I have been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit lately. One of the connection points that I have been looking into is the Spirit’s role in Creation and His corresponding role in New Creation. First is the Spirit’s work in God’s original creation. In Genesis 1:2 we see the Spirit of God hovering over the deep. The Spirit played a role in the creation of the cosmos and is depicted as a bird hovering in the air awaiting Yahweh’s creative words as God speaks the world into existence.
How does the work of the Spirit tie into new creation, especially in Jesus?
I am sure many of us had already noticed this in 2 Cor 5:17 where Paul says if you are in Christ you are new creation. If you back up a bit in that chapter you will notice that Paul directly states the Holy Spirit himself is our deposit guaranteeing us as new creation people (5:5). So I knew we, in Christ, are new creation but there is more…far more to it than that!
When we look at the incarnation and baptism of Jesus we find that the Spirit also played a significant role there as well in a way that parallels what we have back in Genesis, making Jesus the new creation prototype. The most obvious place the idea of Jesus as the new creation prototype shows up is Paul’s comparison between Jesus and Adam in Romans and in Romans 8 in Paul’s discussion of the Spirit and the redemption of creation. I believe we get hints of it, although much less direct, in Philippians 2. Where I hadn’t notice this before was in the incarnation.
In Luke 1:34-35 the angels tells Mary the following,
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:34-35
In his NIGTC commentary on Luke, I. Howard Marshall says this about Luke 1:35,
“In conjunction with v. 34 the angel’s statement indicates that the child is to be conceived without human agency. The Holy Spirit, here equated in poetic parallelism with the power of God…is to be the agent, as is appropriate in the new creation…επισκιαζω is ‘to cover’…or ‘to overshadow’…It is used of God’s presence resting on the tabernacle in the cloud (Ex. 40:35) and metaphorically protecting his people.” (Marshall, 70-71).
Without going to far down the rabbit trail there are several places in the Old Testament that equate God’s presence with them in the wilderness with His Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20, & Hag 2:5). Back to the main point – the Spirit come and did something new in the conception of Jesus which was the institution of God’s new creation.
We see something similar and even more directly connected to God’s Spirit hovering over the water (Gen 1:2) when Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3 & Luke 3.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matt 3:16-17
As was mentioned above the Hebrew word translated “hover” in Genesis 1:2 is a word often used of birds in the air. The rabbis mentioned this in their writing on Genesis 1:2 and in one instance actually compared the movement of the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 to a dove (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Hagigah, IV.33.C – See Marshall, 153 and the text here). Here in Matthew 3 and in Luke 3:22 we have the Spirit come upon Jesus like a dove. That is not a necessary detail to understand what is happening at Jesus’ baptism. He tells us what is most important, that it is being done to fulfill all righteousness. It does give us a link between the Spirit’s presence and role in the first creation back in Genesis and in the coming of Jesus as new creation.
If we zoom out a bit we get some similarities with the original creation as well as with the Davidic promise. So this also seems to be not only parallel with Creation but with Jesus’ anointing as Davidic king and messiah. The angel calls Joseph the Son of David. Jesus is called that and Matthew’s genealogy goes to great lengths to point that out. Interestingly enough it was when David was anointed in 1 Sam 16:13 that the Spirit of God came upon him as well, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” Along with that is the quote above in Luke 1:35 where he will be called the Son of God. That was a title used of the king as well.
The Spirit of God is at work in Creation and New Creation. The Spirit was hovering over the waters when God said let there be light and there when the light of the world came into the world and was baptized in the waters to fulfill all righteousness (John 1). There are more scriptures that point us in this direction as already stated above but these are a few other sign posts I hadn’t readily noticed before.