Your word is a lamp
for my feet and a light
for my path.
Psalms 119:105

any Bible question, get Bible ANSWERS from a real person,
more about your Bible!
The Spirit of Man

The word "spirit" in our Common Version Bibles translates the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma; and hence to rightly appreciate the word spirit in God's Word we must keep always in memory the meaning attached to the originals, which it translates. "Spirit" primarily means wind, and secondarily was made to apply to any invisible power. In connection with God we saw that it signifies that he is powerful but invisible; and used in reference to God's influence and operation, it implies that they are by an invisible power. It is applied to mind because it is a power that is invisible, intangible; words are also invisible, yet powerful; life, although all-important and all pervading, is an invisible power or quality, like electricity: hence the word "spirit" is applied to all of these various things. As a result, we have the Scriptures speaking of the spirit of our minds, the invisible power of the mind; the spirit of a man, a man's mental powers and will; the spirit of life, the power of living, which actuates our bodies and all creation; the Spirit of God, the power or influence which God exerts, either upon animate or inanimate things; the spirit of wisdom, a wise mind; the spirit of love, a mind or disposition actuated by love; a spirit of evil and of malice, a mind or disposition actuated by maliciousness; the spirit of truth, the influence or power exerted by the truth; the spirit of the world, the influence or power which the world exerts. Likewise, heavenly beings are described as spirit beings, that is, invisible beings, possessed of power, intelligence, etc. This is applicable, not only to God, the Father, of whom our Lord Jesus said, "God is a Spirit," but it is applicable also to our Lord Jesus since his resurrection, for of him it is declared, "Now the Lord is that Spirit." It is applied also to angels and to the Church, which is assured that in the first resurrection each overcomer shall have a spirit body. It is applied in the Scriptures also to Satan and his associates, spirit beings, invisible, yet powerful.

Spirit in the New Testament

In considering the use of the word spirit in connection with man, we remark:

(1) The words "spirit" and "spiritual" in the New Testament are often used to refer to (a) the will, especially to the new mind of the "saints," begotten by the Word and Spirit of God. The "new creatures in Christ" are called to a change of nature, from human to spiritual, and are promised that if faithful they shall in the resurrection have (b) spirit bodies like unto Christ's resurrection body, and like unto the heavenly Father's glorious person. In view of this, their future prospect, the hope of the Church is designated as (c) spiritual and heavenly, in contrast with the hopes and promises to which the world of mankind will become heirs during the Millennium. Spirit is also used (d) in referring to angels, who by nature are spirit beings--not flesh beings. But the thought of invisibility always attaches to the words "spirit" and "spiritual" whenever and wherever used.

A few illustrations of such uses of these words follow:

(a) "Paul purposed in the spirit [pneuma--mind, will]... to go to Jerusalem." Acts 19:21

(a) "Paul's spirit [pneuma--mind, feelings] was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." Acts 17:16

(a) "Paul was pressed in spirit [pneuma--in mind, he was mentally energized] and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ." Acts 18:5

(a) "[Apollos] was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit [pneuma--of ardent mind] he spake and taught diligently." Acts 18:25

(a) "God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit [pneuma--my new mind, my new heart, my renewed will] in the gospel of his Son." Rom. 1:9

(a) "Glorify God in your body and in your spirit [pneuma-- mind] which are God's." 1 Cor. 6:20

(a) "I verily as absent in body but present in spirit [pneuma--mentally] have judged already as though I were present." 1 Cor. 5:3

(a) "A meek and quiet spirit [pneuma--mind, disposition]." 1 Pet. 3:4

(b) "It is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual [pneumatikos] body." 1 Cor. 15:44

(b) "There is an animal body and there is a spiritual [pneumatikos] body." 1 Cor. 15:44

(b) "That was not first which is spiritual [pneumatikos]." 1 Cor. 15:46

(b) "Afterward that which is spiritual [pneumatikos]." 1 Cor. 15:46

(c) "To be spiritually minded [pneuma--to have a mind controlled by God's holy Spirit or will] is life and peace." Rom. 8:6

(c) "Ye which are spiritual [pneumatikos--spirit begotten and possessed of the new mind] restore such an one in the spirit [pneuma--disposition] of meekness." Gal. 6:1

(c) "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings [pneumatikos--blessings of a spirit kind] in heavenly privileges in Christ." Eph. 1:3

(c) "Be filled with the spirit [pneuma--the holy Spirit of God] speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs [pneumatikos--songs in accord with your new spirit]." Eph. 5:18,19

(c) "That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding [pneumatikos-- understanding of all matters connected with your new spiritual relationship to God and his plan]." Col. 1:9

(c) "Ye are built up a spiritual household [pneumatikos--a family or household of a spirit order or kind]." 1 Pet. 2:5

(d) "A damsel possessed of a spirit [pneuma--an invisible power] of divination"--through fellowship with the fallen spirit-beings. Acts 16:16

(d) "Paul...turned and said to the spirit [pneuma--the evil spirit-being possessing the woman] I command thee... to come out of her." Acts 16:18

(d) "The evil spirits [pneuma] went out of them." Acts 19:12,13

(d) "And the evil spirit [pneuma] answered and said." Acts 19:15

(d) "The Sadducees say that there is...neither angel nor spirit [pneuma--spirit being]." Acts 23:8

(d) "If a spirit [pneuma] or an angel hath spoken to him let us not fight against God." Acts 23:9

Spirit in the Old Testament

(2) The word "spirit" is used of mankind in general, especially in the Old Testament; but always either with reference to (e) the spirit of life, the animating spark which God first enkindled in Adam and which thence (impaired) descended to all his posterity--which is an invisible power or quality; or (f) the spirit of the mind, the will--an invisible power which controls the life.

Ruach, Pneuma--an Animating Power

When speaking of man's creation it is the spirit of life that is understood--the breath of life. The Scriptures clearly show that this spirit of life is common to all God's creatures, and is not possessed exclusively by man, as the following Scripture quotations will clearly demonstrate.

(e) "All flesh wherein is the breath of life [ruach--the spirit or breath of life of all flesh]." Gen. 6:17; 7:15

(e) "All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life [margin, ruach--the spirit or power of life]." Gen. 7:22

(e) "The spirit of Jacob their father revived [ruach--the vital or life powers of Jacob revived]." Gen. 45:27

(e) "And when he [Samson] had drunk, his spirit [ruach] came again and he revived [his strength, vigor, energy returned to him]." Judges 15:19

(e) "In whose hand is...the breath [ruach] of all mankind. [The spirit of life of all mankind is in the divine power]." Job 12:10

(e) "O God, the God of the spirits [ruach--life-power, spirit of life] of ALL FLESH, shall one man sin and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?" Num. 16:22

The theory that the distinction between man and beast consisted in a different spirit of life, a different kind of life, and that at death the one went up and the other down seems to have been very old amongst the world's philosophers; for we find Solomon, the wise man, querying:

(e) "Who knoweth [who can prove] that the spirit [ruach-- spirit of life] of man goeth upward and that the spirit [ruach--spirit of life] of the beast goeth downward to the earth?" (Eccl. 3:19-21) Solomon's own understanding he gives just previously, saying:

(e) "That which befalleth the sons of men [death] befalleth beasts; even one [the same] thing befalleth them: as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath [ruach--spirit of life, breath of life]; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast"--in this respect, in the matter of having a different kind of life--his pre-eminence must be sought and found elsewhere, as we shall see.

(e) "Into thine hand I commit my spirit [ruach--spirit of life or vital energy]." Psa. 31:5

This was the prophetic declaration of our Lord Jesus' dying words. He had received the spirit of life from the Father as a gift: he had, in obedience to the Father's plan, become a man to be man's Redeemer: and when yielding up his spirit of life or vital energy, he declared his reliance upon God's promise to give the spirit of life again, by a resurrection.

Mankind received the spirit of life from God, the fountain of life, through father Adam. Adam forfeited his right to the power or spirit of life by disobedience, and gradually relinquished his hold upon it--dying slowly for nine hundred and thirty years. Then the body returned to the dust as it was before creation, and the spirit of life, the privilege of living, the power or permission of living, returned to God who gave that privilege or power: just as any contingent privilege or favor returns to the giver if its conditions are not complied with. (Eccl. 12:7) Nothing in this text implies that the spirit of life "wings its flight back to God," as some would represent; for the spirit of life is not an intelligence, nor a person, but merely a power or privilege which has been forfeited and hence reverts to the original giver of that power or privilege. The thought is that man having sinned has no further life-rights: the return of his forfeited life-rights to God, and the return of his flesh to dust, reduces his condition to exactly what it was before he was created.

But as our Lord Jesus had hope in the divine promise for a return of his "spirit of life" or life powers and rights under divine arrangement, so by reason of our Lord's redemptive sacrifice certain hopes and promises are opened to all mankind through "Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant." (Heb. 12:24) Hence believers "sorrow not as others who have no hope." Our Redeemer purchased the spirit of life-rights which father Adam had forfeited for himself and all his family. Now, therefore, believers can for themselves (and, by a knowledge of God's plan, for others also) commit their spirits (their powers of life) to God's hand also, as did our Lord and as did Stephen--full of faith that God's promise of a resurrection would be fulfilled. A resurrection will mean to the world a reorganization of a human body, and its vivifying or quickening with life-energy, the spirit of life (Hebrew, ruach; Greek, pneuma). To the Gospel Church, sharers in the "first [chief] resurrection," it will mean the impartation of the spirit of life or life-energy (Hebrew, ruach; Greek, pneuma) to a spirit body. 1 Cor. 15:42-45

In that graphic picture of earthly resurrection furnished us in Ezekiel's prophecy (37:5-10,13,14) the relationship of the body and the spirit of life, "the breath," is clearly presented. It matters not that the prophet uses this merely as a symbol, it nevertheless shows (proves) that a human organism has no life until it receives the ruach--the breath of life-- which, as elsewhere shown, is common to all animals, none of whom can live without it. Let us notice Ezekiel's statements very critically, as follows:

(e) "I will cause breath [ruach--spirit of life, life-energy] to enter into you, and ye shall live."

(e) "And I will...bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath [ruach--spirit of life, life-energy] in you, and ye shall live."

(e) "And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath [ruach--spirit of life, life-energy] in them."

(e) "And he said unto me, Prophesy unto the wind [ruach--spirit of life, life-energy--margin, breath] and say unto the wind [ruach--spirit of life, breath of life], Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds [ruach] O breath [ruach--breath or spirit of life], and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

(e) "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath [ruach--spirit of life, breath of life, living energy] came into them, and they lived."

(e) "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit [ruach--spirit of life, breath of life] in you, and ye shall live."

This spirit of life or power of life given to Adam by his Creator he was privileged to keep forever if obedient. He forfeited this right by disobedience, and the right to life reverted to the great Giver; not as a person, nor as a thing, but as a right or privilege, the spirit of life returns or reverts to God, who gave that right or privilege conditionally, and whose conditions were violated. Eccl. 12:7

(e) "No man hath power over the spirit [ruach--spirit of life, spark of life] to retain the spirit [ruach--spirit of life], breath of life." Eccl. 8:8

By God's grace those forfeited life-rights or privileges which each man surrenders to God in death have all been purchased with the precious blood, and the purchaser is announced as the new Life-giver, regenerator or father for the race, who will give life, and that more abundantly, to all who will ultimately receive him.

We will give but one instance from the New Testament:

(e) "The body without the spirit [pneuma--life-spark, breath of lives] is dead." Jas. 2:26

Ruach, Pneuma--the Mind, the Will

Since the mind or will is an invisible power or influence, it is represented by the same words in the Hebrew and Greek languages, as the following examples will show:

(f) "Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit [ruach--mind, disposition]." 1 Sam. 1:15

(f) "A fool uttereth all his mind [ruach--plans, thoughts, mind, purpose]." Prov. 29:11

(f) "My spirit [ruach--mind, courage] was overwhelmed." Psa. 77:3

(f) "My spirit [ruach--mind] made diligent search." Psa. 77:6

(f) "He that is of a faithful spirit [ruach--disposition, mind]." Prov. 11:13

(f) "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits [ruach--the mind, thoughts, motives]." Prov. 16:2

(f) "Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit [ruach--disposition, will, mind] before a fall." Prov. 16:18

(f) "Better to be of an humble spirit [ruach--mind, disposition]." Prov. 16:19

(f) "Vanity and vexation of spirit [ruach--mind]." Eccl. 6:9

(f) "Patient in spirit [ruach--mind, disposition]...proud in spirit [ruach--mind, disposition]...hasty in thy spirit [ruach--mind, disposition]." Eccl. 7:8,9

A few illustrations from the New Testament:

(f) "The child [John] grew and waxed strong in spirit [pneuma--mind, character]." Luke 1:80

(f) "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit [pneuma-- mind, disposition, character] serving the Lord." Rom. 12:11

(f) "Now you have received not the spirit [pneuma--disposition, mind] of the world." 1 Cor. 2:12

(f) "I had no rest in my spirit [pneuma--mind]." 2 Cor. 2:13

(f) "Be renewed in the spirit [pneuma--character, disposition] of your mind." Eph. 4:23

(f) "The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit [pneuma-- mind, disposition]." 1 Pet. 3:4

These Scriptural uses of these original words show that our English word spirit is a good equivalent, for we not only speak of the spirit of life, but also of a gentle spirit, a good spirit, an angry spirit or mood, a bitter spirit and a fiery spirit: and we also use these expressions in respect to the lower animals as well as man. The fact we are proving is abundantly demonstrated--namely, that the spirit is not the real man, nor another man, but that this word, when used in reference to man's creation, signifies simply the life-spark or life-power.