The Man Christ Jesus

wareHow did Jesus do miracles? How did he cast out demons? Or know what people were thinking? Or live a perfect life? If you’re like most Christians, you’d probably say, “Well, he was God. That’s how he did it.” But is that really what the Bible says?

In The Man Christ Jesus, Bruce Ware argues that the Bible paints a different portrait of Jesus. A very human portrait. And while it affirms his divinity, the Bible rarely attributes Jesus’ perfect and miraculous life to that divinity.

Instead, the Bible portrays Jesus primarily as a man dependent upon and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Ware lists 6 important passages to demonstrate this point.

1. Isaiah 11:1-3. In this passage Isaiah prophesies about the coming of the Messiah. He says,

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

Think about the incredible wisdom Jesus possessed. Wisdom that confounded religious leaders. Wisdom that always spoke with a perfect balance of grace and truth. Or think about Jesus’ life of perfect obedience and fear of the Lord. He never sinned in any way. Notice where it came from. Isaiah attributes these things, not to Jesus’ divinity, but the Spirit resting upon Jesus.

2. Luke 4:18-21. In this passage Jesus goes to Galilee and stands to read in the synagogue. He opens up Isaiah 61, which speaks of the coming Messiah, and says:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Notice again that Isaiah explain the Messiah’s incredible ministry in terms of the Spirit’s power, not the Messiah’s divinity.

3. Acts 10:38.  In Acts 10, Peter is told by God to go and preach to a Gentile named Cornelius. When he gets to Cornelius’ house and begins preaching about Jesus, notice what he says.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 

Notice two things. First, Peter describes Jesus as being from Nazareth. A real town. Where real humans live. Jesus was a man. But second, Peter explains Jesus’ ministry of healing and exorcism in terms of the Spirit’s power, not Jesus’ divinity. In fact, he could have ended verse 38 by saying, “For he was God.” But instead he says, “For God was with him.”


Is this just theological hair-splitting? Or does this doctrine actually affect your Christian life? Ware argues for the latter.

Think about it. You are called to follow Jesus’ example (1 Pet. 2:21). To do greater works than he did (Jn 14:12). But if Jesus’ life and works were simply the product of his divinity, then how could you ever hope to follow in his steps? You’re not divine. You never will be.

Here’s his point. The Bible attributes Jesus perfect and miraculous life, not primarily to his divinity, but to the power of the Holy Spirit. And you, Christian, have this same Spirit living and dwelling in you!

What do you think about Ware’s argument?

Is he under-emphasizing the role Jesus’ divinity played in his life and minsitry? 


  1. Reply
    Scott Holman says

    good summary and questions, brother!

    This makes me think of two traditions that have helped me think along the lines you are talking about:

    1) Pentecostal tradition – I was discipled in this tradition, and this “reliance on the Spirit” being a hallmark of Jesus’ life was always emphasized and taught as not only what we know and worship about Jesus but also what we can enter into as well.

    2) Spiritual Formation tradition – more recently, esp. with Dallas Willard, his teachings on Jesus and the Kingdom. We can actually do what Jesus did, think what he thought, feel what he felt, because the life he laid out for us was the life in the Spirit (hence, “spiritual” formation).

  2. Reply
    Andy Barlow says

    Thanks for stopping by Scott. I think that’s what I appreciate about both of those traditions. You know, another area that I think makes this whole discussion important is realizing that Jesus really did experience suffering and temptation like us and learned to depend on the HS. So he really can sympathize with our situations. He knows how hard it is in the midst of temptations and weakness to “walk in the Spirit.”

    • Reply
      Scott Holman says

      good point; something easily overlooked but desperately needed!

  3. Reply
    danieldavenport says

    This is not a topic that is discussed enough. It seems to me that it has become taboo among many non denominational churches. It is rarely addressed in sermons. I have only heard a handful of pastors touch on the topic of the holy ghost. Glad to see that you are beginning to visit this often neglected and equally important portion of the trinity. I would thoroughly enjoy learning more about it.

Post a comment