The Trinity in Scripture: Luke 2

Just as in the sequel to his gospel, the book of Acts, Luke densely populates the beginning of his first work with references to the Trinity. Chapter 2 contains the fourth Trinitarian passage of the book (cf. 1:35; 1:41-45; 1:67-75).

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Just as in the first three mentions of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is seen as the powerful mover and communicator of the Trinity. Simeon is introduced as a man whom the Holy Spirit was “upon” (2:25). This is a significant description. While the Holy Spirit “filled” Elizabeth (1:41) and Zechariah (1:67), he was “upon” Simeon. This certainly seems to be something more than the momentary filling the parents of John the Baptizer received; yet it is not quite synonymous with the indwelling of the Spirit that New Covenant believers partake of. Commentator Darrell Bock is certainly correct in writing that Simeon was “a righteous man of rare spiritual quality and gift.” Such a statement is in some ways both the least and the most we can say about the work of the Holy Spirit in Simeon.

The work of the Holy Spirit “upon” Simeon meant at least two things: he had received a revelation that he would see the promised Messiah (2:26) and he was led to the right place at the right time to see that Messiah (2:27). But the work of the Spirit continued to manifest itself in ways similar to what we have seen already in Luke.

Just as in the first three references to the Trinity, the Holy Spirit moves a person to praise the Father for sending his Son to accomplish the work of man’s deliverance. God is sending his Son to be the light and glory to Israel and the nations (2:32), the work of the Spirit causes man to praise God for this great goodness.

Secondly, while the Holy Spirit fills and empowers people to recognize God’s work and praise him for it, their praise is always connected to previous revelation. The revelation they receive is added and based upon the revelation they already had. It might be said that in each case, the Spirit gives newer revelation but not new revelation. This is not revelation ex nihilo.

The Trinitarian comfort offered to Mary in 1:35 is in fulfillment of the promise of God to David (1:33 cf. 2 Sam. 7:8-16 noting the use of the key terms throne, house, and kingdom). The Trinitarian praise of Elizabeth is based upon the “fulfillment of what was spoken to [Mary] from the Lord” (1:45). The Trinitarian praise of Zechariah is based upon the Lord’s faithfulness to accomplish all that “he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets of old” (1:70). Such mercy promised to the fathers stretched all the way back to “the oath that he swore to…Abraham” (1:72-73). Similarly, Simeon’s praise for God’s salvation draws from the vocabulary of OT passages such as Psalm 98:2-3; Isaiah 9:2; 42:6-7; 60:1-3. Even as he breathes out new words from God, the Holy Spirit continues to move recipients of new revelation in the sea of the revelation already given.

Finally, we see from the very beginning of the life of Jesus his life was meant to impact “all peoples” (2:31). Just as he did in Acts (cf. 8:26-40; 10:44-48; 11:15-18), Luke demonstrates that the work of redemption accomplished by the Trinity is intended for all nations. Granted, Luke wrote this book as the gospel was going or had gone into the entire world; and he was writing to Gentile, Theophilus. But he was not a revisionist. Simeon drew upon numerous OT texts pointing to the salvation of people from all nations. Zechariah and Mary both mentioned the promise God made to Abraham: that promise that all nations would be blessed.

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is God of all nations. To all nations his blessings flow.