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Bible verses about Words as Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 25:11

Jesus says in John 6:63 that His "words are spirit, and they are life." These proverbs add that anybody's words are what the Bible calls "spirit." There is nothing material, nothing visible, happening, but words and attitudes nevertheless generate emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral reactions. They can induce and compel powerful reactions, such as murder, on the bad side, or joy unspeakable, where we just do not have the words to communicate that we are so happy, on the good. Yet, nothing really happens except spirit passing from one person to another—nothing, that is, that we would call physical, material. Nothing touches us but the meaning of a word, a disposition, or an attitude that is communicated.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 4)


 

John 3:5

We need to consider that Jesus also uses water in a figurative sense in John 3:5. To what, then, does He refer? John 4:13-14 gives us a clue. Jesus says to the woman at the well: "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." This water that Jesus speaks of can in no way be literal water.

John 7:37-39 expands on this:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

These verses clarify that the Bible uses water as a figure of the Holy Spirit both in terms of its cleansing properties and as a source of power. Could Jesus be using water in this way in John 3:5?

The Bible frequently mentions the Word of God in conjunction with birth and life. Psalm 119:50 reads, "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life." Paul adds in I Corinthians 4:15, "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." The gospel is composed of words. We are instructed in James 1:18, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth."

Peter makes a remarkable declaration in I Peter 1:22-23:

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides forever.

The imagery of God's Word also includes the idea of cleansing power. It is likened to water because water cleanses, as Psalm 119:9 shows: "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word." Jesus adds in John 15:3, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." Paul says in Ephesians 5:26, ". . . that He might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word."

With all of these references feeding into Jesus' teaching in John 3:5, we can be confident that the water He refers to includes all three of these figures—that it quenches a person's spiritual thirst, facilitates his spiritual birth, and cleanses him from his spiritual filth. We can conclude that Jesus' reference to "water" in John 3:5 should be understood as closely attached to "Spirit."

E.W. Bullinger, in Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, p. 664, says that in this context we are dealing with a figure of speech called hendiadys, which literally indicates "one by means of two." In a hendiadys, two words—in this case, "water" and "spirit"—are employed to get the point across, but only one idea is intended. One of the words, "Spirit," expresses the point, but the other word, "water," intensifies "Spirit" to the superlative degree.

It is God's Holy Spirit that is the instrument of both the cleansing and the birth of the divine nature in us. "Water" intensifies and magnifies "Spirit" by means of the many figurative ways God's Holy Spirit is shown working: as a means of God's light- and life-giving Word, of spiritual power, and of cleansing.

Jesus says in John 6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." This statement clarifies matters: The water, the Word, and the Holy Spirit must be considered together—as one element—that precipitate the new birth, all being given from above. Considering them as one makes Jesus' declaration stronger.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)


 

John 6:62-63

Jesus' answer to their incomprehension is to point them to His authority, saying in effect, "If you see the Son of man ascending to heaven, will this not prove where He came from, as well as the authority of His words that you just heard? My flesh cannot benefit you. Stop thinking that I was literally asking you to eat My flesh or drink My blood. It is My spirit, My person in the act of sacrificing Myself, that bestows and sustains spiritual life, even everlasting life. The words that I have spoken to you are full of My spirit and therefore My life." Unbelief lay at the root of their problem, so they could not understand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 5:25-27

In I John 1:7, the apostle writes that we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. But the cleansing found here in Ephesians 5:26 is of a different kind. Hebrews 9:22 says, "Almost all things are purged by blood." Almost all but not everything is. There are some things that must be purged in another way.

Ephesians 5:26 tells us that we are cleansed "with the washing of water by the word." There are things that will be cleansed—things in our minds, things that deal with conduct, things that have to do with character and attitude—that are cleansed by water. The word "water" here is symbolic, referring to the Word of God, as well as to the Holy Spirit.

Christ gave a long discourse in John 6, which we often apply at Passover time, about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Towards the end, He says to his audience, "The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

We have in the Bible the Word of God—and Jesus says it contains power. It has power to cleanse a person's mind, because we can think only by what goes into the mind, concepts that are contained in words. Words are merely symbols of ideas that we use to reason. We turn those ideas into action, into conduct, which becomes part of our character and our attitude.

In other places in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is compared to water and to oil. Both of these have revitalizing, nourishing, cleansing, purifying, and sanitizing properties to them. We are familiar with how we use water to cleanse things; water is the universal solvent. We do not use oil so much to cleanse things, but, on the other hand, the Samaritan in the parable treated the man's wounds with oil (Luke 10:34). It had a purifying effect on him.

Therefore, we are washed by the water of the Word of God in conjunction with a new nature that is given to us by God through His Spirit. This begins to help us to understand why studying the Word of God is so important. We need those words in us so that we can think according to them, and if we believe those words, they will begin to purify and cleanse the way we think.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

 




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