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

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4.3 The Spirit of Man

There is an unfortunate confusion in many people’s minds between the soul and the spirit. This is aggravated by the fact that in some languages and Bible translations, the English words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ have only one equivalent. The ‘soul’ fundamentally referring to all the constituents of a person can sometimes refer to the spirit as well. However, normally there is a difference in meaning between ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ as used in the Bible; soul and spirit can be ‘divided ’ (Heb. 4:12).

The Hebrew and Greek words for ‘spirit’ (‘Ruach’ and ‘Pneuma’ respectively) are also translated in the following ways.

Life Spirit Mind Wind Breath

We have studied the idea of ‘spirit’ in Study 2.1. God uses His spirit to preserve the natural creation, including man. The spirit of God which is within man is therefore the life force within him. “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). “God breathed into (Adam’s nostrils) the breath (spirit) of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). Job speaks of “the breath of God” as being “in my nostrils” (Job 27:3 cf. Is. 2:22). The spirit of life within us is therefore given to us at birth, and remains as long as our body is alive. When God’s spirit is withdrawn from anything, it immediately perishes - the spirit is the life force. If God “gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. If you have understanding, hear this” (Job 34:14-16). The last sentence again hints that man finds this exposure of his real nature very hard to come to terms with.

When God takes away His spirit from us at death, not only does our body die, but our entire consciousness ceases. David’s appreciation of this led him to trust in God rather than in creatures as weak as man. Ps. 146:3-5 is a tough counter to the claims of humanism: “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth (the dust from which we are made); in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help”.

At death, “the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). We have shown earlier that God is present everywhere through His spirit. In this sense “God is Spirit” (Jn. 4:24). When we die we ‘breathe our last’ in the sense that God’s spirit within us departs from us. That spirit is absorbed into God’s spirit which is all around us; so at death “the spirit will return to God”.

Because God’s spirit sustains all of creation, this same process of death occurs to animals. Men and animals have the same spirit, or life force, within them. “What happens to the sons of men also happens to beasts; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one (i.e. the same) breath (spirit); man has no advantage over beasts” (Ecc. 3:19). The writer goes on to say that there is no discernible difference between where the spirit of men and animals goes (Ecc. 3:21). This description of men and animals having the same spirit and dying the same death, appears to allude back to the description of how both men and animals, who both had the spirit of life from God (Gen. 2:7; 7:15), were destroyed with the same death at the flood: “All flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life...died... all living things were destroyed” (Gen. 7:21-23). Note in passing how Ps. 90:5 likens death to the flood. The record in Genesis 7 clearly shows that in fundamental terms, man is in the same category as “all flesh... all living things”. This is due to his having the same spirit of life within him as they do.

Some have argued that the fact God breathed His Spirit into man means that by nature we have immortality within us. This is not so. The fact that God breathed into Adam the spirit/power of life meant that he became a living soul; but this fact is quoted in 1 Cor. 15:45 as proof that Adam was mortal; he was only a living soul, a living creature, but was mortal compared to the immortality of the Lord Jesus.

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 ||