Saturday Oct 21, 2023

Soteriology Lesson 21 - The Role of God the Holy Spirit in Sustaining the Humanity of Christ

     In addition to the blinding effects of sin resident in every human heart is the veiling work of Satan. Paul wrote, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:3-4). The blinding work of Satan in the minds of the lost, coupled with negative volition (i.e., the unbelieving heart), creates a double wall of resistance that cannot be penetrated by human effort. Attempts to breach these walls, or to break them down by human effort alone, has resulted in great frustration. The lost can only be saved when the Spirit performs His work in their hearts and they respond positively and freely to the gospel of grace. Lewis Chafer states, “It is as definitely contended that, apart from this divine influence, no unregenerate person will ever turn to God. From this it will be seen that, next to the accurate and faithful presentation of the gospel of saving grace, no truth is more determining respecting all forms of evangelism than this.”[1]The Spirit must do His work in the hearts of the unsaved, and the lost must respond to His work before salvation can occur. Then, and only then, will the evangelist be effective in winning souls, and this when he presents the gospel of grace clearly to the willing heart.

     Prior to the present work of the Spirit in the world today, He was working in the life of Jesus to sustain His humanity until He completed the Father’s mission (Matt 3:16; 4:1; 12:28; Luke 4:14, 18). Naturally, His work with God the Son to complete our salvation preceded His work of applying that salvation to all who turn to Christ in simple faith, believing the gospel, and trusting in Christ to save.

The Spirit’s Sustaining Ministry

     The coming of God the Son into the world marked a shift in human history (John 1:1, 14, 18), and God the Holy Spirit was involved in His human conception (Luke 1:26-35), sustained Him during His time of ministry (Luke 4:14; cf. Matt 12:28; Mark 1:10-12), and upheld Him during His time of death on the cross (Heb 9:14). John Walvoord notes:

  • "There is implication that the whole process of the incarnation leading to the cross was related to the work of the Holy Spirit. As Christ was sustained in life, so also in death the Holy Spirit sustained Christ. In the difficult hours of Gethsemane and all the decisive moments leading to the cross, the Holy Spirit faithfully ministered to Christ."[2]

     God the Holy Spirit was helping Christ fulfill the Father’s mission of going to the cross and dying in the place of sinners. Of Jesus’ time on the cross, the writer of Hebrews states, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14).[3] William Lane notes, “The fact that his offering was made ‘through the eternal Spirit,’ implies that he had been divinely empowered and sustained in his office.”[4] God the Holy Spirit helped to sustain the humanity of Jesus in hypostatic union, which enabled Him to complete the Father’s mission of going to the cross and dying as a substitute for lost humanity. According to Walvoord:

  • "The work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the sufferings of Christ on the cross consisted, then, in sustaining the human nature in its love of God, in submission to the will of God and obedience to His commands, and in encouraging and strengthening Christ in the path of duty which led to the cross. In it all the ministry was to the human nature, and through it to the person of Christ. The inquiring mind must ever confess that this truth is infinite and beyond our complete comprehension."[5]

Dr. Steven R. Cook


[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 210.

[2] John F. Walvoord, “The Holy Spirit in Relation to the Person and Work of Christ,” Bibliotheca Sacra 98 (1941): 52.

[3] There is some debate about whether the “the eternal Spirit” refers to Jesus’ Spirit (Fruchtenbaum) or the Holy Spirit (Radmacher).

[4] William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13, vol. 47B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1991), 240.

[5] John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (Galaxie Software, 2008), 101.

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