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What is Spirit Christology?

Spirit Christology looks at the presence and activity of the Spirit of God in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. In a way, Spirit Christology seeks to ask Jesus' own question to his disciples: "Who do people say that I am?" (Mark 8:27 ESV) But it does so from a Holy Spirit angle or perspective.

If we look at the history of the early church's reflection on Jesus' identity, the dominant way of expressing who he is typically highlights his divinity and incarnation. In other words, Jesus is the divine Word made flesh (see John 1:1,14). Since the Greek word for "Word" is "Logos," this classic view of Jesus often goes by the name of "Logos Christology." The ecumenical councils of the fourth and fifth centuries serve as good examples of a Logos-oriented Christology, which confesses Jesus as true God or as one person in two natures (divine and human).

Yet Scripture and the Christian tradition also make room for thinking about Jesus as the receiver, bearer, and giver of the Holy Spirit. This type of reflection goes by the name of "Spirit Christology" (also known as pneumatological Christology, from "pneuma," the Greek word for "Spirit"). Consider, for example, how John the Baptist, alluding to the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan, describes him as the one on whom the Spirit descends and remains, and as the one who baptizes others with the Holy Spirit (see John 1:33). A number of authors working in the field of Spirit Christology today see it as a complement to (instead of as a replacement for) Logos Christology. They seek to integrate the Logos and Spirit aspects of Jesus' identity.

We can offer at least three benefits of seeing Jesus as the receiver, bearer, and giver of the Spirit. A Spirit Christology helps us to see Jesus in a Trinitarian context. Jesus does all His work in faithfulness to God the Father and in service to humanity in the power of the Spirit. A Spirit Christology also displays how the Spirit is actively involved in Jesus' life and mission, giving his work of salvation a Spirit-oriented trajectory. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit, is anointed for mission with the Holy Spirit, proclaims the Word and drives out demons by the power of the Spirit, gives his life on the cross for us through the Holy Spirit, and is raised from the dead by the same Spirit. And Jesus does all this work "for us and for our salvation" (Nicene Creed). Finally, a Spirit Christology shows the formative link between Christ and his disciples, between the Son and adopted sons (and daughters) of God. Jesus does not only bear the Spirit for himself, but also gives others the Holy Spirit so that they can be formed into his likeness. Otherwise stated, Jesus gives us the Spirit to empower and shape us to be like him, namely, to be faithful to God and the servants of many.


Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., Ph.D. is the Werner R.H. Krause and Elizabeth Ringger Krause Professor of Hispanic Ministries, professor of Systematic Theology, and director of the Center for Hispanic Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

For Professor Sanchez' full treatment of this question:

Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., Receiver, Bearer, and Giver of God's Spirit: Jesus' Life in the Spirit as a Lens for Theology and Life

Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., Sculptor Spirit: Models of Sanctification from Spirit Christology

Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., T&T Clark Introduction to Spirit Christology



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