Audio Worship "Breath, Wind, Spirit" Acts 2.1-21

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1589

May 28, 2023

Acts 2.1-21          Click here for audio worship!

Dr. Ed Pettus


Breath, Wind, Spirit


When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’


  • Breath


In the beginning God created all things and in Genesis 2.7 we read, then 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.” God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. Our breath begins with God. Yahweh = life, breath, being...all from God. That gift of breath continues as we inhale the gift of God and exhale the praise of God. It is the gift of life and breath, and it is given to all, a common grace, given until the last one is given. It is not our gift to keep but with each breath we give it up and receive the next gift of breath. It is no wonder that the Jews understand our breathing as a recognition and acknowledgment of God’s life giving breath and speaking the Name. Not only are we praising God with our breath, quietly speaking the name, but it is a gift we receive over and over. I’ve asked you in other sermons to try to hold the gift of breath, hold on to it, and there comes that moment when you have to let it go. We can only hold on to it for so long.

I take this a step further, and I trust that others have long before I thought about this, that when God spoke all things into existence it required His breath. We cannot speak without breath. We breath out our words. If you have ever had the breath knocked out of you, you know that for that moment of trying to catch your breath, you cannot speak. God spoke the world and all things into existence by His Word and by His breath. I’ll share three verses that highlight this understanding:


Romans 4.17 “in the presence of the God...who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

He “calls into existence”, that is, He speaks it, God breathes out a word of creation.


Acts 17.28 In him we live and move and have our being.”


1 Corinthians 8.6 “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”


All our life and our existence is due to the breath of life given us as it was given to Adam.

There is something else God has breathed out and into. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3.16). As you know, other translations use the word “inspired”, and that’s great, but the literal root of the word is God-breathed. Couple that with Hebrews 4.12, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is breathed out by God making it a living Word unlike any other words! I believe that means that God is still breathing life into us both with our physical breath and speaking His Word into our hearts and minds.

Before I get too far ahead of myself I want to explain why our outline for the day has these three words: breath, wind, spirit. These three words share something in common in both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament in that one word from each language is used for all three English words. Ruach in the Hebrew can be translated breath, wind, or spirit depending on the context in which it is used, and Pneuma in the Greek is the same situation. Pneuma is where we get the English for pneumatic, as in pneumatic tools, tools that function from air pressure, a mighty wind!

When God created and breathed into Adam, He in-winded, He gave something of a spirit of life. When God breathed His Word in what we call Scripture, it is filled with breath, wind, and Spirit. So there is something deeper in the original languages that can be drawn out of what we read in English. English has what is almost a limited precision to having three words for the one of Hebrew and Greek. The ancient languages often give us more depth and richness to words because they are more flexible in meaning. As we will see in other places in the Bible, context narrows down what is meant for these words, but the imaginative interpretation can take us beyond one meaning in Scripture.


  • Wind

With the term wind we look to John 3 and Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus. 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.5-8). The wind and the Spirit in the Greek are the same word, pneuma. But the context of what Jesus is saying enables us to see the comparison that Jesus is making for Nicodemus. The Spirit is like the wind in that it moves in mysterious ways. We cannot know where the wind comes from or where it goes. To be born again or born from above or born of the Spirit is a mysterious happening, like a wind blowing through your back yard. Where did it start? Where will it end? How does it move? We cannot see it, only the trees blowing in the wind tell us that the wind is here. So too with the Spirit of God, only the fruit of the Spirit tells us He is here, blowing through our lives like the wind.

When the Spirit of God came upon the disciples at Pentecost, it was “a sound like a mighty rushing wind.” The Holy Spirit had a sound! That sound was wind. The wind can be as mild as a breeze or as powerful as a hurricane. One of the joys of study is making connections in God’s Word and I’m not really sure what to make of these two verses from Psalm 148, but the Psalm is all about praising God. Verses 7 and 8 speak of the wind fulfilling God’s Word,


7Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

One possibility is that the wind is under the command of God. Something along the lines of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4.39, “’Peace, be still’, and the wind ceased.” But I think a more likely possibility is that the wind praises God in doing God’s will, that is, doing what wind is supposed to do, what wind was created to do. All the other creatures praise God by doing what they were created to do and so too does the fire and hail and snow and mist...and the stormy wind fulfilling God’s Word. Only humans have the capacity to reject what we were created to do. Perhaps we can learn from the wind to abide in God’s Will as we were created to do.


  • Spirit

The third word in our outline is Spirit. For the sake of Pentecost we are focusing particularly on the Holy Spirit. Let’s look first to Jesus’ words in John 14.25-26,

25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Holy Breath, the Holy Wind, but we know from the context of both John and Acts that the best English word here is Spirit. But think about that which is set apart, sacred, holy...God’s Spirit, breath, or wind builds a deeper meaning when we look to define what is possible with the sending of the Holy Spirit. Later in John’s Gospel Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22). Scholars think that was a foreshadowing of the fullness of the Spirit to come on Pentecost.

In John 14 Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Helper. Helper is what the Spirit does. It can be Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, and literally – comes to one’s aid, helps us. So on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Spirit was sent. He came with “a sound like a mighty rushing wind” and they were “filled with the Holy Spirit”. In the story we have wind, Spirit, and I would suggest we also have breath in all the speaking parts.


...began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (2.4).

...But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them (2.14).

...everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (2.21).

They have not had the breath knocked out of them, but the breath given to speak! Speaking in other tongues is breathing out the Word of God. Peter lifted up his voice, also breathing out the Word of God. Calling upon the Name of the Lord equals breathing out the Name! Every instance is a breath given by God, to speak, to preach, and to call on God. We call out the Name of the One who gives life and breath and Spirit. In essence, we are using the breath God gives to breath out His Name for our life and salvation. Those who fail to call out the Name of the life-giver have no life in them.

11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5.11-12).

God’s breath gives us life. God’s wind sustains life. God’s Spirit empowers abundant life. That is what we celebrate today. We give glory and praise and thanks to our life-giving God. Come Holy Spirit, fill us now! Amen.