Bible Question:

I know that Jesus certainly knew who He was from an early age (12 years old when He was in the Temple talking to the teachers). My question is, “Did Jesus have the Holy Spirit in Him before He was baptized, or did He receive the Spirit only in that moment?”

Bible Answer:

Scripture does not give us enough information to positively answer the question, “Was Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit before He was baptized?” It is clear from Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism. Therefore, we are also want to know when was Jesus filled by the Holy Spirit? When did Jesus receive the Holy Spirit?

Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit

John the Baptist Filled at His Baptism

It is significant that the gospel of Luke tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth.

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:15 (NASB)

But was John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit all the time? Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit never indwelt a person all the time – continuously. The Holy Spirit did not remain permanently in a person until after Pentecost (Acts 2). That is why Jesus said He was going to send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Something new was going to occur. Saul is one example where the Holy Spirit did not remain on him (1 Samuel 10:6; 16:14) and King David is another. In fact, King David feared the Lord would take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11). Today, the Holy Spirit lives inside a believer (Hebrews 8:7-13).

When the Holy Spirit came upon an Old Testament believer, the manifestations or miracles of the Spirit did not always occur. When Samson grew up, the “Spirit of the LORD began to stir him” (Judges 13:24-25). It is not until later that the “Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of Old Testament saints did not mean they performed wonders or miracles. For more information visit The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy. So the Holy Spirit could have “come on” John the Baptist at his birth, but not remained since Pentecost had not yet occurred.

John Prophesied Jesus Would Be Filled With the Holy Spirit

Since John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit at his birth, it is difficult to believe that Jesus was not filled with the Holy Spirit at His birth since Christ was of higher rank than John. That is the testimony of John the Baptist.

This is He on behalf of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” John 1:30 (NASB)

Why would John be filled and not Jesus since Jesus was God in human flesh? Yet, we cannot state that positively since the New Testament does not explicitly state that. None of the gospels explicitly state that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before His baptism. Yet, Isaiah 11:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit would “rest on Him.”

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:2  (NASB)

Jesus Filled With the Holy Spirit at His Baptism

But when was Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit? The first time we are told Jesus was filled with the Spirit is at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22).

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “ This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17 (NASB)

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:21-22 (NASB)

At this point we should ask, “Why did the Holy Spirit need to rest on Him if He was God?” The answer is found in Philippians 2:6-7 where we are told that Jesus”emptied” Himself. But of what did Jesus empty Himself? The answer is His glory (Matthew 17:1-5) and some of His divine attributes. For more information visit How can Jesus be God since He did not know the time of the end? He did not come knowing everything (Matthew 24:36). In fact, He came as a human baby who had to physically and intellectually grow and increase in wisdom.

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:40 (NASB)

Jesus was both God and human. But in order to experience life as a human, Jesus limited the use of His divine attributes. This is the message of Philippians 2:5-8. He also chose to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit for His ministry. The gospel of Luke seems to imply that He needed the Holy Spirit to do miracles.

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. Luke 5:17 (NASB)

Other scriptures reveal that Jesus depended on the power of the Holy Spirit in His ministry The table below shows that Jesus did miracle after miracle by the power of the Spirit. He even died and returned to life by the power of the Spirit.

Spirit’s Ministry to JesusPassage
Born by the Holy SpiritMatthew 1:18
Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at His baptismLuke 3:22
Led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be temptedLuke 4:1
Returned to Galilee in the power of the SpiritLuke 4:14
Spirit of the Lord is upon HimLuke 4:18
He rejoiced greatly in the Holy SpiritLuke 10:21
Ministry performed in the power of the SpiritActs 2:22
Anointed with the Holy SpiritActs 10:38
Died by the Spirit Hebrews 9:14
Returned to life by the Holy Spirit 1 Peter 3:18

These passages reveal that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from His baptism to His death and resurrection. He depended on the Holy Spirit to perform His ministry. He is the perfect example of a believer who is perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit. Now, was Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit before He was baptized? Scripture does not tell us, therefore, we do not have a dogmatic answer.

Conclusion:

As already stated, scripture does not give us enough information to positively state that Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit prior to His baptism and subsequent ministry. Yet, if John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit, it is possible that Jesus was also (see above discussion)! The gospel writers make it clear that Jesus did miracle after miracle by the Holy Spirit. He died by the Spirit and returned to life by the Spirit. Jesus is an example to us that we too should live by the power of the Holy Spirit. That power comes by being filled with His Spirit and by walking in His Spirit. That is the key to power in the Christian life.

Suggested Links:

How To Be Filled With The Spirit
Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Jesus is Superior to Angels
The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy
How can Jesus be God since He did not know the time of the end?
God’s Will – Be Filled With The Spirit