God’s Spirit and Word—Divine Provisions for Life
“It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”—John 6:63.
1. What endangers the air and food supplies of man, making it increasingly difficult to live on earth?
IF YOU awoke from sleep to find that you were breathing in death-dealing fumes, would you not fight your way out to fresh air? If you learned that your diet contained poisonous substances that were weakening your body so much that you would soon die, would you not change to that which would give nourishment and health to the body? Yet, despite our concern to eliminate immediate dangers, it is getting to be increasingly difficult for us to live on the earth at all because of the contamination of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Fallout from atomic explosions and harmful smokes and chemicals pollute the air, as well as food and water supplies. ‘The growing and processing of food often leave it depleted nutritionally and tainted with poisons and additives. Sewage and other wastes pour into the streams and lakes supplying fresh water, bringing disease and death to many who drink it. Added to this peril is the critical shortage of food and fresh water in many parts of the world.
2. (a) What “air” is more deadly than natural air that has been contaminated, and from where does it come? (b) Contrast the outcomes of those guided by the “spirit of the world” and those guided by God’s spirit.
2 Did you know, however, that there is a more deadly, yet subtle, “air” being breathed in today than the literal air that is becoming more and more polluted? or that the vast majority of mankind are consuming a steady diet of “food” and “drink” that is sending them rapidly to the grave? Spiritually speaking, the “air” or worldly atmosphere that most people breathe in today is the “spirit of the world,” which has been judged as unclean by Jehovah. (1 Cor. 2:12; Rev. 16:17-21) ‘There is this common inclination of mind that so permeates the whole of society that it causes people to think, to speak and to take certain attitudes and viewpoints, and to follow a rather well-defined pattern of conduct that runs counter to the influence of God’s spirit and the instruction in his Word, the Bible. This is not strange, since “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, who is described as the “god of this system of things,” and as “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (1 John 5:19; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2) Unless we get awake to the lethal effects of this spirit that is created by the Devil and that caters to the selfish desires of the flesh, we will perish. We must, rather, seek to be guided by the holy spirit of God, and thus be motivated to walk in the pure and righteous way that leads to life. “For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—Rom. 8:5, 6.
3. What is the spiritual diet of the masses of mankind, and what has been the effect?
3 Is the spiritual diet provided for the minds of the masses any better than the “air” they breathe? The groans of a sick world, ready to die, give the ominous answer. The ever-growing violence, greed, immorality and blasphemy against God in the world are the terrible results. They have pushed aside the pure food of God’s Word, which would bring spiritual health and give instruction in the way to everlasting life, and have turned aside to the philosophy, the theories, the codes of ethics, the plans, the ideologies and, yes, even the divisive influences of the religious sects of this old system. Just as physical food and water that are contaminated make the body sick and hasten death, so the feeding on this diet has made the masses of mankind so sick that God considers them dead though living. (Eph. 2:1; 1 Tim. 5:6) “Two bad things that my people have done: They have left even me, the source of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.” “They have left Jehovah, they have treated the Holy One of Israel with disrespect, they have turned backwards. Where else will you be struck still more, in that you add more revolt? The whole head is in a sick condition, and the whole heart is feeble. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no sound spot in it.”—Jer. 2:13; Isa. 1:4-6.
4. In contrast to the wisdom of this world, what type of food does man need for his mind?
4 If he is to make right decisions leading to life, man needs solid food based on truth on which to feed his mind, not worldly wisdom. Jesus put the emphasis in the right place when being tempted by the Devil: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matt. 4:4) The mind of man needs divine wisdom to think straight. There must be a basis of truth on which to build. In prayer to God, Jesus stated: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) It is by a careful study of the Bible, the book of truth, that we appreciate the only way to everlasting life, that is, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Jesus said to them: ‘I am the bread of life. He that comes to me will not get hungry at all, and he that exercises faith in me will never get thirsty at all.’”—John 6:35; Jas. 3:13-18.
5. What will the solid food of God’s Word aid one to do?
5 Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians who were slow in understanding the deeper things regarding Jesus as the Messiah: “Concerning him we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:11, 14) He further warned: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world, and not according to Christ.”—Col. 2:8; Ps. 119:104, 105.
6. Because God wants man to live, what provisions has he made for him?
6 No doubt about it, if we want life in God’s new system of things, we must stop breathing in the “spirit of the world” and henceforth let God’s holy spirit be a motivating force in our lives. We must stop feeding upon the husks of worldly knowledge and stop drinking the polluted waters of man-made ideas, while we henceforth feast upon the spiritual food and drink in the knowledge and truth of God’s Word. The choice is really one of life or death. We must accept God’s provisions for life or we will lose out. If we really want life, He will help us to get it, because it is not his will that any should perish. The divine provisions of his spirit and Word are two strong guarantees of this.—2 Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 33:11; John 7:37-39.
7. (a) Does God give us an understanding of his Word miraculously? (b) How shall we view the operations of God’s spirit upon the prophets and Bible writers?
7 The question arises now, How can we get the greatest benefits from these divine provisions for life? Jehovah does not miraculously open our minds and pour in an understanding. He has never worked that way. We must search for knowledge and understanding as if for hidden treasures. (Prov. 2:1-9) If our hearts are right and we really want to serve God, he will give us understanding, but not forcibly. Worship must be completely voluntary, from the heart. While he gave inspiration to Bible writers and others, they had to use their intellect to learn God’s will and make their own decision to serve him. Often they did not fully understand what they received by inspiration. (Dan. 12:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:10-12) He does not take possession of us as the demons do when they control a person’s mind that has been given over to them. We do not get the “holy ghost” or spirit, along with visible manifestations, as in the days of the apostles. When the apostles and those closely associated with them died, there were no more powerful works or miracles performed with the aid of God’s holy spirit.—1 Cor. 13:8-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21.
8. (a) While powerful works are no longer performed by the holy spirit, what operations have continued down until today? (b) How does God’s spirit help us to understand the ‘things kindly given us by God’?
8 But does this mean that the holy spirit no longer works in our behalf? No, powerful works were just one operation of the spirit. Paul shows that there are “varieties of gifts, but there is the same spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6) Jesus said: “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” “When the helper arrives that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; and you, in turn, are to bear witness, because you have been with me from when I began.” (John 6:63; 15:26, 27) Since Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah’s holy spirit has continued to be a “helper,” a ‘remembrancer,’ a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘witness bearer.’ (John 16:7-16; 14:25, 26; Mark 13:11) After it inspired the last Bible writer, John, to close the Bible canon, it has fulfilled these roles primarily by aiding Jehovah’s true servants to get a progressive understanding of God’s Word and to spread the good news in all the world as a witness. There was no need for additional revelations but to understand what had been written already. Paul put it this way: “For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. ‘These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.”—1 Cor. 2:10, 12, 13.
9. How can we acquire the “pattern of healthful words” in our minds?
9 The process, then, calls for a change in thinking. We have to stop breathing in the spirit of this world and to work for a new spirit or force within us that is in harmony with God’s spirit and Word. God’s spirit has always worked in harmony with his Word. It cannot go contrary to it. He will not give us some contrary direction or new direction if he has it there in his Word for us to learn, but he will help us to understand what is written. We must get the understanding of spiritual matters by getting the spiritual words in the Bible clear in mind. We have to get the related parts fitted together so that we get spiritual understanding. Paul wrote Timothy: “Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus. This fine trust guard through the holy spirit which is dwelling in us.”—2 Tim. 1:13, 14; Eph. 3:14-19.
10. In what way does God’s spirit work through his Word?
10 In themselves, the pages of the Bible are merely paper with ink upon them, whether bound in fancy or plain cover. However, when one begins to study these spirit-inspired words with a good heart, a powerful force is generated so that it truly can be said that God’s spirit is being absorbed by the discerning reader. ‘This is really one of the outstanding operations of the holy spirit, by reason of the force put into God’s Word by holy spirit. It produces results when it begins to work in our lives. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) The Word of God is that penetrating! It gets down to our motives for doing things. It distinguishes between what we appear to be as a living creature, the soul, and what we really are at heart, in attitude, in spirit. If we let it act in our lives, it will counteract wrong ideas, impure motives and selfish desires. It can create within us a powerful force to motivate toward righteousness.—Jer. 17:9, 10.
WORKING FOR A NEW SPIRIT
11. How did God purpose that man use his mind?
11 When Jehovah made man, he gave him the marvelous faculty of a reasoning mind. What a gracious gift this was! The minds of Adam and Eve were not printed circuits that could produce only predetermined thoughts or results on a given stimulus. Neither were they robots, controlled from heaven according to their every move. Rather, Jehovah would teach them progressively all the things they needed to know in order to make right decisions in life. Right and wrong were not to be learned by the empirical (or trial and error) method. Perceptions would be taken in through the senses and would be associated together into patterns of knowledge. This could be put to use at the moment or stored in the memory for later use. In time man would have in his mental reservoir a vast accumulation of learning from his Creator that he could put to use as wisdom in carrying out God’s purpose for him with understanding.—Prov. 3:1-7.
12. (a) What did Jehovah create within the minds and hearts of men to cause them to have incentive? (b) How does man differ from the lower animals as to the potential of this mental force?
12 The workings of the mind are very complex, but we know that from the time one is born there is present a mental force that motivates him to do things. The Bible speaks of this mental inclination or motivating force as the spirit (ruʹahh, Hebrew; pneuʹma, Greek) of man. (Prov. 25:28; 1 Cor. 2:11) It springs from one’s desires, needs, aspirations and other stimuli both inside and outside the body, and is given intensity of force by reason of cultivating them. The lower animals have a spirit too; but, in contrast, this mental force drives them to do things according to instinct, varying little from the way their progenitors did things for centuries past, With man, the potential of this mental inclination to exert itself in more than one direction according to a reasoned-out course gives him the ability to choose, and thus man is a free moral agent. Yet, the freedom man has is limited. It has bounds. It must of necessity be that way in his own interests, since there are many things that he can choose to do which are harmful. The Creator of man, knowing what is good for him, mentally and physically, has set reasonable bounds that are not burdensome.—1 John 5:3; 1 Pet. 2:16.
13. Discuss the performance of one’s will in relationship to his “spirit.”
13 Closely associated with this driving force is a person’s will, which is the faculty of conscious and deliberate action. It denotes fixed and persistent intent and purpose. How one takes in knowledge and relates this together so as to have understanding has a great bearing on the will. There are motivating mental forces behind our actions, and the control that our will exercises upon these forces determines whether we do one thing or something different. We call this willpower. We can strengthen our will with reasons for doing the right thing as determined by God and by the consequences of doing the wrong thing, and by doing this our motivating force will direct us in the proper way. “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way.”—Prov. 2:10-12; Dan. 11:3; 1 Cor. 7:37.
14. (a) Because of sin, what is the nature of man’s inclination of mind? (b) How can we have a new spirit to actuate our minds?
14 Our first parents did not continue to take in right knowledge and strengthen their wills to fulfill Jehovah’s purpose for them. They let wrong desire become fertile so as to motivate them to a course of self-determination. (Jas. 1:14, 15; 2 Cor. 11:3) They sinned, and by inheritance we have the same tendencies. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Gen. 8:21) David confessed: “Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Faced with the wretchedness of his sinful course, he prayed contritely: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one. Do not throw me away from before your face; and your holy spirit O do not take away from me.” (Ps. 51:5, 10, 11) We have to study God’s Word diligently and take to heart its counsel to have this new spirit. We have to respond to the leadings of God’s holy spirit. Left to our own judgment, we would often fall and be led into wrong pathways, despite any sincere intentions, Hence, the apostle counsels: “Put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . be made new in the force actuating your mind, and . . . put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Eph. 4:22-24.
15. To keep a good heart and the right spirit, what is needed?
15 If one prays, studies and works for a right spirit and is determined to have it, God is faithful in that He will help that person to have a good spirit. Jesus emphasized the need to pray for God’s spirit to strengthen our own spirit: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) Our spirit has to be given a boost or be inclined so strongly in the right direction that any fleshly desire to go the wrong way or follow the course of least resistance is counteracted. Then we will not give in to temptation or “allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:27) With our minds awake, alive, eager to do God’s will, we will be able to move the flesh to obey despite its limitations and imperfections.—1 Cor. 9:26, 27; Rom. 6:12-14.
16. (a) What continues to work in opposition to our renewed minds? (b) What is needed in order to triumph over the desires of the flesh?
16 Thus, God does not perform a miracle in our case and remove imperfection and the inclination to sin from our bodies. It is still there, and we are very conscious of it day by day, even though we apply ourselves diligently to a godly course. “I find, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. . . . So, then, with my mind I myself am a slave to God’s law, but with my flesh to sin’s law.” (Rom. 7:21-25) We would be unable to triumph over the desires of the flesh in our own strength. That is why God grants us the help we need over and above what we are able to do ourselves to meet the requirements, “that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7) He gives us his spirit, not to perform a miracle to take away the problem, but to give us the understanding on how to cope with it, to endure it, to be trained by it, to prove integrity by it. “For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind”—2 Tim. 1:7; Luke 11:13.
17. (a) As we undergo various trials, of what should we not lose sight? (b) Why are we subjected fully to the test at times?
17 We should not feel that our trials are always special ones involving the great issue of universal sovereignty, such as Job’s trial was, and yet never should we go to the other extreme and feel that we are not contributing to the vindication of Jehovah’s name by our course of faithfulness under test. The Devil and his demons would act to destroy God’s servants without any mercy if God did not provide the necessary protection and the climate wherein faith, hope and love could be nurtured and integrity worked out. The Devil repeatedly calls into question the integrity and uprightness of God’s servants and he often maneuvers matters so that we are tempted, abused, threatened or otherwise interfered with. Some issues are cut very sharply, and it may at times seem to be a very close decision as to whether the individual will maintain integrity and faithfulness under test. If Jehovah effected miraculous deliverance indiscriminately, then there would be a basis for the Devil to taunt Jehovah, that he did not let the issue run its full course: ‘Jehovah helped him right at the crucial point; if He had not delivered him just then, he would surely have failed the test that I set up that time.’ Thus the results would be inconclusive as to the issue.—Prov. 27:11; Rev. 7:1-4, 9-17.
18. What can we expect in the way of relief from Jehovah?
18 On the other hand, if the test or trial is being taken beyond what is reasonable, beyond the point where it would prove anything pertaining to the issue, then there would be justification for Jehovah to step mercifully into the picture with relief, with some operation, either by his holy angels who are public servants in behalf of the holy ones on earth or otherwise. The individual may not feel this special help, but he will feel the relief. Jehovah can call a halt to matters, making a way out, if the test has served its purpose, or he can allow it to run its limit, in some instances, if faithfulness to death is the only way the issue can be settled. “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Cor. 10:12, 13; 2 Cor. 4:7-12.
19. Since Jehovah is “making an estimate of spirits,” what should we be careful to do?
19 How comforting the words of Paul: “Therefore we do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) It is the “man we are inside” that we want to keep renewed and to safeguard. As we endure, we remember that Jehovah is “making an estimate of spirits.” (Prov. 16:2) He watches to see if we are letting the spirit of this world and its wisdom motivate us, or if we are keeping close to his Word and responding to his spirit. “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit . . . go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is. . . . keep getting filled with spirit.”—Eph. 4:30; 5:17, 18; Gal. 5:16-26.
20. Jehovah has given us his spirit and his Word for what purpose? What will the next article show?
20 If we are going to make it into God’s new order of things for mankind, we must avail ourselves of all the provisions Jehovah has made for life. In this article we have seen how his spirit and his Word are indispensable aids without which we cannot do. There is a third provision that is indispensable also, and in the next article we will see how it too is a loving provision from Jehovah to his people in their quest for life.