In Matthew 1:20, Joseph is told to “take Mary home to be your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Is it strange to believe, then, that the Holy Spirit might have been involved in our conception too?
But the fact that our conception actually happened is surely proof of it, because what gave us life? Why did the fertilized egg we started off as decide to divide and create more living cells that automatically developed us into a little separate human?
Well, we wouldn’t be the first to wonder about this – or come up with an answer either – because in Job 33:4 Elihu told Job, “The Spirit of God has made me. And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” – just like God breathed into the first human in Genesis 2:7 to give him life too.
So the Holy Spirit was the Life-giver – a point backed up by Jesus himself in John 6:63 when he said, “It is the Spirit who gives life.” And the same “Spirit of God hovering over the waters” in Genesis 1:2, that gave life to all creation. In Scripture it’s made clear, then, that the Holy Spirit is the source of life.
The Spirit was just as much the source of life in Jesus too – in both his conception and his life from then on. And Jesus willingly put himself in that situation, by emptying himself of all his divine power and “making himself nothing,” Philippians 2:7. As a human, then, his life’s work was only possible because “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” Luke 4:18.
Which is why he “breathed on his disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” in John 20:22, so that their entire life’s work could be the product of the Holy Spirit too.
Receiving the Holy Spirit later in their lives, then, was like a second conception, but still for the same reason, that the Holy Spirit would be the source of life in them and in what they did from then on – just like the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism in Luke 3:22 to be the source of life in Jesus’ ministry as well.
In a human lifetime, therefore, there can be two conceptions by the Holy Spirit, the first in the fertilized egg that became who we are, and the second in our life’s work too.
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“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The 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 3:1-8, ESV)