ASK Commentary
March 23, 2004 

The Giving of God's Holy Spirit

Commentary for March 23, 2004 — When Did the Apostles First Receive It?

[Note: Read this Commentary carefully and with precision. I do not mean more than I say, nor do I mean less. The Holy Scripture is precise and I try to be precise with this article. DWS]
It is commonly understood that the apostles first received God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost, 40 days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But in fact they first received the Holy Spirit the morning after His resurrection.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, ‘Peace be unto you.’ And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, ‘Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, 'Receive you the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit]'.”

John 20:19–22

That single word in Greek “he breathed” is the only occurrence in the New Testament. It literally means, “he exhaled.” It is important to understand that when Jesus Christ after His resurrection, after He is glorified (see John 7:38–39), breathes on someone, that action has a powerful affect.
[Jesus’ breathing on the disciples took place after He ascended to His Father (John 20:17) and after He literally poured His blood on the altar in heaven (Hebrews 9:12–22).]
God’s Breathing

When God created Adam, God breathed life into man and he became a living soul:

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 2:7

God literally “breathed the breath” into Adam. At that moment Adam “became a living soul.” God’s breath is power. God’s breath is significant. God’s breath is important. In the future valley of dry bones, God’s breath will again give life:
“Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind [ruach], prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind [ruach], Thus says the Lord God; Come from the four winds [ruach], O breath [ruach], and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

Ezekiel 37:9

Most often the verb “breathe” in Hebrew refers to a blowing, a force of wind like a bellows blowing into a furnace (Isaiah 54:16; Ezekiel 22:20–21) or steam out of a pot (Job 41:20; Jeremiah 1:13). It denotes a powerful event.

God’s Word Is God’s Breath

All spoken words of God have power.

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”

Psalm 33:6

David (the presumed author) is saying one of two things. One may be that “the word of the Lord” and “the breath of his mouth” are equivalent. The other may be that they are distinct and each has great power. This would mean that “the word of the Lord” creates the inanimate objects and “the breath of his mouth” creates the living host of heaven (the creatures in heaven, the principalities and powers as the apostle Paul calls them). In either case it is clear that the breathing of God has immediate and life-giving creative power.

When God performs the blowing, what results is the ruach of God, the Spirit of God. The breath of God is His ruach. It has the effect He desires. It can give life in any measure He desires. It can give physical life as in Genesis and Ezekiel, or, as in the New Testament it can give spiritual life and immortality. This is what Jesus breathed on the disciples in John 20:22. He literally blew the Spirit of God into them.

The Breath of Life

In fact, God’s breath of life permeates all living things. However, it must be understood that this breath of life from God does not give immortality, just physical animation. The very fact of breathing — every breath you take — is evidence that God exists and has constant care and concern for you every moment of every day:

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [ruach] of life; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 2:7

“The Spirit
[ruach] of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.”

Job 33:4

The breath of life and death are counterposed in God’s pronouncement of the flood upon the world:
“And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath [ruach] of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.”

Genesis 6:17

“And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath
[ruach, spirit] of life. ... All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Genesis 7:15, 22

In fact Genesis 7:22 is literally translated, according to the Hebrew: “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit [ruach] of life.” When God takes away the breath, body functions quickly end and death results.
“You [God] hide your face, they are troubled: you take away their breath [ruach, spirit], they die, and return to their dust. You send forth your spirit [ruach], they are created: and you renew the face of the earth.”

Psalm 104:29–30

Recall what Jesus said at his first post-resurrection appearance to the assembled disciples in John 20. He said:
“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, ‘Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive you the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit].”

John 20:21–22

Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit from that moment so they would begin to understand the subsequent teaching for the days until He would ascend into heaven bodily. He sent them, as He did before, but with a difference. When they would be sent and go out into the world, they would have the power of the Holy Spirit.
“To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] not many days hence. ... But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Acts 1:3–5, 8–9

What Then Happened at Pentecost?

What occurred at Pentecost and why? At Pentecost Jesus said that the apostles

1. “shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” and 2. “shall receive power” after the Holy Spirit comes on them, and they 3. “shall be witnesses” of Christ in all the earth.
In other words they will be given the essential power in the universe (Acts 1:8, Romans 15:13) that created life. As Gabriel said to Mary, the Holy Spirit is the power of God, the power of the Highest:
“And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’”

Luke 1:35

The apostle Paul wrote about God’s power coming by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4):
“Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit]. ... to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, ... I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

Romans 15:15–16, 18–19

The power of the Holy Spirit is life-giving and is directly related to the aspect of breath and wind and blowing. It is not a thing to be trifled with. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1–12, where they lied to God by slighting the gift of the Holy Spirit they were given. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is not to be sought after for its affects or for gain (see the Simon Magus story in Acts 8), but it is a precious gift each one of you have been given.


The disciples first received the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ first appearance to them as a group in John chapter 20. Later, at Pentecost in Acts chapter 1, the disciples received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with power. It is the same Holy Spirit you have within you.

Don’t abuse it. Don’t slight the gift you have been given. Honor it by being faithful to God the Father and Christ Jesus in whom you have your future, because of your present possession of the God’s Holy Spirit. Ask Him to give you more and more so you may serve Him better. Your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). With all this in mind, realize that Christ lives within you.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. ... But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. ... For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. ... you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: ..., that we may be also glorified together.”

Romans 8:5–6, 9–11, 14–17

At a time in the future God will pour out His Spirit to all Israel, then upon all humanity, just as He gives a diminished part of His Spirit to give life to all living creatures. He shall also resurrect you. To study more, see Acts 2:16–17 (quoting Joel 2:28); Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 32:29; and John 7:38–39 — considering all the contexts of these verses.

As you read these words, God at this present moment sustains your breath of life. He also sustains you through His Spirit (as a believer in Christ’s life, death, resurrection and present life), so that He may “quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.” God speed that day.

David Sielaff

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