The Holy Spirit Is Given to All but Received by Each (Sun. June 4)

The word of the day is “each.” As we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, we might ask who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at that festival? Just the twelve disciples? And we might ask who is given the Holy Spirit today? Only those whom we call the saints? Today in our reading of Acts 2:1-11, Luke records that when a mighty wind blew, “there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (OSB vs. 3). Today we emphasize that all who are baptized are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He does not belong to selected believers as their possession while the rest of us must do without the “power from on high.”

The Spirit Poured Out on All

St. John Chrysostom asks the important question of this day, “Was it upon the twelve [disciples] that it [the Holy Spirit] came. Not so, but upon the hundred and twenty,” those who were gathered in the Upper Room” (NFPF 1:11, 25). Chrysostom notes that Peter quotes the prophet Joel who said that believers of all ages would receive the Spirit. The prophet wrote, “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all:  your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Joel 2:29). Accordingly, the Spirit would no longer be limited to the prophets who briefly receive the inspiration of the Spirit. And it would not be restricted to the original twelve disciples of the Lord. The significance of Pentecost was that it marked the permanent and universal distribution of the Spirit made available to all who believe and are baptized.

Chrysostom says that no one should grieve that he or she was not especially chosen. For instance, Justus lost the election to be numbered among the twelve disciples in the place of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer (Acts 1:23-26). But no matter. Justus, like Matthias, “not merely received the grace of the Spirit, but [was] filled with the Holy Spirit” (NfPf1:11, 25-26).

The Spirit Received by Each

The Holy Spirit is given to all, but each one receives it as an individual. On Pentecost, it was first given to every individual in the upper room. But then everyone heard the proclamation of the Gospel that day, “each in his own language” (vs. 8). Moreover, Peter urged the crowd, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (vs. 38).

Luke uses the Greek term translated as “each” to mean everyone (Strong’s #1538, 79). But this term does not imply that it was given to the whole as if it were a general esprit de corps like the team spirit of the fans of a football team. No, the word each means that the Spirit was given separately or serially.

Peter proclaims that each one of you must repent. That means that each of us is responsible for hearing the Word of God and responding to the Gospel. No one and no group can believe us. And Peter also says that each one of you must be baptized. We can sponsor those who are candidates for baptism. But no one can be baptized for another.

Each one has his or her own gift of the Spirit as St. Paul says, “the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to Each of us according to the grace that is given to [each one] of us” (Romans 12:6). These endowments are given for the common good, but they are distinct to the individual (OSB 1 Corinthians 12:7). Therefore, Paul writes, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things [the various ministries of the Spirit], distributing to each one individually as He wills” (OSB 1 Corinthians 12:11).

Therefore, what unites us in Christ is not a joint hearing of the Gospel. It is not a communal baptism. It is not the same gift of the Spirit. But what joins us together in Christ is the Holy Spirit, who is dispersed among us. Thus, the hearing of faith, the New Life of baptism, and the spiritual gifts of the Spirit all come from “one and the same Spirit who works in these things” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

For Reflection

The Almighty God knows and bestows His mercy on each one of us individually according to our particular needs. Each one of us has the same value in His sight. Each believer is an equal member of the Body of Christ. The gifts of the Spirit given to each one of us are equally needed in the church.




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