Question: "What is the human spirit?"
Answer: The human spirit is the incorporeal part of man. The Bible says that the human spirit is the very breath of Almighty God and was breathed into man at the beginning of God’s creation: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). It is the human spirit that gives us a consciousness of self and other remarkable, though limited, “God-like” qualities. The human spirit includes our intellect, emotions, fears, passions, and creativity. It is this spirit that provides us the unique ability to comprehend and understand (Job 32:8, 18).
The words spirit and breath are translations of the Hebrew word neshamah and the Greek word pneuma. The words mean “strong wind, blast or inspiration.” Neshamah is the source of life that vitalizes humanity (Job 33:4). It is the intangible, unseen human spirit that governs man’s mental and emotional existence. The apostle Paul said, “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Upon death the “spirit returns back to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see also Job 34:14-15; Psalm 104:29-30).
Every human being has a spirit, and it is distinct from the “spirit,” or life, of animals. God made man differently from the animals in that He created us “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, man is able to think, feel, love, design, create, and enjoy music, humor, and art. And it is because of the human spirit that we have a “free will” that no other creature on earth has.
The human spirit was damaged in the fall. When Adam sinned, his ability to fellowship with God was broken; he did not die physically that day, but he died spiritually. Ever since, the human spirit has borne the effects of the fall. Before salvation, a person is characterized as spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13). A relationship with Christ revitalizes our spirits and renews us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Interestingly, just as the human spirit was divinely breathed into the first man, so the Holy Spirit was breathed into the first disciples in John 20:22: “And with that [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22; see also Acts 2:38). Adam was made alive by the breath of God, and we, as “new creations” in Christ, are made spiritually alive by the “Breath of God,” the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3; Romans 6:4). Upon our acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God joins with our own spirit in ways we cannot comprehend. The apostle John said, “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13).
When we allow the Spirit of God to lead our lives, the “Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). As children of God, we are no longer led by our own spirit but by God’s Spirit, who leads us to eternal life.
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