The Regeneration of the Disciples
|February 8, 2016||Posted by Pastor Viju Mathai under Bible Study, Holy Spirit||
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John 20:22: “And with that he breathed on them and said, ’Receive the Holy Spirit’”.
The impartation of the Holy Spirit by Jesus to his disciples on resurrection day was not the baptism in the Spirit as experienced at Pentecost (Ac 1:5; 2:4). It was rather an infusing of the disciples for the first time with the regenerating presence of the Holy Spirit and with new life from the risen Christ.
- During Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples before his trial and crucification, he promised them that they would receive the Holy Spirit as the One who would regenerate them: “he lives with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17). Jesus now fulfills that promise.
- That Jn 20:22 refers to regeneration can be inferred from the phrase, “he breathed on them”. The Greek word for “breathed” (emphusao) is the same verb used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) at Ge 2:7, where God “breathed into his [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” It is the same verb found in Eze 37:9, “Breathe into these slain, that they may live.” John’s use of this verb indicates that Jesus was giving the Spirit in order to bring forth life and a new creation. That is, just as God breathed into physical man the breath of life and he became a new creation (Ge 2:7), so Jesus now breathed on the disciples spiritually and they became a new creation. Through his resurrection, Jesus became a “life-giving spirit” (1Co 15:45).
- The phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” establishes that the Spirit at that historical moment entered and began to live in the disciples. The verb form for “receive” is aorist, denoting a single act of reception. The Holy Spirit was given to regenerate them, to make them new creatures in Christ (2Co 5:17). This “receiving” of life from the Spirit preceded both their receiving the authority of Jesus (Jn 20:23) and their baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:4).
- Prior to this time, the disciples were technically true believers and followers of Jesus and were saved according to the old covenant provisions. Yet they were not regenerated in the full new covenant sense. Not until this point did the disciples enter into the new covenant provisions based on Jesus’ death and resurrection (see Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20; 1Co 11:25; Eph 2:15-16; Heb 9:15-17. It was also technically at this time and not at Pentecost that the church was born. The spiritual birth of the first disciples and the birth of the church are one and the same.
- This passage is crucial in understanding the Holy Spirit’s ministry to God’s people. These two statements are true: (a) the disciples received the Holy Spirit (i.e.„ were indwelt and regenerated by the Holy Spirit) before the day of Pentecost; and (b) the outpouring of the Spirit in Ac 2:4 was an experience occurring after their regeneration by the Spirit. Their baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost was, therefore, second and distinct work of the Spirit in them.
- These two separate and distinct works of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ disciples are normative for all Christians. That is, all believers receive the Holy Spirit at the time of their regeneration, and afterwards must experience the baptism in the Spirit for power to be his witnesses (Ac 1:5,8; 2:4).
- There is no Scriptural foundation to suggest that Jesus’ bestowal of the Holy Spirit in Jn 20:22 was simply symbolical prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The use of the aorist imperative for “receive” (see above) denotes reception at that moment and in that place. What occurred was a historical reality in space and time and John records it as such.