How was Jesus Inspired?

I was raised to believe that Jesus had a perfect memory of heaven while he was on earth, that his faith was not faith, but knowledge, and that he didn’t have to figure anything out. In other words: he didn’t have to struggle with any doubts or ignorance we struggle with, he cheated. 

Jesus in Temple - MAFABut that’s not the story we are given in the gospels. In the gospels Jesus “grows in wisdom and stature“, after studying with the elders in the temple at age 12. A person cannot grow in wisdom unless they have less wisdom than they end up with.

If Jesus had to grow in wisdom, then what did he start with? The apostle Paul says “he emptied himself” to become a man, and another writer says that he “was tempted in all points as we are“, meaning there had to be doubt. In fact one of the first stories we have about Jesus is that he was tempted to doubt who he was in relationship to God, the father, just after he was baptized by John, and then went out in the wilderness, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. All three of his temptations had to do with doubting his relationship with the father, and doubting the story his mother had taught him: that he was born to be the Messiah.

That’s the starting point for Jesus: his mother told him that he was born to be the Messiah. From that catalyst he had to figure out what that meant, and what to do about it.

Jesus Baptized by John the Baptistin the River JordanUntil one day he goes to find his cousin, John, preaching repentance because “the kingdom” is coming soon. Jesus is baptized and a voice from the sky says, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon him.  What if that was the first time the father spoke to Jesus? If it was, then that was the power Jesus operated on for the rest of his life. It puts the temptations he went through in the wilderness into context: “If you think you heard God, the father, speaking to you, then who are you? You need to test it, figure it out, make sure.”

Most of the things Jesus taught were big picture lessons from the Law of Moses. Jesus started, not with the Law, but with the creation story, and from that overview pointed out inconsistencies he saw in the interpretations of the Law of Moses by the teachers of his day.  Perhaps one of the bravest of those times is when he said, “It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles him, it is what comes out of his mouth.” Jesus had never eaten pork, always eaten kosher, but he had observed in his daily life that some of the Gentiles were less defiled in their hearts than his Jewish brethren that never defiled themselves with unclean food. Yet Jesus wipes that all away with one sweep, contradicting the Law of Moses itself, not just the traditions and interpretations of the teachers of his day. If Jesus was relying on his growth in wisdom, then this was a very brave thing for him to say.

cleansetempleAnother brave time is when he cleansed the temple of the “den of thieves” that had taken over and was extorting money from the people who wanted to worship God.

There are very few times he went beyond just interpreting Moses. When he talked about himself as the Messiah and the kingdom coming soon he went farther than just pointing out inconsistencies, and relied upon his mother’s story of his birth.

So what is inspiration by the Holy Spirit? My tradition would have us believe that it is the unmistakable urge of the Holy Spirit to give one of the early church prophets infallible knowledge of God’s will on a particular subject. This is not the record we have in the New Testament writings, where Paul insisted that prophets had to be in submission to other prophets who would pass judgment on their prophecies as to whether they were accurate renditions of God’s will or not. Inspiration of the Holy Spirit was a communal work, the group discussing and figuring out who was telling them the truth and who was not. This communal work extended to the canon of the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Bible. The community kept on discussing which writings were inspired by God, and which writings were not, even discussing which books were more inspired than others.

Have you ever thought that you had a moment of inspiration from the Holy Spirit? A moment when you clearly saw that you needed to say to a friend that God wanted him to stay alive, or a moment when God wanted you to look in the eyes of someone and tell them you saw a clear gift from God in their abilities? Was this moment an educated moment, something you had grown in wisdom about, and your life experience had built toward?

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Bible, Holy Spirit, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How was Jesus Inspired?

  1. Greg Kreis says:

    In this blog entry you say, “where Paul insisted that prophets had to be in submission to other prophets”. I am confused. How do you get the idea of other prophets overseeing prophets from 1 Cor 14:32? In the context of the discussion (vs 30-33), I get the idea that prophets can control themselves so they don’t all speak at once.

    • Mark says:

      Greg,
      Commentators are divided, some accepting your interpretation, others mine: Gill: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Meaning either that the doctrines which the prophets deliver, the explanations they give of passages of Scriptures, the revelations they declare, are subject to the examination, judgment, and censure of other prophets; who have a right to try and judge them…”

      • Greg Kreis says:

        I noticed that Gill also offers the idea of proceeding orderly….

        “…or else the sense is, that the spiritual gifts of the prophets, and the inspirations and instincts by which they are acted, and the affections which are excited in them, are subject to themselves, so that they can use, or not use those gifts; though they have the word of the Lord they can forbear speaking, as Jeremy did, for a while, and as the case of Jonah shows; or they can refrain themselves and be silent, and wait till they have proper opportunity of speaking, being not like the prophets of false gods, who are acted by an evil spirit, and observe no order or decorum, but with a sort of fury and madness deliver involuntarily what is suggested to them: but such is not the case of true prophets that are influenced and directed by the Spirit of God, who will give way to one another; one will be silent while the other speaks, and by turns prophesy one after another; and where there is not such a subjection, it is a sign that the Spirit of God is not in them, for the reason that follows.”

        I don’t mean to be argumentative. The point you make does appear to be in made in 1 Cor. 14:29. It seems to make sense that the ‘others’ are prophets because it fits the pattern of tongues having interpreters, prophets having those with a gift to confirm the truthfulness of a prophecy (other prophets).

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    Greg,
    Why would you ask about 1 Cor 14:32 addressing the question of, “How do you get the idea of other prophets overseeing prophets” when it is obviously not the context that is being discussed there? But, overlook the verse that does address that concept? Notice the following.
    (1 Cor 14:29 KJV) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
    (1 Cor 14:29 NIV) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
    (1 Cor 14:29 NRSV) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
    If you can explain how the prophets that have spoken, do not have to answer to the judgement of others (we can assume from the text the others are prophets, but the text could be referring to all of the listeners), I would gladly listen..

  3. Gary Cummings says:

    I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. That being said, I agree that as a human being, Jesus did have to grow in knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It was not all an instant download from the Holy Spirit. Jesus did have doubts at times, which he overcame. Jesus did suffer and die, and he overcame suffering and death as well.

    There have been a few moments of divine enlightenment in my life: when I first accepted Christ. He spiritually came to me, and I felt his presence. When I was baptized in the Baptist Church after being saved. When I preached in the jails of Colorado, when I preached against the Vietnam War, when I resigned and gave up my ministerial deferment and volunteered to do Alternative Service.

    There have been others, but they have been few. For the most part, I struggle to live by faith. I have made mistakes and learned from them. I have grown from the spiritual infant I was when I was first saved at the age of 17. I have grown in my wisdom and understanding, It just took me a lot longer than Jesus.
    I believe that “salvation is by faith, from first to last.” Romans 1:16-17
    Blessings, Gary

  4. How did the Holy Spirit bring about the miracle of the Virgin Birth? This isn’t known: “And who will declare His generation?” (Isaiah 53:8). The Holy Spirit knits our bones together, but we do not know how: “As you do not know what is the way of the spirit, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Jesus, in His incarnation as a child born to Mary, had no natural, biological father. In eternity, He already had a Father: “Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Mark 12:4). What’s new in the incarnation is that He took on human nature, as He said at the time: “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me…‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7).

  5. get smart says:

    The Bible is actually clear about the distinctions between the father,son and holy spirit.The distinctions must be seen as one that is eternal and not just took place for a purpose.The father is God,The Son is God and the holy spirit is God Himself but let us not make the mistake that we are splitting God into three parts.We dont need to be theologians to understand who God is.We must accept him as the Bible reveals him.We should also understand that whether we are trinitarians or oneness which are the two strongest sides that seems to be based on biblical teachings and do make the stongest view for one to hold,we could all be wrong or all be right depending on how we understand the terms.I dont even know whether i am trinitarian or oneness but am still being used by the same lord.

  6. Gary Cummings says:

    I struggled for years over the doctrine of the Trinity because of the Christological confusion in the history of the COC. Some are Trinitarians (but don’t know it or refuse to use that term), some are modalists (The Father became Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is some abstract power of God) You could call this a “Oneness” ideology. Others are like Marcion who believe Jesus was a created being, that “there was a time when Jesus did not exist”.
    I always was confused about the Trinity and for lack of clearness, identified myself with the Oneness solution for years. An acquaintance of mine, Robert Brent Graves, wrote a book THE GOD OF TWO TESTAMENTS. It was an exposition of the doctrine of Oneness on the basis of some consistency in the Koine Greek. He has an M.A. in NT Greek from ACU; His book is interesting, but has a poor theological and Biblical foundation. It is very polemic in nature.
    Finally after a restudy of this issue, I came over to the doctrine of the Trinity as the most consistent teaching of who Jesus is. He is God the Son. He is “the only begotten God” in John 1:18 in the best manuscripts, and “our great God and Savior” of Titus 2:13. He is the I AM of the Gospel of John. Jesus is God, but He is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, but not Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is God, but not the Father or the Som. All are eternal, all are God, and all are one.

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