"Jesus Was Full Of The Holy Ghost"

by Jeff Asher

"And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the Devil ...And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about... And He came to Nazareth, where He has been brought up: and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ...'" (Luke 4:1, 14, 18).

What Does "Full of the Holy Ghost" Mean?

The historian Luke uses the phrase "full of the Holy Ghost" numerous times in the books of Luke and Acts. I believe he consistently uses it to mean the miraculous leading, guiding and enabling influence of the Holy Spirit upon men. Let's see.

The first use of the phrase in Luke's gospel occurs at chapter one in verse 15. The reference is to John the Baptist: "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." We know that John was a prophet (Matt. 11:8-10; John 1:33). Obviously, this is miraculous leading of the Spirit that John possessed.

The next reference is found in the same chapter in verse 41. Here Elizabeth is said to be "filled with the Holy Ghost" at the salutation of Mary. Elizabeth blesses Mary and speaks to her concerning the birth of Jesus. The only explanation for Elizabeth's knowledge of these events was a revelation from God through the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, Zecharias, the husband of Elizabeth, prophesies concerning his son John the Baptist upon his birth (Luke 1:67). This prophecy was the fulfillment of the sign promised Zecharias in a vision announcing John's conception (1:19-20). It is apparent that the whole episode is miraculous in character. The phrase "filled with the Holy Ghost" refers to the miraculous endowment Zacharias received to prophesy identifying John as the "prophet of the Highest" who would go "before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways" (Luke 1:76).

In Luke's history of the early church, he continues to use the phrase to designate the miraculous endowments the Holy Spirit gave to men. In Acts 2:4 it designates the Spirit's leading the apostles to speak the "wonderful works of God" in the languages of those present. In Acts 8:4 Peter was "filled with the Holy Ghost" when he made his address to the Sanhedrin after being arrested for preaching the Gospel in the Temple. He along with the rest of the Apostles are said to have been "filled with the Holy Ghost" after prayer and a miraculous shaking of the place where they were gathered. The result was that they preached the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7:59. As he was being kicked, bitten and pounded to death "being full of the Holy Ghost" he looked up into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. During his defense before the Sanhedrin, his face did give the appearance of "an angel." This is another obvious instance of a miraculous filling with the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 9:17, Ananais goes to Saul of Tarsus so that he might receive his sight and be "filled with the Holy Ghost." Ananias was not capable of imparting any such gift (cf. Acts 8:18). Neither did Saul receive any such thing from the other apostles (cf. Gal. 1:16-17). This must be a reference to Saul's being baptized with the Spirit directly from Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 12:11-12).

In Acts 11:24 Luke describes Barnabas as a man "full of the Holy Ghost and faith." The circumstances of this text are parallel to those in Acts 8:4-13. There is nothing in the text that necessitates the conclusion that this is non-miraculous. On the contrary, the circumstances dictate that a Spirit-led prophet be sent into Antioch in order to confirm the saints and continue the harvest.

The apostle Paul in Acts 13:9 is "filled with the Holy Ghost" when he fixes his eyes upon Bar-Jesus making him blind (Acts 13:11). This is an obvious reference to the miraculous.

Are There Exceptions To The Rule?

When presented with this evidence, some think they find an exception in Acts 6:3. They contend Luke does not refer to a miraculous filling with the Holy Spirit, but rather a non-miraculous influence of the Holy Spirit through the Word like that commanded by Paul (Eph. 5:18-19, Col. 3:16; Gal. 5:18-25). Stephen and the rest of the Seven were "filled with the Spirit" only in the sense that they evidenced the fruit of the Spirit in their character.

The objection is based on the assumption that no one, other than an apostle, worked miracles prior to Acts 6:6. Is this the case?

I admit there is no specific mention that anyone other than the Twelve were working miracles before Acts 6:6 (cf. Acts 2:43; 3:6-7; 4:31; 5:1-16). However, there is evidence that others were intended to work miracles from the time of Pentecost forward (Mark 16:15-18; Acts 2:17-18). Furthermore, the statement in Acts 5:12 does not necessarily attribute the miracles to the apostles directly, but indirectly as the source of the authority.

This objection also assumes that the purpose for laying hands on the seven was in order to bestow miraculous power. It is true miraculous power was given after this manner (Acts 8:18). However, the laying on of hands may have signified the official setting apart of these men into the work of caring for the Grecian widows (cf. Acts 13:3; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22).

Consistency in language provides the better understanding of the text. Luke uses the same word that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:18 only once in Acts 13:52. There it signifies the same thing (cf. Acts 8:39; 1 Thes. 1:6). Everywhere else Luke uses language that obviously indicates a miraculous influence of the Holy Spirit upon men. There is no reason to assume he does not mean that in Acts 6:3 and Luke 4:1. The context demands it.

Granting The Exception

However, if we grant the exception in Acts 6:3, what does that prove concerning Luke 4:1? Is Luke describing some non-miraculous leading, guiding and enabling influence of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus? Consider Luke's use of the phrase in the context.

In Luke 4:14 Jesus is said to have returned from the wilderness to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit." His return generated a lot of excitement because of the miracles which He worked with "authority and power" (Luke 4:36). Whose power was it? It was the Spirit's power (Luke 4:14). Jesus received this power when He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38).

In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 and applies it to Himself saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor." In the Old Testament when the "Spirit of the Lord came upon" anyone he was brought under the miraculous power and guiding influence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Judges 3:10; 6:24; 11:29; et. al.). Jesus says that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy claiming to have that power in order to preach the gospel to the remnant of Israel.


Jesus was "full of the Holy Ghost." This was the miraculous leading, guiding and enabling of power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus used this power throughout His personal ministry in working miracles and preaching the gospel. The purpose for which the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to convict men of His claim to be the Son of God.

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