It is the Spirit of God that imparts life, especially the everlasting life in Jesus of which the gift of the Spirit is the foretaste and guarantee.
In the churches of Galatia, “false brethren” were preaching “another gospel,” one that pressured Gentile believers into getting circumcised, and otherwise, conforming to the regulations of the Mosaic legislation. But the Apostle Paul would have none of it. He responded with a series of arguments, most importantly, by appealing to the receipt of the gift of the Spirit by the Galatians.
And since his Gentile converts had received the Spirit while yet uncircumcised, it follows that circumcision cannot be a requirement for right standing before God or membership in His people:
- (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?”
SPIRIT AND COVENANT
The gift of the Spirit is the definitive evidence that God has accepted Gentiles into His covenant without requiring their circumcision. Moreover, Jesus redeemed his saints 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.”
And so, Paul equates the gift of the Spirit with the promised blessing of Abraham for the nations – (Galatians 3:6-14, Genesis 12:1-3).
The Law of Moses is not against God’s promises, but its purpose is not to justify men before Him. The Torah was added at Sinai to expose sin for it is – the “transgression” of God’s commandments. And 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 essentially 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).
THE QUICKENING SPIRIT
This principle is attested in Paul’s writings and elsewhere in the New Testament. “It is the spirit that quickens,” and 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. However, 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 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).
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 NEW COVENANT
The Spirit of God not only imparts life but also causes life 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 Ezekiel, Yahweh promised to “sprinkle clean water” to cleanse Israel from her uncleanness and give her children a new heart. Moreover, He would put His Spirit within them and establish an “everlasting covenant” – (Ezekiel 36:16-38).
The Apostle Paul applied this life-giving promise 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 the letter but of spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.”
Thus, the Spirit of God creates, sustains, and restores life, both individual and corporate, biological as well as spiritual, and the withdrawal of His Spirit means the cessation of life – death.
Yahweh promised a time of restoration when He will cleanse His people and inaugurate a New Covenant under which His presence will 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 is actualized by Jesus, the very one who now baptizes his people in the Spirit. And the gift of the Spirit is the definitive sign of who is his disciple and member of his covenant community – (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9-10, Revelation 21:3, 21:22).