John 20:22
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
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20:19-25 This was the first day of the week, and this day is afterwards often mentioned by the sacred writers; for it was evidently set apart as the Christian sabbath, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. The disciples had shut the doors for fear of the Jews; and when they had no such expectation, Jesus himself came and stood in the midst of them, having miraculously, though silently, opened the doors. It is a comfort to Christ's disciples, when their assemblies can only be held in private, that no doors can shut out Christ's presence. When He manifests his love to believers by the comforts of his Spirit, he assures them that because he lives, they shall live also. A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at any time; and the more we see of Jesus, the more we shall rejoice. He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, thus showing that their spiritual life, as well as all their ability for their work, would be derived from him, and depended upon him. Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith, comes accompanied by this Divine breathing; and without this there is neither light nor life. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt of God, but through this. After this, Christ directed the apostles to declare the only method by which sin would be forgiven. This power did not exist at all in the apostles as a power to give judgment, but only as a power to declare the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have clearly laid down the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a false professor; and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment. When we assemble in Christ's name, especially on his holy day, he will meet with us, and speak peace to us. The disciples of Christ should endeavour to build up one another in their most holy faith, both by repeating what they have heard to those that were absent, and by making known what they have experienced. Thomas limited the Holy One of Israel, when he would be convinced by his own method or not at all. He might justly have been left in his unbelief, after rejecting such abundant proofs. The fears and sorrows of the disciples are often lengthened, to punish their negligence.He breathed on them - It was customary for the prophets to use some significant act to represent the nature of their message. See Jeremiah 13; Jeremiah 18, etc. In this case the act of breathing was used to represent the nature of the influence that would come upon them, and the source of that influence. When man was created, God breathed into him the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. The word rendered "spirit" in the Scriptures denotes wind, air, breath, as well as Spirit. Hence, the operations of the Holy Spirit are compared to the wind, John 3:8; Acts 2:2.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost - His breathing on them was a certain sign or pledge that they would be endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit. Compare Acts 1:4; John 2.

22. he breathed on them—a symbolical conveyance to them of the Spirit.

and saith, Receive ye the Holy Ghost—an earnest and first-fruits of the more copious Pentecostal effusion.

The apostles could not but be apprehensive how great a work their Lord had laid upon them, in sending them as his Father had sent him, to carry the gospel over the world; Who (said Paul afterward) is sufficient for these things? Our Lord therefore fortifies them with an earnest of that more plentiful effusion of the Spirit, which they afterward received in the days of Pentecost. They before this had received the Spirit as a Spirit of sanctification, and had received a power to work miracles. They did not till after this receive the gift of tongues, &c. But he here assures them of the presence of the Holy Spirit with them, in their more ordinary ministry, in instructing and governing the church. This conferring of the Spirit upon them he confirms to them by breathing, as an exterior sign or symbol. The name, Spirit, signifieth a breath; and it is said, that in the creation God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Christ breatheth into his apostles the Holy Spirit; thereby showing, that the Holy Spirit proceedeth, as from the Father, so also from him; as the breath of a man proceedeth from him. He also useth words, expounding his action in breathing, and carrying with them an authority, which being once spoken, the thing was done.

And when he had said this,.... That is, declared he sent them forth in like manner as his Father sent him:

he breathed on them; in allusion to God's breathing the breath of life into man, at his creation; or rather, to the Spirit himself, who is the breath of God, and proceeds from him, as from the Father; and who breathes both upon persons in regeneration, and in qualifying for ministerial service, at the instance and influence of Christ: and such an opinion the Jews have of the Spirit of the Messiah, who say (p), that

"the Spirit went from between the wings of the cherubim, "and breathed upon him" (Menasseh) by the decree, or order of the word of the Lord.''

And saith unto them, receive ye the Holy Ghost; meaning not the grace of the Holy Ghost in regeneration, which they had received already; but the gifts of the Spirit, to qualify them for the work he now sent them to do, and which were not now actually bestowed; but this breathing on them, and the words that attended it, were a symbol, pledge, and confirmation, of what they were to receive on the day of Pentecost: hence it appears, that it is the Spirit of God, who, by his gifts and grace, makes and qualifies men to be ministers of the Gospel; and our Lord by this action, and these words, gives a very considerable proof of his deity: the Papists show their impudence and wickedness, in imitating Christ by their insufflations, or breathing on men; pretending thereby to convey the Holy Spirit to them.

(p) Targum in 2 Chronicles 33.13.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
22. he breathed on them] The very same Greek verb (here only in N.T.) is used by the LXX. in Genesis 2:7 (Wis 15:11) of breathing life into Adam. This Gospel of the new Creation looks back at its close, as at its beginning (John 1:1), to the first Creation.

We are probably to regard the breath here not merely as the emblem of the Spirit (John 3:8), but as the means by which the Spirit was imparted to them. ‘Receive ye,’ combined with the action of breathing, implies this. This is all the more clear in the Greek, because pneuma means both ‘breath’ and ‘spirit,’ a point which cannot be preserved in English; but at least ‘Spirit’ is better than ‘Ghost’ We have here, therefore, an anticipation and earnest of Pentecost; just as Christ’s bodily return from the grave and temporary manifestation to them was an anticipation of His spiritual return and abiding Presence with them ‘even unto the end of the world.’

Receive ye] Or, take ye, implying that the recipient may welcome or reject the gift: he is not a mere passive receptacle. It is the very word used for ‘Take’ (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:17) in the account of the institution of the Eucharist; which somewhat confirms the view that here, as there, there is an outward sign and vehicle of an inward spiritual grace. The expression still more plainly implies that some gift was offered and bestowed then and there: it is an unnatural wresting of plain language to make ‘Take ye’ a mere promise. There was therefore a Paschal as distinct from a Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit, the one preparatory to the other. It should be noticed that ‘Holy Ghost’ is without the definite article in the Greek, and this seems to imply that the gift is not made in all its fulness. See on John 14:26, where both substantive and adjective have the article.

John 20:22. Καὶ) and forthwith.—ἐνεφύσησε, He breathed upon them) infusing into them a new vigour of life. This was more removed from them, than had he kissed them, and yet it was altogether efficacious. After His resurrection He did not touch mortals, although He allowed His disciples to handle His person. So Ezekiel 37:9, ἐλθὲ τὸ πνεῦμα, καὶ ἐμφύσησον εἰς τοὺς νεκροὺς τούτους, καὶ ζησάτωσαν, “Come thou breath, and breathe upon these dead, and let them live.—καὶ λέγει, and He saith) Even as ye receive the breath (afflatus) from My mouth, saith He, so from My fulness, receive ye the Holy Spirit. [Which no doubt they had had previously: but which they received afterwards in larger measure. The breathing upon them in this place stands midway between both bestowals of the Spirit.—V. g.]—πνεῦμα ἅγιον, the Holy Spirit) under Whose guidance ye may discharge the duties of your mission: Acts 13:9, “Saul (who also is Paul) filled with the Holy Ghost.” This was an earnest of Pentecost.

Verses 22, 23. - And when he had said this, he breathed upon them, and saith to them, Receive ye (the) Holy Spirit. The word ἐνεφύσησεν is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, but is used by the LXX. in Genesis 2:7 to describe the essential distinction between the living soul of Adam and the living soul of all other animals. Man's life was no evolution of the life in other creatures, or consequence of pre-existent properties in the dust of the ground. A direct volition of the Almighty conferred upon humanity the life of the flesh. So here the second Adam, the life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45), was represented as visibly and sensibly conferring on those whom he now sends forth to complete the mission of his grace the Divine life which would make them new creatures, and bestow on them power to generate the same spirit in others. They will have power to do this by bearing testimony to that which they see and know to be the fact of the case. The celebrated passage (John 7:39) which asserts the "glorification" of Jesus to be the condition of the mission of the Comforter (cf. John 16:7) makes the bestowment of the Spirit on this occasion a proof that the glorification had already begun. Has he not already said to Mary, "I am ascending to my Father"? So now he implies that the. time will come when, though he is sending his disciples forth from his immediate corporeal presence, they will touch him by other faculties than eye, or ear, or hand. He is about to leave them for seven days; they are to learn the reality of his spiritual presence by an earnest of Pentecost, by such a gift of the Spirit that they will recognize, in the rushing mighty wind, the presence of the same uplifting, revealing, supernatural Energy. It is urged by Hofmann, Luthardt, Gess, Moulton, and to some extent Westcott and Coder, that the absence of the article must be represented in the translation, that we have here either "a holy spirit," or an energy, an impersonal force of Spirit, or "a gift of the Holy Spirit," an effusion of Holy Spirit, and not "the Spirit of the Father and Son," not the fullness of the Holy Ghost, not the realization of the Divine indwelling, only an earnest of the sublime reality, a symbolic expression of the promise of the Father. Godet says, "This communication is to the Resurrection what Pentecost will be to the Ascension. As by Pentecost he will initiate them into his ascension, so now he associates them with the life of the Resurrection." This last may be perfectly true; yet Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, with or without article, is "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). Meyer says, "The idea of an intermediate Holy Spirit, distinct from the Holy Spirit, lies outside of Scripture." Nor can we minimize the full force of λάβετε, which emphasizes the special action of Christ, by which he communicated to this first gathering of the Church the sense of his Divine presence, the gift of spiritual insight, the God-consciousness, the experience of two worlds, the unity and community of life with himself, which has been augmenting in positive realization, in vivid proofs, in mighty powers, from that hour to this. Whosoever enters into the sphere of that Divine breath becomes "alive unto God;" his faith is invincible; he comes to know that which passes current experience. This was the beginning of the supernatural life which makes Christian consciousness unique among religious experiences. From that hour the holy world and kingdom in which Christ rules has been an objective fact. It lies far beyond the ken of science, and cannot find any place in a sensational philosophy, because it is not a universal experience. It will become so. The further revelations of the Lord all contributed to create the conviction, and Pentecost sealed it to the world. It is desirable to remember (cf. Luke 24:33, etc.) that not merely the eleven apostles received this Divine gift but all the others who had gathered together with them. This circumstance must be held to govern to some extent the solemn and mysterious privilege which appears to follow the Divine bestowment of the Holy Spirit. We cannot divide the company into two parts, one of which received the Holy Spirit, and the other which did not receive him; one of which became conscious of the Divine reality, and the other not. The women who had been the first witnesses and proclaimers of the resurrection-life of the Lord could not have been deprived of this sublime privilege. To the little society of believers, before long to swell to a company of a hundred and twenty, was this great grace given, and to the new fellowship of faith was the high privilege vouchsafed; for he continued, Whosesoever sins ye (remit) forgive, they are forgiven unto them - absolutely forgiven by God; for who can forgive sins but God only, and the Son of man who had and exercised the power on earth to forgive sins? - and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. The history of the interpretation of this remarkable passage is given at length in Herzog's 'Real Encycl.,' art. "Schlüsselgewelt," by Stein. The patristic, scholastic, Tridentine,' Reformation doctrines are very carefully treated. The decrees of the Council of Trent, session 16. co. 1. - 6, show that every form in which apostolic custom, reformed theology, and modern exegesis have solved the problem of their meaning, was repudiated and anathematized by the Church of Rome, and that the function of forgiving or retaining sin was reserved for the priesthood alone, whether in respect of venial or mortal sin (see ' Ecclesia: Church Problems considered in a Series of Essays,' article by the present writer "On Forgiveness and Absolution of Sins"). It is impossible to sever this passage from those passages in Matthew 16:19 where Peter's confession of the Messiahship draws forth from the Lord the extraordinary benediction and privilege, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Lightfoot and Schöttgen have shown, by numerous quotations from the Talmud, that the phrases "bind" and "loose" are repeatedly used by the rabbis to denote the declaration of what is binding and what is immaterial in ethic and religions life. Thus say they, "The school of Hillel binds, the school of Schammai looses or declares indifferent, this or that regulation." We know that it was given to Peter, by the conference upon him of the powers of the Holy Ghost, to declare the terms of admission and exclusion from the kingdom of God. Thus Acts 2:37-39; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:20-24; Acts 10:34-48; Acts 11:17; Acts 15:8, etc. Now, we find James in the same assembly proceeding still further than Simon Peter (James, who was not even one of the twelve disciples); and Paul repeatedly, in the Acts and in his Epistles, declaring by Divine inspiration the duties, the privileges, the ideas, the redeeming principles, of the kingdom of God, "binding and loosing," in the full confidence that he was the minister and mouthpiece of Jesus Christ. This is not remarkable, because we find that the identical privilege which was in Matthew 16. described as a privilege of Peter is in Matthew 18:15-19 conferred, not merely on Peter, but on the whole Church, and still more explicitly upon any two who should agree as touching the forgiveness of a brother, to ask the Father in heaven for this great boon. This privilege is based on the ground that "where two or three are gathered together" in Christ's Name, there, says he, "am I in the midst of them." If the offending brother had refused all repentance and neglected to hear the judgment of the Church, this prayer cannot be urged. Peter then seeks for further information, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" In answer to this question Christ reminded Peter of the Father's boundless love, and made it the pattern of human forgiveness; and the whole question of the forgiveness of injuries is shown to be closely associated with this binding and loosing power, this anticipation, this discovery of the will of the Father, this acquisition of the truth in answer to earnest prayer. Prayer is, as we have seen in numberless places, the rising up of human desires into the very purposes and grace of God, not a change wrought by us in the mind and will of God - God forbid that we should ever, to our confusion, secure such a result as that! - but it is in essence a change wrought by God in us, helping us to say, "Thy will be done!" Let it be borne m mind that this privilege of learning and uttering in our prayers the forgiving love of God, upon the conditions of repentance and faith and a forgiving spirit, is not confined to Peter, but conferred on all the disciples, nay, upon any two of them who should agree to pray with the sinning brother for forgiveness. This great law of love, prayer, and forgiveness was doubtless given for all time. Our Lord, in this repetition of a promise made on an earlier occasion, emits all reference to the binding in heaven of what is bound on earth. Yet he does not repeal the promise, but rather specifies the occasions on which the disciples would find that most frequently they would have to exercise it. Whosesoever sins ye, etc. It is as much as to say - Announce boldly remission of sins on conditions of faith and repentance (Luke 24:47) "to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Your forgiveness even of my murderers, your forgiveness of' Samaritans and publicans, of chief priests and Pharisees, of Greeks and Jews, of those that stone you and persecute you; as well as your announcement of the infinite compassion of God, shall be justified and ratified in heaven. This has been the divinest function of the Church and of the disciples of Christ ever since. There is no case that we can find in the New Testament in which the apostles as an order of men, or the ministers of the Church as such, assumed in any other way the power of personally forgiving, in the stead of God, the specific sins of any individuals. We cannot here trace the matter into the controversies that have arisen as to the power of a specially ordered ministry to absolve personally individual sinners from the consequences of their sin against God. Spiritual communion with Christ, personal reception from Christ himself of his own Spirit, is the highest guarantee of power to proclaim with emancipating effect the amnesty of love, or to utter with subduing might the terrors of the Lord. John 20:22Breathed on them (ἐνεφύσησεν)

Only here in the New Testament. The act was symbolic, after the manner of the Hebrew prophets. Compare Ezekiel 37:5.

The Holy Ghost

The article is wanting. The gift bestowed was not that of the personal Holy Spirit, but rather an earnest of that gift; an effusion of the Spirit.

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