Gifts of Grace for Jesus
Did Jesus perform miracles, cast out demons and prophesy by the working of his divine nature or by the power of the Holy Spirit? The answer to this question might surprise many in modern Evangelical and Reformed circles. For years, I responded to that question by saying something like, "Of course, Jesus worked all his extraordinary works of power and prophecy by the working of his divine nature! After all, he is God manifest in the flesh." While the latter assertion is undeniably the clear teaching of Scripture, God's word teaches that Jesus did his miraculous works and prophesied heavenly truths by the working of the Holy Spirit rather than by his divine nature. Consider the following:
John Owen, in his volume on The Holy Spirit, wrote:
"It was in an especial manner by the power of the Holy Spirit [Jesus] wrought those great and miraculous works whereby his ministry was attested unto and confirmed. Hence it is said that God wrought miracles by him: Acts 2:22, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him;” for they are all immediate effects of divine power. So when he cast out devils with a word of command, he affirms that he did it by the “finger of God,” Luke 11:20,—that is, by the infinite divine power of God. But the power of God acted in an especial manner by the Holy Spirit, as is expressly declared in the other evangelist, Matt. 12:28; and, therefore, on the ascription of his mighty works unto Beelzebub, the prince of devils, he lets the Jews know that therein they blasphemed the Holy Spirit, whose works indeed they were, verses 31, 32. Hence these mighty works are called δυνάμεις, “powers,” because of the power of the Spirit of God put forth for their working and effecting: see Mark 6:5, 9:39; Luke 4:36, 5:17, 6:19, 8:46, 9:1. And in the exercise of this power consisted the testimony given unto him by the Spirit that he was the Son of God; for this was necessary unto the conviction of the Jews, to whom he was sent, John 10:37, 38."
Again Owen noted:
"[Jesus was] fitted by this unction of the Spirit. And here, also, is a distinction between the 'Spirit that was upon him,' and his being 'anointed to preach,' which contains the communication of the gifts of that Spirit unto him; as it is said, Isa. 11:2, 3, 'The Spirit rested upon him as a Spirit of wisdom,' to make him 'of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD.' Now, this was in a singular manner and in a measure inexpressible, whence he is said to be 'anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows,' or those who were partakers of the same Spirit with him, Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:8, 9."
In vol. 3 of his Reformed Dogmatics, Geehardus Vos explained why it was necessary that the communication of the extraordinary gifts of power and prophesy be given to Christ incarnate by the Holy Spirit, rather than by his divine nature, when he wrote:
"The extraordinary gifts of knowledge, will, and power were communicated to the human nature [of Jesus], which it did not possess in itself. In and by that human nature, too, the Mediator has to carry out His offices. At the same time, however, it is established that the very same human nature had to be beset with all natural weaknesses (except sin), in which it shares with others. The latter is inseparable from the state of humiliation in which Christ had to suffer....He did not possess a human nature that included in itself these capacities as its own natural possession, but these were communicated to it as gifts of office by the Holy Spirit. Also, this communication did not occur directly from the side of the person but by mediation of the Holy Spirit. If the former had been the case, then the humiliation of human nature would have ceased, for then the gifts would have become its own personally because it has its personal existence in the person of the Logos. What someone has of his own person is not lent but one’s own possession, and this possession cannot be viewed as a humiliation; indeed, it is incompatible with humiliation."
In short, if the power to perform miracles and prophesy were communicated directly from the divine nature of the Son of God to the human nature, then it would have essentially divinized the humanity of Jesus and done away with the humiliation that was necessary for him to be the mediator between God and sinful men and women. It was on account of the necessity of that humiliation that the communication of extraordinary power had to come from the Holy Spirit to the Person of Christ.
1. Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 174). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
2. Ibid., pp. 171–172.
3. Vos, G. (2012–2016). Reformed Dogmatics. (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, A. Janssen, … K. Batteau, Trans.) (Vol. 3, pp. 56–57). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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