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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

05 April 2006

A New Spirit

Q: The Scripture says that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)” For a person who is a babe in Christ, please answer, “What is a spirit?”

A: A while ago, I wrote about the Bible’s use of “spirit” and “soul.” Sometimes, these words are near synonyms. Since the word often translated “spirit” can also mean “breath” or “wind,” I noted, “Spirit can mean life itself, especially since breath is essential to life.” As Matthew 27:50 says, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

BaptismThis idea may be part of what Paul meant, but I think that the following definition is more specific to the 2 Timothy passage: “Scripture sometimes uses ‘spirit’ to mean one’s desires which are in tune with the divine will.” This “spirit ... of power and love and self-control” comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit. So we could, I suppose, make Paul’s “spirit” a “capital-S ‘Spirit,’” since God gives us His Holy Spirit that we might have these gifts.

In other words, the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit moves you from expressing the sinful desires of your natural self to the God-pleasing attitude of His Son. Indeed, the perfection of “power and love and self-control” is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This “spirit” is what David prayed for in his penitential Psalm following Nathan’s accusation and the King’s recognition of his sins regarding Bathsheba and Uriah: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)“

If you read this post in combination with the previous response, you see the parallel between the “New Man” and the spirit of “power and love and self-control” or the “right spirit.” They come not from human invention or effort but through Baptism and the Gospel, by the grace of God for the sake of Christ.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Blogger Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Another thing that people often fail to realize is that Paul is writing to Timothy, the PASTOR, and saying these things about the Spirit. In another place he says, "Do not neglect the Gift that was given you through the laying on of my hands..." What gift could that be but the Spirit, who was given to Timothy and to all ministers for the work of the Ministry. Certainly God gave to all Christians His Spirit through baptism, but let's not forget to read the Bible contextually.

07 April, 2006 13:57  

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