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THE SPIRIT OF GOD
‘ … 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’. Genesis 1:2
Have you ever looked at the night sky and wondered – could all this have really come about by millions of chance happenings, such that everything has arrived in the right place; the earth exactly the right distance from the sun to support life;
the sun a great heat producing orb, so different from the earth and the moon yet vital for our existence; the moon, lifeless and arid yet capable of governing our seasons; all perfectly ordered, timed and utterly reliable.
And as we wonder, what of ourselves, seemingly so insignificant in the great order of things, yet capable of actions and thoughts far removed from the remainder of the animal kingdom? We may ponder - why? And how did all that we see, and much more that we cannot comprehend, come into being?
One of the things the Word of God can do is throw light on matters over which we can but speculate and theorize, and nowhere is this more evident than in understanding the workings of the invisible force that surrounds us, keeping everything in order with an accuracy upon which we rely for our existence.
We find that force in evidence at the very beginning of our Bibles as the above quotation from Genesis 1:2 confirms.
So, what is this spirit of God that was moving over the face of the waters?
Spirit, in the original Hebrew, is the word ‘ruach’ variously translated ‘air, blast, breath, tempest, wind, and spirit’. In the original Greek it is the word ‘Pneuma’ again rendered ‘breath, wind , spirit, and ‘ghost’ in the King James Version, but ‘spirit’ in more modern translations, and it is from ‘pneuma’ that we derive our word ‘pneumatic’. Both words speak of power not a person, and throughout the early chapters of Genesis we read of the way in which God used this power in His great acts of ordering the earth as a place suitable to receive his last act of creation - the formation of man,
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2
‘A living soul’ is creature as the original Hebrew ‘nephesh’ (soul) means. The word ‘breath’ in this reference is the same ‘ruach’ in the original and this is telling us that God used his breath, wind, power to cause man to live.
As with all of His creation there were no half measures - each creature was whole, complete and a distinctly recognizable species brought by God into an earth fully finished and able to support life; only man was given the ability to think, make choices, and determine things for himself, and he lived by virtue of the breath of life that God breathed into him. We should not read more into this than was intended. God was not giving man an immortal spark; he was a living being, not an ever living one; not perfect, but good in the sense that he was well made in common with all of God’s creation. He was capable of error and disobedience as the record goes on to show. Above all he was, in common with all of God’s creatures, subject to death as the Psalmist says,
29 … thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Psalm 104
This is a small, yet vital example of the power God exercises over all of His creative works, and over the elements which surround us. By its use He maintains and sustains every living thing, and we rely upon that daily, from the rising of the sun to its setting; to the ordering of seasons and the disposition of the planets. The Scriptures abound with examples of the way in which God has and is using His power.
When He decided to destroy the majority of the population in Noah’s day because man had corrupted His way on earth, it was He who caused the waters in the skies and deeps to come forth as He told Noah.
4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7
When He decided to cause the rains to cease it was He who dried the earth
1 … and God made a wind (ruach) to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; 2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; Genesis 8
This drying of the earth continued until finally Noah and his family were instructed to emerge, and to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ demonstrating God’s control over the elements, and over the lives of every living creature.
When God heard of the plight of the children of Israel at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters it was He who, using miraculous powers, performed extraordinary acts, even to holding back the waters of the Red Sea, until finally they were enabled to commence their long journey to the land promised to their forefathers. You can read of these miracles in Exodus chapters 7 to 14, works summed up in these words,
31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses. Exodus 14
Space precludes a consideration of the twenty or so miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha, to be found in 1Kings 17 to 2Kings 13 all performed through the power that God conferred upon them, works as diverse as causing a widow’s barrel of meal and cruse of oil never to fail throughout widespread famine, to the healing of Naaman’s leprosy, and the raising to life again of the son of the Shunammite.
There are many examples in the Old Testament Scriptures which demonstrate the extraordinary power God has at His disposal – all summed up in that simple word ‘spirit’ through which He has enabled faithful men to carry out many miraculous acts.
So, what is the Holy Spirit? Is it the same power or something different?
‘Holy’ in the Hebrew is the word ‘Quadosh’ meaning ‘separate’ or ‘set apart’, while in the Greek it is the word ‘Hagios’ having exactly the same meaning. An example of the use of this word in the Old Testament is to be found in Leviticus where Moses was told to say to the children of Israel,
26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. Leviticus 20
Again we find similar words in Deuteronomy
6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 7
The intention is clearly that they should be separate and distinct from others, and therefore God’s holy spirit is the same power but separated and concentrated for a particular purpose.
The outstanding example of this is seen in the conception of Jesus Christ when Mary was told that,
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1
Truly a miraculous event if ever there was one! This God given power was later conferred upon Christ at his baptism enabling him to prove, through his miraculous works, that he was indeed the Son of God, and therefore his words should have been respected by all. We find details of his life and works throughout the four Gospel records which we considered in our previous two articles below, entitled, ‘Understanding Jesus’.
The Holy Spirit rested many times upon others enabling them to make accurate prophecies of future events.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1
This power enabled them to preach the true Gospel message accurately, their teaching being backed up by works of healing and restoring, proving that their God inspired words were to be trusted and this resulted in the worldwide preaching of the Gospel taught by Jesus, the Good news of salvation for all who believe and are baptized into the saving name of Jesus.
Some may think they have this same spirit power today, but the Apostle Paul said that the time would come when this power, given to the Apostles, would be withdrawn, its work having been accomplished in the establishment of the first century churches, the teaching of true Christianity, and completion of the Word of God. He confirms this in,
8 Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1 Corinthians 13
The amazing spirit gifts given to the apostles are no longer evident in our days.
But there are ways in which the Spirit power of God remains at work in the world for it can be demonstrated from the Bible that :
God is everywhere by His spirit which He is using to maintain the earth and the heavens;
God is using His power to order events in the world to bring about His ultimate purpose which will result in Christ’s return to earth to establish the Kingdom of God.
His Word, the Bible, the product of spirit inspired men, remains available for all who will heed its message for within its pages it describes the way in which salvation can be achieved, but, a consideration of that we must leave for another time.
So, in a sense, the Bible can be described as the ‘Spirit Word’ conveying to all God’s message to mankind. But to be effective the things we believe must be an accurate reflection of its teaching, which is why we urge you to Search the Scriptures to find the true Gospel.
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