The Life-Giving Spirit
Jesus declared, “The Spirit makes alive. The flesh profits nothing. The words which I have spoken to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” His saying echoes the scriptural principle that life and the “Spirit of God” are inextricably linked. His Spirit generates life. The “flesh” is not inherently evil, but it has no true or lasting life without the Spirit of God. This principle has been established at least since the creation story was first recorded in the Book of Genesis.
In the New Testament, the Gift of the Spirit is linked to the promised New Covenant and the dawning of the “Last Days.” The Spirit’s presence and activity in believers identifies and characterizes the people of God, the Assembly. Moreover, the Gift is a foretaste of the future resurrection life in the coming age.
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When the Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, it was in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy - “IN THE LAST DAYS, says the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit on your sons and daughters” - (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17).
In John 6:63, the Greek word rendered “makes alive” or “quicken” is zôopoieô; literally, “to make alive” (Strong’s – #G2227). It is a combination of the noun zôon - a “living being” - and the verb poieô - “to make.” The “words” of Jesus are “Spirit” because they originate from the “Father of spirits.” Above all, his words are the source of “everlasting life” – (John 12:49, Hebrews 12:9).
The Apostle Paul uses the same verb, zôopoieô, to make a similar point to the Corinthians, namely, that the “Spirit makes alive,” - The letter kills, but the spirit QUICKENS.” The “letter of the Law” condemns mortal men to death because of sin. Only the Spirit can impart life and write the laws of God on the hearts of His children - (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 2 Corinthians 3:6).
The Spirit is the vital element that establishes, characterizes, and sustains the “New Covenant” and the covenant community. Without it, God’s children remain powerless to fulfill the “righteous requirements of the Law.” Paul makes a similar point in his epistle to the churches of Rome:
- (Romans 8:10-11) – “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will quicken also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
Here, Paul means especially the Gift of the Spirit received by every true believer. Just as God’s Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, so the same Spirit will “quicken” our mortal bodies with everlasting life when Jesus arrives at the end of the age.
Because bodily resurrection is an act of new creation, the Spirit will be intimately involved in “quickening our mortal bodies” on that great day – (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
The Spirit of God is His creative AND life-sustaining power. This idea is not unique to the New Testament. Paul is building on a foundation previously laid in the Hebrew Bible. The claim that God’s spoken word creates life is found in the Psalms:
- “By the word of Yahweh, the heavens were made, and by the spirit of his mouth, all their host” - (Psalm 33:6).
The entire universe was created by His Spirit, we are dependent on the Spirit for sustaining and renewing life.
The Psalmist expands on what was written in Genesis when the Spirit of Yahweh created the Cosmos, and especially the first man. Yahweh “breathed” life into Adam who then became a “living soul” - (Genesis 1:1-3, 2:7).
The English rendering “breathed” translates the Hebrew term naphach from a root verb with the sense “puff, to blow” (Strong’s - #H5301). The term rendered as “living soul” represents the Hebrew noun nephesh from the same root, meaning a “BREATHING creature” (Strong’s - #H5315).
Thus, in the creation of man, the STRESS IS ON BREATH, the act of breathing. As Job wrote, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life,” connecting the “Spirit of God” to His “breath of life” – (Job 33:4),
The same passage in Genesis is cited by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians when explaining the resurrection body:
- (1 Corinthians 15:42-45) – “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam, a LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT.”
The Apostle contrasts the body of Adam, the “first man,” with the resurrection bodies that believers will receive at the arrival of Jesus. The first man’s body was corruptible, weak, natural, and mortal. In contrast, the resurrection body will not decay or die, it will be raised in power.” It will be a “spiritual body,” an embodied existence dominated by the Spirit. It will also be immortal, deathless.
Jesus is the “Last Adam,” the forerunner of all resurrected saints. But he differs in one respect. Because of his resurrection, he is also the “Life-Giving Spirit.” He alone has the authority to impart life through the Spirit of God. As Paul argues, the future resurrection of believers is based on the past resurrection of Jesus.
It is the Spirit that regenerates the hearts of sinners and empowers them to conform to the image of God’s Son in the present age, and the same Spirit will impart immortality to the saints when Jesus returns at the end of the age.
The Spirit of God is the source of all life, including the immortal bodies of resurrected saints. In Scripture, the “Spirit” speaks of God as the creative source of all things, especially of His power to create, sustain, renew, and restore life. Without His Spirit, there is no life, either now, “in these Last Days,” or in the coming “New Heavens and New Earth.”