SYNOPSIS – It is the Spirit of God that imparts all life, especially the everlasting life in Jesus of which the gift of the Spirit is a foretaste and guarantee.
In the churches of Galatia, certain “false brethren” were preaching “another gospel” that required Gentile believers to get circumcised and conform to some, at least, of the regulations required by the Torah. Paul responded with a series of arguments, beginning with an appeal to the gift of the Spirit. Since the Gentile converts had received the Spirit in a state of uncircumcision, then circumcision cannot be a requirement for right standing before God.
(Galatians 3:1-5) – “O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? This only would I learn from you. Did you receive the Spirit from the works of the law, or from the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now made complete in the flesh?”
The gift of the Spirit was the definitive proof of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles apart from circumcision or other deeds required by the Torah. Moreover, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law’ so that the “blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through him, and we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Thus, Paul equated the gift of the Spirit with the promised blessing of Abraham – (Galatians 3:6-14, Genesis 12:1-3).
The Law was not against the promises of God, but its purpose was never to justify men – It was added to expose sin as “transgression.” It cannot justify anyone because the Law “cannot make alive.” It is the Spirit that gives life. Paul presents “being made alive” by the Spirit as essentially synonymous with being “justified on faith”- They are two sides of the same coin. It is the Spirit that imparts life. – (Galatians 3:21).
This principle is attested 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 future resurrection – (John 6:63, Romans 8:11-23).
The letter of the Law kills, but under the New Covenant, the Spirit that God gives his children “quickens.” On our behalf, Jesus was put to death “in the flesh” but made “alive 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).
The 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 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, Yahweh promised to “sprinkle clean water” to cleanse Israel from her uncleanness, to give her a new heart, and to put His Spirit within His people. In this way, He would establish a new “covenant of peace” with the nation, an “everlasting covenant” that would never end – (Ezekiel 36:16-38). The Apostle Paul applied this life-giving promise from Ezekiel to the church at Corinth:
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6) – “You are our letter, inscribed in our hearts, noted and read by all men: Manifesting yourselves that you are a letter of Christ, ministered by us, inscribed, not with ink but with the Spirit of a Living God, not in tablets of stone, but in tablets which are hearts of flesh. 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 is the creative force that creates, sustains, and restores life – Individual and corporate – biological and spiritual. The withdrawal of His Spirit means the cessation of life – death. In the end, there can be no everlasting life without the creative and sustaining gift of His Spirit.
Yahweh promised a time of restoration when He would cleanse His people and inaugurate a New Covenant. At last, His presence would dwell among them. This 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 finds its fulfillment in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. He has been given the gift of the Spirit, which he now dispenses to all men and women who belong to him. If anything, the gift of the Spirit is the definitive and identifying sign of who is his disciple – (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9-10, Revelation 21:3, 21:22).