The Powers of God's Holy Spirit
The words that many Bibles translate as 'Spirit' or 'Ghost' are Ruach (in Hebrew) and Pneuma (in Greek); and both words mean (and should be translated as) Breath or Wind. However, the Bible also occasionally uses these words to mean a person's attitude or leaning, where the words breath and wind would make no sense in English, so in such places, we have left it translated into the Latin word for Breath, Spirit (spiritu).
What is God's Breath? We simply don't know, because the Bible tells us so little about it. Yet, some have concluded that it is one of the personalities of God as part of 'the Holy Trinity.' They have drawn this conclusion from the fact that the Breath is often referred to in the Bible with the personal pronoun he. Yet, the fact that God's Breath is mentioned so many times, and is never mentioned in conjunction with God and Jesus together (except for one instance in Matthew 28, which appears to be a spurious addition to the Bible); this makes such a conclusion presumptuous.
Also, notice what Peter said about Jesus and God's Breath at Acts 2:33: 'He was lifted to God's right hand, where he received the Holy Breath (which the Father had promised). And he's the one who has poured out all of this that you're seeing and hearing.' As you can see; Jesus wasn't part of the personality of God's Holy Breath. Rather, it was something that he received from God and then he poured it out on his Apostles during Pentecost. Therefore, God's Breath likely refers to God's (or possibly even Jesus') power (for more information on the Trinity and similar doctrines, see the linked document, Who Was Jesus?).
We have often heard it said that God used His Breath to create the heavens and the earth. However, there are no scriptures to back up such a claim. The Bible does tell us at Genesis 1:2 that, 'God's Breath' moved over the earth's waters. However, it doesn't thereafter speak of the Breath as having anything to do with creation. People may prefer to believe this, because the entire Big Bang is rather incomprehensible, and it is likely easier to simply think that it all came about as the result of some mysterious 'hocus-pocus,' rather than by the actual act of creating something. But notice that John 1:2, 3, says that Jesus was the one who brought it all into existence. For we read there, 'This one was with The God in the beginning, and through him it all came to be.'
Also, the 'breath of life' that we have from God may be part of His Breath, for notice what God said at Genesis 6:3 (when He was talking about the unrighteous people who lived before the Downpour): 'Then Jehovah God said: I won't allow them to keep My Breath (which allows them to be flesh) throughout the [rest of] the age.'
So, if God's Breath keeps us alive, then perhaps the breath of life is a part of His Holy Breath.
Then, throughout the Bible, we read of how God used His Breath to give special powers to many of His servants down through the ages. And although this Breath apparently imparted to those individuals superhuman powers, its most important use was in creating the Bible itself. For, we read at 2 Timothy 3:16, 17: 'All the Scriptures are inspired by God and are good for teaching, for correcting, for setting things straight, and for providing righteous discipline. They qualify a man of God and provide him with whatever he needs to do all sorts of good work.'
Notice that, although the Greek word pneuma (Spirit or Breath) wasn't used in the above scripture, it is found in the related word TheoPneustos, or God Breathed, which we have translated as inspired by God. Translating pneustos as inspired is particularly appropriate, since the word in/spired means, breathed in. So, any time we refer to a particular work, person, or act as inspired, we are really implying that it came from the Breath of God.
Many of the ancient Hebrew Judges or Prophets were given a special portion of God's Breath and were able to perform great things as the result. And although many other faithful men obviously received it; it wasn't always specially mentioned as being the source of their power.
The first man who is actually mentioned as having God's Breath was faithful JoSeph (the son of Jacob). His ability to interpret dreams was mentioned by the PharaOh of Egypt as making him a man who had 'the Breath of God' (Genesis 41:38).
Then God Himself said that He had filled the men who took the lead in building His Tent in the desert, along with all its clothing and utensils, with His Breath (at Exodus 31:3).
Thereafter, Moses referred to Joshua as 'a man who has God's Breath' at Numbers 27:18. But, even the evil Prophet BalaAm was said to have received it (at Numbers 23:6).
We next read of men who had God's Breath when the Bible refers to the special powers that the Judges of IsraEl received, such as Gideon, JephThah, and Sampson. Then there were the Prophets and some of the faithful kings who received special powers by God's Breath.
So, as you can see, the powers of God's Breath didn't just come along on Pentecost of 33-CE.
At Joel 2:28-31, we read that God's Breath would be poured out on many people during 'the last days.' For there, God said: 'And in the last days I will pour out My Breath on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophecy, your older men will dream dreams, and your young men will then see visions. In those days I'll pour out My Breath, upon My male and female servants. I'll create miracles in the sky, and bring fire, blood, and smoke to the earth. The sun will convert into darkness, and the moon [will be changed] into blood, before the coming and the appearance of the great Day of the Lord'
Now, admittedly, the particular version of the Greek Septuagint version that we are using to translate this Bible doesn't say, 'In the last days.' Rather, it says: 'And afterward is shall come to pass.' Yet, we have translated it as saying 'in the last days,' because the Bible that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost, 33-CE read: 'In the last days, I will pour out some of my Breath on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy.' And since his version of the Septuagint was surely older, we will trust it.
Peter used this prophecy of Joel to explain the miraculous things that started happening to Christians during and after the day of Pentecost, 33-CE. And in what sense were those 'the last days? Well, they were the last days for the City of Jerusalem, because the Roman army destroyed it about 37 years later (70-CE).
So, how did God's Breath manifest itself back then? Well, as we all know, it started when a stiff breeze blew into the place where the Apostles were, then flames of fire visibly appeared over their heads and they started miraculously 'speaking in tongues.' Was this just incoherent babbling? No, for notice that the people there (who had come from all around the then-known world) recognized what was being said (Acts 2:8): 'So, how is it that we are each hearing our own native languages being spoken?'
It is interesting that this particular manifestation of Holy Breath was different from that which the Apostles had already received earlier from Jesus; for, at Matthew 10:8 we are told that they could already 'cure sick people, raise the dead, make lepers clean, and throw out demons.' So, this appears to have been something that was very different, and we don't know why.
However, notice that the gift of speaking in tongues (languages) had a practical purpose there; for, it helped early Christians to speak to people throughout the world and spread the good news in their own native tongues. But that was just the beginning of the manifestation of God's Breath; for thereafter (apparently), all Christians were baptized in Holy Breath and received its Gifts, which according to the book of Acts, seems to have primarily manifested itself in the form of visions, prophecies, and special instructions.
Was the Holy Breath of Pentecost a person, as some claim? Well, it is referred to in the Bible using the personal pronoun, he, so we don't know. What we do know is that is was something different than the Holy Breath that gave powers to faithful men earlier, and that it was given a title, 'the Advocate'
It was Paul who later explained all the ways that the Gifts of God's Breath were manifesting themselves in the Christian Congregations, and he listed them in the order of importance at 1 Corinthians 12:28. There he wrote: 'First are the Apostles; second the Prophets; third the teachers, then come [those with] powerful works, the gifts of healing, helpful services, abilities to direct, [and those who speak] different languages.'
So, as you can see; the Gifts of God's Breath were manifested in many different ways, some of which may not be clear to us today. And not everyone had the same gifts; for, Paul went on to say at 1 Corinthians 12:29-31: 'Not all are Apostles, are they? Not all are Prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform powerful works, do they? Not all have the gift of healing, do they? Not all speak in different languages, do they? Not all are translators, are they? However, zealously keep seeking the greater gifts.'
Then, if you go on to read the rest of what Paul wrote there in 1 Corinthians 28, 29, he definitely discouraged speaking in tongues in congregation meetings, and that's why he placed speaking in tongues as the least of the gifts of God's Breath. For, it seems as though many were just speaking out and babbling incoherently at their gatherings, disrupting more serious matters or manifestations of the Breath. And this could definitely be controlled, since Paul told them to control it.
But an important point to note here is that the early Christians were encouraged to pray for greater gifts.
Yet, as we pointed out earlier; despite all the miraculous things that happened to Jesus' disciples on Pentecost of 33-CE, the Apostles (in particular) had already demonstrated their having God's Breath in astounding ways, which is often eclipsed by the events of Pentecost.
So, since they already had the power to cast out demons and to heal miraculously; what special powers did they receive at that time? It appears as though this is when they were given the added gift of prophesying (to fulfill the prophecy of Joel), and of being able to speak in the foreign tongues of their listeners (especially in Greek).
It is noteworthy that we no longer read of Christians manifesting the Gifts of God's Breath after the First Century; so it appears as though, after the deaths of all the Apostles, the Gifts just stopped. Why? Well, perhaps Paul's words found at 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 can shed some light on the matter. For there, we read: 'However, the [gift of] prophesying will be done away with, the [gift of] speaking in [foreign] languages will stop, and the [gift of miraculous] knowledge will be done away with. Because, now we only have partial knowledge and we only prophesy partially. But when the perfect thing arrives, the partial thing will be done away with.'
And what was 'the perfect thing' that was to come? He went on to explain, at 1 Corinthians 13:11-13: 'When I was a baby, I used to talk like a baby, think like a baby, and reason like a baby. But now that I've become a man, I'm finished with babies' things. And although what we see today is like looking into a metal mirror, then it will be face to face. For now I only understand partially, but then I will have an accurate understanding and I will be accurately understood. So, we now have these three things: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love..'
So, Paul was indicating that the Gifts were traits of the infancy of the Christian Congregation, and that when it grew into 'a man,' or once faith, hope, and love have matured, the Gifts would no longer be necessary.
What about manifestations of God's Breath today? Is this just something that was a part of ancient Bible history? No, for we read at Ephesians 6:17, 18: 'Also, accept the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, God's Word. Pray in every way and always keep begging [God]. Pray at all times in the Breath [of God] and stay awake… don't give up!'
So, the first ways that we come into direct contact with God's Breath is when we read His Word (the Bible) and when we pray to Him. As any Bible translator can tell you; you come to feel the Breath of God as you translate and pray. However, all who study the Bible itself and offer earnest heart-felt prayers to God probably understand the feeling. But remember that only the Bible is the Word of God, not men's commentaries (such as this). For, regardless of what such people may claim, they clearly still make mistakes.
Then, what about those who claim to have the Gifts of God's Breath to heal those who are sick or to speak in tongues today? For those who don't believe, it's easy to fall into the trap of calling them fakes, or saying that their powers come from BeelZebub (the Devil). However, we want to be cautious about saying such things; for, these are the very same things they said about Jesus (at Matthew 12:24): 'On hearing this, the Pharisees said, He's throwing out demons by [the power of] Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons!'
And then Jesus warned them (at Matthew 12,21, 22): 'So, I'm telling you that men can be forgiven for every type of sin and blasphemy, except blasphemy against [God's] Breath… that won't be forgiven. If someone speaks against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven. But if someone speaks against [God's] Holy Breath, he won't be forgiven… no, not in this era or in the one to come.'
As you can see, such strong claims are a very serious matter in God's eyes; so, while we don't want to be gullible, we should be very sure before we make any such claims against what may be the works of God's Breath, and then blindly follow in the paths of the Pharisees. Yet, fakes have been proven to exist; so, we wouldn't want to follow in those paths either… for, remember that the magicians in Egypt were able to duplicate many of Moses' miracles.
This question is being hotly debated among many Christian faiths today, as more and more are claiming special abilities, especially the gift of 'speaking in tongues.' And Joel's prophecy (if you accept its wording as Peter quoted it on Pentecost) did say that God would pour out His Breath in the last days (gr. tas hemera eschata).
It is interesting that some religions only apply those words in Joel to the last days of Jerusalem, not to our time. Yet, when they quote 2 Timothy 3:1 ('Recognize that the last days will bring fierce times'), they like to apply it to our time, not to the then-coming destruction of Jerusalem, and they can't have it both ways. So, we would assume that the prophecy also applies to our, or to some future time. For more discussion on the prophecy of Joel and the last days, see the linked document, The Last Days
However, remember that modern copies of the Septuagint don't say, 'in the last days.' And in fact, our favorite Hebrew text doesn't say it either. It simply starts out with the words, 'And afterward.' However, the words about the sun being darkened sound strikingly similar to Jesus' words about the last days at Matthew 24:29, which say: 'In the days immediately following that time of difficulty, the sun will grow dark, the moon won't put out light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the Heavens will shake.'
Also, the fact that God (in Joel) referred to these things as happening 'in the day of the Lord,' indicates that He was truly talking about a future last days.
As the result, we assume that the prophecy in Joel could possibly have also been talking about our day when he wrote, 'your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will have [inspired] dreams, and your young men will have visions.'
However, these things that Jesus prophesied would happen during his (second) coming (at Matthew 24:29) clearly haven't been seen yet; so, the time that Joel prophesied about (when these special powers would be manifest) must be yet to come. And won't it be wonderful to live in an age when all of God's servants prophesy, and have inspired dreams and visions from God?
Probably the most common of the 'Gifts' of God's Breath that people claim to have today, is the ability to speak in tongues. But, did you notice that this wasn't part of Joel's prophecy?
And besides, as we pointed out earlier, Paul didn't seem to think too much of this particular Gift, for he wrote at 1 Corinthians 14:2-5: 'You see, the one who speaks in foreign languages isn't talking to men, but to God… because nobody else is listening. So by [God's] Breath, he's speaking mysteries. However, the one who prophesies builds up, encourages, and consoles men. And while the one who speaks in a foreign language builds himself up, the one who prophesies builds up a congregation. I would like all of you to [be able to] speak in foreign languages, but I prefer that you prophesy, because the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in foreign languages… unless he also translates, so the congregation can be built up.'
As you can see, speaking in tongues was discouraged in the congregation, because it doesn't build up those who hear it. Rather, Paul encouraged Christians to work toward the gift of Prophesying. And we doubt that this gift was manifested back then when someone was just expounding his or her particular beliefs. Nor do we believe (as some teach) that it's just speaking of prophecies that are already written in the Bible; for, it doesn't require God's Breath to do such things. The fact is, we don't know how this Gift actually works out, but we are sure that we will recognize it when we see it.
From the scriptures quoted above, we can clearly see that; If we want to experience God's Breath, we must study the Bible and pray regularly. However, more is required. For, if we aren't seriously trying to please God by searching for Him and by living a Christian life, what can we expect from Him?
It's a two-way street! For, as Jesus said (at Matthew 7:13, 14): 'Enter through the narrow gate; because, the road that leads to destruction is very wide and that's the way that most others are going. But the gate that leads to life is tight and narrow, and not many find it.'
And most of all; after we have done all these other things, we should pray for God's Breath… and pray for more of it on every occasion. Should we pray for the Gift of Prophesying? If we believe that Joel's prophecy applies to our day; then, yes we should… regularly. Do you already have the Gift of speaking in tongues? Then you should pray for the greater gift. Do you already have all the gifts? Then pray for love, for none of us is perfect in it yet.
And probably most importantly; Remember what purpose God's Breath serves in us. It should never be used to glorify us, because it comes from God and it should glorify God. It doesn't prove who or what we are, but the power and glory of God.
Also, the Bible tells us that those who would try to use it for their own promotion or financial gain have received their full reward. For, as Jesus said at Matthew 6:1, 2: 'Be careful not to do righteous things in front of men so they can see what you're doing, or you won't get a reward from your Father in heaven. And when you give gifts to the needy, don't blow a trumpet ahead of you in the synagogues and on the streets, as the hypocrites do, so men can praise them. I tell you the truth; they're getting their full reward.'
Whether you remember the story or not; there was once a man who tried to use the Breath of God to enhance his own prestige and wealth, so he tried to buy it. Luke told us about it at Acts 8:18-21, where we read: 'Now, when Simon saw that the Apostles could give the Breath by just touching someone, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me the power, so that anyone I lay my hands on can receive Holy Breath.' But Peter said, 'May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought you could buy the gift that God gives freely. You aren't going to have any part in this, nor will you share in it, because God sees that your heart is crooked!'
So, will we see a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy in our day? We don't know, but we hope so. We are praying for it… and we encourage you to do the same. For, we won't know until we ask. Yet, we can all share more fully in receiving God's Breath by studying (not just reading) God's Word, by earnest and regular prayers, and by living a life that proves us worthy of the presence of God's Power.
All the above raises the question: What then, does the act of anointing or being anointed have do with receiving God's Breath? For example; the outpouring of God's Breath on Jesus' Apostles during the celebration of Pentecost pictured their being anointed or chosen by God, and this immediately manifested itself in the form of powerful acts.
Then, after Pentecost, it appears as though those who received the Gifts of God's Breath received it not by an outpouring from heaven and from God, but is was imparted or passed along by the Apostles with the laying-on of hands. Was this the same as anointing? Not necessarily, for the Apostles weren't doing the choosing or adopting; this is left in the hands of God alone. The Scriptures show that all the Apostles were doing was 'calling' people to life, while God did the choosing.
There have always been those who claim that, 'God likes me best!' So, it comes as no surprise that among Christians, some say that they have already received a special anointing or choosing by God, and a Greater portion of His Breath. But it is interesting that there are no cases in the Christian Era Scriptures where we find brothers saying that they were anointed or chosen. Only Jesus was ever called (or called himself) the 'Anointed' (gr. ho Christos, or, 'the Christ'). So, such claims are obviously, at best, extremely boastful and presumptuous. However, those who show more humility and faith likely do receive a greater portion of Holy Breath.
Peter (the Apostle) wrote at 2 Peter 1:10: 'Brothers; This is why it's so urgent for you to make your calling and electing firm; for, if you can do all of this, you won't ever stumble.'
What was 'all of this' that they had to do in order to make their 'calling and electing firm?' Note that he had just said in the previous verses (5-8), 'Add virtue to your faith, knowledge to [your] virtue, self-control to [your] knowledge, endurance to [your] self-control, piety to [your] endurance, brotherly-love to [your] piety, and pure love to [your] brotherly love. Because, if you're filled and overflowing with these things, they will keep you from being ineffective or from failing to produce fruitage as you spread the higher knowledge of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.'
Therefore, it appears as though Christians can refer to themselves as the called. However, Jesus reminded us (at Matthew 22:14) that, 'Many are the called, but few are the chosen.' For, the choosing only comes after one has endured to the end (see Matthew 10:22). And this requires that he or she has proven faithful through great persecution (see Matthew 5:10 and Revelation 6:11). However, as in the First Century Christian Congregation; all can receive the power of God's Breath if they strive to be righteous and pray for it. For more information, see the linked document, 'Arrangement of the First Christian Churches.' Also, see the Note in Colossians, The Anointed
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