(continued from part 2)
Here are two more ideas concerning the subject.
Here’s the first idea.
I looked over all the references in the Hebrew scriptures of the word “spirit”, and the spirit, as described there, could be:
troubled, revived, anguished, willing, hardened, sorrowful, inoperative (“there was no spirit in them”), becoming operative again (“his spirit returned, and he revived”) (the latter two examples are talking about living people, so it can’t be that their spirit was literally departed from them, or else they would be dead), sullen, stirred up, moved, broken, contrite, having deceit, steadfast, overwhelmed, searching, faithful, failing, departing (resulting in the “person returning to earth” – which confirms the point I made above), faithful, haughty, humble, ruled (by a person), calm, patient, proud, angry, fainted, anxious, excellent. That’s from Genesis to Malachi, inclusively.
As you look over this list, notice 2 things.
– First, notice how the old human spirit, outside of the new birth experience, is reflective of quite a full range of the usual human moods and intentions, positive or negative. In Pauline epistles, the descriptions of the fruit of the new human spirit are all positive. So it appears that upon the new birth the entire negative range has been eliminated. If you consider that the word “holy” has a primary meaning of being “separated [from something] [for a certain purpose]”, and also carries the notion of being complete and whole, then our new human spirit is holy – it’s completely separated from the negative range, and functions only in the positive range. All the moral and behavioral implications of “holiness” really follow from this. God’s spirit is obviously holy, but so is our new spirit. Paul always addresses believers as “saints” – holy / separated ones. I believe that’s a designation pertaining to the spirit. The body isn’t yet separated from negative things (hence the need for healing), the mind isn’t (hence the need for renewal), etc.
– Second, if you look at those Hebrew scriptures talking about a human spirit in a bit of a context, you start noticing that nothing there hints at the ability to directly engage the spirit, or live out of it. Yes, there are 2 observations in the book of Proverbs about how a man who rules his spirit is better than the one who takes the city, and, conversely, a man who has no rule over his spirit is like a city without walls. However, nothing in Hebrew scriptures tells you how exactly to rule over your spirit. So you see how the old human spirit is a reactive force, and appears to simply reflect the ways that the soul is leaning. On the contrary, in Pauline epistles, we are encouraged over and over to live out of our new spirit – in other words, other parts of our being should follow our spirit.
Here’s the second idea.
Jesus, answering a question about the greatest commandment of the Mosaic law, quotes two of them. Notice how the first one he quotes is recorded in Greek:
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
With the heart (καρδία – kardia), soul (ψυχή – psuche), mind (διάνοια – dia-noia, or literally through-thinking, or thorough mental engagement), strength (ἰσχύς – ischus, or force-having, i.e. operative physical ability).
Notice one component that’s not mentioned in that list as usable, or engageable, in the matter of loving God – spirit. Remember, that’s a quote from the Old Covenant. That right there should tell us something!
When you look at Romans 7:13-24, Paul in his discourse on his struggles to fulfill the law, he specifically mentions in v.23 that the law of sin in his members warred against God’s law in his mind (νοῦς – nous). Not “against the law of God in his spirit” – and that right there should tell us that the discourse doesn’t pertain to the born-again experience. He was not yet under the New Covenant where the law is written in the heart. Paul is a self-described former Pharisee of Pharisees, and as far as righteousness based on law – blameless. But here he lets down his guard and tells us that his mind was powerless to overcome sin working through his members. Well, you could make an argument that all he could engage is just “mind” (νοῦς – nous), as opposed to a full mental engagement that Jesus required (all your διάνοια). But that’s the whole point – no one could fulfill that commandment as required, except for Jesus. So here’s Paul’s summary of his experience at that stage, followed by the solution to the problem:
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So Paul’s solution was not in trying harder to engage the 4 faculties that Jesus had quoted from the law, but in this:
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [and now Paul is talking about his new born-again experience with the the spirit of Christ] has made me free from the law of sin and death.
The solution was to get a new spirit, which gave him the enablement he previously lacked (as described in Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”).
And then Romans 8:1-15, 8:26-27 describes that new way of living out of the spirit. Notice how that is described as impacting both a person’s character, and a person’s body.