THE SPIRIT OF GODBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
Through the centuries, there has been much disagreement and confusion as to who or what is the spirit of God. We live in an age where many believe that the spirit of God is an ethereal, mystical, essence, force, or power that is beyond understanding. However, the spirit of God is not a great mystery nor is it beyond understanding; it can be understood.
Although the Bible does not give a scientific or technical explanation of what the spirit of God is, there are many scriptures that show many of its attributes, functions, and powers through examples of what has been and can be accomplished with it and through it.
Therefore, by compiling and categorizing much of what the Bible says about the spirit, it is possible to make some sound assumptions and conclusions as to what the spirit is, what it does, what part it plays in God's awesome plan and purpose for humanity, and how to use it once a person has access to it.
THE WORD 'SPIRIT'
Most English translations of the Bible use the words 'holy ghost' and 'holy spirit' in an attempt to assign the attribute of personality to the spirit of God. However, these words do not convey the conceptual intent of the original Hebrew and Greek words that define the spirit of God. Moreover, the original words used to define the spirit of God in their original form alone cannot convey a true understanding of what the spirit of God is.
The Hebrew Word 'Ruwach'
The Hebrew word for spirit is 'ruwach', which means 'wind', 'breath', 'mind', or 'spirit'. As used in the Old Testament, 'ruwach' describes both physical and spiritual things.
The Greek Word 'Pneuma'
The Greek word for spirit is 'pneuma', which means 'wind', 'breath', 'life', 'psyche', 'mind', or 'spirit'. 'Pneuma' is used to describe both physical and spiritual things.
A Difficult Concept
Because the spirit of God does not originate in the physical existence and is from another dimension of time and space, it is impossible for humans to fully comprehend or understand the reality of the spirit with its limitless power and complexity.
Understanding spiritual concepts and realities is made even more difficult because of our limited experience with and knowledge of the spirit world. Because humans do not have an equivalent counterpart of the spirit-realm of existence or a reference point from which to draw a clear, detailed image or explanation of what 'spirit' is, the writers of the Bible were inspired to use the only words with which they could describe the concept of an energy, force, and power that is invisible yet has the ability to influence and make a visible impact on the physical existence.
However, we are told by many scriptures that the children of God can understand spiritual matters; therefore, it follows that the concepts and realities of the spirit can be explained and understood by using the Bible as a guide.
A Key Understanding
An important key to understanding what is meant when the scriptures speak of the holy spirit, the spirit of God, the spirit, his spirit, the Father's spirit, and Christ's spirit is to first understand that these descriptive terms are sometimes used to describe more that one thing and what is described can only be determined from the context of the scripture in which the term is used.
Moreover, if what the Father has inspired to be written about him and his spirit is carefully studied, it is possible to understand what the spirit of God is.
Dimensions of Time and Space
The Bible clearly describes at least two dimensions of existence and alludes to others. The two dimensions of existence that concern humanity are the physical dimension in which humanity exists and the spiritual dimension in which God the Father and Jesus Christ exist.
The New Testament writers were inspired to record the great difference between the physical and the spiritual dimensions of existence many times. In Paul's letter to the Church at Corinth, he carefully explains that there is a difference between the physical and the spiritual existence.
"All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars. For one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sewn in corruption. It is raised in incorruption. It is sewn in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sewn in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sewn a natural body; It is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (vs.39-44 KJV). See Lk.24:39.
Paul explains that there is a great difference between spiritual and physical dimensions of existence, and that the spiritual dimension is superior to the physical dimension.
In verses 45-49, Paul again shows that the Father intends to transform those called to salvation from a physical life-form to a spiritual life-form:
"So it has been written, 'The man Adam was made a living soul,' the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But not the spiritual first, but the natural; afterward the spiritual. The first man was out of the earth. The second Man was the Lord out of heaven. Such is the earthy man, such also the earthy ones. And such the heavenly Man, such also the heavenly ones. And as we bore the image of the earthy man, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man" (vs.45-49 Para.). See also Rom.8:11-14; 1.Jn.4:10-16.
There is a distinct difference between the physical and the spiritual existence; the first Adam (man) was made a physical being of the physical dimension of time and space, the second Adam (a son of God) will be composed of spirit, which is of the spirit dimension of time and space.
THE FATHER IS SPIRIT
While speaking to a woman of Samaria, Jesus explains that there would come a time when the worship system that existed then would be abolished, and those who worshiped God would do so in spirit and truth:
"The woman said to him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship. Jesus said to her, Woman believe me that an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews'. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such ones that worship him. God is spirit, and the ones that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (vs.19-24 Para.).
The English word 'spirit' used here is translated from the Greek word 'pneuma', which means, 'wind', 'breath', 'life', 'psyche', 'mind', or 'spirit'.
The word 'spirit' in the context of Jesus' conversation with the woman can only refer to the spirit dimension of existence. In no way can it refer to an attitude, method, or philosophy of worship because there are many other Greek words that could express these concepts.
God the Father is a spirit-being who inhabits a dimension of time and space that is different from the dimension of time and space that humanity inhabits. All beings who inhabit the spirit-realm of existence are composed of a substance belonging to that existence, just as physical beings are composed of the substance of this dimension of time and space. Therefore, the Father is spirit because he inhabits the spirit-realm of existence.
The scriptures tell us that within the spiritual realm of existence there are many different types of spirit-beings: The Father and Christ who are immortal beings and other beings who are eternal, but not immortal. Immortal beings inherently possess the highest form of existence, which is life that springs forth from itself and never dies or decays; they are not dependent on any other source to sustain them. However, eternal beings have life that is sustained by God the Father.
All who are of the spirit realm are composed of spirit, and all who are of the physical realm, are composed of both physical and spiritual substances. See Gen.2:7-8; Deut.3:19; Job 32:8; Ecc.12:5-7.
THE FATHER HAS A SPIRIT
Nowhere in the Bible is there a clear scripture that says the Father has a spirit other than his holy spirit. However, there is much circumstantial evidence that clearly points to the Father having a quality of being which does not fit the scriptural definition of the holy spirit.
The reason this knowledge is important is that, without understanding that spirit-beings have a spiritual essence/quality that is distinctly different from the holy spirit, it would be difficult to understand exactly what is being spoken of when the phrases 'the spirit of God' and 'the spirit of Christ' are used in the Bible.
The Creator's Spirit
The Book of Genesis shows that the Creator God has both emotion and personality that is referred to as his spirit and his heart:
"And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he is also flesh: yet his days will be an hundred and twenty years. . .. God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart" (Gen.6:3;5-6 KJV).
While speaking of the Creator God's awesome knowledge, Isaiah shows the spirit he speaks of is the Creator's intelligence, not his spirit-power:
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor has taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?" (Isa.40:13-14 KJV).
The Spirit of Christ
"And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, since the spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the spirit of Christ this one is not his. But Christ is in you, the body is indeed dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom.8:8-10 Para.).
For a person to be a son of God, the Father's holy spirit and the spirit of Christ must be in them. Moreover, this clearly shows that Christ has a quality described as 'his spirit', which is different from the holy spirit.
The Human Spirit
"But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding" (Job 32:8 KJV).
"The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, says the Lord, which stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him" (Zech.12:1 KJV). See also Ecc.12:5-7.
Human beings have a 'human spirit', which includes the human mind that has the capacity for thought, emotion, character, and personality. Moreover, the human spirit is part of what makes us human. See Gen. 41:8; Ex.35:21; Num.5:30; 1.Sam.1:15; Job 7:11; Psa.51:10; Matt.26:41.
THE FATHER HAS SPIRIT-POWER
Not only is the Father a spirit-being with an individual personality but also he has an energy, force, and power that is described in the Bible as the 'holy spirit', the 'spirit of God', and the 'spirit.'
One of the mistakes many people make in trying to understand the holy spirit is separating this spirit energy and power from God the Father and identifying it as a separate entity. However, this energy, force, and power is not a separate entity; it is something that belongs to the Father and is under his absolute control and administration.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ENERGY AND POWER
It is unfortunate that in most English translations of the Bible the holy spirit has been referred to in the masculine gender as 'he' and 'him' instead of 'it', which is the correct translation.
The holy spirit is not some mystical, ethereal, or philosophic thought. The Father's spirit is real, tangible energy and power that belongs to the Father, resides within him, and is sent from him to dwell within his children. The holy spirit is not a person; it is energy and power. Therefore, the spirit should be referred to as 'it' rather than 'he' or 'him'. This spirit energy and power is not a separate entity; it is something that the Father distributes and shares as he desires.
In the Beginning
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen.1:1-2 KJV).
These first few verses show the awesome power of God's holy spirit. Through this power, the Creator God brought this dimension of time and space and all things that exist within it into existence. After this creation, God reformed his creation by this same power in preparation for the creation of humanity.
In the New Testament, we are told that it was Jesus Christ who was the Creator of all things:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God , and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made" (Jn.1:1-3 KJV).
"And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph.3:9 KJV). See Jn.33:4.
"Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets [in visions, dreams, and face-to-face], telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates [Greek: 'phero', i.e.,'to uphold' or 'to rule'] the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and to clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven" (Heb.1:1-3 LBP). See Job 26:12-1; Psa.62:11; 65:6; Rom.16:25.
Jesus now controls and rules all that he created for the Father through the power of the Father's holy spirit:
"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat upon the throne, and worship him that lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying, 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created" (Rev.4:10-11 KJV).
It is through the use of the energy and power of the holy spirit that all things and beings, whether spirit or physical, are able to exist and exert spiritual and/or physical action and influence. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their loyal spirit creatures exert a positive and righteous influence upon the physical and spiritual existence through the power of the holy spirit. However, disloyal and evil spirits exert a negative influence with this same spirit-power.
The first chapter of Genesis shows that it was by the power of the spirit that the physical realm came into existence. And in the New Testament, scriptures show that it was God the Father, the Supreme Sovereign, who directed Jesus Christ to create all that exists. Therefore, it is possible to conclude the following about the holy spirit:
THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM ADAM TO CHRIST
Below are a few of the many references which show that the Creator placed the holy spirit within some individuals in order to give them the power and ability to carry out certain tasks.
"And Pharaoh said unto his servants, can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, for as much as God has showed you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are" (Gen.41:38-39 KJV).
Moses and the Elders
"And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it to the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease" (Num.11:25 KJV). See also Isa.63:11.
"And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workman- ship" (Ex.31:1-3 KJV).
"And the spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come to you, that you do as occasion serves you; for God is with you" (1.Sam.10:6-7 KJV).
Elijah And Elisha
"And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, ask what I shall do for you, before I be taken away from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. And he said, you have asked a hard thing . . ..And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, the spirit of Elijah does rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him" (2.Kg.2:9-15 KJV).
See also Psa.51:11-12, Num.27:18; Jdg.6:34, Isa.63:1-11; Dan.4:8-9,18.
John the Baptist
"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel" (Lk.1:80 NIV). Also see Lk.1:15.
Jesus as a Child
"And the child grew, and became strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom. And the grace of God was upon him" (Lk.2:40 Para.).
Three Important Things To Note
There are three important things revealed about the holy spirit through these and other scriptures that speak of spirit-power being given to and working through individuals before the New Covenant.
1. From the time of Adam to the time of the end of the first covenant with national Israel, the Creator God placed his spirit within certain individuals to give them the power and ability to perform certain tasks for the God family.
2. The indwelling of this spirit-power gave these individuals certain abilities or enhanced the ones they already had. In some situations they were allowed to use the power of the spirit in supernatural ways to carry out their tasks.
3. The Father can impart his spirit to whomever he wants and for whatever purpose he wants. See Matt.19:26; Acts 5:32.
The following are some of the abilities imparted through the holy spirit to these individuals:
THE NEW COVENANT SPIRIT
Although the spirit of God that was given to individuals from the time of Adam to the time of the end of the first covenant with national Israel is the same spirit that is given today under the New Covenant, there are two major differences:
1. Before Jesus, no human had been transformed into a spiritual son of God. Now, the Father uses his spirit-power to transform those called to salvation into a New Creation.
2. Before Jesus, the indwelling of the holy spirit was a temporary state. Now, the spirit is given to dwell within a person forever as a part of an eternal agreement between the Father, Jesus Christ, and those called to salvation.
Both of these major differences concern the New Covenant relationship between God the Father, Jesus Christ, and each new member of the God family.
The Promise of the Spirit
Prior to and after his death and resurrection, Jesus promised to send the holy spirit to assist those whom the Father calls to salvation:
"If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will petition the Father, and he will give you another comforter that he may remain with you forever the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see him, nor know him. But you know him, for he abides with you, and shall be in you" (Jn.14:15-17 Para.). Also see Jn.16:13-14; Acts 1:4-8.
"And he said, Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day; and that this message of salvation should be taken from Jerusalem to all the nations; There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. You have seen these prophecies come true. And now I will send the holy spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don't begin telling others yetstay here in the city until the holy spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven" (Lk.24:46-49 LBP).
The English word 'power' in verse 49 is translated from the Greek word 'dunamis', which means 'power to perform'. This is the same power that Jesus had while he was on earth. It is the same kind of power through which he performed all of his great works, and it is the same kind of energy and power his followers will have in the end of the age.
The following are some very important things to take note of from John and Luke's account of Christ's promise to send the spirit of God:
It is through the power of his spirit that the Father literally transforms a person from the original human creation into a new and different being. The old person with only the spirit of man ceases to exist, and a new person is born who has the holy spirit dwelling within them. See Matt.3:1-7; 1.Pet.1:22 and our study paper concerning the New Creation.
In many places, this is referred to as the spirit of begettal, and the process of giving a person this spirit parallels the human conception and birth process to a certain extent.
Although still appearing to be human, a transformation has taken place that makes a person with the holy spirit different. This difference is that a person with the spirit of God has been transformed into a son of God with the genetic imprint of the God family. Although the child of God is not yet an immortal spirit-being that is totally composed of spirit, a person with the spirit of God is certainly a member of the spiritual family of God. And at some time in the future, this person will shed their body of flesh and become an immortal being with a body composed of spirit-substance. See 1.Cor.15:51-54; 1.Thes.4:13-17; Rev.20:6.
Each person who responds to God's call to salvation, repents, is baptized, and receives his holy spirit, can look forward to tremendous rewards and happiness forever as an immortal spirit-being in the Family of God.
The Word SPIRIT
No single meaning can be applied throughout the scriptures to the words 'holy spirit', the 'spirit' of God, 'the spirit', 'his spirit', 'the Father's spirit', 'Christ's spirit', and the 'human spirit.'
The word 'spirit' is used to describe more than one concept or thing, and what is described can only be determined from the context of the scripture in which the word is used. Each scripture containing the word 'spirit' must be viewed in its context with the following understanding:
The Holy Spirit
With the knowledge that the word 'spirit' is used to describe the Father's holy spirit, spirit-substance, and the mind, character, individuality and personality of the Father, Christ, and the children of God, the meaning of many difficult scriptures becomes clear.
Christ and the children of God have a spirit that is separate from the holy spirit; therefore, the Father must also have a spiritual quality that is separate from his holy spirit.
Although the Father and his Son Jesus Christ are spirit-beings who are composed of spirit substance, that has energy and power, they are unique individual beings. They are different from each other in power, glory, appearance, experiences, mannerisms, skills, talents, and personality. Each has his own unique mind and personality, which is described as 'spirit'. See Jn.14:28.
The word 'spirit' is used to describe the Father's holy spirit. Additionally it is used to describe a spirit-substance, the mind, the character, the individuality, and the personality of the Father, Christ, and the children of God.