Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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2.1 God’s Spirit

As God is a real, personal being with feelings and emotions, it is to be expected that He will have some way of sharing His desires and feelings with us, His children, and of acting in our lives in a way that will be consistent with His character. God does all of these things by His “spirit”. If we wish to know God and have an active relationship with Him, we need to know what this “spirit of God” is, and how it operates.

It isn’t easy to define exactly what the word “spirit” means. If you went to a wedding, for example, you might comment, “There was a really good spirit there!” By this you mean that the atmosphere was good, somehow everything about the wedding was good; everyone was smartly dressed, the food was nice, people spoke kindly to each other, the bride looked beautiful, etc. All those various things made up the “spirit” of the wedding. Likewise the spirit of God somehow summarises everything about Him. The Hebrew word translated “spirit” in the Old Testament strictly means “breath” or “power”; thus God’s spirit is His “breathing”, the very essence of God, reflecting His mind. We will give examples of how the word “spirit” is used about someone’s mind or disposition in Study 4.3. That the spirit does not just refer to the naked power of God is evident from Rom. 15:19: “the power of the spirit of God”.

It is a common Bible teaching that how a man thinks is expressed in his actions (Prov. 23:7; Mt. 12:34); a little reflection upon our own actions will confirm this. We think of something and then we do it. Our ‘spirit’ or mind may reflect upon the fact that we are hungry and desire food. We see a banana going spare in the kitchen; that desire of the ‘spirit’ is then translated into action - we reach out for the banana, peel it and eat. This simple example shows why the Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ means both the breath or mind, and also power. Our spirit, the essential us, refers to our thoughts and therefore also to the actions which we take to express those thoughts or disposition within us. On a far more glorious scale, God’s spirit is the same; it is the power by which He displays His essential being, His disposition and purpose. God thinks and therefore does things. “As I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Is. 14:24).


Many passages clearly identify God’s spirit with His power. In order to create the earth, “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen. 1:2,3).

God’s spirit was the power by which all things, e.g. light, were made. “By His spirit He has created the heavens; His hand has formed the crooked serpent” (Job 26:13). A comparison of Mt. 12:28 and Lk. 11:20 shows that “the finger of God” and “the spirit of God” are parallel - God in action is His spirit. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Ps. 33:6). God’s spirit is therefore described as follows.

§          His breath

§          His word

§          His finger

§          His hand

It is therefore His power by which He achieves all things. For example, believers are born again by God’s will (Jn. 1:13), which is by His spirit (Jn. 3:3-5). His will is put into operation by the spirit. Speaking of the entire natural creation, we read: “You send forth your spirit, they are created: and (thereby) you renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:30). This spirit/power is also the sustainer of all things, as well as the means of their creation. It is easy to think that this tragic life stumbles on without this active input of God’s spirit. Job, a man who became weary of this life, was reminded of this by another prophet: “If he (God) gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust” (Job 34:14,15). When pulling out of a similar trough of depression, David asked God to continue to uphold him with this spirit, i.e. to preserve his life (Ps. 51:12).

We shall see in Study 4.3 that the spirit given to us and all creation is what sustains our life. We have “the breath of the spirit of life” within us (Gen. 7:22 A.V. mg.) given to us by God at birth (Ps. 104:30; Gen. 2:7). This makes Him “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 27:16 cf. Heb. 12:9). Because God is the life force which sustains all creation, His spirit is present everywhere. David recognised that through His spirit God was constantly present with him wherever he went, and through that spirit/power He was able to know every corner of David’s mind and thinking. Thus God’s spirit is the means by which He is present everywhere, although He personally is located in heaven.

 “You know my sitting down and standing up, you understand my thought far off... Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? If I dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there... your right hand (i.e. through the spirit) shall hold me” (Ps. 139:2,7,9,10).

A proper understanding of this subject reveals God to us as a powerful, active being. Many people have grown up with a vague ‘belief’ in God, but in reality ‘God’ is just a concept in their minds, a black box in part of the brain. An understanding of the true God and His very real presence all around us by His spirit can totally change our concept of life. We are surrounded by the spirit, constantly witnessing its actions, which reveal God to us. David found the encouragement of all this absolutely mind-blowing: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Ps. 139:6). Yet responsibilities come with such knowledge; we have to accept that our thinking and actions are totally open to God’s view. As we examine our position before Him, especially when thinking about baptism, we need to bear this in mind. God’s majestic words to Jeremiah apply to us, too: “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? says the Lord. Do not I fill (by the spirit) heaven and earth?” (Jer. 23:24).

The Holy Spirit

We have seen that God’s spirit is a vast concept to grasp; it is His mind and disposition, and also the power by which He puts His thoughts into operation. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7); and so God is His thoughts, in that sense He is His spirit (Jn. 4:24), although this does not mean that God is not personal (see Digression 1). To help us grapple with this vastness of God’s spirit, we sometimes read of His “Holy Spirit”.

The phrase “Holy Spirit” is to be found almost exclusively in the New Testament. In the A.V. the name “Holy Ghost” is often used, but it should always be translated as “Holy Spirit”, as modern versions make clear. This is equivalent to the Old Testament phrases “the spirit of God” or “the spirit of the Lord”. This is clear from passages such as Acts 2, which records the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Peter explained that this was a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, in which it is described as the pouring out of “my (God’s) spirit” (Acts 2:17). The main fulfilment of this will be when Jesus returns (Is. 32:15,16). Again, Lk. 4:1 records that Jesus “being full of the Holy Spirit” returned from Jordan; later in the same chapter Jesus links this with Is. 61: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me”. In both cases (and in many others) the Holy Spirit is equated with the Old Testament term “the spirit of God”.

Notice, too, how the Holy Spirit is paralleled with the power of God in the following passages.

§          “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you (Mary), and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you” (Lk. 1:35)

§          “The power of the Holy Spirit...mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the spirit of God” (Rom. 15:13,19)

§          “Our gospel (preaching) power, and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 1:5).

§          The promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples was spoken of as their being “endued with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).

§          Jesus himself had been “anointed...with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38).

§          The “promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5) is defined as “power from on high” in Lk. 24:49. Hence the disciples received power after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8).

§          Paul could back up his preaching with undeniable displays of God’s power: “My speech and my preaching demonstration of the spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4).

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||