27. The Spirit and the Incarnation

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is Luke 1:26–38 and then verses forty-six to fifty-five, and our theme ‘the Spirit and the Incarnation.’

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 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. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” 1

Verses forty-six to fifty-five:

And Mary said,

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:

For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;

And holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him

From generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm;

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,

And exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things;

And the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath holpen his servant Israel,

In remembrance of his mercy;

As he spake to our fathers,

To Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 2

The Bible presents the Holy Spirit as central to the incarnation, but we too seldom think of Him in relationship to that event. We celebrate Christmas, and yet we commonly overlook the Holy Spirit. We are too often too interested in our own preconceptions concerning the Holy Spirit to see Him in terms of the Bible, in terms of that which He is. An older scholar, Henry Barclay Swete, stated very powerfully and very clearly the work of the Spirit in the incarnation:

“In this act the Spirit is seen presiding over the beginnings of a new creation. As in the beginning of cosmic life, as in the first quickening of the higher life in man, so at the outset of the new order which the Incarnation inaugurated, it belonged to the Divine Spirit to set in motion the great process which was to follow. The first and third Gospels, in tracing this new departure in human history to a unique operation of Holy Spirit, are in line with the Biblical accounts of the Spirit’s action in the creation of the world and of man. In the new world, in the New Man, as in the old, life begins with the Breath of God.

The birth of our Lord is not represented by the canonical Gospels as in itself miraculous or attended by any special signs of Divine power. The miracle lay in the Conception and not in the birth of Jesus; birth followed under ordinary conditions. It was however preceded and followed by another outburst of prophecy.” 3

Matthew tells us that Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. This fact is very clear in Scripture, and it is also at the same time a mystery which is not penetrable by the human mind. But the facts are clear, the Holy Spirit presides from beginning to end in the incarnation, it is the first person of the Trinity, who is called Father, but the Spirit who brought about the conception.

We see the Holy Spirit as He comes to Zechariah to prophesy that John the Baptist will be born. We again see Him coming and inspiring Mary and Elizabeth. We see Him further at every stage uttering prophetic things through the mouths of men; at first creation, the Spirit was present. The Spirit of God brooded over the waters and brought forth all things.

And now at the beginning of another new creation, of a new humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is again active, basic to creation and to recreation, regeneration. John in his gospel does refer to this fact, in fact although most people miss it, he refers clearly to the virgin birth. He says in John 1:12-13:

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” 4

What John says here is that our regeneration is to be compared to the virgin birth. It is supernatural. That even as in the case of Mary the Holy Spirit brought forth new life miraculously, so He comes into our being and brings forth new life. Jesus Christ was born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; and so too are we born again.

Regeneration, in other words, is compared to the virgin birth, to the new creation, the creation of a new Adam, a new Israel of God, a new humanity. Our Lord Himself says: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” 5 Water signifies indeed baptism, the cleansing from and the forgiveness of sin; but cleansing in itself is not enough. Scrub a pig and an hour again he is dirty, he is still a pig. It is of the water and of the Spirit. The Spirit bringing forth regeneration in us, bringing forth the new life, righteousness, holiness, knowledge and dominion; to all such, we are told, God gives the power to become the sons of God. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” 6

The word ‘power’ in the Greek means ‘privilege,’ ‘right,’ and ‘authority.’ All such receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry: “Abba, Father.” Paul tells us. What Christ is naturally, we become by the adoption of grace; God’s sons. As John says in his first epistle, the third chapter the first verse:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” 7

Peter tells us that we are made partakers of the divine nature, 8 that is we receive by grace the blessings of the life of the Trinity through the Spirit. Thus the Virgin birth is the pattern of our rebirth, the pattern of our life. It tells us that we are now ruled by God, that we are not our own, that we are His. Our rebirth is from sin and death into life in Christ, into power. In fact ,our Lord carries the implications of this to a very startling degree, He tells us in John 14:12-14:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” 9

Now these words precede the promise of the Spirit. They give us those things that will be ours in and through the Spirit. We cannot limit this promise to Pentecost. “Greater works shall ye do through the Spirit.” These greater works are done in and through us by the Holy Spirit, and the purpose thereof is the glorification of the Father and the Son. We are members of Him, our works glorify the Father in Him. We are to pray in His name in terms of His kingdom, His life and work, the greater work is salvation, the discipling of all nations, it is dominion and the power to exercise dominion.

Now Mary, in both the Enunciation and in the Magnificat, gives us a tremendous fact; that there will be a great overturning. In fact in Mary’s words:

He hath shewed strength with his arm;

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,

And exalted them of low degree. 10

The great overturning in and through Christ and His people is foretold. The mighty of the old world, of the old Adam, are put down from their seats of power, and those whom the world despises, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 are exalted. And the great regeneration of all things is to be done by the Holy Ghost with our Lord’s virgin birth, and it is continued in and through us. So that which the virgin birth sets forth cannot be seen as merely something back there in history, but as a power which began there and which must continue in force in and through us today. God declares in Isaiah 65:17:

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth:

And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 11

And our Lord says in Revelation 21:5 “Behold, I make all things new.”

The world hates this predicted victory; it seeks to suppress it. The Magnificat is, for us, one of the glorious passages of Scripture, and yet do you know that in the eighteenth century in both Protestant and Catholic churches it was forbidden? The kings of the day; Protestant and Catholic, hated the Magnificat because it spoke of putting down the mighty from their seats and exalting them of low degree, and they said: “We will not have it.” The captains and the kings are gone, and so too shall be all those today who war against Christ’s overturning. The humanists of our time, with their plan to strike at Christ’s kingdom and to strike at the Christian family, they too shall be overturned. For Christ our conquering King has come. Conceived by the Holy Ghost He was crucified dead and buried by the powers that be; but Christ is risen from the dead. Let the nations tremble.

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings:

Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,

And ye perish from the way,

When his wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. 12

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God, we thank thee that as we face the wrath of the enemy, it is Christ who reigns. It is Christ who at His coming has unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit upon the world; let the nations tremble, for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the world, and the nations with His truth and His righteousness. For He shall put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree. O Lord our God, how great and marvelous are thy ways, and we praise thee. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Audience Member] Can a believer who is unbaptized go to Heaven?

[Rushdoony] Well, we would have to say the thief on the Cross did, by our Lord's own statement. However, anyone who is a believer has a duty to obey the Lord, and baptism is that public and outward sign of an inward grace. Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience Member] I have heard it argued by one man that because, in this passage, the child is called “that holy thing,” the unborn child was not a human being, and therefore not a person, and therefore abortion is not, in fact, murder. What do you make of that?

[Rushdoony] Yes, well, that is a very specious argument, because ‘thing’ has a connotation in modern English it does not have in King James English or in Scripture in the original. So he is trying to foist his conceptions onto Scripture.

Any other questions or comments? Yes?

[Audience Member] What does it mean to be released from the law of sin and death?

[Rushdoony] Freedom of course in the Scripture is not only freedom from the law of sin and death, it is freedom unto life and righteousness, and to faith and obedience. Freedom is not a negative concept. And the whole idea of freedom as being pure negation is a very faulty idea. It was the negative concept of freedom that Roosevelt in ‘the Four Freedoms’ enunciated, and that is a very dangerous concept. But what we have in Scripture is very definitely a positive doctrine of freedom.

Now, because of the Christian background of people in this country in the early years their concept of freedom was not a freedom for license - in terms of contemporary thought they would be regarded as very narrow. But theirs was a freedom to be faithful unto the Lord, to be godly men and women. They did not see freedom as license. And so the freedom envisioned in early American law, and in terms of the Bill of Rights and other things, was a very different doctrine of freedom than that which people envision today. Our problem of course is that we re-read the past, and we re-read past laws in the Constitution in terms of contemporary philosophies, to give it a totally different meaning. Any other questions? Or comments?


[Audience Member] Surely this passage, which has John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb for joy, is a key argument for the personhood of the unborn?

[Rushdoony] Yes, exactly, the infant leaped in Elizabeth's womb for joy. Now, we have passages in Scripture which speak of being “called from my mother’s womb.” Now, how can God call someone into service from the mother’s womb if they are not a person from the very beginning? One of the very beautiful things that people have learned of late is that the child in the mother’s womb hears the mother’s voice and recognizes it. They have tested that and found it to be true; the baby knows the mothers voice and will turn his or her head to the mother when she speaks, and sometimes will recognize the father’s voice as well. So they very definitely are persons.

Well, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Lk 1:26–38.

2 Lk 1:46–55.

3 Swete, H.B. (1910). The Holy Spirit in the New Testament: A Study of Primitive Christian Teaching (p. 32). Macmillan and Co., Limited.

4 Jn 1:12–13.

5 Jn 3:5.

6 Jn 1:11–12.

7 1 Jn 3.

8 2 Peter 1:4.

9 Jn 14:12–14.

10 Lk 1:51–52.

11 Is 65:17.

12 Ps 2:10–12.

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