We continue our study of some key wordings.
“He whom God has sent speaks the words of God for (God – supplied by the KJV, NKJV) does not give the spirit by measure (unto him – supplied by KJV)” (John 3:34).
Some have suggested that this teaches that there are different measures of the Spirit. Jesus received the Holy Spirit without measure. The apostles received the apostolic measure. Many Christians, in the first century, received the miraculous means. We, today, received a non-miraculous measure.
This verse is not teaching this. While it is true that the apostles received greater miraculous abilities than others, such is not under consideration in this passage. Furthermore, a non-miraculous giving of the Spirit is not in view.
What is this verse teaching? It is affirming that Jesus’ message was from God. Then, there is an appeal to the evidence from the Spirit. There seems two possibilities here: (1) This could refer to God giving the Spirit to Jesus. James MacKnight commented, “God has given him the inspiration and assistance of the Spirit, without these limitations and interruptions wherewith they were given to all other prophets” (Lockwood, Mistakes Regarding the Holy Spirit, Hammer & Tongs, March – April 1996). (2) This could refer to Jesus giving the Spirit to His disciples. B.F. Westcott commented, “Christ speaks the words of God, for his words are attested by his works, in that he gives the Spirit to His disciples as dispensing in its fullness that which is His own” (ibid), cf. John 15:26.
“We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).
The context is miraculous. Peter healed a lame man and preached Jesus (Acts 3:1-26). Peter and John were arrested (Acts 4:1-3). Peter told the council that the miracle was accomplished through the authority of Jesus (Acts 4:5-10). The council could not deny the miracle (Acts 4:15-16). However, they commanded them to cease speaking in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17-18). The apostles did not cease their work. More miracles were worked (Acts 5:12-16). The apostles were again arrested (Acts 5:17-18). They were freed by an angel (Acts 5:17-20). They continued to preach (Acts 5:21-25). They were again arrested (Acts 5:26-28). They told the council that Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). Proof? The apostles testified to such. However, there was more than just their testimony, the Holy Spirit also testified of this (Acts 5:32). This is not speaking of a non-miraculous indwelling which one only concludes he has because the Bible says so.
“Peter and John… prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit… Then, they laid hands on the, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:14-18).
“They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’” (Acts 10:46-47).
“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit’ …And when Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon then, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:2-6).
All of these passages clearly refer to a miraculous reception of the Spirit. Stephen Wiggins has concluded, “When the word ‘received’ is used in the New Testament in connection with the Spirit being ‘given’ to Christians it is always a miraculous reception of Spiritual gifts either by direct outpouring or indirectly through apostles’ hands” (Wiggins, An Ordinary Reception of the Spirit? Hammer & Tongs, May – June, 1995).
“This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? … Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2, 5).
Judaizing teachers were troubling the church. Franklin Camp commented, “Did the Judaizing teachers confirm themselves as apostles by imparting the Spirit through the laying on of hands? … Paul in imparting gifts to the Galatians, provided proof of his apostleship, the genuineness of the gospel he preached, and the assurance to the Galatians that they were children of God by faith in Christ when baptized, and heirs of the promise of Abraham (Galatians 3;26-29)… It ought to be clear that a non-miraculous reception of the Spirit would have served no purpose in relationship to Paul’s argument” (Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption, pp. 143-144).
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him…” (John 14:16-17).
Jesus was about to depart this world (John 14:1-3, 19, 28; 16:7, 28). He would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18). Another Helper would be provided (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:12-13).
The context is important. Guy Woods commented, “The verb ‘receive’ is the rendering of a Greek term meaning to take, to seize. Soon the enemies of Jesus would seize him and take him from their midst; but the another whom the Lord would send could not thus be taken, and the reason is, the enemies of the Lord could not see him… Thus, this comforter the apostles would not lose!” (Woods, The Gospel According to John, p. 312). Wayne Jackson commented, “The Greek term for ‘receive’ is flexible; it can convey the sense of ‘to lay hold on’ or to ‘seize by force.’ The ‘seizure’ aspect would seem to be the correct meaning in context. The ‘world’ was about to seize Jesus by force and murder him. They would be unable to achieve any such goal with the Spirit, the reason being they cannot see him, nor do they know him” (Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 180). Marion Fox noted, “The word ‘receive’ (lambano) is used to refer to taking something, or someone by force in the following passages: Matthew 5:40; 17:25; 21:35; Mark 12:3, 8; Luke 5:5; 9:39; John 7:23, 12:13; 18:31; 19:1, 6, 23, 40; Acts 2:32; 16:3; 17:9; 2 Corinthians 11:20, etc.” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 433).