A Spiritual Ministry

It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit these days, and particularly the role of the spirit in the life of Jesus. I thought it was worth sharing a few thoughts i has earlier in the year. Hope this helps you think biblically about the role of the Spirit in the Life of Jesus and also in us as Jesus’ followers! (I realise this is long but hey theology takes time 🙂 )

If anyone had a ministry that was Spiritual it was Jesus – so my plan in what follows is to trace the links between the Holy Spirit and Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and Acts to try to establish what I think is a consistent trend…

Our starting point – the gospel of Luke. No other Gospel writer places such strong emphasis on the role of the Spirit in Jesus ministry. So grab a Bible, open up to Luke’s Gospel as we see that the Spirit is incredibly interested in helping people see who Jesus is. This might sound epic  – but I’m going to take you to 9 passages in Luke-Acts that link the Holy Spirit to the life and ministry of Jesus and I’m hoping that those 9 passages will make a pretty clear point. Are you ready. Let’s go.

Come with me firstly to Luke 1:31 where Jesus conception is first talked about…

 1) Conceived (Lk 1:35)

Here the angel Gabriel comes and announces to Mary that she will have a son, Gabriel says…

    31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

That’s a pretty amazing announcement right? Mary you will have a son, he will be the son of God and he will reign forever!!!!

So Mary says…v34

34 “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

and look what the angel says…v35 –

    “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God.

    This is the first mention of the Spirit in Luke, and do you see what it’s all about? It’s about the Spirit working to bring Jesus into the world so he’ll be called or known as or recognised as the Son of God.

2) Revealed (Lk 2:25-32)

Secondly – soon after his birth, in Luke 2:25-32 Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem. Here we read about someone on whom the Spirit rested, an old man called Simeon. And in verse 26 we see the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the saviour of Israel.

So when Joseph and Mary arrive with the baby Jesus, Simeon, in the spirit, instantly does what? V29-32 – He declares who Jesus is! In the Spirit he recognizes Jesus as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel”. Simeon can now die in peace because he has seen God’s Messiah. The Spirit of God do you see what he does here? He reveals that Jesus is the Messiah- God’s Son, God’s king.

3) Baptized (Lk 3:21,22)

Thirdly then- Thirty years later, Jesus goes to where John the Baptist is baptising. This is a crucial moment in Jesus life – In chapter 3 and verse 21 Jesus is baptised and what happens?  Heaven is opened, the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove and a voice rings out from above: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”. The Spirit is present and we hear God’s word – God’s word which declares that Jesus is God’s son.

  Do you see the pattern so far?   The Spirit is especially interested in declaring who Jesus is. He is God’s son – the promised king.

And so as we move to chapter 4 we see how the Spirit anoints Jesus to be this servant king.

Led and empowered (Lk 4:1-14)

Have a look, in Luke chapter 4 verse 1 we read Jesus was “full of the Spirit” and was “led by the Spirit” into the desert.

Here Jesus begins the conflict with Satan. Satan tries to get Jesus to Sin. Where the nation of Israel, who was called God’s son, had been unfaithful to God during the forty years in the desert, here we see the contrast – Jesus  the true son in these 40 days in the desert does not fail.

Like Israel, Jesus is tempted to disobey God, to abandon God for material comfort, for power, and to test God rather than trusting his word. But, unlike Israel, Jesus, led by the Spirit, does not fall for Satan’s ‘better’ offers, instead full of the Spirit Jesus uses God’s word to combat Satan’s attack.

Every time Jesus is tempted what does he do? He uses the Spirit breathed word of God as a weapon, as his strength.  And so in 4:14 it says Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the spirit, Jesus has withstood the temptation and now in verse 15 he goes and teaches in their synagogues, his teaching is so impressive that he is glorified by all.  The big idea is that  Jesus is the true and faithful Israel – the true son of God.

Anointed (Luke 4:16-22)

  Next as Jesus comes to Nazereth, his home town, he goes to the synagogue and reads aloud from the Scriptures a prophecy from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to captives, and to give sight to the blind”.

And in verse 21 what does Jesus do? He claims that this prophecy is about himself: Do you see what he is saying? He’s saying his ministry is a spiritual ministry, he’s anointed by the spirit – and what is at it’s heart? What’s the focus of his ministry? – it’s to preach the good news of salvation. The news that will be about Jesus. News that will set people free from their captivity and blindness in sin.

In event after event from Jesus’ life, do you see that where Spirit is mentioned Luke emphasises that the Spirit works to show us Jesus, to declare his identity, to proclaim his good news. Do you see? It’s important.

And what’s fascinating I think is that as Jesus gets into his mission, as he heals people, as he does miracles, as he teaches, the Spirit isn’t explicitly mentioned again until Luke 10:21. Flip over there if you will.

Joyful (Lk 10:21)

Here Jesus has sent out 72 of his disciples to heal the sick and preach the good news of the kingdom (that’s Luke 10:9). They go out on this mission, it seems to have great success, in verse 17 – they say ‘Jesus even the demons are subject to us in your name!’

And how does Jesus respond? well he responds with a waning. In v20 he warns them – he says don’t rejoice in this – that is the ministry success, the seeming signs and wonders – don’t rejoice in ministry success – but rejoice rather that your names are written in the heaven’ – what’s he saying – he’s saying don’t rejoice in what you do but in what God does – rejoice in God, rejoice that God saves– give God the glory – then v21 – Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, rejoiced greatly – saying – thank you Father that you have revealed these things to your children.

Jesus rejoices do you see, or the spirit brings joy, because of the fact that God saves.

Promised (Lk 24:49Acts 1:4,5,8)

Now – you keep reading Luke and guess what – the Holy spirit is not mentioned again with reference to Jesus until after Jesus has died and been raised.

It’s not until Luke chapter 24:49 where Jesus appears in his resurrection body to his disciples and he tells them that they will have the task of proclaiming the good news, the news in verse 47  of repentance and forgiveness of sins – Jesus says that will be your task – to proclaim that through his death and resurrection sins can be forgiven, people can have new hope – that message must be proclaimed – so waitJesus says in v49 until I send the spirit to empower you to do that task.

That’s the last mention of The Holy Spirit in Luke, it’s a promise that the Spirit will come to empower believers to proclaim the good news, the Gospel of Jesus! -And so if you now turn to Luke’s sequel – the book of Acts – this promise is repeated and fleshed out.

Acts 1:4-5:  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.

    Jesus promises the Spirit, and in v8 we see that when the Spirit does come he will empower the disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The Spirit will empower them to proclaim Jesus to the nations!

Now – flip over the age to Acts 2 – and we come to the very famous Spirit moment called Pentecost

Received (Acts 2:33)

Pentecost is called Pentecost because was always the Jewish festival of harvest that occurred 50 days after passover. Pente means 50, so a harvest festival – 50 days after passover.

So here we are in Acts 2 – 50 days after Jesus died and what happens?  Verses 1-4

 2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

    The spirit comes down, fills them and what happens? – they begin to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now here on this occasion I think it is quite clear that the tongues they were speaking were foreign languages – the greek word translated as tongues is glosse – it’s where we get our word glossary, words come off our tongue right?

But the reason we know these tongues are foreign languages is because in v5 and 6 we read that the people hearing these words were from a whole host of other nations and in verse 6 it says – they heard these words each in their own language.

So what’s happened ? The Spirit has come down, empowered Jesus’ disciples to speak in these other languages – but the question is what were they saying? What was the message? Well have a look at the end of verse 11.

Verse 11 they say – we hear them telling in our own tongues – the mighty works of God.

   That’s the message right – The Spirit comes down, He fills the believers and they speak of the mighty works of God – which I have no doubt – the might works on view were the works of Jesus in his death and resurrection – the Spirit empowers them to proclaim the Good News of Jesus – the gospel.

And I say that because what we have next is peters speech – Peter’s speech which climaxes with these words about Jesus in verses 32-36.

32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.  34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,  “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

   What is the climax of Pentecost? It’s the declaration that Jesus is both Lord and Christ because of his death and resurrection  – it’s the message of the Gospel!

Poured Out (Acts 2:18,38)

And so in verse 37 as the gospel is preached – what happens? Well have a look…

   37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s Pentecost in a nutshell – The Spirit fills the disciples, the Spirit fills peter – they speak the Gospel with great boldness, Jesus is proclaimed as Lord and all who repent and believe will receive the spirit – why? Because the Spirit’s Job is to help people see and know who Jesus is so they can have new life in his name! And that’s exactly what happens – in v41- 3000 were saved on that day.

The day of Pentecost friends – Speaking in tongues happened yes absolutely – but is that the focus?

The Holy Spirit came down yes absolutely – but is He the focus?

No the tongues and the Spirit what do they do – they proclaim Jesus don’t they? Jesus is the focus of Pentecost!


Pentecost is this amazing moment in salvation history where people from all these different tribes and tongues hear the amazing declaration that Jesus is Lord and so come to have life in his name. It’s about the spirit coming to show the world that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.

See let me ask you a question. Think about this for a moment…If you were trying to work out who Jesus really was– where would you go in the bible? What would you look for.


You could look at his signs and wonders – but what would they tell you – that he has power?

You could look at his preaching – but what would that tell you – that he’s brilliant.

You could look at his death and yeah at one point that bought a pagan soldier to admit that the he was the Son of God.

But don’t you think it’s as the spirit comes and fills this speech that we just get an absolute clarity about Jesus? In this speech we see that Jesus is the Lord and Christ. He’s the lord the Son of God who by his resurrection has had victory over Satan sin and death, he’s the Christ the promised king who would reconcile god and man – the spirit comes so the truth of Jesus is declared!

That is what Pentecost is about. It was the day when Jesus was declared King of the world. And when you think about it it was pretty appropriate that Pentecost was the beginning of the Jewish harvest festival.

As the Passover was celebrated, Jesus the true Passover Lamb was sacrificed on the cross. Then at Pentecost, at the beginning of the harvest season, God’s Spirit is poured out, Jesus’ kingship is declared and so the spiritual harvest of the world commences.

The argument I am trying to make with all these references friends is that spiritual ministry is all about declaring Jesus as Lord. The Spirit over and over and over comes to declare and establish Jesus identity – every time that the Son and the Spirit are mentioned together  – that’s what’s going on.

In fact if you look carefully through the book of Acts and you track down every reference to when believers are filled with the Holy Spirit do you know what they go on and do? Do you know what the consistent resultant action is? Every time they are filled with the Spirit they proclaim the word of God with boldness – they point people to Jesus!

   So do you want to have a Spiritual ministry?

Well to do that you’ll have to be doing what the Spirit does right? And what does the Spirit do? He points people to Jesus! He speaks of Jesus.

Have you ever shared Jesus with a friend – that’s spiritual ministry. You ever taken an opportunity to speak up for Jesus? That’s spiritual ministry? You ever done evangelism? Shared the gospel – that’s spiritual ministry!

Is that what you normally think spiritual ministry is?

We don’t normally think that do we? I think we normally think that spiritual ministry is all about the extraordinary kind of stuff. We think of healing people, sharing spontaneous words of wisdom, having moments of ecstacy – We think that that’s what spiritual ministry is all about. But what I want you to see is that in the life of Jesus, in the book of Acts – they weren’t the focus of the spirit’s activity – the focus was all about Jesus.  Luke’s message is that you cannot be more spiritual than knowing Jesus as Lord and pointing to him.

Now I know this is hard for some of us to see – and I think that this is hard for us to see is because I have noticed that there is a subtle and I think dangerous teaching moving through our churches in Australia and I want to speak to it briefly now.  The arguments 3 assertions…

1) That the works Jesus did he did in the power of the spirit
2) We believers we have the same Spirit and so
3) that means if we have faith then we can do works just like Jesus did and even greater than Jesus.

One writer says this -–This very power that raised Jesus from the dead abides and dwells in you right now precisely so that you might transcend the limitations of your finite existence and perform supernatural deeds like those performed by Jesus

Now I’m not against healing and miracles – I’m actually very much for praying and asking that Jesus would heal, I’m very much for praying expectantly that God would show kindness to us in those ways.

But here’s the thing – from what I see in the scriptures I don’t think Jesus did the miraculous just because he had the Spirit, I think he did them because he was God in the flesh. The Son of God – the one through whom and for who all things were made.

Now some will say – No Steve, that’s not true, remember the incarnation when Jesus became a man – remember Phillipians 2:7 – didn’t Jesus empty himself of his divine attributes, as some translations say, in order to become a man.

Didn’t he become just like us and so the only way he could have done these miraculous things was by the spirits’ power – well actually no – I don’t think so –

Come with me to Phillipians 2:7 because on this one particular word, the greek word kenosis, the English translations can’t agree on what to say…

New International Version
he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
New Living Translation
he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
English Standard Version
but made himself nothing, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
New American Standard Bible 
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
King James Bible
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

What did Jesus do when he became a man? The translations all disagree.

Bruce Milne argues that in the context of Phillipians 2 divine attributes are never mentioned so it would be very odd to read that into the text – rather what’s consistently on view is Jesus’ example of humility in that the eternal son of God would become a human, a servant and even a servant who died on a cross.

Milne argues that Jesus did not surrender his divine powers and attributes rather he surrendered his divine glory and dignity. He made himself insignificant or of no reputation is the real sense of the passage.

In fact milne goes on to argue that the basic equation of the incarnation is not God minus something but rather the incarnation is God plus something.

    In becoming in incarnate the Son of God did not relinquish his deity, rather he added to it, if one may so speak, by taking the a full human nature into hypostatic union with the Son. Further if the Incarnate Son lacked any essential divine attribute, he immediately fails us at three quite fundamental points. Revelation – if less than God he cannot truly reveal God, redemption – if less than God he can no longer reconcile us to God – and Intercession – if union with human nature diminishes the divine nature, then the ascended bodily Jesus could not mediate for us.

Do you see the implications? If Jesus does not have his divine attributes he can’t do what he came to do.  What I hope we can see is that Jesus did amazing things not because he has the Spirit – but because he is God in the flesh.

So where does this leave us – I’ve wanted to make two big points –

  • Absolutely central to the work of the Spirit is the declaration that Jesus si Lord. and
  • Jesus was able to do what he did, not because he was a spirit filled man, but because he was the son of God in the flesh.

And so here’s where this all lands – and this is serious, I write this because I love you….

If you go to a meeting and extraordinary things seem to be happening, and even if people are saying that these things are happening in the power for the spirit, and if by the end of that meeting Jesus lordship has not been declared, if Jesus has not been the focus – then I honestly think you need to ask the question – by what power were those things done –

I don’t say these things lightly friends but Paul writes in 2 Cor 11 verse 14 – that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and so it is no surprise if his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

Satan has power friends – Satan can do things – Remember Moses and the snakes? Moses to show God’s power threw his staff down and it became a snake – and then pharaohs servants did exactly the same thing.

Satan can do the miraculous.

And I  firmly believe that there is nothing Satan loves more than to distract Christians from preaching the gospel of Jesus.

Satan is perfectly happy in a meeting where people are healed and words are spoken and a man gets the glory – Satan is perfectly happy if all that stuff goes on and the Gospel is not preached – because he knows friends what we know – he knows where the power is – he knows that the power God is in the preaching of the Gospel, he knows that the only way souls will be saved from hell is as they hear that Christ died and rose for them – and he wants to stop it.

Paul says in Romans 1:18I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

So friends I pray that by the power of the Spirit we would never take our eyes off this glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus, i pray we would preach Christ and him crucified and I pray that through the preaching of that message God would save many. Will you pray with me?