When considering the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the most commonly used passage is that of 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” In the text, the actual word used is theopneustos from the Greek, theós, “God” and pnéō, “breathe out”. It is the only place in all of Scripture that we find the term, “God-breathed” – we translate it as inspire.
To inspire is to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. It is to animate, to fill or to give rise to. Considering this definition, there is another passage of Scripture which immediately springs to mind, one in which we witness God breathing His divine life, His Spirit as it were, into something. In the second creation account we read that, “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”1 Here man becomes a living being after being filled, after being animated, after being inspired, by God Himself.
To feel someone breath on you is incredibly intimate. A child’s breath as she lays sleeping in your lap, a puppy’s breath as he licks your face, a lovers breath soft on your neck. Humanity came into existence as God breathed into our nostrils the very breath of life. The inspired Scriptures came into existence as God breathed His inspiration into the authors of the divine Word. Close, intimate; filling and shaping and empowering. A divine breath…
There is another spot in the New Testament writings where we are able to witness this divine breath, this inspiration – but it is often missed.
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; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”2
Here we see Christ’s apostles filled, animated, inspired – with the very Spirit of God! They are filled with inspired authority – God-breathed authority! Christ breathes on them and fills them with His own divine authority and Holy Spirit.
Remember the definition of the word inspire? To fill someone with the urge or ability to do something. That something may be writing sacred Scripture. It may also be forgiving men’s sins.
And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.3
The scribes immediately realize that the the forgiveness of sins is the purview of God alone – for a man to forgive sins is blasphemy. But here is the God/man Jesus who demonstrates His authority to forgive sins in the healing of the paralytic. The paradigm has been forever changed. Seeing this, the crowds glorify God, “who had given such authority to men.” Notice that the authority is given to men – not to Christ alone. This sets the stage for Christ to hand on this authority to other men in John 20:22-23 – namely his disciples. In the person of Christ, God-breaths into them His Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins.
St. Paul connects the dots for us when he writes of being first reconciled to God through Christ, and then in turn, being given the ministry of reconciliation.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.4
Christ at work in us, and with us, and through us. Inspiration – the very breath of God creating new life, preserving His Word inerrant; and through His ministers of reconciliation, His ambassadors, His apostles, bringing His forgiveness and reconciliation to the world.
Truly, this is the inspiration of reconciliation!
It is so incredibly freeing to hear the words of absolution pronounced by the priest in the confessional, “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your Son, You have reconciled the world to Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace.” And then through the priest, breathed by Christ Himself into my ear, “I absolve you of your sins.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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