The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Coming of Jesus

We often associate the Holy Spirit with the beginning of the church in Luke’s second volume, the book of Acts. What is interesting is that the Holy Spirit also played a key role in kicking off Luke’s first volume, the Gospel of Luke:

  • Luke 1:15 – John the Baptist will be filled with the Holy Spirit before he is born
  • Luke 1:35 – The Holy Spirit will take part in the conception of Jesus
  • Luke 1:41 – When Mary and Elizabeth meet, both pregnant, John jumps in Elizabeth’s womb and it is Elizabeth who is filled with the Holy Spirit! It prompts her to speak a blessing on Mary.
  • Luke 1:67 – The Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, and he prophesies. I am really unsure why this prophesy always gets the heading “Zechariah’s Song” when it is a prophesy.
  • Luke 2:25 – Simeon had been promised that he would see the Messiah before he died. He also had the Holy Spirit on him.
  • Luke 3:16 John the Baptist tells the crowds that the one who comes after him will baptize people in the Holy Spirit
  • Luke 3:22 – the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism (interesting that Luke says this happened “as he was praying” at his baptism)
  • Luke 4:1 – Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as he went out into the wilderness to be tested.

The Holy Spirit played a huge role in the coming of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry. What is more, the Holy Spirit was present in the ministry of Jesus as well:

  • Luke 10:21 – The Holy Spirit wasn’t just present at Jesus baptism and temptation. The Holy Spirit was upon him in this verse as well
  • Luke 11:13 – Jesus says God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask
  • Luke 12:10 – a warning against blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This warning means the Holy Spirit was a driving force in Jesus’ ministry and miracles. That is clear because Jesus is warning them against calling his miracles from the devil and saying that to deny his miracles is to blaspheme the Spirit, which means the Spirit was at work in the ministry of Christ.

It is easy to think the Holy Spirit was absent from all of this because we spend more time on Jesus’ promise of the coming of the Spirit from verses like John 16:7,

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Some then assume the Spirit wasn’t much a part of anything until after Jesus ascended to heaven. As you can see from all the verses above, the Holy Spirit played a central role in the coming of the Messiah from before he was conceived, through Mary’s pregnancy, to his birth and through his ministry and then, finally, to the church. The Spirit’s involvement in the start of the church wasn’t anything new. It was very much in line with everything the Spirit had been involved in up to that point.


Living Inside Out: Guest Post by Adelle Gabrielson

“If thou indeed derive thy light from heaven,
then to the measure of that heaven-born light, shine…in thy place and be content.”

~William Wordsworth

Every Sunday morning, my family would go out to breakfast before church. I remember one of those Sundays in particular when my father suddenly looked up at me across the table and said:

“You’re 10 years old. It’s time you were baptized.”

I remember feeling stunned – baptism! It hadn’t come up in a while, not since I’d given up the idea that crackers and juice were an adult snack I was missing out on. I had seen other people baptized, mostly adults, and a few teenagers at camp every year. I hadn’t really considered it for myself.

But, being a girl who did as she was told, that Sunday night I was baptized by my father, before the evening worship service with as little hoopla as I could orchestrate.

I was ten years old, in fifth grade, and I always wanted to do the right thing. If my dad said this was the right thing, then it must have been the right thing. I loved God. I wanted to be saved.

I did as I was told.

I remember feeling somewhat saintly that night falling asleep, and dreamt horrible dreams of the sins I would soon commit, destroying my perfect, sinless, saintly self and woke up the next day bereft and confused.

Following Christ in the act of baptism did nothing to prevent me from sin. From missing the mark and messing up. Over and over and over again.

I thought somehow that baptism would make me more holy, sin-free and saintly. I would be less tempted, guileless and free. I come from a long line of female perfectionists, good girls who were great at keeping up appearances and worrying about what the neighbors might think.

Yet sin seemed to find me, no matter how good I was, or how well I followed the rules.

I came to realize that despite my best efforts, sin remains. As much a part of me as my gender and humanity. Parenthood and perhaps simply age have helped me realize that being perfect was never the objective. The true objective is equally simple as impossible.

Be like Jesus.

Does that mean be perfect? Spotless? Sinless? Worldly perfection is an exhausting task master. In a million ways I will never be enough…daily I am faced with my imperfection as a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend. There is always more that could be done, greater heights to which I should aspire, and always, always, someone better with whom to compare myself.

I will never be enough.

Rather than striving (and failing) for perfection, maybe I just ought to be striving to be like Jesus.

A man who made Himself nothing.

Be like Jesus.

A servant.

Who didn’t follow all the rules.

Who questioned tradition, social mores and legalism.

He got angry when anger was justified.

He wept when grief was called for.

Most of all, he loved the broken, beat-up and bewildered.

Most of all, he loved the ones who could never be enough.

Be like Jesus.

Living in such a way that the Light, that heaven-born light, shines from the inside out.

And so I tread onward, trying to live with the inside on the outside. Allowing the cracks to be exposed. Setting aside the unattainable and simply being me – in all of my brokenness and flaws.

The cracks are how the Light gets through, and being perfect isn’t my job. It’s His.


About Adelle:

Writer, speaker, and wife to her first love, Adelle is a former marketing executive turned boy-mom of two. Adelle speaks and writes about fearless, authentic living, and blogs weekly on her website For more, follow Adelle on Facebook or Twitter: @ReadyGoGetSet

I received the blessing of meeting Adelle at the Pepperdine Lectures last week. Be sure to have a look at more of her writing at the above links. Thanks Adelle for taking the time to write this. I am sure it will impact many.

Focus on Discipleship Has Created a Resurgence in Baptism

waterheartIt used to be pretty unusual to hear people teach the importance of baptism. In Churches of Christ it wasn’t unusual. We talked about it all the time but outside our fellowship it was pretty infrequent. If you did hear it, it was one of those things done to infants or done to join a specific congregation. All of a sudden I am hearing more and more people teach the importance of baptism. Where is this renewed interest coming from? It is coming from all the interest in discipleship. Once you emphasize following Jesus and obeying His teaching, even if doing so goes against tradition…baptism jumps right out for two reasons: 1) Jesus commanded us to do it, so if you are going to follow Jesus and take his words seriously you will take baptism seriously and 2) in the BIG discipleship verse of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 he even tells us how to go about making new disciples and it involves baptizing people.

I am so happy to see people re-emphasizing and teaching the importance of baptism. I believe it is important because Jesus could have brought up all sorts of things just before he ascended to heaven but this is one of the most important things he said – go and make disciples and do it like this…teaching them, baptizing them, etc.

Frank Viola’s Post on Water Baptism

Frank Viola posted a good piece on water baptism today. It is worth a read. Rethinking Christian Baptism

Seeking Simplicty

When we lived in Memphis we used to knock doors on Saturday mornings for the bus ministry at an apartment complex in Millington called Flag Manor. One door we knocked on a regular basis was the apartment of an older couple who had an adult son who was mentally challenged. His name was Ricky. Ricky came on the bus for a while. He didn’t understand too much of what was going on but he sure enjoyed being with everyone. One day Ricky told us he wanted to be baptized. We weren’t really sure how much Ricky understood so another minister and I sat down with Ricky and talked with him about his faith, Jesus Christ and what baptism meant. The best we could do to find out what Ricky believed was to ask him some yes/no questions. What he made clear was that “yes” he understood Jesus was the Son of God, “yes” Jesus died for his sins and third – “yes” he wanted to be baptized. How do you argue with that? So we baptized him.

I am positive Ricky will never have a doctrinal debate with someone and I am sure Ricky won’t understand why we do all the things we do. I am also positive that Ricky has a love for God and trusts God to see him through. What amazes me is that Jesus doesn’t call us to be like the teachers of the Law, who knew every intricacy of scripture but whose knowledge didn’t always translate into a closer walk with God. In Matthew 18, Jesus called his disciples to be like the little children, really…like Ricky.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The first thing that jumps out at me is that Jesus uses the word “change”…that implies most of us aren’t there yet. Something needs adjusted in order to obey Christ on this one. I think what Jesus was getting at when he said that wasn’t about knowledge. I think it was about the heart. Jesus wasn’t condemning Bible study or growing in your faith. Jesus was warning against having a heart of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness instead having the heart of a child, one of total dependency upon God even for our daily bread. So we have our discussions, we fine tune our doctrine, and we work out all sorts of details on things from scripture and write lengthy commentaries detailing all sorts of interesting minutia…but at the end of the day God uses the simple to shame the wise. So don’t get caught up in the complex…seek the simple.

Let me conclude this post with some words of wisdom from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1,

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The Sinner’s Prayer is Making the Rounds

I am seeing more and more blogs discussing the sinner’s prayer these days. There is this saying in the Churches of Christ that says we are usually about 20 years behind what other churches are doing. In this instance it seems they are 200 years behind us! I kid when I say that because it is not about who is “ahead” or who is “behind” this is all about people seeking God and the truth from scripture.

Churches of Christ have been asking where this is in the Bible for a very long time. I am glad to see people are understanding the lack of biblical support for such a prayer as a means to salvation. Obviously the only means to salvation is Jesus Christ. The question still remains, what kind of response is God looking for. I think what is really happening here is that those who are rejecting the kind of thinking that the sinner’s prayer is the means to salvation would also reject baptism as the means to salvation, citing that we are saved by Christ not by prayer or by baptism. However, it is clear which response is supported by scripture, not as a means to salvation but as humble obedience to the directives God has repeated placed in front of us in the New Testament.

Here are some recent posts:

Frank Viola (excerpt from Pagan Christianity) – Rethinking the Sinner’s Prayer
Frank gives the background & history of the sinner’s prayer as well as what the New Testament actually says about conversion and baptism.

Scot McKnight –The Sinner’s Prayer: A  Bye-gone?
Scot talks about the recent Southern Baptist Convention discussion on the sinner’s prayer that was brought up  by remarks from David Platt. As always, Scot has some great content and so do the comments!

Christianity Today’s article on the discussion at the SBC by Ted Olsen

How could I ever leave out – This one is only for you serious exegetes.

Some similar remarks from David Platt.

John The Baptist’s Baptism Was for the Forgiveness of Sins

You have undoubtedly heard that John the Baptist’s baptism was a baptism of repentance and that the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism was that Jesus’ baptism took it a step further by adding the effect of the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Well, was anyone even reading Mark 1:4? “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” I have read that verse a zillion times and never picked up on it until this week when a good friend of mine pointed that out.

What is more, Jesus’ disciples baptized people during his ministry. John 4:1-2 says, “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” I had always assumed this was the same kind of baptism John was doing and for the same purpose. Was this also a baptism for the forgiveness of sins? If that is what Jesus came to do it would only make sense that it was. Would Jesus baptize in a way less than what John was doing?

Honestly, this should come as no surprise. God constantly forgave sins under the old covenant. The sacrificial system itself came with the blessing of atonement and forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins wasn’t a new idea in the new covenant. The means of that forgiveness certainly changed.

Then Why Did Jesus Have to Come?
When my friend shared this with me, he said the person who pointed this out to him then asked him “Why did Jesus have to die if John’s baptism brought forgiveness?” That is a question a lot of people would ask if you showed them Mark 1:4. I believe that question shows a gross misunderstanding of the ministry of Jesus. They might as well have pointed out the verses in the Old Testament where God said he would forgive their sins and ask why Jesus had to come if God could forgive sins any other way. The Gospel we have preached is too small when people ask questions like that.

Jesus certainly came to forgive sins but Jesus did more than wipe away the bad. Jesus came to bring us abundant life. Jesus came to give us his yoke. Jesus came to show us the inbreaking kingdom and reign of God. Jesus came to be victor of sin and death so that by his overcoming of those powers he would open the door to our having eternal life with God. Instead, we have chosen to boil down the ministry of Jesus to fixing our problem of sin only. We have preached it and taught that so much that people can’t even see why Jesus came once they understand forgivness of sins was already present prior to Jesus Christ. We have a lot of work to do in helping people have a biblical understanding of the message and mission of Jesus Christ and what the Gospel is all about.

Studying With the Newly Baptized – Needing Your Input

We had marked the finish line in the wrong place. When someone was baptized we talked about that moment like their spiritual journey was complete. They had crossed a line but not the line. The reality was the finish line was still in the future. The ugly result of that was the newly baptized were often confused by the amount of difficulty they had living out their new found life in Christ because they had been given the idea that once they were baptized they had arrived. The transformation was complete. We made it sound like life was smooth sailing after your baptism. The reality was that Satan then came at them full blast and they weren’t ready for it.

After someone is baptized the teaching often stops because the intent of our teaching prior to baptism was to get them to Jesus through crossing their own Red Sea/Jordan of baptism. Once in the promised land we figured they had all the teaching they needed. A good look at both Old and New Testaments shows us that our presence in the promised land does not guarantee spiritual growth and faithfulness. It does not guarantee adversity comes to a stop. If anything, there is more teaching to do on the east side of the Red Sea than the west and the west side of the Jordan than on the east. The whole book of Judges, just a generation or so into the Promised Land experience reminds us that the whole generation had forsaken the Lord. We can’t let that happen to those who love.

Finding a More Intentional Path Toward Growing Mature Disciples
What often happens when someone is baptized is that they got tossed into a random hodge-podge of Sunday morning Bible classes that may or may not be what they need to mature in their faith. We need a more intentional path toward mature discipleship. The question is what does that path look like? It seems to me it would involve a couple of things:

  1. Mentoring – time spent with someone more mature in their faith to help them see how faith looks like lived out, to pray for them, help them through failures, etc. This means having a pool of people who are capable and willing to work with new Christians. Often this might be those who studied with them initially who keep on
  2. Study – As mentioned above, continued study should be a part of growing mature disciples. What does that look like? What should it cover? The typical approach might be to cover topics like pride, anger, prayer, worship, etc. I fear that approach easily becomes pretty shallow from the start. I have been asking ministers what they would include in a study with new Christians. The answer that keeps coming up is to keep them in tune with Jesus. One recommendation was to study the Sermon on the Mount. Another recommendation was to study various aspects of the life of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Ministry – Getting them involved in ministering to others. This has to be a part of the new life in Christ and it needs to start as soon as possible. Otherwise, we run the risk of developing self-centered disciples instead of disciples who mirror the two greatest commandments.

Needing Your Input
What else would you include? It seems to me how you frame all of this is extremely important. It is important that we get into identity issues over checklists of behavior. It is important that we continue to look to Jesus through the Gospels and Epistles. Somewhere in there, of course, Acts comes into play in their understanding of their mission as Christians. I am really a little at a loss as to how we have viewed Acts as such a pattern of the church over the mission of the church. I find lots of mission there and little to no pattern of what worship looked like, etc. Instead I find the Holy Spirit, evangelism, preaching the Good News, mission, boldness and total dependence on God. But that isn’t the focus of this post. The question is after someone is baptized “where do we go from here?” and “what exactly does that look like?”

Last, I am working on what this all this looks like from the congregational perspective. How do we implement it. How do we train? How is it lived out? How do we get people on board? etc. There are two results that I hope will spring out of this. Older Christians will get involved in ministering to others. New Christians will grow in their faith as a result of this process. I would really like to hear from you guys who are passionate about evangelism and mentoring. What ideas do you have here? I think we can go to two extremes if we aren’t careful…we can programize everything to death or we can do nothing. Neither one is healthy but it is important we are doing something whether formal or informal and that we communicate to the congregation what this looks like and how they can get involved.

David Platt: The Sinner’s Prayer is Superstitious and Unbiblical

A friend of mine just pointed me to this video from David Platt on the sinner’s prayer.

I have always had a problem with the sinners prayer. It is not that I have a problem with faith. It is not that I have a problem with responding to God through faith and even prayer (I can’t imagine turning my life over to Christ without prayer). What bothers me about the sinners prayer is that it offers up a different response to a very biblical question than the answer an inspired apostles gave to the question of convicted sinners, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Honestly, the sinners prayer ignores the response of the apostles to the question of those who asked in response to the Gospel, “What shall we do?” and replaces the answer with something that is abiblical.

So we have two different answers being offered in response to the what shall we do question. You have Peter’s answer, repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38) and you have pastor Steve or pastor Billy or sister Susie’s answer…pray this prayer. Who are you going to trust has a better answer to the same question? Sorry if that sounds snarky. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to well meaning people but it is entirely possible to be well meaning and still be wrong on this subject. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. I do want to be biblical.

The question of the 3000 in Acts 2:37 is the same question every single person asks who is convicted by the truth of the Gospel and the identity of Jesus as the Christ/Messiah…since these things are true, what response does God call me to? (Biblically…”what shall we do?”). I will go with Peter over any preacher or teacher today who has not personally been in Jesus’ inner circle, not personally inspired in their teaching by the Holy Spirit, and who has not written books recorded in the New Testament as Peter has. If you ask me what to do, let me point you to Peter, Jesus, and Paul rather than the opinions that are floating around today.

Thanks to Eric for pointing me toward the video.

Changing The Way We See “Steps” of Salvation

Many of us have been trained to read the Bible like a legal text rather than a relational document. When we do that we usually look for the actions God wants so that we can fulfill them. I have no objection to obedience! The problem is, it is entirely possible to fulfill the “to do’s” without giving God your heart, mind, soul and strength. I have been thinking about the “steps” of salvation recently and wanted to share a few thoughts.

First, there is the temptation to minimalize our response to God. It is the attitude of wanting to do exactly what God wants, nothing more. I am not saying everyone does that but it is a temptation. When it comes to responding to God in faith and recognizing all God has done for us we should want the maximum response, not the minimum one.

Second, there is the temptation to see our response as “works righteousness.” The terminology “steps of salvation” sound like we are the ones doing all the walking. The truth is God came all the way, we just need to recognize that and respond in faith to that fact. That is called faith. That faith will lead us to transformation, lived out through the things mentioned in the second point.

Last, our faith response is transformative. We aren’t commanded to confess Jesus is Lord because God wants to hear the words. There is a transformative element to it. We are confessing Christ above all others. We are placing Christ at the center of our lives. We are forsaking all else for the sake of the one we confess. But often it is reduced to “has so and so confessed Jesus as Lord or do they still need to do that?” Do our daily actions confess Christ? I think this is an initial act of faith but I also think confession is a part of the life of the saved as well. Or take repentance. Repentance is a transformative act. It is not just saying you need to recognize evil for evil. It is not even saying you just need to stop doing evil. Real repentance will drive you toward the positive opposite/righteous response. If you are tempted to steal, repentance can make you generous instead. Repentance is rejecting the wrong, admitting the evil of it all and turning to choose what is right and holy. That means repentance is an ongoing act in the life of the Christian. This even changes the way we see baptism. Baptism is a wholly transformative act of submission. In baptism we are united with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Our old self dies and we are raised in newness of life (Rom 6:1-6). How would our lives look if lived out valuing the same elements present in our baptism? Instead, often people are taught that the implications of baptism relate only to that moment and little connection is made to the life that is lived beyond. I am convinced God doesn’t just want my old self dead in that moment. God wants my old self dead the next day and the next. God doesn’t want me to resurrect that old guy…that old way of life. It is tempting to try to do that. Instead, God calls us to live as resurrected people. This is true in baptism and it is true in every moment lived out thereafter.

My conclusion in all of this is this, God is seeking our transformation. The “steps” are components of that transformation that God is seeking out that are more than going through the motions and are more than just making sure you said this and did that. These things actually change us, or allow God to change us. These things are a part of the bigger picture of getting our lives more and more in line with the life of Christ. So yes, there are multiple components of the response God is looking for to the Gospel. It would be a mistake to see those things as checkboxes to check, hoops to jump through, or meritorious works that earn anything. Instead, how might we live every single day if we viewed every component of our response as transformative reactions to the grace of God? One thing it would do is change the way we view God’s working in our lives away from seeing it solely back when we were baptized and start seeing the “steps” of salvation as more continuous components of the life of faith. As it stands, the acts of faith and the Christian life thereafter are often taught as isolated and disconnected events. I think that is a mistake.