The Holy Spirit is given to us so that, with him dwelling in us, we are able to fellowship with the Father and the Son. The Spirit’s primary work is to show us the unique glory the Father receives from the Son and the Son from the Father in the plan of salvation (John 17:1–5). He especially points us to the Son.
On the evening of Resurrection Sunday, as most of the disciples were locked away in their hideout, trying to come to terms with the implications of an empty tomb and the odd encounters some reported to have had with the risen Lord, Jesus suddenly appeared among them. He reassured them of who he was and spoke peace to their troubled, disoriented hearts (Luke 24:33–43; John 20:19–21).
And then Jesus did something remarkable: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).
When Jesus breathed on his disciples — a resurrection miracle in itself! — and then said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he was communicating something of astonishing, fathomless profundity. And his disciples would have understood the implication. For the Holy Spirit proceeds only from God. And the Holy Spirit was proceeding from the Lord Jesus. Thomas, who wasn’t even there to witness this moment, confirmed that he grasped the implication eight days later when he called Jesus, “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
We don’t know how much the apostles understood of the Holy Spirit’s nature in the moment Jesus breathed on them, but they would soon come to understand that the Spirit was also their Lord and their God. He was not merely a vague emanation of the presence of God; the Breath of God was not like the breath of humans. The Breath was not an it but a he. He was not simply the force or power of God, but God himself. The Holy Spirit was the breath of God personified.
That’s why Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in personal terms (notice the pronoun he throughout):
- The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26).