Jesus’ humanity, deity and the power of the Spirit

I posted some time ago, here and here, regarding Jesus’ humanity, mission and anointing by the Spirit. It seemed to cause quite a stir in certain quarters. There was particularly some concern expressed over Bruce Ware’s The Man Christ Jesus.

In my previous posts, I argued the miracles of Jesus did not prove his divinity. Rather, they proved his anointing by the Spirit for his specific mission from God. I went on to argue that Christ lived his life in the Spirit, yielding perfectly to his power, such that the works he did were not acts of his deity but were done in his humanity by the Spirit’s power. It is his perfect human life accounted to all true believers and this same Spirit given to all true believers.

Following his excellent The Good God, I recently received Michael Reeves latest book Christ Our Life for Christmas. Thus far, it is excellent and can be highly recommended. One particular point pressed by Reeves is that the Son (or Word) of God never acted alone. He always worked in conjunction with the Spirit (as in Genesis 1, when the Word of God is spoken into the darkness borne by the Spirit). Reeves argues, in relation to the incarnation, “And as it had always been,so it was when the Word became flesh: he did all that he did in the power of the Spirit”.

I was particularly struck by the force of his argument. He goes on to comment:

Born in the power of the Spirit, he lives and acts as a man in the power of the Spirit. At his Baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit anoints him, then sends him into the lifeless wilderness just as he had once sent him into the lifeless void in Genesis 1. Returning to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, he announced and defined his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth using the words of Isaiah 61: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19). So he healed, did good, and drove out demons – all in the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38). Later he would offer himself up on the cross by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14) and be raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:11)

In line with Ware’s argument, Reeves states “Christ shows what it is to be a human, fully alive in the Spirit. And he is the head of a new, Spirit-filled humanity: all in him share in this anointing of his”.

The importance of this cannot be missed. Though the impeccability of Christ must be defended, we mustn’t miss the distinction between why he couldn’t sin and why he didn’t sin. As God, Jesus Christ could not sin yet, in his humanity, the reason he did not sin was because of his perfect reliance upon the power of the Spirit.

It is this distinction that means Christ’s perfect life, lived in the Spirit, can be fully accounted to those who believe by faith in him. If the perfect righteousness of God could simply have been accounted to us, as God, Christ’s humanity would have been unnecessary. Likewise, if Christ shifted at will between his deity and humanity during his ministry, it seems there would be aspects of his perfect humanity that could not be accounted to us (as he would have lived them out under his deity). Similarly, the call to “walk as he walked” must be rendered wholly impossible because he would have walked as God, in his deity, something we can never aspire to do. Instead, in his humanity, Christ perfectly yielded to the power of the Spirit – the same spirit he gives to all those who believe by faith in him and who are united with him in his death.

It is equally why believers, who receive the Spirit upon conversion, are now able to live lives that are truly and actually pleasing to God. Not in our own power, suddenly changed to be “good”, but in the work of the Spirit in our lives when we yield to his power. Thus, when we sin as believers (and we always will until we reach glory), it is not because we have no means to put sin away (as when we were unbelievers) but rather because we are not fully yielding to the power of the Spirit at work in our lives. It is a tendency to yield to the call of sin (which we could only do as unbelievers) rather than the power of the Spirit (which we are now able to do as believers).