Ask the Pastor: Did Jesus have the Holy Spirit Before His Baptism?


(Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)

 Continuing three questions asked by a church member last week.

  1. Is baptism necessary for salvation?
  2. Did Jesus have the Holy Spirit before His baptism? – this week
  3. Has the Holy Spirit always been involved in the world? – next week


This will be a long answer to the question because it requires understanding the nature of the Trinity.  If you want to skip to the direct answer, please scroll down.

 What is the Trinity?

At the heart of the Christian faith stands the wonderfully deep and mysterious truth—the doctrine of the Trinity.  It says there is one God—not multiple.  God is three persons—Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.

The Bible makes clear that there is only one true God (Deut. 6:4).  This is referred to as monotheism (Greek: mono [one] + theos [god]). The belief in more than one God is called polytheism (Greek: poly = many]. The Christian faith is and has always been monotheistic—believing in the one true, living God.

Again, the Bible is clear there’s only one true God in the universe.  The word “one” comes from the Hebrew word echad.   This word simply means a unity of more than one person (see also Ezra 3:1 & Gen. 2:24).

The word trinity comes from the Latin word trinitas, which can mean three-in-one or threefold. The Bible is clear that there is one true God exists as a Trinity: the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20; 2 Cor. 13:13, etc.). All are divine–all are God–but they’re three distinct “persons” who are distinct from one another.  Yet, from Scripture, we also know that they share the same divine nature or essence.  Further, they relate to one another in unbroken fellowship.

Verses for further study: John 6:27; I Peter 1:2; John 1:1; John 1:18; John 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Titus 2:13; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19; Mark 1:10-11; John 14:16-17, etc.

(Note: The word trinity isn’t found in the Bible, but was first employed by the church father Tertullian to describe what the Bible teaches about the triune nature of God).

As Christians, we honestly, openly, and freely admit that the Trinity is a great mystery that is beyond our human comprehension and understanding.  However, we can’t deny the Trinity because it is the teaching of the Bible. The same Bible that declares God to be One also refers to three different persons as God.

To approach this mystery, we need to first start by considering what part each divine person plays in history and the Christian life.

First, for example, the Father is the One who created everything and is the source of life to all (Genesis 1:1; 1 Cor. 8:6, etc.).  But He didn’t do this alone.

John tells us that Jesus the Son was in the beginning with God and that as He was involved as involved as the Father as the creation of the World (see: John 1:1-18, Col. 1:15-19, etc.).

The Son also upholds the universe moment by moment so that doesn’t cease to exist.  Do you realize that? If he stopped for a moment, the atoms would fly apart.

Genesis says that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters at the time of creation.  He was intimately involved as well (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 33:6-7; Job 26:13, etc.).

Again, the Father is the one that sent the Son into the world to accomplish salvation (1 John 4:14).  The Son is the one that died for the sins of the world to reconcile mankind to God (Romans 3:19-28). Then the people experience salvation as they are drawn by the Holy Spirit to the Father from the Son.  This drawing is accomplished by the Spirit (John 16:8-11).  He brings new spiritual life to those who are dead in their transgressions and serves as the uniting bond that holds the church together in love (Eph. 4:1-6).

According to Jesus’ model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus’ followers should pray to the Father.  Yet, we pray to the Father only through the mediating sacrifice of Jesus Himself (1 Tim. 2:5).  Furthermore, they pray in the Holy Spirit who guides them in what to pray for and gives them the desire to call out to Him (Romans 8:26-27).

You see, the doctrine of the Trinity is full of history.  But that of which we do know of God is that His three persons is sufficient.

In summary:

  1. God is One. There aren’t three totally different “Gods” in the Trinity. This is a false teaching and a heresy called Tritheism.
  2. God is Three. There is one God who exists as three persons—the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Three Persons of the Trinity are Real and Distinct Persons. The Trinity isn’t just one person who wears three different baseball hats or who reveals himself in three different forms as many prosperity teachers like T.D. Jakes posit. This is a heresy called Modalism.
  4. The Three Persons of the Trinity are Perfectly Equal. The Son is not less than the Father, nor is the Spirit less than the Son, etc.
  5. The Three Persons of the Trinity may Manifest Themselves in Different Ways & May Carry out Different Functions. No man has seen the Father; the Son became flesh and dwelt among men; the Spirit dwells with every believer in Christ.
  6. The Scriptures Affirm Two Important Truths: God is one & God is three. Although we can’t fully understand, grasp, or comprehend how this can be, we must believe and teach both truths with equal conviction. Heresy (that is, false doctrine) occurs when we affirm one truth and deny the other. Or, when really emphasize one truth over the other. We must hold to all truth equally and avoid all extremes.
  7. The Mystery of the Trinity is not a Ground for its Denial. Some may say that they can’t believe what they can’t understand. I had someone say to me one time, “If something can’t be explained—it cannot be true.” But think about this for a moment. If we were to apply this same logic to the entire Bible or even to our own lives, then there would be very little left for us to believe. Even the simplest truths of Scripture and the human condition & reality go beyond our understanding. We don’t believe because we can understand, but we believe because it is true – the testimony of the Bible.
  8. Most Illustrations used to explain the Trinity are Woefully Inadequate & Dangerous. Often, students of the Bible have tried to use various illustrations to explain the Trinity. Sadly, these illustrations often do more harm than good. For instance, the Trinity is sometimes likened to water that exists in three different forms—liquid, ice, & steam. Such an illustration is a distortion of the Trinity in that it suggests that God is one person who takes three different forms—a heresy called Modalism (see # above). It’s better to simply affirm the oneness and threeness of God without explanation or illustration than it is to give an explanation or illustration that’s misleading or even false / heretical.

 Did Jesus Receive the Holy Spirit Before His Baptism?

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, pastor and theologian, has written perhaps the best excerpt on this.  Please see his book on the Holy Spirit here.  Specifically, see pages 11-21 for an in-depth study.

Here’s a good first quote:

It is tempting to understand the Spirit as an impersonal force fulfilling the purposes of God mechanically. However, the Scriptures paint a different picture, and they portray the Spirit as anything but impersonal. The third person of the Trinity is personal, and His role in the life and ministry of Jesus attests to this fact. The Spirit is the lifelong companion and friend of Jesus, and the two were never, nor ever will be, apart. This revelation is marvelous, and our wonder should increase as we consider Jesus’ role in sending His Spirit, His companion and friend, to dwell with us.

And then an outline he provides from chapter 5 (pages 19-21):

  1. The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus

A. The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to loose His people from the bondage of sin.

Luke 4:17–21: Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1–2 at the synagogue in Nazareth.

-The Spirit’s anointing of Jesus allowed Him to say to the people that He had come to take away their sin and liberate them from their depravity.

B. The Spirit enabled Jesus to bring restoration during His ministry in a manner never before seen in redemptive history.

-Jesus healed many and brought restoration to a sick and hurting land.

-Jesus did not heal everyone, but He brought healing and restoration in order to provide a glimpse of the future, permanent restoration.

C. The Spirit enabled Jesus to deliver the oppressed from demonic bondage.

-The ministry of Jesus witnessed the largest influx of demonic activity in the history of the world.

-Demonic forces understood their time of preeminence was drawing to a close.

-Their master had been thwarted by Jesus and they sought to strike at Him in a last-ditch effort to prevent His salvific work.

C. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to establish His kingdom and defeat His demonic opponents.