Few Christians realise that the Gospels, though in the New Testament, are actually records of Christ’s life under the Old Covenant. They should be regarded as an introduction to the New Covenant that would be established by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Various individuals mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were moved upon by the Holy Spirit in a similar way He did in the Old Testament. We will briefly mention some of these before looking at the Holy Spirit’s connection to Christ’s birth.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced the mighty power and presence of the Holy Spirit in a very special and unique way. Luke 1:35 tells us, “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” This creative work of the Holy Spirit can happen only once in eternity. It never took place before and can never be repeated. Also, Mary is the only person who would ever receive this blessing. Why? Because through the creative power of the Spirit the Saviour would be born.
Elizabeth, Zachariah, and John
Mary’s cousin Elizabeth also experienced the Holy Spirit in her life. Luke 1:41 records, “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.” Not only this, but her child, John the Baptist, would be “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Zachariah was “filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied” (Luke 1:67). This filling was for a reason and a purpose. They were filled with His power not His abiding presence. Since the Day of Pentecost both are true for the believer. The Holy Spirit inspired Elizabeth and Zachariah to rejoice and prophesy, so we should limit the ‘filling’ to this alone.
Simeon and Anna
Both these persons were found in the Temple at the dedication of Jesus. The Holy Spirit came upon them to prophesy something about the baby in Mary’s arms. “There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law” (Luke 2:25-27). It was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that He knew and spoke of the baby as the Messiah (Luke 2:28-31), and directly to Mary about her future sorrow (Luke 2:34-35).
Anna, an elderly widow, was known as a prophetess. She too realised who the child was. “there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38). Though not mentioned, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit moved her to speak.
We noted above that Christ was conceived by the creative power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. To reject the virgin birth of Christ is to reject the Holy Spirit. If, through a creative act of the Spirit, creation was energised (Genesis 1:2), it should not seem impossible for the virgin birth of Christ to take place through His ministry. The Holy Spirit was fulfilling a prophecy which was given thousands of years before through Isaiah … “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The birth of Christ had to be accomplished by this method. If He was born of a human father he could not be Saviour. This miracle of conception speaks of the fact that Jesus Christ was born without the sin nature. Jesus is the only person who has ever lived that was sinlessly perfect, because He came to die for sinners … “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why Matthew writes, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). He points his readers back to Isaiah’s prophecy, and tells us the exact reason why it had to be a virgin birth through the power of the Holy Spirit; Jesus is “God with us.” God could not be “manifest in the flesh” any other way (1 Timothy 3:16).
The Holy Spirit is active in every area of ministry as is the Father and Son. We have seen that He was working, influencing, inspiring, and involved in every detail leading up to the birth of the Saviour. The Old Testament records the acts of the Spirit just as the book of Acts does. Everything He did in the past was leading up to this glorious event, the Incarnation.