Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Commissioning of the Apostles

Bible students find the words of Jesus "Receive the Spirit" something of a puzzle. John's gospel seems, at first sight, to have a different time line to the others. When did they receive the Spirit? In John 20 or Acts 2?

John's gospel is complementary. He was aware of the synoptic gospels and was consciously filling in gaps at times. When we put together the account in Luke's gospel and that of John things become a little clearer. This resurrection appearance of Christ is recorded in both. In John's gospel it says that he commissioned them as apostles; So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 NKJV In Luke's gospel it says that he opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 NKJV; Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49 NKJV

This 'Receive the Spirit' has to do with the unique role of the apostles. The word used in 'as the Father has sent me' is the verb 'to apostle'. Christ is the Apostle and High Priest of our Confession (Heb 3:1) The Father sent him as the Messenger of the Covenant. In the John and Luke passages The New Covenant has now been inaugurated and the 'ministers of the New Covenant' are to be sent into all the world. As part of their equipping for this new role they receive a unique endowment of the Spirit and their minds are opened to comprehend the Scriptures.

This event is a vital link. There are some in our day who claim that they are just as inspired as the first Christians who did not have a Bible. They are sometimes known as 'post evangelicals' but they have missed this vital link. The early Christians certainly did not have a Bible but they had uniquely prepared men who were in a sense a living Bible. Their understanding of the fulfilment of the Old Testament in Christ's death and resurrection did not come about as a result of years of Bible study or natural gifting; it came as a result of a unique work of the Spirit who made the words of these men as authoritative as the words that came from Christ's own lips.

So authoritative in fact, that Christ prayed specifically for only two groups of people; those whom he had physically chosen in the days of his flesh AND those who come to faith as a result of their words; “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word John 17:20-21 NKJV

If you have ever wondered where Peter got the sermon that he preached on the day of Pentecost, he got it here when the Spirit was breathed upon him and his mind was opened.

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