The Return to Galilee

Luke 4:14-15

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him (NIV).

Up to this point of Luke’s account about Jesus, he had not written about Jesus’ ministry. We know that our Lord grew up in Nazareth and that he went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, but Luke has not told us about his ministry in Judea, which we read about in the early chapters of the Gospel of John. Instead, we suddenly read of Jesus returning to Galilee. We might ask why.

Part of the answer is simply that Luke wrote what the Holy Spirit wanted him to. None of the writers provide a biography or life of Christ. They are sacred writings that tell God’s story in Jesus from God’s viewpoint. The Spirit wanted Luke to emphasize some matters and pass by others. In regard to his purpose in the Third Gospel, Luke gives a summary of Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee, since he wants to lead up to the turning point of his book (Luke 9:31, 51). Luke points to the Ascension, which is important in his teaching about all that Jesus accomplished. What can we learn about our Lord? Note well: If we are merely reading the Bible as a self-improvement manual or to have an emotional therapy session, we have been misled about the purpose of the Holy Scriptures. They proclaim the story of God’s glory, they tell us about the Triune God, and they make known how we can know him, who is God over all. For these sufficient reasons, we ought to pay close attention to summary statements like these two verses.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (4:14). The Spirit had led him into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and Jesus triumphed there, being full of the Spirit and using the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Luke wants us to learn that he acted by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. In Acts, the Spirit will work through the apostles in the same way. We also are to be filled with the Spirit to serve God submissively in a godly way of life (Ephesians 5:18-21).

As Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit, news about him spread through the whole countryside (4:14). His ministry in Galilee began as other ministries do: from small things. Jesus was not instantly well-known. People had to tell people about his marvelous words and mighty works. God enjoys working with people in his works. He wants us to tell others. Are you telling others about the Lord Jesus whom you’ve met and know?

Jesus was teaching in their synagogues (4:15). The tense indicates that Jesus constantly taught in the synagogues throughout Galilee. Part of his mission was to teach about God’s kingdom (saving reign), and he took advantage of every opportunity to do so. In Colossians 4:5, the Spirit instructs us to make the most of every opportunity. Certainly, everyone needs time to relax, to recover one’s strength, to prepare, to invest time in our family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are only so many hours in a day at last count! However, how much of your time is it wise to expend on television and social media? Here, we often lack self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Everyone praised him (4:15). The start of his ministry in Galilee was a time of great popularity. It would not last, as the next section makes clear. People like to hear skillful public speakers. We were made to listen, learn, and think. We enjoy words! Human’s love communication! However, once people started to process what Jesus said, they began to dislike it and him. Sinful people suppress the truth and exchange it for foolishness (Romans 1:18-25). If people come to dislike you, it might be because they’ve come to understand what you’re saying (cf. Isaiah 6:9-13)!

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

img_5033Acts 1:3-5

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the gift that God the Father promised his people (1:4-5). With Christ’s victory, a new ministry of the Holy Spirit was about to begin, only ten days after Jesus spoke these words. Clearly, the Spirit of God had come upon some of the people of God before Pentecost (Bezalel, Exodus 31:1-3; Othniel, Judges 3:10; Gideon, Judges 6:34; Jephthah, Judges 11:29; Samson, Judges 14:6; Azariah the prophet, 2 Chronicles 15:1; Ezekiel; Ezekiel 2:2; etc.). But this giving of the Holy Spirit would be of a different order. It would be his “coming”. Compare 1:8: “when the Spirit comes…” and John 7:37-39; 15:26; 16:13. Something of incredible significance was about to happen!

This new ministry is spoken of in another way: as a baptism. As they had been baptized (immersed or submerged) in water, so they would be immersed with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus built on the teaching of his forerunner, John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17). Christ would do the baptism by the Spirit. When John and Jesus talked about the Spirit, they obviously were not speaking about someone the people of God had not heard about. No one asked, “Who or what is the Spirit of God?” Why not? The Old Testament Scriptures have many references to the Holy Spirit.

Christ could not baptize with the Holy Spirit until something happened. He had to be glorified (John 7:37). What does that mean? Notice in Acts 1:3-5 quoted above, spoken before his ascension, the baptism with the Spirit was still a future event, though Christ had been raised from the dead. What needed to happen was Christ’s ascension, when he was exalted to the right hand of God. Then he could pour out the Spirit, because God had made him Lord (Acts 2:33-36). By the way, do not speak of “making Jesus Lord”. A Christian should never say such a thing! Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-11).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was an event in history, as much as the coming, crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was looked for and then it happened to the whole church that existed at that moment in history. All believers were together in one place, and all received the Spirit’s baptism (Acts 2:1-4). All those saved since that non-repeatable event of history also receive the Spirit when they repent (Acts 2:38-39).

All of this should cause God’s people to respond to God with great gratitude. God the Father planned for us to have a Divine Helper living in us during this new age. God the Son accomplished the work of redemption, in order that we might have the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit has come to be with us forever (Jn 14:16). Suppose I handed you the keys to one of the new luxury home, and said, “It’s yours; it’s totally paid for. Enjoy it.” How would you respond? Since Christ died, rose again, and ascended to the Father, he has given you many great gifts. How ought you respond to this gift, a greater gift than a luxury home—the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Grace and peace, David