The Spirit of Life
In Galatia, “false brethren” were preaching “another gospel” that pressured Gentiles to get circumcised and otherwise conform to the regulations of the Torah. Paul would have none of it. He responded with a series of arguments, including an appeal to the receipt of the Spirit by Gentile believers while still in an uncircumcised state. Since they did receive the Spirit, it follows that circumcision is not a requirement for right standing before God or membership in His new covenant people - (Galatians 3:1-5).
The Gift of the Spirit is the definitive evidence that God has accepted Gentiles into His Covenant without undergoing the rite of circumcision. Moreover, Jesus redeemed his saints from the curse of the Law so the “Blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through him, and we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
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Thus, Paul equates the Gift of the Spirit with the promise of the blessing of Abraham for the nations - (Galatians 3:6-14, Genesis 12:1-3).
The Mosaic legislation is not against God’s promises, but its purpose was not to justify men before Him. The Torah was added later, after the Covenant, to expose sin for what it is - the “transgression” of God’s commandments. It cannot justify anyone since the Law “cannot make alive.”
Instead, it is the Spirit that gives life, and Paul presents “being quickened” by the Spirit as effectively synonymous with being “justified on faith.” They are two sides of the same coin since it is the Spirit that imparts life and there is no everlasting life without justification before God - (Galatians 3:21).
This principle is attested in Paul’s writings and elsewhere in the New Testament. “It is the spirit that quickens”! The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead will also “quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in us” at the resurrection - (John 6:63, Romans 8:11-23).
The letter of the Law kills. However, under the New Covenant, the Spirit that God gives “quickens.” On our behalf, Jesus was put to death “in the flesh” but made “alive the in spirit.” To be fleshly-minded is death, “but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace” - (Romans 8:11, 2 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Peter 3:18).
This principle is not unique to the New Testament. The Spirit of Yahweh imparted life when He created the universe. The Earth was yet “without form and void,” but the “Spirit of God hovered upon the face of the waters.” Several of the Psalms highlight the life-giving power of His Spirit:
- (Psalm 33:6) – “By the word of Yahweh, the heavens were made, and by the spirit of his mouth, all their host.”
- (Psalm 104:29-30) – “You hide your face, they are dismayed. You withdraw their spirit, they cease to breathe, and to their own dust do they return: You send your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
“By His Spirit” God made man, and “His breath gave him life.” Yahweh “created the heavens and stretched them out…He gave breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein” - (Genesis 1:1-3, Job 33:4, Isaiah 42:5).
THE NEW COVENANT
The Spirit of God not only imparts life but also causes it to abound. Yahweh promised to “pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, to pour His Spirit upon man’s seed and my blessing upon his offspring” - (Isaiah 44:3).
In the Book of Ezekiel, God promises to “sprinkle clean water” to cleanse Israel from her uncleanness and give her children new hearts. Moreover, He will put His Spirit within them and establish an “everlasting covenant” - (Ezekiel 36:16-38).
The Apostle Paul applied this life-giving promise to the Assembly at Corinth:
- (2 Corinthians 3:3-6) – “But such confidence as this we have through Christ towards God. Not that of our own selves sufficient are we, to reckon anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.”
Thus, the Spirit of God creates, sustains, and restores life, both individually and corporately, biological as well as spiritual, and the withdrawal of His Spirit means the cessation of life - death.
In the Hebrew scriptures, Yahweh promises a time of restoration when He will cleanse His people and inaugurate a New Covenant under which His presence will dwell among them. That promise was made in the Law of Moses, but the nation’s sin prevented its realization - (Leviticus 26:12 - “I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people”).
In the New Testament, the promise is actualized by Jesus, by his death and resurrection, and he is the one who now baptizes his people in the Spirit. Thus, the Gift of the Spirit is the definitive sign of who is his disciple and member of his covenant community, and of who will inherit everlasting life, and who will not - (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9-10, Revelation 21:3, 21:22).