the weblog of Alan Knox

The Holy Spirit in Matthew

Posted by on Sep 6, 2010 in scripture, spirit/holy spirit | Comments Off on The Holy Spirit in Matthew

Several days ago, in my post “His Spirit Dwells in You,” I said how incredible it is that God’s Spirit – the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – dwells in each of God’s children. I’ve decided to step through each book of the New Testament and examine what each author says about the Holy Spirit. (I’m not planning to publish one of the posts in this series every day. Instead, I will post them occasionally.)

In the Gospel of Matthew, the author writes that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20). Also, John the Baptist states that while he baptizes with water, Jesus (the one “coming after” him and “mightier” than him) will baptize in/with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). At Jesus’ own baptism by John, the Holy Spirit descends on him (Matthew 3:16). Matthew says that it is the Holy Spirit that leads Jesus into the wilderness where he would fast for 40 days and be tempted (Matthew 4:1).

When Jesus sent his followers out two-by-two to do the work that he had been doing, he said that God’s Spirit would be speaking through them (Matthew 10:20). Matthew also quotes Isaiah who prophesied that God’s Spirit would be with “His Beloved” (Matthew 12:18). Jesus says that the work of the Spirit of God is an indication that the kingdom of God is present (Matthew 12:28). Also, Jesus warns against blaspheming the Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).

Jesus says that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write Psalm 110:1 (Matthew 22:43). Finally, in the final section of the book, Jesus tells his followers to baptize disciples in the three-fold name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

When we synthesize this material, we can learn several things about the Holy Spirit.

We see the active work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit conceives Jesus, leads Jesus, speaks through the apostles, and inspires David. We also see that the Spirit is an indication of God’s approval of Jesus and of the presence of the kingdom of God. We see the importance (divinity?) of the Spirit through the prohibition against blasphemy and the inclusion of “the Holy Spirit” in the baptismal “name.”

There are a few passages that, I think, speak to the ongoing work of the Spirit in and through the lives of other followers of Jesus. In other words, Matthew says a few things that indicates that he believed that the Spirit would be active in the apostles and in other believers (i.e., not only the apostles).

First, John the Baptist told the crowds around him that Jesus would baptize in/with the Holy Spirit. He contrasts this Holy Spirit baptism with his own water baptism. So, while Christians may continue to practice water baptism, this is not the baptism that John has in mind. Instead, John is saying that Jesus will baptize (“immerse” or “submerge”) his followers in the Holy Spirit.

The inclusion of the “Holy Spirit” in the baptismal name at the end of his book indicates that Matthew believes this Holy Spirit baptizing would continue. (This is also indicated when Matthew records Jesus’ statement, “I am with you always…”)

Similarly, in Jesus’ final command to “make disciples,” Matthew is indicating that the work of the disciples will continue the work that Jesus started. Remember, he had told them that the Spirit would speak through them, and he had stated that the kingdom of God would be found where the Spirit was present.

As the disciples discipled others, those others would then be given the same mission/mandate. Thus, the promise of Jesus’ presence through the Holy Spirit (and his work through them) must necessarily be continued also. The kingdom of God would also be present wherever the Spirit was with and working through the disciples’ disciples.

So, while Matthew doesn’t clear up everything about the Spirit, we can see that the mystery of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit continues from Jesus, through those who walked with him, on to their disciples, etc. We can be certain that the same Spirit who worked through Jesus and the apostles and the first century Christians continues to indwell and work through us.

However, Matthew does not tell us HOW the Holy Spirit indwells a person or HOW a person understands what the Holy Spirit wants them to do. For example, Jesus said that the Spirit would speak through his disciples, but he does not say how the disciples will know what words the Holy Spirit would have them speak.

Oh well… more for me to investigate in the next book.

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