Bible Question:

I was watching a movie about Jesus which made me think about His humanity. I know that He 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 your question, “Was Jesus already filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism?” Yet the gospel of Luke tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from 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. (NASB) Luke 1:15

Old Testament Filling

Was John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit all the time? Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit never lived inside a person all the time – continuously. The Holy Spirit did not remain permanently in a person until the New Testament. 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 (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 Christian forever. This is implied in the great promise of God (Hebrews 8:7-13).

When the Holy Spirit came upon, not in, an Old Testament saint 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 occasions 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. So the Holy Spirit could have “come on” John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah – Jesus Christ – at birth and yet the Spirit may not have remained. It is also possible the power of the Spirit did not occur until he was an adult.

Since John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit at birth, it is difficult to believe that Jesus was not filled with the Holy Spirit at 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 Christ since He was God in human flesh? Yet, we cannot know 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)

The Hebrew tense of the word “rest” has the idea of completed action. This verse includes the future reign of the Messiah as the rest of Isaiah 11 reveals, but when did the Holy Spirit begin to empower Him?

Filled at His Baptism

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 2:7 where we are told that Jesus did not come to earth in His divine glory (Matthew 17:1-5). 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. (NASB) Luke 2:40

Jesus was both God and human. But in order to experience life as a human, Jesus limited the free use of His divine powers or prerogatives. This is the message of Philippians 2:5-8. He also chose to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit for His ministry. In Luke, Jesus 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. (NASB) Luke 5:17

Living By The Holy Spirit

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 baptism.Luke 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
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon ME . . .”Luke 4:18
He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit.Luke 10:21
Ministry performed in the power of the SpiritActs 2:22
Anointed with the Holy SpiritActs 10:38
Offered Himself – died – by the Spirit. Hebrews 9:14
Return to life by the Holy Spirit 1 Peter 3:18

He depended on the Holy Spirit to perform His ministry. Just as Jesus did in His humanity, God expects us to depend on the Holy Spirit for the power in our ministry.

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 probably safe to state that Jesus was too (see above discussion)! Even though scripture does not say the Holy Spirit was upon Jesus before His baptism, it seems that was true. 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.

Reference Links:

Filled With The Spirit
Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Jesus is Superior to Angels