The first book of the Bible, Genesis, introduces us to profound concepts and ideas which then reverberate through the rest of Scripture. The later writers of Israel’s historical narrative and powerful poetry are constantly picking up ideas from Genesis and using them as ‘hooks’ to communicate their message. Every time they use one of these ‘hooks’ it carries the full weight of meaning from its origin and it’s up to us as readers of the Bible to look out for this and take on board their full significance. This use of Genesis ‘hooks’ even extends into the New Testament, here is an example from Genesis 2:7.
“The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
The instinctive first act of the first man in this narrative is to breathe in that which was breathed out from God – and so to receive life.
The New Testament introduces us to a new, spiritual creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). As it does so the text uses a hook from Genesis. Take a look at these verses.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17)
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
Just as in Genesis, the new creation in Christ receives something “breathed out” from God which causes life to begin – the revelation of his purpose through the spirit and embodied in Jesus Christ himself.
It is therefore no surprise that when the disciples first saw and believed that Jesus was alive again, John records the event using a ‘hook’ from Genesis.
“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” (John 20:22)
They did not receive the gifts of power at this stage, that only occurred after his ascension (Acts 1:5). So what did they receive? The context suggests they were filled with the overwhelming conviction that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead and the courage which qualified them to witness to that fact to the world.
So at the beginning of the new creation in Christ, when the Apostles first truly believed, Jesus is described as breathing on them in a manner reminiscent of the Genesis creation, leading us to realise that this new beginning in Jesus is every bit as momentous as the creation of life itself.
May we take our opportunity to breathe deeply of that which God has graciously breathed out for us. For to us it is spirit and it is life, and without it, just as if we were to hold our breath too long, we perish.
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