


The foregoing discussion enables us to see Jesus' anointing with the Holy Spirit in its true perspective. This insight becomes still clearer as we view the incident or incidents which describe this anointing. Some would say the anointing took place when He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; others, at His baptism. Perhaps we should consider both as parts of one grand act. Certainly the two are bound together as being initial to Jesus' going forth in His ministry "led by the Spirit." (Luke 4:1). Let us look at each of these operations. The miraculous conception of Jesus is described in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and perhaps John. According to Matthew's account, Mary "was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18). The angel told Joseph that "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:20). The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was adduced as being fulfilled in the virgin birth. The record in Luke centers in Mary. When the angel Gabriel apprised Mary of her conceiving in her womb and giving birth to a son, she asked, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" (Luke 1:31, 34). The angel then described the manner 10 Acts 10:38. 11 Hastings. op. cit., article. "Holy Spirit." by H. B. Swete, vol. II, p. 403. 12 Isa. 11:2. 13 Luke 4:1. iS Matt. 1:20. 14 Matt. 1:18. 16 Luke 1:31. 34. of her conceiving a child. The Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. Because of this mode of conception, the child to be born would be called holy.

A very unusual textual problem complicates a possible third reference to the miraculous birth of Jesus. Perhaps John 1:13 should read, "who was born [instead of were born], not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." At least enough can be said in favor of this reading to merit its being mentioned here. If it is genuine, John's Gospel gives clear reference to the supernatural birth of our Lord.[1] What do these passages on the nature of Jesus' birth tell us? First, the Holy Spirit energized for the conception of a child in the womb of Mary. Jesus did not have a human father. Second, conceived by the Holy Spirit the child was holy and sinless. Were it not for this clear expression of Jesus' holy nature, the several explicit statements of Jesus' sinlessness found elsewhere in the New Testament would be entirely unfitting. How could Jesus meet His Jewish enemies with the question, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46). if His absolute purity of nature was not beyond all question? Third, "He . . . will be called the Son of the Most High." He would be at once God and man, divine and human. If we may accept the proposed reading of John 1:13, Jesus was born of God. The man, Jesus, had both a divine and a human nature.

We move forward to the baptism of Jesus. The description of the Holy Spirit's coming upon Jesus takes the forms, "the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him" (Matt. 3:16). "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him" (John 1:32). It is with these expressions that the words "anointing with the Spirit" very naturally agree. What did the descending of the Spirit, the anointing with the Spirit, mean in the interrelation of the Spirit and Jesus? Though we cannot delve very far into this inquiry, it may be that a lead is found in the Gospel record itself. In Luke's account notice is given that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit. After the temptation He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee (Luke 4:1, 14). There is some question as to the proper interpretation of John 3:34; it is possible that the King James Version gives the proper turn to the thought when it reads, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." Accordingly, God had given the Spirit in full measure to Jesus. Here comparison may be made with a statement from Peter's preaching. After Peter had announced God's anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power, he added, Jesus "went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). In the controversy about casting out demons, Jesus drew the issue sharply by claiming, "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). So then to charge Jesus with casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Bringing the kingdom of God into close relation with the Anointed One's casting out of demons intensified the kingly character of the anointing. Accordingly, the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit might be regarded as His coronation to kingly power. In genuinely kingly style Jesus said, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father" (Matt. 11:27).

God's anointing Jesus with the Spirit brought upon Jesus the fullness of divine power. Throughout His earthly life the Spirit was the Energizer. It was the anointing with the Spirit that made Jesus the Anointed One, the Messiah. This anointing energized Christ for His threefold mission: (1) Jesus was the Anointed Prophet who proclaimed the good tidings (Isa. 61:1); (2) He was the Anointed High Priest who "made purification for sins" (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 1:5); (3) He was the Anointed King who "[reigns] in nghteousness" (Isa. 32:1; 42:2, 4). He who heightened Jesus' powers in this threefold ministry was the Holy Spirit. Nowhere is it said that Jesus performed these extraordinary functions in His own power. Said Jesus, "It is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons" (Matt. 12:28).


At critical junctures in the life of the Messiah, the Gospel writers made reference to the interposing dynamic of the Holy Spirit. Indeed these interpositions become the key to Jesus' Messianic activity.

The first of these is the Spirit's leading (driving, according to Mark) Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:12). Close study of Satan's threefold encounter with Christ shows clearly its Messianic implications. Thus, in the first temptation Jesus answered Satan as a man, but Satan would have Him act beyond the power of man. The obedience of faith was at stake. In the second encounter the Messiah as a man needed to believe in God's providential care without repeated miraculous intervention, but the devil would have Jesus tempt God by requiring repeated witness from heaven of His being God's Son. This was a test of the trust of faith. Satan's third attack was the most subtle. The Messiah would in God's own time "have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8); but the tempter would give "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" to Him immediately if He would fall down and worship Satan. God's Messiah should become Satan's Messiah in order to receive immediate glory. To Jesus this was a test of the patience of faith.

For Jesus to fulfill the requisites of Messiahship, He needed to be human in every respect. The most delicate point of His humanity in view of His possessing the power of the Spirit in its fullness, was the desire to use divine power to satisfy human needs, desires, or ambitions. Faith in God requires obedience, trust, and patience. The Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King needed all these to fulfill His Messiahship. Proved in these respects, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (Muke 4:14).

We need to look again at the context of Luke 4:14-19, which stands at the threshold of the great teaching ministry of Jesus. As noted in the foregoing section, this reference introduces the prophetic ministry of the Messiah. In Jesus' appeal to Isaiah 61, He was saying that His preaching with its accompanying spiritual works was the direct result of His being anointed with the Spirit.

This gives increased meaning to the whole teaching work of Jesus. Whether we listen to the more formal discourses, such as the Sermon on the Mount, the Parables of the Kingdom, and the Mount of Olives message, or witness the incidental conversations with Nicodemus, with the woman of Samaria, and with the man born blind in one and all of these Jesus was speaking through the power of the Holy Spirit. We wonder "at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth" (Luke 4:22)

Let us look again at the Matthew 12:15-21 passage, this time for the use made of the Isaiah 42:l A prophecy. It lies in a context of opposition stirred up by the Pharisees on the occasion of Jesus' healing ministry. The regal character of the Servant came to view in this quotation, for He would "proclaim justice to the Gentiles, . . . till he brings justice to victory." On a different occasion Matthew accounted for healing of the sick by referring to another Servant passage, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Matt. 3:17; Isa. 53:4).

These explanations accounting for the healing ministry of the Servant show how closely the kingly work of the Anointed Servant entered into human needs. This becomes increasingly evident when we notice that the Greek verb sodzein (to save) is used for both bodily and spiritual healing. Thus the woman suffering from hemorrhage was made well (saved). Jesus pointed up the spiritual significance of this healing when He told the woman, "Your faith has made you well" (saved). The healing act was a saving act. Christ alone could save, and faith was the condition for being saved. It was easy for Jesus to teach His spiritual salvation when the people saw His bodily healing.

We should yet observe that Jesus' healing ministry was part of a conflict of tremendous magnitude. Concerning a woman who had a spirit of infirmity, Jesus claimed that Satan had bound her (Luke 13:16). Healing had to do with loosing from the bond. Healing included also the casting out of demons (Matt. 12:16). The Pharisees blasphemously held that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. But Jesus maintained, "It is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons" (Matt. 12:28). The warfare was spiritual; it was waged between spirits. This helps us to understand better why demon possession was so prevalent during the ministry of Jesus. Satan was arraying his hosts for one crushing stroke against Jesus upon whom the Spirit of God had come.

Did the Holy Spirit interpose in the death of Christ? It is noteworthy that none of the Gospel writers, not even Luke, wrote of any operation of the Holy Spirit in Christ in that last awful experience. May we infer without specific Biblical statement that the Holy Spirit, who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, who was upon Jesus in His teaching, and by whose power Jesus cast out demons and performed miracles, was also in Him during His death experience? Many Bible scholars say that we have the answer in Hebrews 9:14. It reads, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

A number of difficulties stand in the way of understanding Spirit as referring to the Holy Spirit. It seems more natural to think of this as Christ's spirit. If the Holy Spirit were intended, we would expect in the Greek the article the, which is lacking. In verse 8 the writer spoke very clearly of the Holy Spirit, whereas here we have eternal Spirit.

On the other hand, if we recapture the meaning of the title Christ, now a name, used twice in verses 11-14, the presence of the Holy Spirit seems inescapable. It was the anointed-with-the-Spirit Jesus who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God. Perhaps Arthur Downer has seized the meaning when he says, "It was through the eternal Spirit that His sacred will conquered its aversion to death, and for love to His Father and His people made Him a Sacrifice for sin without blemish, as a perfect offering" [2]. Says Kay, "The anointing of that Spirit (whose energy is the 'Fire of love') was as a flame, amidst which He, in the freedom of filial obedience (ch. v.8, 9), 'offered Himself up to God.'"[3]. If this interpretation captures the sense of this verse, we may conclude that He performed this work also through the Holy Spirit.

It was left for Paul to tell us of the work of the Spirit in the resurrection of Christ. He said, Jesus was "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." (Rom. 1:4). In similar strain he wrote of "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead" (Rom. 8:11).

Very fittingly Jesus performed His last work before His ascension when He breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). He had just spoken the memorable Words, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). The Greek verb apestalken (has sent) means the giving of a commission, and the perfect tense suggests that the commission remains in force. For the fulfillment of the task the disciples were as incapable as is a lifeless body to perform the functions of a living man. Hence the words were followed immediately by an act which symbolized the giving of life.[4] Just as the Lord God had "formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being," so Jesus breathed upon the disciples the Holy Spirit and they received new life. Swete notes further that the use of the verb labete (lay hold of) rather than dechesthe (to accept) "implies that the gift is not an opus operatum, but a vital force which must be met by personal effort and not passively received."[5]


To what end has the discussion in this chapter brought us? We have seen the outworking of the Spirit's power in Him who did not receive the Spirit by measure. Jesus' possession of the Spirit was one of completeness, fullness, entirety. No part of His being lay outside or beyond His power. The Bible represents all the work of the Messiah--whether prophetic, priestly, or kingly--as having been wrought through the Holy Spirit. The human Jesus manifested the perfection which is possible alone through the absolute possession of the Spirit.

He then is our great Exemplar. As the Spirit came upon Him, in like manner the Spirit comes upon us. As the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the Spirit leads us into similar encounters with the devil. As Jesus returned from the temptation in the power of the Spirit, so may we. We too are made prophets, priests, and kings unto God. All our prophetic, priestly, and kingly service is being wrought through the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, the divine standard of holiness became incarnate in Jesus. It is God's will that holiness should be realized in us also who have been created after the likeness of God in true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The Anointed One left us an example so that we should follow in His steps. Likeness to Christ is the goal of the holy life.


1 Were it not for the weight of scholarship that can he marshaled in favor of this reading, I would not venture to suggest any deviation from KJV, ASV, RSV, Weymouth, Moffatt, Williams, and Phillips. Leniki who supports this reading devotes about four pages to proving his position. See his interpretation of Saint John's Gospel. pp. 63-70. He ascribes to Fr. Blass the credit for first drawing attention to this matter, and to Theodor Zahn (Das Evangelium des Johannis, pp. 72-77) as following Blass. Geerhardus Vos in his Self Disclosure of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, pp. 208-12, also supports this reading.

2 T. & T. Clark, The Mission and Ministration of the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh. 1909), pp. 57, 58.

3 F. C. Cook (Ed.), The Holy Bible Commentary (London: John Murray, 1881), Vol. IV, p. 71.

4 H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, (London: Macmillan, 1921), p. 166. 5 Ibid., p. 166.

The source of this booklet is

Chapter III. of The HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY LIFE by Chester K. Lehman. Copyright 1959, renewed, by Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania. Copyright now owned by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI 48167.


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June 22, 2000