In-Breathing & Out-Pouring
GLEANINGS FROM ACTS 2
A dear brother once shared a funny story in Santa Barbara: When a
baby is born, he is really kind of ugly. Understandably so, because he
has just spent 9 months cooped up in a womb. But no one,
absolutely no one, dare say such a thing to the mother. People
always try to say nice things about the new-born baby, sometimes
even against their conscience. No matter how ugly, to the mother,
there is no face that comes even close to resembling the face of an
Once a minister went to visit a mother who just gave birth, the dear
brother continued his story; in order not to offend his own conscience,
he had to tell the truth. So, upon seeing the baby he exclaimed
excitedly, “NOW, THAT’S A BABY!” The mother was satisfied, taking it
as a complement. The minister also kept his conscience undefiled
having told the truth....
Coming to one of the most admired events in Church history – the
Pentecost – I am afraid there is also a great need to exercise
discernment, truthfulness, and a good conscience. There is perhaps
no other event that has generated as much excitement – and
While the spiritual significance of Pentecost cannot be
underestimated, most Christians, however, tend to over-
sensationalize its true significance and adorn it with much
Most Christians consider the Pentecost in Acts 2 as “fulfillment” of
Joel 2 where Joel prophesied about the pouring forth of God’s Spirit
and the subsequent reactions of “sons, daughters, young men, old
men…and the various signs, wonders, and natural calamities….”
Then, most Christians also equate the “pouring forth of the Holy
Spirit” with the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
In I Cor. 12:13, Paul plainly said, “For in one Spirit were we all
baptized into one body….” When we are born again, we are
automatically baptized in the Spirit. The out-pouring of the Spirit on
Pentecost should not be confused with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
First of all, the event on the day of Pentecost did not “fulfill” the
prophecy of Joel 2. Aside from the pouring forth of God’s Spirit, there
were no prophesying, dreams, visions, wonders in heaven, signs on
earth, blood, fire, and smoke, nor did the sun turn dark and the moon
turn bloody red. Speaking in tongues was not mentioned in Joel 2.
Peter made it clear: “This IS what was spoken of through the prophet
Joel.” Joel prophesied about the “day of the Lord” which refers to a
period of times which is commonly known as the "end times." From
the writings of the Apostles, it is evident that the early church held
the view that they were living in the end times. They lived in the
expectancy of the Lord's imminent return. Therefore, the blessed
event on Pentecost started the end times; it did not fulfill the end
Actually, the disciples have ALREADY received the Holy Spirit in John
20:22 when the Lord breathed on them after His resurrection. Does it
minimize the need for the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit? No, it does
not. We most certainly need the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit! The
“in-breathing” of the Holy Spirit is for life, and the “out-pouring” of the
Holy Spirit is for function. Without life, there can be no function.
Function is the result of growth in life. Both are much needed. As a
baby feeds and grows properly, more and more functions will come.
Another way to look at the inner and outer aspects of the Holy Spirit
is this: We need the in-breathing of the Holy Spirit for substance and
for constitution. We need the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit for
authority and for work (function).
The in-breathing, which is for growth in life, takes place in our daily
environment. We encounter numerous circumstances daily which the
Lord uses to train us in the form of either a gentle nudge, a still small
voice, a chastening upon our flesh, or a sharp rebuke, etc. A few
times, some of us naughtier ones may even be taken to the back of
the woodshed! If you are one of them, you certainly understand what
I am talking about.
As we submit to and learn from these dealings interwoven in our
circumstances, the Holy Spirit breathes more of Christ into us, and we
are inwardly constituted with more of His character.
When we begin to serve the Lord by the Christ that has been formed
within us through His dealings, our mind, will, and emotion begin to
align with His will. Sadly though, many zealous believers vainly seek
empowerment from on high before they learned from the dealings and
are therefore ill-equipped to fully enter into His will.
At the University where I used to work, the Criminal Justice
Department offered a Cadet Class. Once in a while I saw the training
of the cadets. They would receive all the necessary knowledge,
grueling training, and strict discipline in classrooms and firing range.
Once trained and equipped, they qualified to be employed as police
officers. The officers' uniforms, badges and side-arms then give them
the proper authority to perform their duties. Without proper training
and discipline, the power bestowed by the uniforms, badges and side-
arms can wreak absolute havoc instead!
The in-breathing of the Holy Spirit in John 20 takes place in the daily
training and discipline to constitute the character of Christ into the
believers. On the other hand, the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit gives
them the power and authority to carry out their duties.
Most Christians over-emphasize and diligently pursue the Pentecostal
experience in Acts 2 while paying little to no attention to the in-
breathing of the Holy Spirit in John 20. Little wonder there is so much
confusion in the Christian world.
In Acts 2, Peter quoted 3 passages from the Old Testament: Joel 2,
Psm. 16, and Psm. 110. There seems to be a spiritual progression in
these 3 quotations.
Joel 2 was quoted to explain to the bewildered unbelievers what has
happened to the disciples of Christ – “These men are not drunk as you
suppose…” (v. 15). Peter then listed the various phenomenon that
men, women, young men, old men, and bondslaves would manifest
when emboldened by the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. Then Peter
made a deliberate turn to focus on Jesus (vv. 22-23). Suddenly,
“these men” were put in the background in favor of “this Man” – Jesus
in vv. 22-24. Then he quoted Psm. 16: “I was always beholding the
Lord in My presence; for He is at My right hand…” (vv. 25-28).
While it is good and necessary for men to be clothed with power from
on high, all the noise, thrill and exhilaration of the out-pouring of the
Holy Spirit must give way to a complete obedience and attention to
THIS MAN – CHRIST! All else simply must fade into the background
and out of sight. All Pentecostal experience with its glitter and
excitement must come to a screeching halt and let Christ and His
presence take over our being for real progress to take place.
Real power is not an outward thing. Real power is measured by how
close we are to His presence. How intimate our relationship with Him
determines how much power we have – “As your days are, so shall
your power be.” Do you crave for power? Seek His presence. Seek to
enter into the inner chamber with Him. Seek to have a normal daily
life with Him.
On the mount of transfiguration, in the midst of all the glitter and
excitement of a glorified Jesus with Moses and Elijah by His side, the
lone voice of solemn command was, “This is My beloved Son, hear
Him!” After the exhilaration subsided, they “saw no one but Jesus
only.” The Lord is not looking for those who get excited about the out-
pouring of the Holy Spirit, those who possess extraordinary gift of the
Holy Spirit, or miracle workers. He is looking for people who see
“Jesus only”! He is looking for people who have a normal and intimate
relationship with Christ.
When putting these two quotes from Joel 2 and Psm. 16 side by side,
one begins to see a distinct difference: Joel 2 is all about “these men”
and their respective actions. Psm. 16 is all about “this Man,” Christ
and His sweet and quiet presence. Joel 2 is the Outer Court
experience, and Psm. 16 is the Inner Sanctum experience.
All busyness, services, and labor take place in the Outer Court. All
labor and strife cease in the Inner Sanctum. In the Holy of Holies,
there is nothing but the Lord’s presence – “I was always beholding the
Lord in My presence…in Thy presence is the fullness of joy” (Acts 2:25,
28). It is easy to see a spiritual progression from v. 15 to v. 28. We
must learn to press on from the Pentecostal excitement to the inner
stillness in His presence. Then and only then can real power be
harnessed for service.
Peter gives his final scripture quotation from Psm. 110: “The Lord said
to My Lord ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a
footstool for Thy feet’” (Acts 2:34-35). At once we see the
enthronement, kingship, ruling and reign of Christ. Christ is above all
and in all. All enemies, all flesh have been completely subdued.
Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord! This is the final stage and consummate revelation of Christ –
Little did we know that on the blessed day of the out-pouring of the
Holy Spirit, Peter had charted a course for the new-born baby Church.
Pentecost, as wonderful as it is, signaled only a beginning and not the
end as some Christians make it. Rightfully, we should excitedly
declare, “NOW, THAT’S A BABY,” nevertheless, let’s be impressed that
the Holy Spirit has prepared a path for the Church – the path of life.
It is a hidden path, or David would not have said, “Thou will show me
the path of life…” (Acts 2:28a; Psm:16:11a). May our prayer be,
“Lord, reveal the path of life to me. Make known the path of life to
The Closed Door
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