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Studies In The Spirit


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#1 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:38 PM

WHAT IS THE SPIRIT?


The word for 'spirit' in both Hebrew and Greek literally means 'a current of air', so let's start there...

- A current of air

In both Hebrew and Greek, this 'current of air' has two principle applications:

1) A breath

2) The wind

Consistently, the Word uses these two principle applications to distinguish the two principle operations of the 'spirit', both literal and figurative.

A BREATH ---> the vital life giving element ---> that which energises the mind and sustains the body ---> sentiments which change one's attitude and direction

THE WIND ---> the invisible power of God ----> an unseen force or being ---> an invisibly energised body (Spirit body)


In both instances the extension of thought is from the natural to the spiritual, from a physical example to a spiritual application. A breath and the wind are both natural.

A breath is a life giving element, just as those sentiments which are 'the spirit of God' or 'the spirit of Christ' are life giving elements.

The wind is an invisible power, just as the Holy Spirit power of God is an invisible power, the wind is an unseen force just as the Holy Spirit power is, and the wind is an invisible source of power, just as the Holy Spirit power of God is.

Using these two fundamental principles, we are able to discern the two principle applications of the 'spirit' in Scripture. Every instance in Scripture will follow one of these two principles, having one of these two applications.

Once we have clear these definitions, principles, and applications of the 'spirit', we are able to use them to interpret the use of the word and concept in different passages.

#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:39 PM

GENERAL PRINCIPLES


- The word 'spirit' is used in a variety of ways in Scripture.

- The Holy Spirit is used in only one sense, and always refers to God's personal spirit, which, being a part of Him, and being the means by which He operates, is a power. It has no identity apart from Him.

- The word 'spirit' used elsewhere refers to 'breath', 'life', or 'a mental disposition'.

- It is the mental disposition which is spoken of as both the 'spirit of God' and the 'spirit of Christ'.

- We do not ever read of 'the Holy Spirit of Christ', in the sense that God has a Holy Spirit, and Christ has another Holy Spirit.

- It is the mental disposition which is the 'spirit' which dwells within us.
This mental disposition is developed within us (like any other mental disposition), according to what we put in our heads.

- Whilst the 'wind' analogy is the expression of God's power (a spirit force), and an expression of His nature (a spirit body), it is not this spirit force which saves us. Let's be clear about this - no one was ever 'saved by the Holy Spirit'. It's a complete impossibility.

- If you put into your head the thoughts of the flesh, then that's the disposition which you will develop.

- If you put into your head the thoughts of God, then that's the disposition which you will develop.

- The mental disposition which dwells in us is not a part of God, nor is it a part of Christ, nor is it the physical presence of God, nor is it the physical presence of Christ.

- We are made of flesh (carnal bodies), and think like the flesh (carnal mind).

- We cannot change our flesh (carnal bodies), but we can change our thinking (carnal mind).

- If we change our thinking (carnal mind), so that it reflects God's thinking (spiritual mind, or mind of the spirit), then it is God who will change our flesh (carnal bodies), so that we might be like Him (partakers of the Divine nature), Christ (like unto his glorious body), and the angels (like unto the angels), a spirit body.

#3 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:40 PM

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS AN ACTIVE FORCE - THE SPOKEN WORD FULFILLING HIS WILL


This is God in action - and it is so intimately identified as God Himself that it is spoken of as His breath:

* In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2.

* By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. Psalm 33:6.

* The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him. Isaiah 11:2.

* I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by My great power. Jeremiah 27:5.

* The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Luke 1:5.

* The Holy Spirit fell upon them which heard the word. Acts 10:44.

* Made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. Hebrews 6:4-5.

As we can see, the Holy Spirit as an active force (the wind, in our twofold analogy), is the power by which God performs His will and purpose. But again, this is not what saves us.
It is this power which will ultimately change us (if so be that we are found worthy at the Seat of Judgment), but this force does not act upon us directly in order to secure our salvation. God neither beams down pre-cooked enlightenment into our heads, nor zaps us with a special 'salvation ray'.

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:42 PM

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE SCRIPTURES - THE WRITTEN WORD FULFILLING HIS WILL


Matthew 4:4
4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.


John 6:63
63 the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.


2 Timothy 3:15-16
15And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16All Scripture is God breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:


Isaiah 11:2 - 3
2So the Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him.

The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding.

The Spirit of counsel and might.

The Spirit of knowledge and the reverence of Yahweh.

3So He will find fragrance in the reverence of Yahweh


This is the only way in which we can say the Holy Spirit affects us intimately - that is, affects our hearts and minds. It is through the Spirit Word. This written word, breathed by God, is just as much an expression of His will and purpose as the Holy Spirit is. However, this written word, containing the 'spirit' or 'mind' of God, does not enter us independent of our own efforts. God doesn't shovel it into our heads for us, neither does He twitch our puppet strings in order to compel us to obey it.

It enters our minds and hearts when we read it. It enters our lives when we obey it willingly.
That is the moment at which we can be sure it has had an effect - it has not returned to Him void, but has accomplished that which He has pleased, and has prospered in the thing whereto He sent it.

Think of the process as God breathing out, and us breathing in.

Like this:

Isaiah 11:2 - 3
2So the Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him.

The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding.

The Spirit of counsel and might.

The Spirit of knowledge and the reverence of Yahweh.

3So He will find fragrance in the reverence of Yahweh


It is for this reason that he found fragrance in the reverence of Yahweh, because he was a living expression of the character, will, and purpose of God.
This is precisely the process we are intended to follow. The same should be said of us.

#5 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:43 PM

EFFICACY OF THE WORD OF GOD


People think the Holy Spirit can do anything for them - but it can't.
When the emphasis is wrongly placed on the Holy Spirit, people forget the power of the gospel unto salvation.

So what is the Word of God good for?

BLESSING: Luke 11:28, Romans 15:29

ENLIGHTENMENT AND GUIDANCE: Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:130, John 8:31-32, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Timothy 1:10, Hebrews 4:12

ETERNAL LIFE: Luke 4:4, John 6:63, Philippians 2:16, 2 Timothy 1:10, 1 Peter 1:23-25, 1 Peter 4:6

FAITH: John 17:20, Acts 4:4, Acts 15:7, Acts 16:32-34, Romans 10:6-9, Romans 10:17

FELLOWSHIP: Luke 8:21John 5:37-38John 8:31-32John 8:43 John 12:48John 14:24 Acts 13:462 Thessalonians 3:14 Philippians 1:51 John 1:10 1 John 2:5

GRACE: Acts 14:3, Acts 20:4, Acts 20:32

HOPE: Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:23

JOY: Acts 16:32-34, Philippians 2:16

PEACE: Acts 10:36, Romans 10:15, Ephesians 6:15

POWER: Luke 4:32Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians, 1:182 Corinthians 4:6-7

RECONCILIATION: 2 Corinthians 5:19, Colossians 1:21-23

REPENTANCE: Acts 2:37, Acts 2:41, Acts 16:32-34, Romans 10:6-9

SALVATION: Matthew 13:23, Luke 8:15, John 5:24, Acts 13:26, Acts 13:46, Acts 13:48, Romans 1:16, Romans 10:6-91, Corinthians 15:1-2, Galatians 3:8, Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 3:6, Ephesians 6:14-17, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 1 Peter 4:6, James 1:21

SANCTIFICATION: John 14:3, John 17:17-19 , Ephesians 5:25-26, 1 Timothy 4:4-5

SPIRITUAL REBIRTH: 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Peter 2:21-23, James 1:18

STRENGTH TO OVERCOME: Hebrews 13:22, 1 John 2:14

TRUTH: 2 Corinthians 6:7, Galatians 2:5, Galatians 2:14, Ephesians 2:13, Colossians 1:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:13, 2 Timothy 2:15, James 1:18

WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, DISCERNMENT AND JUDGEMENT: Psalm 119:95-104, Luke 8:2, 1John 5:37-38, John 8:31-37, John 8:4, 3John 12:48, John 14:24, Acts 13:46, Colossians 3:16, 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:9, Hebrews 2:2-4, Hebrews 5:13, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Peter 4:6, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 1 John 1:10, 1 John 2:5

Quite a lot, it would appear... Note that all of these can be peformed by the Word, but none of them can be performed by the Holy Spirit.

Oh yes, the Holy Spirit could perform miracles which would lead to faith, but it did not provide faith.
It could lead to truth, but it did not provide truth.

You could have fellowship in the Holy Spirit, but fellowship is not the Holy Spirit, and it is not necessary to have the Holy Spirit in order to have fellowship.
The Holy Spirit did give you power, but not the same power as the Word - which is a mightier power still.

Most significantly, the Holy Spirit was never part of the process of salvation.
The Word always has been.

Think about it - which is more powerful in the life of the believer?

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:44 PM

ARMED AND EQUIPPED BY THE WORD OF GOD



Let's have a look at the spiritual warrior in Ephesians 6, one of the most important of Paul's exhortations to those in Christ:

Ephesians 6:
11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the  word of God:


As much as the military metaphor might appeal, and as much as the repeated metaphors and extended typology might satisfy our Christadelphian love of symbolism, there are a few aspects of this passage which we either overlook as being too awkward, or fail to appreciate because we read this passage in such a manner as isolates it from the rest of Scripture - we read it almost as if it were something Paul wrote to stick on the refrigerator, rather than as an exposition of a number of other principles and doctrines elsewhere in Scripture.

This passage is a classic case of the sort of approach we must avoid - we know what it doesn't mean, but don't spend much time on what it does mean.

We seem to spend much of our time in this passage trying to explain that the 'principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places' doesn't refer to the devil and his angels.

If we ever get past that, we seem only to think that Paul was exhorting the Ephesians with a lovely metaphor, without thinking too deeply about what it means. In fact we have a distressing tendency to separate the 'principalites, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, etc' bit from what follows.

How many of us have that simple but effective Bible insert of the 'Spiritual warrior'?
Quite a number, in Australia at least. But how many of us know exactly what Paul was speaking about?

Oh yes, we understand that the shield is faith - but where do we find that faith?

Sure, we understand that the breastplate is righteousness - but from whence is that righteousness acquired?

No doubt we understand that the helmet is salvation - but how do we secure that salvation?

In short, it appears that we can interpret the meaning of every one of the pieces of equipment carried by this warrior - but that's really not terrifically impressive, since Paul has explained
them all for us anyway.

#7 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:45 PM

So at the end of reading this passage, what have we actually learned?

Unless we have learned just what the relationship of this armament is to the 'principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, etc', we will be unable to use this equipment in our battle against them.

But even that's really pointless if we don't know where to find this armament.
Just how is it that we are to arm ourselves in this way?

I venture to suggest that if I were to ask Christadelphians just exactly how we put on this 'whole armour of God', and from whence we might take to ourselves each individual item of the panoply (the Greek word for the 'complete armour' of a soldier), not a few of us would be stumped - I know because I've tried it.

Let's start where we should, with the 'principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world' etc.

Are they devils and demons? No. Can we prove it? Yes - but we shouldn't stop there. We have to ask ourselves if the Ephesians were likely to be vulnerable to demonic attack, or whether they were likely to be endangered by persecution. Certainly the latter seems more probable.

In any case, every one of the words here referred to (principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, etc), is a term used of the reigning powers and their associated legislative and executive arms. Not very exciting, I know, but that's what they refer to. These are very simple and straightforward references to established socio-politcal organisations and structures.

In fact it's almost a disappointment that the impressive warrior later described is to be wasted on such mundane foes. It would be far more impressive if he were actually wrestling with literal demons. But perhaps we underestimate the power and the danger of these institutions in the era in which the Ephesians live - perhaps also we underestimate the power and danger of these institutions in the era in which we live...

Just reflect on the governmental and societal attitudes to immoral practices, and the pressure this places on our community...

In fact, it's typically the Evangelical who wants to appeal to those words for evidence of demons and devils - and more importantly to introduce the only means for dealing with them...
Yes, you guessed it - the Holy Spirit! You don't have a hope of dealing with them unless you have the Holy Spirit, says the Evangelical.

For many Evangelicals, the warrior of Ephesians 6 is armed with the Holy Spirit, the various weapons simply manifestations of what the Holy Spirit brings. You see, the Holy Spirit makes
you have faith, it teaches you truth, it empowers you to preach the gospel, it imputes you with righteousness, and secures your salvation. It's good like that. The Swiss Army knife of mainstream Christianity.

But closer examination is very revealing...

#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:47 PM

Far from supporting the Evangelical position, the panoply spoken of by Paul actually leads us in another direction entirely.

James 1:
18Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth...


(Girt about with truth by the Word of God)

Romans 10:
6But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise...
8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach...


(Breastplate of righteousness comes from the Word of God)

Romans 10:
15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


(Feet shod with the gospel of peace - the Word of God)

Romans 10:
17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.


(Shield of faith is the Word of Christ - the gospel)

Romans 1:
16I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation...


(Helmet of salvation found in the Word of God)

Oh, we missed the sword of the spirit - that must be the Holy Spirit!

Alas, no! We are told categorically that it also is the Word of God.

I find it telling that it is the Word of God which is the means of overcoming all, and not the Holy Spirit.

Now we may return to those principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, etc, and confront the Evangelical with the simple fact that regardless of whatever he may think they may be (and at this point we can tell him we really don't care), the simple fact of the matter is that Paul tells us the Word of God is more than capable of dealing with all of them.
The Holy Spirit doesn't even get a look in.

#9 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:49 PM

THE HOLY SPIRIT - THE BREATH OF LIFE


What is the life of a man?

It is his breath:

Psalm 135:
17They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.


Psalm 146:
4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.


Ecclesiastes 3:
19For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.


Isaiah 2:
22Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?


Thus, it is the breath of a man which is his life. This is critical to our understanding of God's relationship with man. Oh sure, we can start using these verses to dispute the doctrine of the immortal soul, but let's not do that right now - we'll end up missing the entire point of what they are really saying.

What they are saying, purely and simply, is that a man's life is in his breath.
The extension of a man's life depends on the source of that breath:

Job 12:
10In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.


So the breath of a man is in the hand of God...

Job 27:
3All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;


Job 33:
4The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.


More than this - the breath of a man is sustained by the very power of God.
The extension of a man's life is utterly dependent on the power of God to maintain it.
This is a vital principle, which is precisely what Scripture is teaching us.

Job 34:
14If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath;
15All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.


Psalm 104:
29Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.


The true import of these verses is not to prove that there is no immortal soul, but to impress upon us that the extension of our lives, hour by hour, breath by breath, is utterly dependent on our God (a fact which incidentally leaves no room for any form of underived or unconditional immortality in any case).

The very fact that our breath, our life, is so utterly dependent of God to maintain it completely ruins the doctrine of the immortal for the simple reason that the doctrine of the immortal soul actually makes the creation independent of the Creator - possessing underived immortality, man's breath is now within him permanently, and without any dependence on the Creator.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not simply wrong because we do not have an immortal soul, it is wrong because it challenges the complete and utter dependence of the creation on the Creator. It makes man an ever-living being independent of his God.

#10 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:49 PM

THE BREATH WITHIN US SUSTAINS OUR LIVES


Thus far we have determined that it is the breath within a man which give him life, and that this breath is dependent on God. The principle has been established that the extension of our lives is dependent on the breath or spirit given us by God. This is the only means by which our lives are prolonged.

So, how are our lives to be prolonged? What 'breath' is it within us that may be given us to prolong our lives? Ultimately, of course, our bodies will be made like unto Christ's glorious body, and we as immortal spirit beings will possess the same immortality of God, Christ, and the angels.

But Scripture doesn't merely tell us to wait for this time - it predicates the receipt of immortality *then* on the possession of an eternal breath now...

Do I have your attention yet? Yes, this sounds very much like the immortal soul!
In fact, in John's gospel it sounds even more like the immortal soul:

John 6:
47Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.


John 10:
28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.


The use of the present tense here is almost unnerving. What does he mean?

In fact, he means exactly what he says...

#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:50 PM

THE BREATH OF LIFE


We have already considered that our lives are sustained by the spirit of God - we are, in fact, in a sense filled with the Spirit of God. But the operation of that Spirit in this sense is simply the maintenance of our lives. It provides no more than that.

From this very fact we may readily appreciate the following:

- That we have no underived immortality, such as an 'immortal soul'

- That our lives are dependent on the spirit within us (the Spirit of God, and the mere breath we take)

- That the Spirit, in this operation, contributes nothing to our relationship with God, nothing to our capacity to comprehend His Word and understand His thoughts

- That the Spirit, in this operation, contributes nothing to the eternal extension of our lives, if only because God has decreed a specific limit to the time in which this spirit will be caused to dwell in each of us, and so give us life.

In this operation, therefore, the Spirit of God contributes absolutely nothing to our salvation - nor can it.

In another operation, the Spirit of God can contribute differently:

- It can contribute to our understanding of the Word of God, as a Divinely inspired author or expositor

- It can contribute to our capacity to fulfill the will of God, as a man empowered like Samson, or sustained like Elijah or Moses

But whilst these are contributions of which the Spirit of God is capable, they are clearly operations which are no longer dispensed or available. The apostolic era saw the last such exercise of the Spirit.

Fundamentally, we are able to see therefore that there is absolutely no way in which the Spirit of God (in the sense of His Holy Spirit power), is capable of contributing to our salvation.

Nevertheless, it is true that the spirit which dwells in us is that which determines our ultimate destination - life or death. What then is that spirit?

#12 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:51 PM

THE SPIRIT OF MAN, THE SPIRIT OF THE BEASTS


In one of our favourite 'there-is-no-immortal-soul' passages, we read the following:

Ecclesiastes 3:
19For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.


But to stop there, and simply use this as a means by which wrong doctrine is to be refuted is to ignore the actual principle which is being taught.

This verse tells us that the inherent breath of man is the same inherent breath of the animals. We breathe the same air, and are sustained in the same manner thereby.
For this very reason, we both end up in the same place. There is no inherent superiority of men over beasts in this sense.

Let's continue reading, in order to appreciate the full sense of what we are being taught here:

Ecclesiastes 3:
21Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?


Literally, the verse reads:

'Who knows the spirit of man which ascends up, and the spirit of the beast which descends down?'

Various translations have wrestled over this verse, in an attempt to reconcile it with the doctrine of the immortal soul - it isn't actually as helpful as it appears, given the context of verse 19.
The best they can do is make it a different kind of question:

'Who knows if the spirit of a man goes up to heaven, and the spirit of a beast goes to the earth?'

Well, we know. Of course we know. Verse 19 has just told us precisely that.
In fact verse 19 has been adamant that there is a breath shared by both man and beast which ensures that both go to the earth. This can be nothing more than the breath of life, the Spirit of God which sustains all living things.

But the breath in verse 21 - what is that? It cannot be the same as that in verse 19, for there is a distinction made between the spirit of men which ascends, and the spirit of the beasts which descends.

The same word 'ruach' is used in both verses, so unfortunately we can't simply appeal to a convenient grammatical distinction - no such distinction exists.
That a distinction is made is obvious, but what is that distinction? What is this 'spirit' in verse 19?

The answer is to be found elsewhere.

#13 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:53 PM

THE SPIRIT OF MEN WHICH ASPIRES


Consider the following:

Genesis 3:
26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.


The purpose of our creation is obvious - to bear the Divine image and likeness.
The distinction between the animal and the human creation could not be more distinct - only the human creation was made in such an image and likeness.

In the second chapter of Genesis, we find Adam is deliberately made acutely aware of this distinction:

20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.


Literally, the phrase 'an help meet for him' means 'one to stand before his face'.
In simple terms, Adam found no counterpart among the animals - he was a different creation entirely, and this incident was intended to impress upon him the absolute distinction which was always intended to exist between the human creation and the animal creation.

This vital distinction is reinforced by the following passage which stands in direct relation to the quote in Ecclesiastes:

Psalm 8:
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.


The application of these verses to Christ himself is unmistakable - and so it is that Paul applies them directly to Christ in Hebrews.

However, such an application would have no meaning if they did not represent not only the son of man, but man himself - and the psalm clearly includes not only Christ, but those whom he came to represent.

What then are we told of man in this place? We are told that he was made 'a little lower than the angels'. What relation has this to our understanding of the passage under discussion in Ecclesiastes 3?

Consider this:

- Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels

- Thou has made him a little higher than the beasts

What effect does each statement have on you? What import does each statement suggest? Why did God write the former, and not the latter?

We'll deal with this in greater depth in the next study, but consider this:

Romans 1:
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.


2 Corinthians 3:
18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.


1 Peter 1:
23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.



#14 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 10:54 PM

THE BREATH OF LIFE


In the last study, I quoted the following:

Psalm 8:
4What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.


I then asked:

What then are we told of man in this place?  We are told that he was made 'a little lower than the angels'.  What relation has this to our understanding of the passage under discussion in Ecclesiastes 3?


Consider this:

- Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels

- Thou has made him a little higher than the beasts

What effect does each statement have on you? What import does each statement suggest?
Why did God write the former, and not the latter?

I believe this has a direct relevance to the 'spirit of man which ascends' and the 'spirit of the beasts which descends' in Ecclesiastes 3.

If someone were to tell you that you were only a little higher than the beasts, what affect would that have on the way you thought? Would it inspire you or depress you?

If someone If someone were to tell you that you were only a little lower than the angels, what affect would that have on the way you thought?
Would it inspire you or depress you?

Those brethren and sisters on this list with children will undoubtedly appreciate to a far greater extent than myself the importance of negative and positive criticism, negative and positive reinforcement, on a child.

What are the implications of being told that you are only a little higher than a beast?

- It implies that any distinction between you and the beasts is temporary

- It implies that God sees your ultimate potential as no more than a beast

- It implies you are intended to identify with the beasts

In short, it will make you think like a beast - it will cause you to descend.

What are the implications of being told that you are only a little lower than an angel?

- It implies that any distinction between you and the angels is temporary

- It implies that God sees your ultimate potential as no less than an angel

- It implies that you are to identify with the angels

In short, it will make you think like an angel - it will cause you to ascend.

#15 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:04 PM

Let's read that passage in Ecclesiastes again, and see how this makes a difference:

Ecclesiastes 3:
21Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?


The question is, when we have already been told that naturally speaking man has no pre-eminence over the beast, just what is it that can make a difference between the ultimate destination of man and the ultimate destination of the beasts?

Naturally speaking, nothing - but there is a potential for the man to ascend where the beast can only descend. We have seen this principle in Psalm 8.

So what is it that makes the difference? Psalm 8 has already shown us the answer, but it's made more clear in another Psalm:

Psalm 49:
12Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.


This is our starting point - this is exactly what Ecclesiastes 3 tells us.
Intrinsically, there is no difference between man and the beasts.
Oh yes, we may be a better beast, a more 'honourable' beast if you like, but fundamentally we are still beasts.

The psalmist commences here in order to take us from this rather depressing thought (literally depressing! It can only cause us to descend!), to the full truth of the matter, in order to leave us in hope (causing our minds to ascend), just as Solomon does in Ecclesiastes:

13This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.


- Man's natural way is stupidity, he lives just like the animals. Then the next generation come along and say 'Hey, that was a good idea! Let's do that!'.
Think about it, the psalmist admonishes, just what kind of sense does this make?

14Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them;


- Those who think like this are no different to the beasts, and they are headed for the same place, just as Ecclesiastes 3 tells us. Those with these thoughts are caused to descend, and death feeds on them as on the beasts. In the morning... they cease to exist.

15...and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.


- Suddenly there is the introduction of another class of people - the righteous.

Whereas those who were like the beasts descend into the earth to be fed on by death, this class have dominion over them in the morning. An appropriate phrase which harks back to the statement in Psalm 8 that man was given dominion over all the beasts of the field...

15But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.


- An affirmation by the psalmist that he has understood the means by which such a distinction is made, and has come to an understanding of just what it is that separates these two classes of people. So what is it?

16Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;


- Is it riches? Material wealth?

17For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.


- No. Such things make no difference. There is nothing material which can create this distinction and cause us to be prolonged beyond the grave.

18Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.
19He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.


- Fundamentally, no matter what he did in his life, this man lived and died like a beast because he lacked that vital element (yes, that life-giving element), which distinguishes between the righteous and those on whom death feeds.

So what is that element? The next verse tells us:

20Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.


This is the point to which the psalmist has been bringing our minds since verse 12.
Let's just compare verses 12 and 20, just to see the vital distinction between them:

12Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.


20Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that
perish.


The progression of thoughts between verses 12 and 20 now becomes obvious.
This is an extended discussion of the same principles we found in Ecclesiastes 3.
Both passages commence with the similarities between man and the beasts, and both end with a sharp distinction drawn between the potential end of man in contrast to the potential end of the beasts.

However, whereas the passage in Ecclesiastes was brief, giving us only a suggestion of how that distinction is to be made, the passage in Psalm 49 is extended, providing the answer for which we were still looking at the end of Ecclesiastes 3.

The distinction made between the man and the beast is found in the understanding which man may attain. There is a certain understanding which, if a man has within him, will cause him to ascend, and live beyond the grave.

It is this which is the true breath of life, the spirit within us which causes to ascend and which leads to immortality.

#16 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:05 PM

THE OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT


Everything God does with regard to His interaction with His creation is for the purpose of fulfilling His will:

Job 37:
10By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
11Also by watering He wearieth the thick cloud: He scattereth his bright cloud:


God is sovereign over His creation...

12And it is turned round about by His counsels: that they may do whatsoever He commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.


...and may manipulate it at His will, for His ends...

13He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy.


...which are always consistent with His character, and always for the purpose of bringing about His will and purpose.

How does God operate in this way? Quite simply, by His Word.
That Word, of course, may be expressed by His Spirit power, or by His spoken commandments.

In either case, it fulfills His purpose ultimately:

Isaiah 55:
10For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.


Let's examine the manner in which God's Word fulfills His will, both by the operation of His Spirit, and by the operation of His spoken commandments:

Genesis 1:
1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2And 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.
3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.


This is the operation of the Spirit of God in its most obvious form.
God speaks His will, and immediately it is performed by His Spirit power.

It is important to understand that this operation of His Spirit has never ceased.

#17 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:06 PM

Our earlier quote from Job refers to this:

Job 37:
10By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
11Also by watering He wearieth the thick cloud: He scattereth his bright cloud:
12And it is turned round about by His counsels: that they may do whatsoever He commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.
13He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy.


This operation of the Spirit was the means by which God shaped His creation for 6 days, including the shaping of His last work:

Genesis 1:
26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.


This is the direct operation of the Spirit, a shaping process which causes man to be made from the earth, 'cut with the hand from the clay' as Elihu so powerfully describes our creation in Job 33:6.

But halfway through the 6th day, there was an important addition to His shaping method:

Genesis 1:
28And God blessed them, and God said unto them...
29And God said, Behold, I have given you...


Genesis 2:
16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying...


This is the only part of the creation with which Yahweh actually speaks - the only part of the creation to have a relationship with the Creator.
This part of the creation is unique.

For 6 days God has created all things to serve man - now He creates man to serve God.
This is the completion of the creation. There is no need for anything else to be made, and it is for this reason that Yahweh now ceases from His work.
The purpose of the creation has now been revealed, and the means by which the will and purpose of God are to be fulfilled, has been brought into existence.

With the human creation, God would interact both by means of His Spirit, and by means of His spoken commandments - but only the latter would be the means by which they would ultimately be shaped according to His will:

The pattern of operation revealed in Genesis has never altered.
God continues to shape His creation by means of His Spirit power and His spoken commandments.

The direct effect of His operation upon us, however, comes in the form of His spoken commandments. The operation of His Spirit power undoubtedly forms part of our shaping process, but indirectly. The use of His Spirit power in our lives is to lead us back to the shaping process already revealed in His commandments.

#18 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:06 PM

GOD'S SPIRIT GUIDANCE IN OUR LIVES


Let's see if we can address some of the most frequently asked questions concerning the Holy Spirit, and examine more closely some of the issues we've been discussing.

- How does God guide us by His Spirit power in our lives?

- What is the relationship between guidance by the Word and guidance by the Spirit?

- Is there a Divine method of operation which we can comprehend to some extent, or is the working of God in our lives wholly incomprehensible and mysterious?

#19 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:08 PM

GUIDANCE BY THE WORD, GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRIT


God's Word and God's Spirit work in harmony. One will never deny the other, and each will illuminate the power and activity of the other. The one which is always immediately accessible to us, which we have the capacity to examine directly, is the Word itself.

For this reason, we may be sure that any apparent operation of the Spirit may be tested by the Word - this indeed is the Divine precedent. The Word is the ultimate test of the spirits.

If you think you've received a vision from God instructing you to go and spend the rest of your life worshipping a turnip, you can probably be reasonably certain that a quick glance at the Word will provide the necessary instruction required to 'test the spirits'.

The relationship between the revealed Word of God and the action of His Spirit guidance in our lives must be appreciated if we are to understand the working of the Spirit.

Three examples will serve to illustrate these principles.

The first provides an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen (that is, not obviously evident), Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, and finally a revealed explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

The second provides an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, but only an implied explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

The third provides an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, and finally no revealed explanation of the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

#20 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:11 PM

BALAAM


Numbers 22:
12And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.
20And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.


Balaam has received a directly revealed Divine commandment. This is analogous to the positin of the Word of God in our lives - revealed Divine commandment.

Balaam has no excuse for not knowing the will of God. He knows - but how will it affect his life?
The answer, of course, is that in this case it did not affect his life, simply because he chose to reject it.

But God intends to work with Balaam, just as He chooses to work with us, and for this reason God's Holy Spirit moves in Balaam's life to guide him.

How does God's spirit do this?

23And the :gagged: saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way...

24But the angel of the LORD stood in a path...

25And when the :gagged: saw the angel of the LORD...

26And the angel of the LORD went further...

27And when the :gagged: saw the angel of the LORD...


The Spirit of God operates through His angel, and the angel is the chosen agent of Divine guidance.

This is just one means by which the Spirit moves in our lives, and for all we know may be the most common - especially when we consider that such an angel may be either a mortal or one of the spirit beings which we most commonly associate with the word.

So this is the 'how' - now for the 'what'. If this is how the Spirit moves in Balaam's life to guide him in this instance, what does it guide him to do?

23...and the :gagged: turned aside out of the way...

25...she thrust herself unto the wall...

27... she fell down under Balaam...


The purpose of the Spirit guidance is obvious - the 'what' is to guide Balaam out of his chosen path, and to dissuade him from pursuing a course of action which he already knows is in defiance of the Divine commandment.

It is worth pausing here for a moment to reflect that the Spirit guidance in Balaam's life did nothing more than reinforce the commandment already revealed.

This should really come as no surprise to us, and reveals something of the relationship between the revealed Divine commandment and the operation of the Spirit - the purpose of the latter is to reinforce the former.

Unfortunately for the carnally minded Balaam, he either does not discern the operation of the Spirit in his life, or else is aware of it at some level but chooses to ignore it.
Either way he is eventually compelled to change his ways by direct revelation - and explanation of the Spirit guidance in his life of which he is either unaware or which he is choosing to ignore:

31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
32And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine :gagged: these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:


It is obvious that the angel says nothing to Balaam which he does not already know - if anything the angel reveals to Balaam the utter stupidity of neglecting the importance of the revealed commandment of God, and points out that the operation of the Spirit in his life was necessary because he wouldn't actually take heed to the Word.

At the end of this incident with Balaam, we find that the principle it illuminates is the relationship between revealed commandment (the Word of God), and Spirit guidance (unseen Divine intervention in our lives).

The relationship is simple - the purpose of Spirit guidance is to cause us to learn by experience the full implication and meaning of the Word, especially when we have proven ourselves either unwilling or unable to appreciate the Word's message.

It is this direct Divine intervention in our lives which separates utterly the Word of God from the words of men.




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