In the biblical perspective the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy go together, one follows on from the other. The Rabbis habitually called the Spirit of God the 'Spirit of prophecy', and when in post-exilic Israel there were no more prophets they felt that the Spirit too had been withdrawn from the nation: 'Since the death of Aggaeus, Zacharias and Malachy, who are the last prophets,' they wrote,'the Holy Spirit has been no more in Israel.' Hence it is not surprising, given his interest in prophecy, that the Holy Spirit too has a special importance for St Luke, and that his writings have even been called 'the gospel of the Holy Ghost'. The Spirit is certainly referred to more frequently in the third than in the other gospels, while the Acts are a veritable chronicle of His activities.
Another title the third gospel has received is ' the gospel of prayer', and here again there is to be found an unmistakable stress: 'He would steal away from them into the desert and pray there' (5:16) Luke remarks of Our Lord, summing up an aspect of Jesus' life which he places in special relief. These two ideas need to be studied together; moreover they only-take on their full significance in the light of the previous chapter's theme—Jesus' character of prophet. It was as a prophet that Jesus was led by the Spirit, as a prophet that he entered the desert or went up the mountain to pray like Moses or Elias, the great men of prayer of the past.
When speaking of the Holy Spirit St Luke follows closely in the Old Testament tradition; this is particularly evident in the first chapters of both his books which are so near the pre-Christian dispensation. The word 'Spirit' originally meant a strong breath or wind, to be contrasted with the flabby flesh that is man and created things generally. In the Old Testament the Spirit was not recognized as a distinct divine person, but rather the power of God acting in the world, guiding his people, going before them in the column of fire through the desert, present to the individual as to the nation, and indeed to the whole of things, over which in their primeval condition of unformed waters he had creatively moved. It was only after Pentecost that in the fruitful play of the young Church's experience the Spirit was really known and appreciated as a distinct person and constant comforter, and the teaching of Jesus on this score fully understood. But already in the Old Testament there had been progress and purification, going from an early and quasi-physical notion of wind to the Spirit who is called holy in a poem of Isaias (63:10, 11). This progress was most clearly marked in the matter of prophetic inspiration. It was always through the action of the Spirit of God that someone became a prophet or representative of God; but at first the idea of inspiration was a very material one. For example, in the book of Judges the descent of the Lord's Spirit could make a man a great soldier, full of tough strength, like Samson who was bound by the Philistines with two new ropes and carried off a prisoner;
Loud was the Philistines' cry of triumph that went up to meet him at Lechi; but suddenly the spirit of the Lord came upon him, and his bonds parted and snapped like scorched tow. No weapon had he, but he found a bone lying there, an ass's jaw-bone; took that instead, and killed a thousand men with it. With the bone of an ass, he cried, I have made bones of them; with the bone of an ass a thousand men lie slain (Jud.15:14-16).
From a war-leader we may turn to a group of ecstatics, musicians or religious revivalists. After anointing the young Saul, Samuel told him
Thou wilt come to the Hill of God, where the Philistines have set a garrison; and here, upon entering the city, thou wilt meet a company of prophets coming down from the sacred height. With harp and tambour, flute and zither at their head, they will be uttering words of prophecy; and with that the spirit of the Lord will fall upon thee, making thee prophesy with the rest, and turning thee into a new man (1 Sam.10:5-6).
A company of prophets of this type seems to have been especially attached to a shrine ('the sacred height'), and their work was connected with the cult and worship of God which was there carried out. The rather strange situation that could develop when the spirit of the Lord fell on someone, on this occasion again Saul and his men, is well described in 1 Samuel 19:19-24.
These texts suggest what the primitive Israelite idea of prophetic inspiration was like. In those early times there was much more interest in the form than the content of prophecy, in the visible accidentals rather than the lasting meaning of a divine revelation. We must not underrate such great early prophetic figures as Samuel, Elias and Eliseus, but by and large there was little harmony between the spirit and the flesh, and no transformation of flesh by spirit, but a mere transient taking of possession; this is especially true as a prophet could be temperamentally suited to his mission and yet of most immoral character. Many of those of the company type were clearly not supernatural prophets at all but regular members of a possibly not unlucrative profession, and they may have owed their origin much more to surviving Canaanite religion than to that of the Israelites. Anyway the frequent wildness and immorality of these men gave them a bad name, and so we find that those later and immeasurably greater prophets who begin with Amos were very reluctant to use the name at all or to speak of themselves as inspired, even if some of them may have originally belonged to a cultic prophet association of the old kind. It is this situation which explains the round condemnations of men like Michaeas: ' This message the Lord has for prophets that guide my people amiss, prophets that must have their mouths filled ere they will cry, All's well! Sop thou must give them, else thou shalt be their sworn enemy. Visions would you see, all shall be night around you, search you the skies, you shall search in the dark; never a prophet but his sun is set, his day turned into twilight' (Mich. 3 :5-6). Whatever the previous occupation of true prophets may have been, they owe their powers entirely to a special divine vocation, and did not wish to be taken for professional diviners: ' What, said Amos, I a prophet? Nay, not that, nor a prophet's son neither ; I am one that minds cattle, one that nips the sycamore-trees; I was but tending sheep when the Lord took me into his service. It was the Lord bade me go and prophesy to his people of Israel' (Amos 7:14-15).
Yet the name of prophet remained in use among the true prophets as the last passage shows; there was no alternative; and somewhat chary as they were of speaking of their inspired character (Ezechiel was not), they were well aware of what they were and that the Spirit of God was the source of their prophecy.In Deutero-Isaias' ideal figure of the Servant of the Lord, who was certainly a prophet, the Spirit's presence is clearly indicated. But the concrete conception of prophecy was changing, becoming more interior, more concerned with the message with its source and significance, and less with the technical phenomena. For the Spirit was no longer just taking possession, but was beginning to transform humanity. Its action remained violent and unpredictable, but this violence was now not so much in the physical as in the moral order; while the revelation afforded was such as to transform the very dimensions of the religion of Israel. The Spirit was truly entering into man. The historical movement in the action of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy was from the external to the internal, and its Old Testament culmination may be found in the figures of Jeremias and the suffering servant of Isaias.
However, Jeremias is a type and the suffering servant a prophecy of one still to come, for the real enduring gift and seal of the Spirit had not yet been given. Only in the prophet Jesus is it found. His fullness of the Spirit is a new thing, deeper, quieter, more effective. There is no straining to make use of the Spirit's power; he has it at all times from the moment of his conception. At last humanity, flesh, is fully transformed by the Spirit of God, and the movement of prophetic progress has reached its term. Moreover when we thus see Jesus as the Spirit-filled man, successor to the prophets of the past, we are not denying his divine nature or suggesting some doctrine of subordination; no, we are remaining faithful to the scriptural witness, and we are further entering a little into the true relationship of the Old and the New Testaments. As Fr Victor White has illuminatingly remarked, 'The New Testament is not merely a fulfilment of the context of the Old, it is a fulfilment of its mode. No longer does the Word of God merely use human flesh, ... he becomes it.'No longer does he merely use human prophets, he becomes himself a prophet. If we search the fact of Jesus' prophetical union with the Spirit to obtain its full meaning, we arrive at nothing short of his divinity. For his fullness of the Spirit is no longer a being possessed but a possessing. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Jesus, and Jesus is not only led by the Spirit but also sends him. Man can be led by the Spirit, but a man who can send and so command the Spirit of God—or who can baptize with the Spirit—can be no other than God made man. The theology of Jesus prophet covers in its own way the whole sweep of Christology from the heights of the divinity to the depths of the suffering servant.
In the tradition of Israel the gift of the Spirit was connected not only with the vocation of the prophet but also with that of the Messiah who was to come. In the thought of Isaias, Emmanuel, the coming Messiah, was to be filled with the Spirit: ' The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord' (Is.11:1-2). And in the first song of the servant of the Lord, which—as we have seen—may have already been understood messianically in pre-Christian times, it is said that he has been clothed with the Spirit (Is.42:1). Though not much is said in the Old Testament about the Spirit anointing of the Messiah, the gap is made up to some extent by other Jewish writings of the time just before and after Our Lord: thus we read among the Zadokite fragments (2:10), probably of the first century a.d., that 'through his Messiah he shall make them know his Holy Spirit'.On the whole, Old Testament thinking was concerned more with messianic times and the messianic community than with the person of the Messiah himself. We may think of the famous passage of the prophet Joel which St Peter saw as fulfilled at Pentecost: ' I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters will be prophets. Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions; everywhere servants of mine, handmaids of mine, inspired to prophesy!' (Joel 2:28-9). This means that the messianic time was to witness a quite unprecedented outpouring of spiritual gifts upon the messianic community, a fortiori upon its head. In those circles where a prophet-messiah was expected, this was even more stressed, as the Spirit remained supremely the Spirit of prophecy. It was especially to such circles that the little work utilized by St Luke in his first gospel chapters would have appealed.
The great majority of references to the Holy Spirit in the third gospel are in these first chapters. The aim is clear. After so many dry years the Spirit has returned to Israel and in a way never before experienced, in a very flood of prophecy. The conclusion was obvious: the prophet-messiah had come. We have already considered the first prophet to appear in the gospel story, John the Baptist, who ' from the time when he is yet a child in his mother's womb shall be filled with the Holy Ghost' (1:15). But it was not only John who received the Spirit in this anticipation of the outpouring of Pentecost. He descended upon all those connected with the earth-coming of Jesus— upon Mary, Elizabeth, Zachary and Simeon. And each, as he or she was filled by the Spirit, cried out in a prophecy of exultation, for some part of the long-awaited mystery of redemption had just been revealed. The aged Simeon was waiting patiently for the consolation of Israel:
The Holy Spirit was upon him: and by the Holy Spirit it had been revealed to him that he was not to meet death, until he had seen that Christ whom the Lord had anointed. He now came, led by the Spirit, into the temple; and when the child Jesus was brought in by his parents, to perform the custom which the law enjoined concerning him, Simeon too was able to take him in his arms (2:26-28).
Simeon was joined by Anna, an ancient prophetess; and though these two old people were probably not of much worldly importance in Jerusalem, they were seen by Christians as representatives of the old order inspired to recognize the new. The effect in every case of the Spirit's action is the same: prayer and thanksgiving to God. What are the Benedictus, the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis but the most splendid of inspired prayers ? And Anna too, we are told, though her words are not recorded, 'came near to give God thanks' (2:38).
If the friends and relatives all shared in the good gift of God at Jesus' coming, it was of course Jesus himself who was the chief recipient of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit was upon him not only in his mother's womb, like John, but already in his very conception (1:35). Luke wants to say that the whole of Jesus' life was supernatural, that his prophetic character was not only functional, the effect of a vocation given to one already existing, but onto logical; he was prophet through and through from the first instant. This hidden prophetic and messianic character is revealed in the Jordan at the moment of his baptism, when the Spirit descends upon him in bodily form as a dove and the voice of the Father is heard from heaven saying ' Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased' (3:22). These words and the descent of the Spirit are the clearest reference to Isaias 42:1: ' Behold my servant: I will uphold him, My elect: my soul delighteth in him. I have given my spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.' At one and the same moment Jesus is revealed as the Servant of the Lord, Messiah, and Son of God. The coming and manifestation of the Messiah inaugurates a new age, a new Israel, indeed a new creation. That is why Luke takes Jesus' genealogy back to Adam, and not only, like Matthew, to Abraham. Jesus' baptism in the Jordan echoes the first lines of Genesis; as the creative Spirit moved over the waters out of which came the first earth, so now the Spirit descends on the head of the new creation as he comes up out of the waters of Jordan.
It is interesting for a moment to consider the relation for Luke between Jesus' titles of Messiah (Christ) and Son of God. It would be wrong to separate them too much and consider the first as merely functional and redemptive, the second as purely ontological and divine. There is, of course, no possible doubt that Luke, friend and companion of Paul, believed in Jesus' divinity, believed that Jesus was in the most absolute sense the unique Son of God. Yet this title was also for him genuinely messianic; the two in fact go together, and they are linked especially by the Spirit's action. 'The Holy Spirit will come upon thee, and the power of the most High will overshadow thee. Thus this holy offspring of thine shall be known for the Son of God' (1:35). Again at Jesus' messianic baptism the descent of the Spirit coincides with the Father's words 'Thou art my beloved Son'. If it is as prophet-messiah that he receives the Spirit, he receives it also because he is the Son of God. Whereas in the first gospel Peter confessed that Jesus was 'the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt.16:16), Luke, following Mark, simply gives ' Thou art the Christ whom God has anointed' (9:20), anointed surely with the Spirit in the Jordan; and the difference between the two accounts should not be over-stressed. At Jesus' trial, however, the two titles seem clearly distinguished in St Luke's gospel, the first question of the chief priest 'If thou art the Christ, tell us' is followed by a second, 'Thou art, then, the Son of God ?' (22:66, 70) and it was Jesus' reply to this that proved his blasphemy. Only Luke separates the questions in this way and it shows a desire to stress, here at the end of his gospel, Jesus' claim to be Son of God not merely as Messiah but beyond this by intimate right of his very nature—his messiahship was evidence of his sonship but did not exhaust it. He died because he claimed to be God.
But we must return to the threshold of the public life. 'Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and by the Spirit he was led on into the wilderness where he remained forty days, tempted by the devil' (4:1-2). Here again the Spirit is not leading him on for his own sake, but because he is the Messiah. His temptations are messianic: they are the temptations of the false worldly nationalist messianism of the Jews of that time, and moreover they are temptations akin to those which Israel had felt and succumbed to in the forty years in the desert; hence in each temptation Jesus replies to the devil with words chosen from Deuteronomy. The first temptation, that of bread, is comparable with Israel's temptation described in Numbers 11:33-4; and Jesus replies to it with the text of Deuteronomy 8:3. The second (following Luke's order), that of the high mountain, should be compared with Exodus 32; Jesus answers with Deuteronomy 6:13. His third temptation, that of the temple, is similar to Israel's narrated in Exodus 17:1-7, and he rejects it with Deuteronomy 6:16. His forty days are in fact the renewal of Israel's forty years; both were led by the Spirit, but where Israel had failed Jesus triumphed, and so could fittingly enter into the kingdom and his messianic ministry.
He came back to Galilee, we are told, with the power of the Spirit upon him, and entering the synagogue at Nazareth on the Sabbath day he began to read from the sixty-first chapter of Isaias: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me, and sent me out to preach the gospel to the poor ... to proclaim a year when men may find acceptance with the Lord' (4:18-19). This was to say that he was beginning his ministry as prophet and Messiah anointed by the Spirit, as the servant of the Lord foretold by Isaias; and it sets the tone for the whole ministry.
After this there are far fewer references to the Spirit in the third gospel; and indeed there is no need for them. Some are unnecessarily worried about the comparative lack of references to the Holy Ghost in the gospels—and especially in Jesus' own recorded words—in comparison with the Acts and the Epistles. Incidentally that lack is very good evidence of the gospels' historical value; in spite of the early Christians' tremendous Spirit-consciousness, they resisted the temptation to fill up their accounts of Jesus' teaching with references to the Spirit. But all the gospels are in agreement that Jesus' human career was inaugurated by the Spirit's messianic anointing and all agree that Jesus promised his disciples the help of the Spirit in future difficulties. There was no need for more, prior to Jesus' final instructions about the gift the disciples were shortly to receive.
Nevertheless throughout the third gospel we find a considerable number of references to the Holy Spirit, many of which are doubtless due to the preoccupations of its author. A good number are linked with the prayer of Jesus, and it is this theme of the Spirit and prayer which we must now consider, starting with that first most mysterious moment when Jesus appeared at the Jordan where John was baptizing. 'It was while all the people were being baptized that Jesus was baptized too, and stood there praying. Suddenly heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form' (3 :21-2). It was 'Jesus praying' who was thus initially anointed by the Spirit, and though every subsequent reference by Luke to Jesus' prayer is not connected with a reference to the Spirit, nor vice versa, yet there is a certain harmony between the two which it is not difficult to feel.
In chapter 10 we find the very words of one of Our Lord's prayers, that concerning the Father's revelation to the little ones: 'At this time, Jesus was filled with gladness by the Holy Spirit and said, O Father, who art Lord of heaven and earth, I give thee praise that thou hast hidden all this from the wise and the prudent, and revealed it to little children. Be it so, Lord, since this finds favour in thy sight' (10:21). Matthew gives the same prayer (Mt.11:25-7) but not the opening phrase, which is St Luke's own, and characteristic in bringing together three of his favourite ideas: gladness, prayer, the Holy Spirit. It is when in prayer that Jesus is closest to the Holy Spirit, but also of course to his Father. At such times, leaving aside his disciples, he remains alone united with God. His are not primarily prayers of petition, but simply of union, of that mutual exchange of love which he does not find with men. Among men he teaches, he cures, he is the master, but he is alone; only when solitary in prayer does he cease to be a solitary in entering into the society of his equals.From this point of view, far from being the most human, his prayer is rather the most divine of all Jesus' activities; it is in it that he most truly shows himself the equal of the Father, the Beloved Son, as in those last most lovely prayers—'Father, forgive them; they know not what they d.o' and 'Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit' (23:34, 46). But Jesus' prayer is also an integral part of his messianic mission: as the Spirit-guided prophet-messiah he communicates with the Spirit above all in his periods of prayer.
We must catch the rhythm of St Luke's references to the prayer of Jesus. It is not just that he frequently mentions that Our Lord prayed, more frequently than the other evangelists: it is when he prayed that must be noted. Jesus' public ministry opens with the prayer of the Jordan and closes with the prayer of the Cross; and all the more important events between are commenced in prayer. Let us consider them.
It was at this time that he went out onto the mountain side, and passed the whole night offering prayer to God, and when day dawned, he called his disciples to him, choosing out twelve of them; these he called his apostles (6:12-13).
There was a time when he had gone apart to pray, and his disciples were with him; and he asked them, who do the multitude say that I am ? They answered John the Baptist; others say Elias, others that one of the old prophets has returned to life. Then he said to them, But who do you say that I am ? And Peter answered, Thou art the Christ whom God has anointed (9:18-20).
It was about a week after all this was said, that he took Peter and John and James with him, and went up on to the mountain side to pray. And even as he prayed, the fashion of his face was altered, and his garments became white and dazzling (9:28-9).
Once when he had found a place to pray in, one of his disciples said to him, after his prayer was over, Lord, teach us to pray, as John did for his disciples. And he told them, when you pray, you are to say, Father, ... (11:1-2)
The choosing of the twelve; St Peter's act of faith at Caesarea; the Transfiguration; the teaching of the Lord's own prayer: these are the most important single events in the public ministry as it appears in the Synoptics. It is Luke alone who links each of them with the prayer of Christ. Only he explicitly makes the prayer taught to the disciples a prolongation of Jesus' own—which it most truly was, for it began with the word 'Father'. Nothing incidentally could be more mistaken than the idea which makes the Lord's prayer just a beautiful expression of natural religion. It is, on the contrary, intrinsically Christian: a sharing in Christ's own prayer. Only Luke tells us that the choosing of the Twelve followed a night of prayer on the mountain side.This last was a moment of great solemnity; Our Lord's long prayer must have concerned his future apostles, still so weak but needing to be so strong, men to whom everything that Jesus stood for was to be committed. Was it to this occasion that he was referring when later, on the night of the last supper, he declared ' Simon, Simon, ... I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail' (22:31-2) ? And if he chose his apostles in prayer, did he not choose them through the Holy Spirit ? Luke himself tells us that he did. Chosen in prayer, through the Holy Spirit, they received from him, that their faith might not fail, that Spirit—'The Spirit of Jesus'— which he himself possessed.
I have already spoken more than once of that strange, un-public episode of the Transfiguration, which comes in the very middle of the public ministry, when Jesus and his three companions went up alone on to 'the holy mountain' (2 Pet.1:18) and something of his divine glory was made manifest to them. Never did he appear nearer to the Father. In this moment of intense prayer his glory is revealed as at once the beloved Son and the prophet like unto Moses to whom all must listen. As prophet and man of prayer, Jesus converses with those two great figures of prayer from the past, Moses and Elias; at the same time, as the Father's beloved son he is seen to transcend them wholly in his personal union with God.
From the glory of the mountain to the agony of the garden: the greatest of all Jesus' works was about to be accomplished, and hence
He parted from them going a stone's throw off, and knelt down to pray; Father, he said, if it please thee, take away this chalice from before me; only as thy will is, not as mine is. And he had sight of an angel from heaven, encouraging him. And now he was in an agony, and prayed still more earnestly; his sweat fell to the ground like thick drops of blood (22:41-4).
Whenever we find Jesus in prayer we enter into the realms of mystery, whether the mood be gladness, glory or agony. What theological problems are raised! Luke does not try to resolve them; he is content to present Jesus as he sees him. Being fully man, Our Lord could be fully a prophet, could be filled by the Spirit, could be encouraged by an angel, could feel all the need and the anguish of prayer; but being the Son of God, Jesus could be fully divine, could send the Spirit, could be transfigured on the mountain, could talk as an equal with his Father.
The presence of the Spirit was to be a characteristic not only of the Messiah but also of the new messianic community—the Christian Church. Jesus had already promised his followers this gift when he told them, 'When they bring you to trial before synagogues, and magistrates, and officers, do not consider anxiously what you are to say, what defence to make or how to make it; the Holy Spirit will instruct you when the time comes, what words to use' (12:11-12). But it was after the Resurrection that, according to Luke, he told them of the general gift of the Spirit which they were soon to receive: 'I am sending down upon you the gift which was promised by my Father' (24:49 and Acts 1:8). This was the baptism with the Spirit which John had prophesied long before, and which would otherwise have had no meaning. With these last words of Jesus preceding his Ascension, which recall the words of the Precursor at the opening of the public ministry, we pass from Jesus to the Church, from the prophet-messiah to the community he left behind him. The fullness of the Spirit remains, such a fullness as permitted the disciples at Jerusalem to write that most astonishing sentence, 'It hath seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us' (Acts 15:28). This continuity of the Spirit's presence is brought out by the parallelism between Luke's two books; as the Spirit had descended on Jesus in the Jordan he now descends upon Jesus' disciples in the upper room, and each is the opening of a ministry.
The close connection between the Holy Spirit and prophecy to be found in the Old Testament and also in Luke's account of Christ is much less evident in the New Testament as a whole. The realities remained but were transformed according to the requirements of a new situation. The primordial fact of the Church's life was indeed the abiding gift of the same Spirit which had moved the prophets and filled the Lord, and it took Christians some time to realize that this gift would take various forms in their new and more diversified religious economy. On receiving the Spirit at Pentecost it was natural for Peter to conclude that the apostles were now all prophets (Acts 2:14-20), which of course they were, as they had been introduced into the mystery of 'God's fixed design and foreknowledge' (Acts 2:23), and a distinction between apostle and prophetonly gradually emerged; yet it was the very institution of apostles, and of the apostolic succession (this latter already evident in the choice of Matthias, Acts 1:15-26) which had radically changed the position of the prophet in the new dispensation.
The name 'apostle' means 'sent forth' and this at once shows a link between the new and the old, for the prophets were those who were 'sent', and Jesus of all prophets was most clearly 'the sent one'; hence also the title of 'apostle' became him as no other, and was given to him by the author of Hebrews (3:1). But the sending of his apostles was different from that of the prophets. It was definitive and consequently transcended the personal vocation of the one chosen, in that this new 'sending' was transmissible. The apostolic succession is an altogether different thing from a succession of prophets. No longer is the gift granted each time anew from above, it is passed on within the organism of a self-renewing group. Only little by little did the first Christians realize that they had outlived the old type of prophetical economy, and that there were new activities, equally Spirit-governed, but called now by other names than prophecy—witnessing, for example, the primary activity of an apostle. Prophecy eo nomine remained, to be sure, a valued gift of the Holy Spirit, and a natural sequence to the laying on of hands (Acts 19:6); while prophets like Agabusclearly fulfilled an important function in Christian society. It was nevertheless a secondary function. Instead, witnessing had become the most important of Spirit-guided activities in the New Testament. Hence the old identification of prophecy with the gift of the Spirit slowly disappeared; and Paul, so completely under the Spirit's guidance, was hardly given the title of prophet at all. The Spirit's action was seen as all-important in early Christian experience, and consequently not just one but all the varied activities of Christian life were regarded as his gifts and graces: 'There are different kinds of gifts, though it is the same Spirit who gives them' (1 Cor.12:4). And behind the varied activities proper to different groups of Christians there was the common and supreme gift, that 'seal' which was and is imparted to each and every Christian and which is signified by the simple statement that he has received the Holy Spirit. All the special gifts and charismas are only specializations of this primordial sanctification.
The Spirit was essentially for the first Christians the ' Spirit of Jesus' (Acts 16:7), and it was natural that its action should make them all like Jesus in other ways too. Christians, by the Spirit's power, not only witnessed to Jesus but shared his character. Thus they received that power (δύναμις) of his which was, as we know, especially a prophetical power and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised it to them after the Resurrection with the gift of the Spirit, yet it was to make them not prophets, as one might at first have expected, but witnesses: 'You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth' (Acts 1:8). This text is one of the keys to the whole of St Luke's work, as we shall see bit by bit. The prophets of the Old Testament were already witnesses to Christ (Acts 10:43), and so it is not surprising to find that the witness is the prophet of the New Testament; it is Jesus' prophetical power passed on through the Holy Ghost which makes his disciples witnesses (see also Acts 4:33), and enables them to perform the same mighty acts and signs which he had performed. The supreme opportunity for witnessing was in trial and persecution: for these occasions the Spirit's inspiration was especially promised (Lk.12:11-12) and hence it is not surprising that it is precisely at these moments that the prophetic character of witnessing stands out clearest. 'They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name's sake. That is your opportunity to give witness. Lay it up therefore in your hearts not to meditate before how you shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay' (Lk.21:12-15). Recall the words of God to Moses, 'I will be in thy mouth: and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak' (Ex.4:12) and the prophecy of Deuteronomy, 'I will raise them up a prophet out of the midst of their brethren like to thee. And I will put my words in his mouth: and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. And he that will not hear the words which he shall speak in my name, I will be the revenger' (Deut.18:18-19). It suggests that the prophecy of Deuteronomy is fulfilled not only in Jesus but also in the Christian community which carries on his prophetic function precisely through witnessing to him.
Again, the Christian community was one of prayer, carrying on the constant prayer of Jesus, according to his command (Lk.21:36), but like him praying above all at the decisive moments of its life. Acts 4:23-31 beautifully and strikingly unites these different characteristics which the Church inherited from her founder. John and Peter, set free by the chief priests and elders, return to their people, and all together pray to God a prayer whose wording is surely far earlier than Luke. Recalling Psalm 2, 'said through thy Holy Spirit', and its fulfilment in the Passion of Jesus, the prayer continues, 'Look down upon their threats, Lord, now as of old; enable thy servants to preach thy word confidently, by stretching out thy hand to heal; and let signs and miracles be performed in the name of Jesus, thy holy Son.' After the prayer Luke tells us 'the place in which they had gathered rocked to and fro, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to preach the word of God with confidence.' In this very early incident (a sort of second Pentecost) the prophetical character of the Christian community is very clearly marked. Later on it was to be given less importance; but if the descent of the Spirit ceased to be visibly manifest, it remained for all that equally efficacious, while its effects became increasingly diversified.
It would obviously be quite wrong to think then that the Old Testament connection between the Holy Spirit and prophecy soon ceased to exist or to have any meaning: on the contrary, prophecy had been, and in large part continued to be, the standard gift in terms of which others were understood; and the solemn act of witnessing—a Christian's highest duty and privilege—not only remained closely akin to prophesying, but was rightly regarded as an explicit continuation of the prophecy of the Old Testament. This is particularly clear in the transitional case of John the Baptist, who was not only a prophet but 'more than a prophet' (Lk.7:26): last of the prophets and first of the witnesses. Just as the first chapters of St Luke stressed the Baptist's character of prophet, so the first chapter of St John is charged with his function of witness.He was the prophet chosen to be the Messiah's precursor, that is to point Jesus out with his very finger; seen in this way he appears as the greatest of all witnesses.
Witness is rooted in prophecy, and therefore the latter, though necessarily transformed by the coming of the Christ and the fullness of time, did not disappear but in a new form remained at the centre of the life of God's Israel, the disciples of Jesus. Our Lord's possession of the Spirit, his prayer, and his gift of prophecy were all passed on in full measure to the Christian community.