by Al Maxey

Issue #463 ------- November 5, 2010
God expects but one thing of you,
and that is that you let God be God in you.

Meister Eckhart {1260-1328}

Post-Resurrection Infusion
A Reflective Study of John 20:22

It was the evening of the first day of the week, a day that had begun with the resurrection of God's only Son from the dead. A number of the disciples of Jesus Christ were gathered together behind locked doors (as they were in fear of the Jews). Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them, saying, "Peace be with you." He showed them His hands and His side, thereby confirming that it was not only He Himself who stood before them, but that He'd also genuinely suffered the pain of death on their behalf. Yet, He was alive! He lived. He had been raised up from the dead, just as He had promised. Needless to say, these faithful disciples were overjoyed at this turn of events! The Lord then informs them that they are to be commissioned to go forth into all the world with the Good News of what they had witnessed. "As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). A few weeks later, just prior to His ascension to the Father, Jesus would again speak unto them this great commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8).

Jesus also informed them several times during the days prior to His ascension that they would all be receiving the promised gift of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just as was foretold in Joel 2:28-29. This would be a powerful infusion that would both equip and enable them to carry out the great commission that had now been entrusted to them. They were commanded to stay together in the city of Jerusalem and await this event, which we know took place within the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The apostle Peter then informed the gathering crowds that "this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16). Jesus had promised His disciples that this would occur. After giving the great commission, He 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). "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift which My Father has promised, which you have heard Me speak about. ... In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4-5). "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Naturally, we are all familiar with the above commissioning of these disciples, the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, and the events that occurred on Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. The timeline for this series of sacred events seems rather well-established. However, an element of confusion is inserted into this momentous historical and spiritual account by a passage found within the gospel record of the apostle John. As already noted, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the day of His resurrection, saying, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). It is the next verse, however, that has the scholars somewhat puzzled: "And with that, He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (vs. 22). If the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit was something that would not occur until Pentecost, and which event Jesus told them they must "wait for," then in what sense did they "receive the Holy Spirit" on the day of His resurrection? Further, what was the purpose of Jesus breathing upon them? What was that all about?! David Lipscomb, in a classic understatement, declared in his commentary on John's gospel record, "This verse presents difficulties" [p. 313]. Thus, it behooves us to examine it more closely to see if we can determine our Lord's intent.

As we begin, let's notice the rather rare word employed by John in the first part of this statement -- "He breathed on them." The Greek word used is enephusesen (which is the 1st aorist active indicative, 3rd person singular form of the verb emphusao). It means: "to blow into; inflate; breathe into." It should be noted that this is the only time in the entire New Testament writings that this word appears. It does appear eleven times in the OT and Apocrypha of the Septuagint, however, which usage is quite enlightening. It is the word used in Genesis 2:7, for example, and it appears in precisely the same verb form as that used by John. "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." 1 Kings 17:21 relates the story of the prophet Elijah bringing a youth back to life --- "And he breathed on the child thrice, and called on the Lord, and said, 'O Lord my God, let, I pray Thee, the life of this child return to him.'" Again, this is precisely the same form of the same word used in the two previously mentioned occurrences. Some have speculated that Elijah actually employed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation here, breathing his own breath into the lifeless child. In Ezekiel 37 we find the resuscitation of God's people assured in the vision of the valley of dry bones. "'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live."' So I prophesied just as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and they stood up on their feet -- a vast army" (vs. 9-10). In the apocryphal work "Wisdom of Solomon," this word is again used with reference to the creation of man (cf. Gen. 2:7). That text is Wisdom 15:11. There are more passages that could be given, but these should suffice to give the primary intent behind the usage of this term.

These disciples had just been specially commissioned by Jesus Christ to be His personal representatives of the reality of God's saving grace as revealed in His Son, the Redeemer. This would be a tremendous task that would require great sacrifice on their part for the remainder of their lives. Thus, they not only needed a special equipping and enabling, but also an encouragement, that only the Spirit of the Lord could supply. At Pentecost there would be a visible outpouring of this Holy Spirit of God, just as Joel had once prophesied. However, even prior to that public event there needed to be a private assurance from the Master that He would not only always be with them until the end of the age, but that He would be intimately among them, and even within them, every step of their journey through life ... and that blessed assurance was not to be delayed. They would go forth to proclaim forgiveness of sins in His name, which Jesus declared, at that same moment of breathing upon them, was to be a central part of their ministry of reconciliation (vs. 23). Thus, He infused them with His very Spirit so that they might be enlightened, equipped and enabled for what was to come. On the day of Pentecost they would be publicly and visibly empowered and endorsed by the Spirit in the midst of those people to whom they had first been sent. In a sense, by this act of imparting His divine breath to them (and the words for "breath" and "spirit" are the same in Greek), Jesus enlivened these disciples within their innermost being. Just as Adam was infused and enlivened, so also were these "new creations" enlivened by the divine breath to stand up and speak up for Him. Some scholars feel Jesus may have been speaking Aramaic here, for in the Aramaic Targum on Genesis 2:7 we are informed that the infusion of the breath of life became "in Adam a spirit uttering speech." Since these disciples were being commissioned to speak, they were spiritually equipped by the Lord to do so, rather than being left to their own abilities (which can be limiting).

"Jesus 'breathed' into the disciples the breath of the new creation that gave them spiritual vitality. The first man was given responsibility for the material creation, but the disciples were to have responsibility for the new creation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 193]. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, states that this passage is "an allusion to God's breathing the breath of life into man at his creation," and that Jesus is now bestowing "spiritual life and strength" upon these men, thus "qualifying them for the discharge of the trust reposed in them by their commission." Our Lord's action "denoted the reality of the divine gift by which unlearned and feeble men were fitted to fulfill a ministry of blessing to mankind" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, part 2, p. 487]. "This breathing upon them was meant to convey the impression that His own very Spirit was imparted to them" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 865]. The message is simply: "He who sends enables those whom He sends" [R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 1371]. "The gift of the Holy Spirit as here made by Jesus is to enable the disciples to exercise the right, authority and power with which He now clothes them in their sending" [ibid, p. 1375]. "To be the sent of the Anointed One, they would need themselves to be anointed; to be heralds of spiritual Truth, they would need illumination by the Spirit of Truth" [Dr. Alvah Hovey, Commentary on the Gospel of John, p. 404]. Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann wrote, "Having named them thus as His messengers, as His ambassadors, the Lord formally inducts them into this office. He breathed on them, thus symbolizing the transmission of, and actually conveying to them, the Holy Spirit, whom He had the authority to bestow" [Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT, vol. 1, p. 524].

There are many other interpretations of this passage, of course. Some say that Jesus really didn't impart anything by his action, and He most certainly did not impart the actual person of the Holy Spirit. At best, they declare, it was merely a sign of what would later be given them at Pentecost; strictly promissory ... "an earnest of the fuller Pentecostal effusion" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, part 2, p. 482]. I am personally convinced and convicted, however, that this event was far more substantial than that. When Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit," it is my conviction that He meant exactly what He said, and they did indeed receive the Spirit. Clearly, it was not the same visible, public outpouring that was dramatically experienced on Pentecost several weeks later, but it was no less real and no less significant, even though its purpose was different. May God help each of us today to experience this spiritual infusion and to allow Him to work within us, transforming us into ambassadors of grace and ministers of reconciliation.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 193 page book by Al Maxey

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution and Extremism

A 230 page book by Al Maxey

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Readers' Reflections

Check It Out --- I would encourage everyone to spend some time reading and studying the new issue of New Wineskins magazine! All the articles in this issue are devoted to a scholarly examination of the accompanied vs. a cappella divide within the Body of Christ. I was given the honor of being asked to write one of the articles for this issue. It is titled --- Reflective or Regulative? -- An Inquiry into Two Interpretive Principles and their Application to Instrumental Accompaniment in a Worship Assembly. I would also urge you to read the studies by the other writers for this particular issue. They have done an excellent job, and their insights will challenge your thinking.

From an Elder in Texas:

Brother Al, I just got the latest edition of Contending for the Faith magazine (October, 2010), and I somehow managed to read the entire five page rant by Dub McClish without becoming physically ill, although it made me spiritually sick at heart. It was the typical "guilt by association" scare tactic of the legalists -- anyone who invites "Bro. X" to speak at their lectureship, or anyone who speaks from the same stage as "Bro. X," is equally as "apostate" as the "marked" and condemned "Bro. X." I was happy to see that you have risen in status with the hardened legalists. You have now, in this article, been named as one of the top four heretics in the world!! McClish wrote that no director of any lectureship should ever invite Max Lucado, Rubel Shelly, Mac Deaver or Al Maxey to speak, and that "anyone who had spoken on the same platform with the quartet named above" should also never be invited to speak. Mr. Dub McClish declared that no speaker from The Tulsa Workshop should be invited to speak at any other lectureship or meeting, since they had "shared the platform in a non-reproving role" with the likes of Al Maxey. I had to laugh at this, Al, even though I know that it's not funny. What insanity! Just thought you'd like to know that you're now one of the top four apostates on earth! Keep up the good work, brother. If these people hate you that much, you must be doing something right!!!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, I forwarded the piece you did (Reflections #460) regarding the daughter of the ultra-conservative writer for a far right rag (I think it was "Contending for the Faith") to one of our elders, and he wants me to do a sermon on this. The title might be "The Fruits of Legalism." It's still a few weeks out, but I am rolling it around in my head. Would you please place me in touch with that lady? I wish to be as specific in the retelling of her story as I can, showing how legalism destroys lives and relationships. Thanks!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, I have been reading through your Reflections articles on instrumental music in worship. Very interesting and thought-provoking! I have always felt that the stand some take that anyone who sings with an instrument as an aid has a one way ticket to hell was very weak at best!! But, to be honest with you, I never knew how to study this matter other than the way I had always been taught. So, thank you for your well-written and well-researched material.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Dear Brother Al, We have given away to others all of our personal copies of your book Down, But Not Out, and we need to order more. Would you please send one signed copy to our friend (address provided), and then one signed copy to us. I am sticking a check in the mail today. My husband and this friend (who lives in Alabama) plan to do a study of this material together as a "distance learning course." Thank you so much!

From an Elder in Maine:

Brother Al, Thank you for your commitment to the Truth of the message of Jesus. It is very refreshing to read your comments about things, even when you are being mercilessly attacked by those who wish to discredit you. Your desire to search for Truth is commendable. I applaud your strength to carry on, especially in the face of such enemies of the faith who call themselves "contenders" for that faith. How could these men be so arrogant as to think that they alone have all knowledge of what God expects of His creation. I have encountered such people before -- they hold the position that for them to be able to fellowship me, I must agree with them in all matters of faith. I have tried to invite them to stay and fellowship with us, but they always leave. It must be a lonely life for such people who can only fellowship with those who agree with them in all things!!

From a Reader in California:

Dear Bro. Al, The timing of your article (The Johannine "We" Chapter -- Reflections #462) could not have been better! I received it just hours before wrapping up the Wednesday evening series on the epistles of John that I had previously told you about. I informed our class that they had made it "into the forefront of biblical scholarship" (since you had written this article because of a question we had sent you). I read a portion of today's issue of your Reflections to the class (that portion specifically dealing with what I had written to you about). Thank you so much, brother, for helping us to better understand Christ's love for us as expressed through the writings of our dear brother John. After this study, I truly feel that John is my friend in addition to being my hero.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Would you please add me to your Reflections mailing list? Thanks, brother. My friend (and yours) ---- ------ is a member of the congregation where I am the minister. He is always talking about your Reflections. I have read some that he has shared with me, but know that my reading will be more consistent if they are emailed to me. I look forward to more interaction with you in the future. Most of all, I appreciate your transparency about the process of growth that has taken place in your own life. May God continue to grow us all in His grace!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Bro. Al, In your most recent "Readers' Reflections" section (Issue #462) you included a note from a minister in Nigeria, Africa who stated his desire to order copies of all of your CDs (ordering several every month until he had them all). Because I have been to Nigeria, I would make two comments: (1) the churches there desperately need Al Maxey's thinking, and (2) they are among the poorest of the poor. I would like to purchase this material for him, but don't have a clue what the postage would be for this. If you can determine what the total package would cost (all of your CDs, postage, etc.), please let me know and I will get a check to you immediately. Thank you!

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