The Spirit of Man
We all agree that God created everything we know and everything we don’t know. Out of what did He create it? – out of His Spirit. As we sieve the very dust of the ground through our fingers, we know that God has made even this out of His Spirit.
We are told God is everywhere present “by His Spirit” and we can appreciate how this is very true for all things, everywhere, are made out of, and sustained by, His Spirit.
If God should withdraw that Spirit back to himself then all His creation would disappear, as Job says in chapter 34:14, 15 “If He set His heart upon man, if He gather unto Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh shall perish together and man shall turn again unto dust.”
Unfortunately, in general, there is confusion in people’s minds about the spirit of man, the breath of man and the soul of man. Let us go back to the original Hebrew and Greek words to establish their true meanings:
Ruwach (Hebrew) is translated variously as breath, air, wind, spirit. This shows that breath and spirit are interchangeable. It is the translators who choose to use breath or spirit according to their own beliefs.
Pneuma (Greek) is the New Testament equivalent of ruach and can be translated as breath, spirit, air, wind.
Nephesh (Hebrew) indicates animal soul and is translated soul.
Psuche (Greek) is the New Testament equivalent of nephesh and has the original meaning of animal soul.
The dead creature of clay became a living creature (animal soul, nephesh) because God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life or the spirit of life. This is the spirit of man.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (ruwach) shall return unto God who gave it.
At death, a man again becomes like Adam BEFORE God breathed the breath of life into him, just the dust of the ground, and the breath or the spirit (ruwach), whichever you like to call it, returns to God.
“…saith the Lord which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit (ruwach) of man within him.” Here, Zecharial is re-affirming that all creation – the heavens, the earth and man are all the result or God’s Spirit – including the spirit (ruach), or breath, or life force in man. Zecharia understood creation and is re-emphasizing the means of the creation of man by God. The word ruach can have no other meaning.
“Behold all souls (nephesh) are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die”.
This soul – nephesh – is the same Hebrew word as describes man after his creation in Genesis 2:7 – a living soul (nephesh). All creatures that God created are His, including all human beings. But notice that any soul (nephesh) is capable of death and will die. This is simply repeating what God had told Adam that if he sinned by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he (a living soul) would become a dead soul. Scripture always backs itself up – never does it contradict itself.
“Into thine hand I commit my spirit (ruwach): thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth”. This is a prophecy of what Jesus would say as he died after hanging six hours on the cross. He said these words as recorded in Luke 23:46. Jesus understood God’s word more than any one and would know that this phrase in Psalm 31:5 referred to his last words and so repeated them – “Into Thy hand I commend my spirit” (pneuma, Greek) – my spirit of life – my breath. Pneuma is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word ruwach and both mean exactly the same – breath, spirit, air, wind. The spirit of life or breath or air or the spirit of man returns to God who gave it. Jesus was exactly the same as all other man and women in this respect, the breath or spirit of life from God kept him a living creature.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. Stephen understood, as did Jesus, that he was about to die and that his spirit (pneuma) of life would return to God. He called out to Jesus to receive this because in verses 55 and 56 he had seen Jesus standing on the right hand of God. He knew that all power and authority had been given to the now immortal Jesus and so called out to him as an intermediary between man and God.
“Because thou wilt not leave my soul (psuche) in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” This is a direct quotation from Psalm 16:10 – again a prophecy about the death of Jesus. From both these quotations we understand that the soul (nephesh – Hebrew, psuche – Greek) of Jesus went to hell after he had died. Hell is another word that is translated from sheol – Hebrew, Hades – Greek meaning the unseen state or grave. In other words – the dead body of Jesus was buried in sheol (the grave). But because he had not sinned, God did not leave his body (nephesh, psuche) to corrupt, as happens to other dead creatures. He revived the body of Jesus with the Spirit, this time to EVERLASTING life. He is the only man into whom God has breathed everlasting life.
“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly”. Because man has the spirit of life from God, he can absorb light or enlightenment from God (His word) whereby we each can search our inward motives and our deeds. Every man has this ability to scrutinize himself. Proverbs 24:20 tells us exactly the same thing, The candle of God’s enlightenment or the spirit of life in the wicked “shall be put out”. They will die even as Adam was warned so long ago.
Because the spirit of man is the life of a man, the word spirit (ruwach) is often used to describe various facets of his character.
So we can have a perverse spirit, a spirit of jealousy, a sorrowful spirit, a lying spirit, a wounded spirit and so on.
Sis. Clare Wood and Bro. Isaac Kapa (Tongaren, Kenya)