1 Corinthians 2:9-16
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives a simple framework for understanding spirit in general, as well as the Holy Spirit. Verse 11 teaches that each person has a spirit: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” This echoes Job 32:8: “There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” In this usage, the word “spirit” is synonymous with “heart” or “mind.” This is the intelligent, non-physical part of a person that allows him to think, reason, and comprehend. Verse 11 teaches that a person's spirit is the source and overseer of his thoughts. This spirit in man is not another being within the person but simply the person's center of reason.
Next, verse 12 reveals that the world has a spirit. Like the spirit in man, this spirit is also not a separate being. But this usage of “spirit” is slightly different. Rather than being the center of reason, the spirit of the world is the world's attitude, its inclination, tendency, atmosphere, mood, or frame of mind. The spirit of the world is also the motivating impulse of the culture, which can manifest in many ways, but it will always be anti-God (see Romans 8:7).
Paul describes this spirit in Ephesians 2:2-3, saying that we “once walked according to the course of this world.” The course, or way, of the world is the invisible and immaterial motivating impulse at work in the sons of disobedience. The spirit of the world moves people whom God has not redeemed to conduct themselves in lust, fulfilling the desires of their flesh and mind, putting themselves under the wrath of God. The spirit of the world sweeps mankind along a spiritual channel to keep them in opposition to their Creator.
While spirit cannot be seen, we can see the effects of spirit. It is not a coincidence that the word for “spirit,” pneuma, can also be translated as “wind” or “breath”—just as Job 32:8, quoted above, parallels the spirit in man to “the breath of the Almighty.” We cannot see the moving air molecules in wind, but we can observe leaves and branches being moved and know that wind is present. In the dry areas of the West, tumbleweeds roll along and dust-devils form, spin, and disintegrate, revealing that the wind is at work.
In the same way, we cannot see spirit, but we can see the actions and attitudes of mankind, and thus find evidence of the spirit that is working. The spirit of the world influences and stirs up the spirit in man, inducing the individual to think and feel in a certain way, and ultimately, to act.
Returning to I Corinthians 2:12, Paul mentions a spirit that we have received. This is in addition to the spirit in man, with which we were born, and in opposition to the spirit of the world. This additional spirit is from, and of, God. We can conclude that, like mankind, God also has a Spirit. God has a mind, one of unfathomable depth, capability, and intelligence. But more than simply an overwhelming intellect, God's Spirit includes His attitude, principles, thoughts, feelings, temperament, character, disposition, and will. To put it simply, God's Spirit is the essence of His incredible mind, and it is the new motivating principle that God's children receive.
I Corinthians 2:16 shows that God's Spirit is not another supernatural being. It begins with a quotation of Isaiah 40:13 (“who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”), but then Paul follows up with, “But we have the mind of Christ.” This is Paul's explanation of the spirit we have received. It is a principle, a disposition, a motivating influence that comes from God Himself. “Spirit,” “heart,” and “mind,” while not identical, are used interchangeably. It is the mind of Christ that we have received that allows us to know the things of God, to know what God has prepared for us, and to know the things that have been given to us. Thus, Paul equates the Spirit of God to the mind of Christ. The essence of His mind enhances our minds, giving us spiritual understanding.
The Father and the Son are one, not in the sense of being the same Person, but in the sense of being perfectly united in will, thought, and intent. They are of the same mind, the same heart—the same spirit. It is that Spirit that we receive when we are baptized and have hands laid on us. As a result, we can begin to understand the things of God, which the world cannot understand. Without God's intervention, mankind is only influenced by the spirit of the world, which has its source in “the prince of the power of the air.”
Because God is holy, His Spirit is also holy. God has many facets and qualities, yet the four living creatures in Revelation 4:8 praise Him day and night for being “holy, holy, holy.” The fact that they say “holy” three times does not mean that He is three persons. It means His holiness is superlative—it is the very highest possible. Our holy God's Spirit, the essence of His perfect mind, is also holy. That holiness is not merely an attribute, but it is also what God's Spirit will incline His people toward: holiness in conduct, in attitude, in speech, in every facet of living. God says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” and His Spirit will move us toward His holiness, if we cooperate.
David C. Grabbe
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