The Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John – Introduction

It has sometimes bern said that the best textbook on the subject of the Holy Spirit is the Gospel of John, with particular reference to chapters 14 to 16. There are other references to His Person and work outside these chapters, e.g. 1. 32, 33, 3. 5-8; 7. 37-39; 20. 22, but they contain the main burden of the teaching.

It is of value to examine what the other Gospel writers say concerning the Holy Spirit, and then to realise in comparison the contribution John has made. An examination of the synoptics will reveal that there are certain details which are common to all, some which are common to two Gospels, and there are yet more details which are reserved to one Gospel.

Those which are Common to all Synoptic Gospels
The baptism in the Spirit-Matthew 3. 11; Mark 1. 8; Luke 3. 16.
The Lord’s baptism by John-Matthew 3. 16; Mark 1.10; Luke 3. 22.
The Lord led/driven by the Spirit into the wilderness-Matt. 4. 1; Mark 1. 12; Luke 4. 1.
Blasphemy against the Spirit-Matt. 12. 28; Mark 3. 29; Luke 12. 10.

There are other references in the New Testament to the baptism in the Spirit which should be read; John 1. 33; Acts 1. 5; 11. 16,1 Cor. 12. 13. In the records of the Lord’s baptism in Jordan there are differences of emphasis. For example, Matthew quotes the Lord’s insistence when John demurred to baptise Him that it was proper to do so ‘to fulfil all righteousness’, 3. 15. Luke notes that as He was baptised the Lord prayed, 3. 21. This is in keeping with the picture of the dependent Man that Luke presents, who commences His public ministry here with prayer, and is seen at prayer consistently throughout that Gospel, cf. 5. 16; 6. 12; 9. 18; 9. 28; 11. 1; 22. 32, 41, 44; 23. 34, 46. Common to the three Gospels, however, are the opened heavens, the stated approbation of the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Son.

In regard to the Lord’s entry into the wilderness and the subsequent temptation, Luke adds the note that the Lord was full of the Spirit as He came from the baptism, 4. 1, and that selfsame Spirit led Him into the wilderness. To this he further adds the information that the Lord Jesus came from the temptation ‘in the power of the Spirit’, 4. 14, the implication being that all that happened between these two references was done in the power of the Spirit.

In the reference to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit it might be pointed out that blasphemy is against a person, and rightly understood, against a divine Person.

Those that are Common to Matthew and Luke
Both Matthew and Luke refer to the operation of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation. The fact is stated in Matthew, 1. 18, 20 and explained delicately in Luke, 1. 35. Both refer to the activity of the Spirit when the Lord’s followers would appear before rulers, synagogues and Council, Matt. 10. 20; Luke 12. 12. Both quote from the prophet Isaiah with reference to the Holy Spirit and Christ, Jehovah’s Servant, Matt. 12. 18; Luke 4.18,19. The passage quoted by Matthew is Isaiah 42. 1-3-1 have put my spirit upon him’, v. 1, and occurs after the healing of the man with a withered hand, Matt. 12. 10-14. Luke quotes from Isaiah 61. 1, 2a,-‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because he hath anointed me …’, v. 1-on the occasion when the Lord Jesus, having returned to Nazareth after the temptation in the wilderness, is delivered the scroll to read in the synagogue.

Isolated Passages Peculiar to Individual Synoptic Gospels
Matthew refers to the Holy Spirit in the great commission, 28. 19. The three Persons who are named are clearly commensurate with each other. No other could possibly be mentioned with them. Neither could an ‘influence’ or a ‘power’ be mentioned as sharer in the one Name, but a Person could.

Mark refers to the activity of the Spirit in the inspiration of ‘men of old’, so in 12. 36, ‘David himself said by the Holy Ghost’.

Luke has a clutch of references to the Holy Spirit in the narrative of events leading to the birth of Christ. So:

1. 15. John the Baptist, the forerunner, filled from the womb. This is a unique case of endowment for the fulfilment of his particular work.

41, 45, 79. John’s parents filled momentarily for the purpose of praise and to prophesy. In the case of Zacharias the Spirit caused previously dumb lips ‘to speak forth His praise’, an effect He has not ceased to produce in those He regenerates.

25-27. Godly Simeon is a man controlled by the Spirit in his anticipations, v. 26, in his actions v. 27, and in his adoration, w. 28-32.

Luke also speaks of the Holy Spirit as the gift of the Father, 11. 13.

Passages Found in John as well as in the Synoptics
In common with the Synoptics John refers to:
The baptism of the Lord, 1. 32, 33.
The Baptism in the Spirit, 1. 33.

The rest is peculiar to John, unless we take the reference to the Father’s sending of the Spirit, e.g. 14.16, to be akin to Luke’s reference to the gift of the Spirit, 11. 1. The biggest grouping of the references is found in chapters 14 to 16 and together with the other references noted earlier, they refer to such truths as the Spirit’s sovereignty in regeneration, to His Personality, His deity. His work in the world, His work in the church, in the individual, and indeed themes unknown in the other Gospels.


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