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The empowering perspective of human life and the Holy Spirit bringing God's presence and power to bear in the world. A translation of the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek work pneuma which can be translated as “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit” depending upon the context.

In both Testaments, spirit is used of both God and human beings. Spirit , whether used of God or of human beings, is difficult to define. The kinship of spirit, breath, and wind is a helpful clue in beginning to understand spirit . In His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1 ), Jesus said that the Spirit is like the wind in that one cannot see it but one can see its effects. This is true of both the Spirit of God and the spirit of a human being.

Spirit of God At the beginning of creation, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:3 ). Elihu acknowledged to Job that the Spirit of God had made him and was the source of his life (Job 33:4 ). The animals were created when God sent out His “breath” (Psalm 104:30 NRSV note).

The Spirit of God is present everywhere. The psalmist sensed that no matter where he was, God's Spirit was there (Psalm 139:7 ). The Pharaoh saw the Spirit of God in Joseph (Genesis 41:38 ). Moses realized that the Spirit of God was on him, and he desired that God's Spirit be on all of His people (Numbers 11:29 ). During the period of the Judges, the Spirit of the Lord came to individuals and empowered them to accomplish specific tasks (Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19 ). When Samuel, the last of the judges, anointed Saul, Israel's first king, he told Saul that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him. The result was that Saul prophesied and was changed into a different person (1 Samuel 10:6 ). Later, the Spirit departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14 ). Likewise, the Spirit came upon David when Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 16:13 ). In his last words, David said that the Spirit of the Lord had spoken through him (2 Samuel 23:2 ).

Isaiah spoke of one who is to come from the line of Jesse, one on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest. This person would have the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-3 ). Ezekiel prophesied that God would put His Spirit within His people, removing from them hearts of stone and putting within them hearts of flesh that would be obedient to God's way (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ).

New Testament TeachingEach of the four Gospels has numerous references to the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was the agent of Jesus' miraculous conception (Matthew 1:18 ,Matthew 1:18,1:20 ), came down on Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:16 ), led Him into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1 ), and enabled Him to heal diseases and cast out demons (Matthew 12:28 ). Jesus promised the Spirit to His followers as He prepared to leave the world. The Spirit would serve as Comforter and Counselor, continuing to teach Jesus' followers and reminding them of what He had said to them (John 14:25-26 ). Not many days after Jesus' ascension, the promised Spirit came upon His followers during the Feast of Pentecost. The advent of the Spirit was accompanied by a sound that was like a mighty wind. Those who witnessed this event saw what seemed to be tongues of fire resting on the believers. Moreover, these disciples were empowered to speak in tongues other than their native language (Acts 2:1-3 ). Throughout Luke's account of the early church, the Holy Spirit empowered and guided the followers of Jesus in their mission to the world surrounding the Mediterranean (Acts 11:12; Acts 13:2; Acts 15:28; Acts 16:6-7; Acts 20:22; Acts 21:11 ).

The Spirit is important in Paul's understanding of the believer's relationship to God. The Spirit is a gracious personal presence who lives in one who has confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. Relationship to God through Christ by the Spirit is revolutionary. In Galatians, Paul argued that legalism and the way of faith are incompatible. God's Spirit comes to us as a gift based on our faith in Christ and His grace. (Galatians 3:1-5 ). God's Spirit comes into a believer's life, with assurance that we are God's children (Romans 8:16 ). The Spirit is God's pledge to us that we shall be fully transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:1-29; 2 Corinthians 1:22 ). Paul identified the Spirit with the Lord (the risen Christ) and asserted that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, a growing freedom from the law of sin and death (2 Corinthians 3:18; compare Romans 8:2 ).

The Spirit distributes gifts in the church which are designed to equip God's people for serving and building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1; Ephesians 4:7-13 ). Evidence that the Spirit of God is at work in a person or group of persons is love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 ).

At the beginning of Scripture we see the Spirit at work in creation. As Scripture closes, the Spirit and the Bride, the church, issue an invitation for all who are thirsty to come and drink of the water of life (Revelation 22:17 ).

Human Spirits In both the Old and New Testaments, spirit is used of humans and of other beings. When used of humans, spirit is associated with a wide range of functions including thinking and understanding, emotions, attitudes, and intentions. Elihu told Job it was spirit in a person, the breath of God, which gave understanding ( Job 32:8 ). When Jesus healed the paralytic, He perceived in His “spirit” that the religious leaders present were questioning His forgiving the man's sins (Mark 2:8 ).

Spirit is used extensively with human emotions including sorrow ( Proverbs 15:4 ,Proverbs 15:4,15:13 ), anguish (Exodus 6:9; John 13:21 ), anger (Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 16:32 ), vexation (Ecclesiastes 1:14 ), fear (2 Timothy 1:7 ), and joy (Luke 1:47 ).

A variety of attitudes and intentions are associated with spirit. Caleb had a different spirit than most of his contemporaries in that he followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24 ). Sihon, king of Heshbon, had a stubborn spirit (Deuteronomy 2:30 ). 1 Kings 22:1 refers to a lying spirit. The psalmist called persons who have no deceit in their spirits, “blessed” ( Psalm 32:2 ). A person's spirit can be contrite (Psalm 34:18 ), steadfast (Psalm 51:10 ), willing (Psalm 51:12 ), broken (Psalm 51:17 ), and haughty (Proverbs 16:18 ). The Gospel of Mark has numerous references to Jesus healing persons with unclean or foul spirits.

Spirit is used of nonphysical beings, both good and evil. Satan is called the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2 ).

One of the perennial points of conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was over whether there are angels and spirits. The latter believed that there were such while the former denied that such existed. When the risen Christ appeared to the disciples, they were startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a spirit. Jesus invited them to touch Him. He then reminded them that a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:37-39 ).

Steve Bond

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Spirit'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​s/spirit.html. 1991.
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