Spirit: what is it?

(Ryan C Melcher) #1

John 4:24 says “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." My question is what exactly is spirit? I don’t think it’s matter or energy. Has anyone have any thoughts?

Thanks in advance.

Cheers and blessings,


(SeanO) #2

@RyanMelcher I think you are correct that ‘spirit’ is neither matter or energy. God is spirit and He existed before either the matter or energy of this universe. I am not sure that we can know ‘what’ spirit is, but I think we can understand a little bit about what it means to have a spirit. There is a nonmaterial part of us and yet the Bible generally assumes that this nonmaterial part of us is united with our body. Humans have always been embodied spirits, so to speak.

Below are some thoughts that I hope will get the discussion moving in the right direction. Let me know what you find helpful. Christ guide our discussion.

What is our spirit?

The first result on Google is “the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul”. So we have our body and then a non-material part of us called the ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’. Some people believe the ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are separate things, but let’s not get too deep into the weeds on that one.

A few Biblical examples that clarify this relationship between the spirit and the body.

After Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8 it says:

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.

Her ‘spirit’ had apparently been somewhere else and then returned to her body. They are separate things.

Another verse that has always been interesting to me when thinking about the ‘spirit’ is from Ezekiel’s vision, where it says the following:

Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

Again - the spirit is what animates the physical object.

While a distinction is made in the Bible between the material and immaterial parts of the human being, the emphasis is on the necessary connection between body and soul. Regeneration and sanctification for the Christian is a spiritual experience intended to be expressed in the physical body in and through which we have been made to live. The separation of body and soul caused at death is an unnatural tragedy, which will be remedied when the body is resurrected, allowing humans to exist as they were intended to do.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #3

Hello Ryan (@RyanMelcher). This is a good question. Let me attempt to answer your question based on what I’ve learned from the theologian Wayne Grudem.

He defines God’s spirituality as:

“God’s spirituality means that God exists as a being that is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence.”

In John 4:24, Jesus spoke about God being spirit, in the context of his disourse with the woman at the well. The discussion is about the place where people should worship God. Jesus is saying that the true worship of God does not have anything to do with physical location, but with a person’s inner spiritual condition. God is spirit then signifies that God is not limited to spatial location.

This means that God’s spirituality should not be thought of as Him having size or dimensions, or that God is infinitely large, in a sense that God’s spirit is not part of God, but all of God in every point of space. God’s spirit is not infinitely small as well, since no place could contain Him. Since God’s being cannot be rightly thought of in terms of space, then we can understand him in terms of spirit.

I hope this helps. :slight_smile:

(Ryan C Melcher) #4

Thanks for the answers everyone. It seems to me, to sum it all up, we don’t exactly know what spirit is as as we can’t perceive it with our senses. It is also non physical. It can do things like animate a body, however I think it will probably be a bit of a mystery. Which is fine. Thanks again for the incite.

Cheers and blessings,


(Kathleen) #5

May I push back a bit on Dr. Grudem’s definition, @omnarchy? :smirk: I actually do think we can perceive spirit with the senses! (Unless Grudem is differentiating between God’s Spirit and His spirituality?) I always think of the wind. You can’t see it, but you can see how it effects the things it touches. At Pentecost, those present heard the sound of rushing. And though we may not be able to grasp it, we can feel it, as one can sometimes feel a presence of something else.

Though, if you, like me, grew up in and/or currently live in a culture that elevates mind over body, then I do think that our bodies would need to be sensitised to detecting the presence of the Spirit, as our eyes and ears for that sort of thing need to be developed.

Though I may be referring to something different than what you had in mind, @RyanMelcher?

(Ryan C Melcher) #6

Hi Kathleen,

@KMac That’s a good point. The verses are as follows:

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. - Acts 2:2-4

This may be a special instance of the Holy Spirit manifesting it’s self. I don’t see something like this manifested in daily life, but I certainty believe the Holy Spirit is present right now as I type. As far as the substance (if that even is the right word) we just can’t pick up a cup of Spirit and put it under the microscope.

That being said God can make himself manifest to us however he chooses. Our Lord Jesus for instance. I’m not too sure about our bodies being able to sense the Spirit. I’m not disputing it, just questioning. I guess I need more passages of scripture to get an understanding there.

Thanks for the reply.

Cheers and blessings,


(Kathleen) #7

I have a number of friends who possess what I jokingly refer to as spiritual ‘spidey senses’. That is, they seem to be sensitively attuned to the Spirit in a way that intrigues me. They are also very solidly grounded in Scripture, so it’s not some vague spirituality. I don’t quite understand it, but they are great people to know!

(SeanO) #8

@RyanMelcher I think the fine distinction that must be made is between spiritual experiences and emotions. For example, Lewis (where I cannot recall) states that it is only natural that God should communicate to us through our five senses / emotions because we are embodied beings - our spirit and body work in tandum. How else would He go about it?

But then there is the danger, if we have a spiritual experience, that we equate that experience with God rather than simply acknowledging that it came from God. So when a thought pops into our mind and is accompanied by that same feeling we had in a previous spiritual experience, we think God is speaking. Maybe, maybe not… We must weigh and test all things by Scripture.

I like Lewis’ book ‘Letters to Malcolm’ because he digs into these very practical questions about how we correlate our emotions with spiritual experiences. And on some level I think that is really a question about what it means to be human - a spirit and body - an embodied spirit. How do we work out what that means? I don’t agree with Lewis on all of his conclusions - but this book provides an excellent opportunity to engage these questions of spiritual experience in a way that was profound for me personally.

one can concentrate on the pleasure as ane vent in one’s own nervous system - subjectify it - and ignore the semll of Deity that hangs about it. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling and contend with the greatest disinclination. For these, perhaps, being nearly all will, come from a deeper level than feeling. In feeling there is so much taht is not really ours - so much that comes from weather and health or from the last book read. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

The body, bless it, will not cintue indefinitely supplying us with the physical media of emotion. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

Emotional intensity is in itself nor proof of spiritual depth. If we pray in terror we shall pray earnestly; it only proves that terror is an earnest emotion. Only God Himself can let the bucket down to the depths in us. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

But for our body one whole realm of God’s glory—all that we receive through the senses—would go upraised. For the beasts can’t appreciate it and the angels are, I suppose, pure intelligences. They understand colors and tastes better than our greatest scientists; but have they retinas or palates? I fancy the “beauties of nature” are a secret God has shared with us alone. That may be one of the reasons why we were made—and why the resurrection of the body is an important doctrine. Letters to Malcolm

Interesting article on how Lewis viewed the role of the physical body in prayer:

There are particular aspects of His love and joy which can be communicated to a created being only by sensuous experience. Something of God which the Seraphim can never quite understand flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself. God in the Dock