is the power God used in creating the world. Without it we
would die. It is everywhere present. It inspired the Scriptures,
caused miracles, predicted the future, empowered ordinary
people to do extraordinary things. It is described as speaking,
being grieved, and appearing visibly. The Spirit of God does
so many different things, it is no wonder that people get confused
about what it is.
In this Psalm, David marvels at God’s power in creating
him, in knowing his thoughts and actions before they occur,
and in being everywhere present. All these things are to do
with God’s Spirit. By his Spirit he creates and sustains
life, he knows what we are doing and thinking, he knows the
future, he is with us wherever we go.
1. This Psalm only uses the word “Spirit” once.
But it refers to the work of the Spirit several times. List
the different activities of the Spirit that are described
in this Psalm.
2. What did David mean by “you have searched me and
you know me” (v1)? Does God search and know us too?
Why does David ask God to search and know him again (v23)?
3. What did David mean by “go up to the heavens”
or “make my bed in the depths” (v8)?
Exercise: What is the Spirit of God?
|Before reading further, try writing some of your own ideas about the Spirit of God.
Compare your answer with others and discuss where you differ. See if you expand or change your definitions after reading the rest of this chapter.
|In the Old Testament, the word spirit is usually a translation of the Hebrew word ruach. It is also translated mind, wind, breath, heart and feelings.
In the New Testament, the word spirit is usually a translation of the Greek word pneuma. It is also translated breath, attitude, heart and mind.
‘Spirit’ in the Bible sometimes refers to the spirit of a man or woman (i.e., their attitude or disposition). But mostly it means the Spirit of God. We can only decide what this means by looking at the context in which it is used.
The power of God
Primarily, the Spirit is the power of God. It is the power
which he created the world, and by which he sustains all life.
In speaking of the vast array of animals God has created,
When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take
away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When
you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the
face of the earth. (Psalm 104:29-30)
The words “breath” and “Spirit” are
translations of the same
Hebrew word. God creates with his Spirit, and it provides
life-force within each living creature. When God takes away
his What references to the
Spirit from a living creature, it dies.
What references to “breath of life” can you
find in the Bible?
God has also used his power to inspire his prophets. They
wrote the Scriptures under the guidance of the Spirit.
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but
men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy
Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
Paul wrote that “all Scripture is God-breathed”.
contains the words of God that were breathed by him through
his prophets. The Greek word translated “God-breathed” is
related to the Greek word for Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16
Miracles are another evidence of God’s Spirit in action.
was given the power of the Spirit and was able to do many
great miracles including raising the dead, healing the sick,
reading the thoughts of others, walking on water, and so on.
The first century believers were also given Spirit gifts that
enabled them to do miraculous things to help build up the
congregations of believers.
e.g. Romans 15:19; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4 ; See Chapter 50. Spirit gifts
The presence of God
The Spirit is also used to describe the presence of God. David
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from
your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if
I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Similarly, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as “living
in us” (e.g.
Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16). God is always with us in
his Spirit; through his power he knows where we are and what
we are doing and he can help us.
See Chapter 52. Led by the Spirit
A name for God
The spirit of a person is their character or personality,
essential being, their mind. Sometimes, God’s Spirit
is used in
this way too. For example, Isaiah 63:10 says that the people
Israel “rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit”.
We are also warned
not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God”. In other
words, we must Ephesians 4:30
not cause God grief by our sin.
Names for the Spirit
The Bible uses different names for the Spirit, but they all seem to refer to the same thing. For example, all four gospel writers describe the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), but they use different terms. Matthew calls it the Spirit of God, Mark and John call it the Spirit, and Luke calls it the Holy Spirit. This suggests that the terms are interchangeable. There appears to be no difference between Spirit, Holy Spirit, and the other terms used. There are many other examples where the names are interchanged. See if you can find some of them.
|The Spirit of God
||Genesis 1:2; Judges 3:10; 2 Samuel 23:2; Matthew 3:16; Acts
2:17; 5:9; Romans 8:9,14; 1 Corinthians 2:10.
||Numbers 11:17; Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 2:2; Matthew 4:1; Mark
1:10; Luke 2:27; John 1:32; Acts 8:18,29; Romans 8:4-6; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 5:18.
||Nehemiah 9:30; Psalm 104:30; 139:7.
|The Holy Spirit
||Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11; Matthew 1:18,20; 3:11; 12:32;
Mark 1:8; 12:36; Luke 1:15,35; 3:22; Acts 1:16; 4:8,25,31; 5:3,32;
Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:13.
|The Holy Spirit of God
|Your good Spirit
||Psalm 143:10; Nehemiah 9:20
|The power of the Lord
||1 Kings 18:46; Jeremiah 10:12; Luke 5:17; 1 Corinthians 6:14.
|The Spirit of Christ
||Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11.
||John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7.
The Holy Ghost
|The King James Version uses the phrase “Holy Ghost” instead of Holy Spirit in most (but not all) places. Today, “ghost” means a disembodied person (and so cannot exist), but when the KJV was written, “ghost” had a different meaning. For example, a spiritual adviser to the king was known as a “ghostly confessor”. Because the word has changed its meaning, it is better to use “Holy Spirit” as all modern versions do.
There are other places too where “Spirit” or “Holy
God himself. For example, Peter said to Ananias: “how
that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the
Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). In the next verse he says “You
lied to men but to God”.
See also Acts 8:29; 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 3:17.
It is very important to understand that the Bible never speaks
of the Holy Spirit as a being separate from God. When spoken
of as a person, it is referring to God himself.
The term “Spirit” or one of its equivalents is
used in a number
of different ways in Scripture. It is the power by which God
works miracles, sustains his creation, inspired the Bible
everywhere present. But it is much more than that. It is his
very essence, his character, his mind.
The Spirit is not a person separate from God. Neither is it
a power that God can use. It is God himself, at work, fulfilling
1. Do you now want to expand or modify your definition of
2. The Spirit appeared visibly when Jesus was baptised, “descending on him like a dove”. On what other
was the Spirit visible? What did it look like? Why do you
think God made his power take a visible appearance on
these occasions? Mark 1:10
1. Read John 3:8. Find out if it is the same Greek word which
is translated “wind” and “Spirit”.
Jesus is referring to an Old Testament passage which compares
the wind with God’s Spirit. Can you find it?
2. The “Holy Spirit” is frequently used in the
New Testament, but only three times in the Old Testament.
It is equivalent to the Old Testament phrase “the Spirit
of God”. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the New
Testament is described as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies
concerning the pouring out of God’s Spirit. Find two
examples in Acts 2 and Luke 4. Can you find others? Why is
the term “Holy Spirit” frequently used in the
New Testament but rarely in the Old Testament?
• BB Study 2
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach
by Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986),
Chapter 14. 19 pages. Another good survey of the Spirit of
God covering all the important points.
1. God’s inspired word
32. Jesus: Son of God and Son of Man
50. Spirit gifts
51. The fruit of the Spirit
52. Led by the Spirit