Rev Bobby Killmon
In Jn 20:22 Scripture says, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:” I have good denominal friends suggest that the disciples are being saved in this passage. How would you respond?
We must admit it is clear that Jesus is commissioning His disciples for divine work. Jn. 20:21 states, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” It is clear the disciples are “being sent” just like Jesus as a man was sent in His earthly ministry. “Sent-ness” in the Bible is the clear language of human commission for the divine task. Jn. 1:6 shows that John was commissioned by God in this exact same way.
However it seems that their obedience to Acts 2:38 qualified the disciples for this new divine commissioning under the new age. The big problem with saying Jn. 20:22 is about an OT type empowerment for ministry is that the disciples had already been empowered this way. They have been sent, along with the seventy, to cast out devils, heal the sick, and declare the Kingdom.
Also, John 20-21 are Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances followed by the book of Acts immediately where the Spirit is poured out. The anticipation of Jesus for the Spirit coming as a future event is clear (Jn. 16:7-8; Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:5). That is why Jesus “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” (Acts 1:4). Catch that “wait” – you need this before fulfilling your new commissioning.
The above evidence is heavily suggestive that Jn. 20:22 was a “prophetic act” that Jesus did in view of what would happen at Pentecost that was shortly fulfilled after His statements and actions in Jn. 20:22. Whatever one says, it cannot refer to NT Spirit baptism or salvation by being born of the Spirit, because Jesus’ own words make this impossible. Further, it cannot refer to empowering the disciples as in the OT sense. They had already been empowered to minister as seen in Lk. 10, when Jesus sent them out with the seventy which accompanied miraculous signs.
If the Spirit wasn’t given yet, and it is not empowerment, what is left? That Jesus does this as a reflection of what will happen at Pentecost. Just like Gen. 2:7 when God breathed into man, and he became a “living soul” this is recreation by the breath of the Spirit. The new creation will be ushered in at Pentecost.
Acts 2:2 says the Spirit comes as a “rushing mighty wind.” Wind is “pneuma,” which can mean Spirit also in the Greek, unlike “anemos,” which is just wind. This is the Spirit that recreates; what was promised is now fulfilled. Jn. 3:5-8 reaches it culmination. The wind that blows gives man his opportunity of his new second birth! What Jesus prophesies in “prophetic gesture” is now available.
The critical piece to know is that the disciples must be saved under this new age. Then, they can go on this new salvation and commissioning to do what they could not before. In Jn. 20:23 Jesus says, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” How are the disciples to “remit” sins? The thunderous Apostolic invitation from the Apostle Peter standing with all the other disciples is clear: obey Acts 2:38! Submitting to water baptism in Jesus’ name is remission, not merely forgiveness. What a trust in this prophecy of our commissioning from our Lord! But it does make distinctions in the incarnation of what is flesh and what is divine.