Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, Matthew 1:18.
As was discussed in Part 1 of these posts, the Holy Ghost worked behind the scenes in the Old Testament. Even if you did not have verses like 2nd Peter 1:21, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; we could detect the Holy Ghost's presence through the excellence of the work.
I am reminded of Allen C. Guelzo's epic work on the Gettysburg Battle, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Guelzo tackled one of the great mysteries of the battle when he discussed the whereabouts of Robert E. Lee in the battle's opening day. For whatever reason no one's diaries or accounts of the battle mention him in that all important first day as the Confederate forces move into decisive action. This has led to speculation the Lee wasn't there.
Guelzo mocks that conclusion. He asks his readers to consider the excellence with which the Confederate forces were arrayed, the excellence of the order they exhibited and the cunning placement of their forces. He asks his readers, who besides Robert E. Lee could have orchestrated such moves? It is obvious to anyone who has studied Lee to recognize his work. Do we need signed affidavits or photographs to establish Lee's presence? No, the flawless disposition of the Confederate Army's sweep into Gettysburg is Lee's signature.
Likewise, do we need David to mention the Holy Ghost to know that he spoke words the Holy Ghost gave him? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool, Mark 12:36. Anyone who knows the excellency of the Old Testament and has partaken of the Holy Ghost can have no doubt that the soul and spirit of God were united in the form of a person to orchestrate the entire Old Testament. That person, the Holy Ghost stays behind the scenes and has no need to reveal himself before the conception of Jesus Christ.
At the conception of Jesus Christ, he reveals himself by name to men. As has been said a few times in these various blogs, we are fortunate to speak a Germanic tongue because that person reveals himself in the name of the Holy Ghost rather than in the term "Spirit" which is far less easy to pigeon hole as to the difference in the person himself and the working of that person through his Spirit.
It is often remarked by various commentators that the events prior to the cross are Old Testament events recorded in the New Testament. They rightly mark the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the beginning of the New Testament in the sense that a testament is not in force until the death of the testator. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth, Hebrews 9:16, 17.
What truly distinguishes the New Testament portion of scripture is that the Holy Ghost reveals himself to better facilitate his work. The period of time between the conception of John the Baptist and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a unique time which is neither Old Testament or New Testament. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John, Matthew 11:13. The Holy Ghost is rolling out a transition throughout the gospels and the Book of Acts.
Many a cult and many a heresy has been introduced by deceived people reaching into aspects of that transition and attempting to form a doctrine to guide their church. I have used the example of marriage while teaching this concept to overseas students. I ask them if an unattached single person is free to explore a relationship with another single unattached person. (For the purposes of this illustration it is assumed that we are talking about people within the same church environment.)
The answer is yes. I then ask, if those two people were to become engaged, is it alright for them to continue to explore possible romantic relationships with other people? "Of course not" is the universal answer. "Well, then is it acceptable for them to begin a sexual relationship during their engagement before they get married?" (This line of reasoning gets strained talking to American youth.) Overseas youth shake their heads, no. An engaged couple will coordinate their finances in ways that single people would not, but after marriage they share finances, a home and a future.
So, during an engagement we have a unique time in the life of two people. They are not formally married, but their commitment is such that they will not seek outside of it for romance. Even though their bond is sacrosanct, their current state comes short of justifying a sexual relationship. It is a unique time in their lives which has rules that neither conform to the state of being single or the state of matrimony.
How foolish it would be for someone to dig into those rules to establish rules for either single people or for married people! They fit neither. That is what it is like when someone tries to establish church rules from events in the gospels or the Book of Acts. With discernment, and by reading all of the New Testament writers, many events of the gospels and the Book of Acts can be used to establish New Testament doctrine. The Lord's table is such a doctrine. Without the guidance of the New Testament Epistles we would be at a loss to know how to incorporate those things which we read in the gospels and Book of Acts.
If we look at the gospels and the Book of Acts through the lens of the Holy Ghost's work we can understand better. The Holy Ghost began to reveal himself in the conception of Jesus Christ. It was no longer comely to stay hidden. For Mary and Joseph's reputation, and to establish the holiness of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost needed to raise his hand and to take credit.
As we look at the Holy Ghost, let us keep in mind his motives. He wants to manifest Jesus Christ. He did that behind the scenes for many years in prophecies of Jesus Christ. He did so openly in the conception of Jesus Christ. Once Jesus Christ was conceived, he openly declared his work through the many people who were to witness of Jesus Christ whether through preaching or writing. He was hidden but eminently involved in the death of Jesus Christ. (We will explore that in a later post.)
He began to inhabit men in a new and different way upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ to confirm to them as individuals that Jesus was the Christ, that he was the Son of God, and to empower them to speak and bear witness. In our next post, we will look at how he slowly changed his methods as the revelation of the death burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ was preached throughout the world.