Jesus is our model in all things and so he is also our model for ministry. By ministry, I mean Spirit-led and Spirit-filled words and actions that heal and build up the lives of others.
My previous article concerned the New Birth and I was tempted to write about Jesus as a model for being born again, but I resisted. Not only would it have stretched an already lengthy article into more of a booklet, but it is a very complex subject. Jesus is a perfect model for all things, but there are some matters too holy and mysterious to be probed and speculated on – the miraculous conception of Jesus the Son of God is, for me at least, one such matter.
My last article also covered the difference between the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the anointing/infilling of his spiritual energy. This is something in Jesus’ life that we can explore as a model for all spiritual ministry. However, before I develop this idea, I need to deal with the perceived invalidity of using Jesus as our model for ministry.
I first used the word ‘Christoconformity’ in my 2007 book ‘Truth is The Word’ in connection with establishing reliable criteria for testing possible additions to the Canon of scripture. I wrote: ‘Christoconformity is a word I have coined to express the need for the content of any new document to conform to the divine self-revelation in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a document would either confirm existing biblical information concerning Jesus Christ or it would add detail and understanding of what the scriptures already declare concerning him’. However, more recently a South African scholar has used the word in arguing that Jesus is not a valid model in the areas where The Lord acted in his divine capacity. In this article, I will use the word Christoconformity in this latter sense.
I hold that the Lord Jesus Christ provided the perfect model for all aspects of Christian ministry. He was both fully God and fully man and Paul explained this in Philippians 2:7-8 where he wrote that God the Son “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…”. In his human capacity, he was filled with the spirit without limit for John wrote: ‘He speaks God’s words, for God’s Spirit is upon him without measure or limit’ ( John 3:34). We are not ‘fully’ anything and we have decided limitations and capacities. For instance, I have not heard of an authenticated modern case where a person walked on water; however, Peter did! (Matthew 14:23-31). Jesus walked on water and then enabled Peter to do the same and that strikes me as a modelling process. Equally, I know of no authenticated current instances of people multiplying bread rolls, yet the disciples did this (Luke 9:12-17). Note that Luke recorded the important detail that after Jesus had blessed and broken the bread he ‘gave them to the disciples to set before the people’ (again modelling). There were about 5,000 hungry men there and who knows how many women and children, but they were all served with bread. Common sense and simple mathematics tell us that the bread must have multiplied in the hands of the disciples as they distributed it. Jesus multiplied bread and then enabled his disciples to do the same.
Even when it comes to something like Jesus’ atoning death it is obvious that we, not being God, cannot die for the sin of the entire human race. But we can emulate his example and die to self-interest so that we can give life to others in whatever practical form that is. Is this not what Jesus meant when he told us to take up our cross and follow him (Matthew 10:38-39)?
In his article on the Desiring God website titled ‘Why Jesus Needed the Holy Spirit’, Mark Jones wrote the following:
‘John Owen (as well as others) had an insightful way of explaining the relation of Christ’s two natures. To my knowledge, this had not been as clearly articulated by anyone before him. One of his chief concerns was to protect the integrity of Christ’s two natures (divine and human). In so doing, he made a rather bold contention that the only singular immediate act of the Son of God (the divine second person) on the human nature of Christ was the decision to take it into subsistence with himself in the incarnation. Every other act upon Christ’s human nature was from the Holy Spirit. Christ performed his miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, not immediately by his own divine power’.
I agree with this and ask, ‘why then would Jesus not be a model for us?’
J.R.Williams wrote the following:
‘As Jesus began his ministry in Nazareth, he affirmed an anointing from God: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news” (Luke 4:18). This anointing had occurred earlier just following His baptism by John… this anointing was basically for power to minister. Peter, in a sermon many years later to the Gentiles at Caesarea, declares that ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power… he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil.’ (Acts 10:38)… It was Jesus the man who was anointed with the Spirit of God, and in the power resulting from that anointing He wrought manifold wondrous works of God… It would be a mistake, therefore, to assume that Jesus did such mighty works because He was the Son of God. Rather, it was His Spirit-anointed humanity and the power resting on that humanity that lay behind His ministry in word and deed.’ (Pg. 339 from Volume 1 of Renewal Theology by R. Williams).
I have reproduced his final paragraph in bold font and again I ask, ‘why then would Jesus not be a model for us?’
Of course, the most important support for Christoconformity comes from Jesus and his early followers. Here are some of the things they said concerning this:
- John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you”.
- John 13:34 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.
- 1 Corinthians 11:1 ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’.
- 1 Peter 2:21 ‘Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps’.
While these admonitions apply to the Christian lifestyle, there is no strong reason not to apply them equally to Christian ministry.
It appears to me that the contention that we should not adopt Jesus as our model for spiritual ministry arises from two main concerns:
Firstly, that by seeking to emulate what Jesus did we somehow diminish his unique status and in the process elevate ourselves presumptuously to some form of divinity. I guess this could be valid if we mistakenly thought that we autonomously have both the authority and power to do the things Jesus did. We don’t! Whatever anointing we have is given to us by the Holy Spirit and whatever authority we have is delegated to us by the Lord Jesus within the parameters of his ‘name’ (purpose and will). Jesus told Peter to walk on water and the Holy Spirit gave him the ability to do so, albeit for a few faith-limited seconds. Jesus told his disciples to distribute the bread and the Holy Spirit multiplied it as they did so.
The second main reason why some folks do not accept the concept of Christoconformity is that they confuse prescription for principle and method for model. Jesus recreated blind eyes by moulding mud from dirt and spit (John 9:6), but this does not mean that we should or could use this method to minister to people with eye problems. However, this incident, among many others, is a model for us in that we should minister in Jesus’ name and the power of the Holy Spirit to those who are in need. The principle applies although the method may not.
Another genuine limitation on us as individual believers in emulating Jesus’ ministry is that we (singular) are not the Body of Christ on earth, although we (plural) are. The ‘church universal’, and even the local church to some extent, has a capacity that none of us has individually. Pentecostals call this the corporate anointing.
A wonderful example of this was when the early disciples gathered together to ask God to empower them to stand against Roman persecution (Acts 4:23-31). Verses 29-31 read: ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly’.
What Jesus Modeled
I am focusing on Jesus as a model for ministry, so I will limit myself to those aspects of his life on earth that directly reflect his spiritual ministry to those in need. Therefore, I will not cover such things as his teaching, disciple-making, or even lifestyle.
The anointing of the Spirit is the most fundamental aspect of all the factors that directly affect spiritual ministry.
In my article on The Nature of The New Birth, I used the word ‘anointing’ as a simile for infilling and empowerment, and I use it in the same sense in this article.
For thirty years Jesus Christ lived in relative obscurity, first as a child in his parents home and then as a builder operating in and around Nazareth. Although there are apocryphal accounts of his early life, nothing in the bible indicates that he ministered in any supernatural way during those years. Then one day the Holy Spirit led him to a part of the Jordan river where John the Baptist was baptising those who repented of their rebellion against God. John was expecting him at some time because he declared: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). At his request, John baptised Jesus in a symbolic act of completing the Old Covenant period and inaugurating the New. As Jesus was coming out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him to anoint him for ministry. Jesus confirmed what had happened in that moment because later, in the Synagogue in his home town of Nazareth he quoted from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19). I am aware that some teach that Jesus was simply announcing himself as the Jewish Messiah that Isaiah had prophesied would come. This is true to a point, but it surely cannot be separated from his experience of the anointing of the Holy Spirit for ministry. After he was baptised, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he remained for 40 days. Luke’s account has, ‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert…’ Note the use of the words ‘full of the Holy Spirit’. For those 40 days, Jesus was exposed to severe testing and each of the three types of tests described in the Gospels was designed to tempt Jesus to rely on his divinity rather than depend on the Holy Spirit. Luke describes the end of his time of testing with the words: ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4:14). Again, note the phrase ‘in the power of the Spirit’.
Several texts point strongly to the fact that Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit in dependence on the Holy Spirit and here are a few:
- Luke 5:17 ‘And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick’.
- Luke 6:19 ‘And the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all’.
- Luke 8:46 ‘Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me”.
- Acts 10:38 ‘How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.’
If we accept that Jesus performed his supernatural works in his human capacity and not as God the Son, then we have a good model for ministry – receive the anointing power of the Holy Spirit and minister this faithfully to others under Jesus’ mandate.
Quite obviously, Jesus’ disciples and others that came after them understood this. Luke 9:1-2 records that ‘when Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’. So the first disciples certainly understood both the source and application of their power and authority. To make it clear to them, and us, Jesus later said: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This anointing occurred ten days later on the day of Pentecost and shortly after that Peter and John acted in that power from on high by healing the crippled beggar at the gate Beautiful. Take special note of the words that Peter used: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”. What did Peter have? He had authority and power to heal.
Healing and Deliverance
I have already written regarding Jesus’ ministry of deliverance, healing and miracles, so let me just give you a list of events in the Lord’s life, as recorded by Luke, that I have not so far adequately referenced:
- Luke 4:38-39 ⇒ Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, who was suffering from a high fever. He rebuked the fever and it left her.
- 4:40 ⇒ People brought to Jesus those suffering from all kinds of sickness, and he laid his hands on them and healed them all.
- 5:12-13 ⇒ Jesus healed a leper by reaching out and touching him.
- 5:17-25 ⇒ Jesus healed a paralytic man by telling him to get up and walk.
- 6:6-10 ⇒ Jesus told a man to stretch out his shrivelled right hand, and when he did so, it was instantly restored.
- 7:11-15 ⇒ Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead simply by touching the coffin and telling the young man to get up.
- 8:40-55 ⇒ Jesus responded to Jairus’ appeal to accompany him to where his sick daughter was. On route, a woman who had been bleeding for years touched him and was healed on the spot. When Jesus arrived at his destination, he healed the girl by taking her by the hand and telling her to get up.
- 9:1-2,6 ⇒ Jesus gave his disciples power and authority to cure diseases, and then sent them out to heal the sick. The disciples went from village to village healing people everywhere.
- 10:9 ⇒ Jesus sent out 70 followers and instructed them to heal the sick.
- 13:10-13 ⇒ Jesus put his hands on a crippled woman, and she immediately straightened up.
- 14:1-4 ⇒ Jesus took hold of a man suffering from dropsy and healed him.
- 17:11-14 ⇒ Jesus encountered ten lepers on a road and instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, they were cleansed.
- 18:35-43 ⇒ Jesus commanded a blind man to receive his sight, and he did.
- 22:49-51 ⇒ One of Jesus’ disciples cut off a man’s ear with a sword. Jesus touched the ear and healed the man.
The Lord Jesus ministered to others, not in his divine capacity, but as a man filled without limit with the Spirit of God. He told us to do as he did and his first disciples did just that.
Arguments that Jesus’ supernatural works and those of the disciples were a special unrepeatable dispensation to authenticate the saviour, validate the bible and establish the church just do not hold water. There is nothing in scripture that I know of that indicates this. Long after the church was established, the members of the Corinthian church were exuberantly manifesting the spiritual gifts of the Spirit. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church was that they would know the ‘incomparably great power for us who believe’ (Ephesians 1:19). And it didn’t end with the early church because history is replete with times when Christians have ministered powerfully in and through the Holy Spirit.
I called Chapter Six of my book ‘Prayer, Power, and Proclamation’, “What then should we do differently?” I tried to answer this question with the following recommendations:
- We should be outwardly focused and not inwardly self-serving. This ‘others’ orientation is one of the key tenets of authentic Christianity.
- We will have to learn how to focus our thoughts, prayers, and endeavours for prolonged periods. Not an easy feat!
- Most of us live impure lives. Our thoughts, words, and actions are tainted. Our spiritual ‘batteries’ are clogged up with sin sediment. If we are to increase our spiritual capacity, then we are going to have to take the biblical call to holiness a lot more seriously.
- We will have to unlearn what we have learned about faith, and then we will need to learn how to activate it.
- We need to raise the bar of our expectation.
- We need to make space in our church structures and practices for ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We need to change the way we minister to people. Instead of just praying for them, we should seek immediate guidance and prompting from the Holy Spirit, lay hands on them and proclaim what we believe to be God’s will in the particular circumstance.
- If you are a teacher or preacher within the local church, you will need to instruct the people of God how to minister and explain to them the key elements of faith, perseverance, and outward orientation.
- We need to encourage each other to persevere. To minister as Jesus did, we all need to make changes to the ways we think, speak, and act.
- We need to incorporate the practice of Prayer, Power, and Proclamation into all aspects of our Christian lives, both personal and corporate.
Jesus is our model for ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. He has assured us that we can be filled with power from on high as he was, although not to the same extent. What is it then that prevents us from ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit? Is it wrong doctrine? Is it apathy and lack of expectation? Whatever the reason is we need to face up to it, change our minds, ask the Holy Spirit to fill us and anoint us, and then step out to powerfully transform our churches and our world in Jesus name.
‘To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen’. – Jude 24-25