Understanding the Spirit – by Barbara Parker

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In the days of rabbit ears and black and white television, viewing choices were limited.  But one cold, rainy day I was fortunate enough to catch the tale of George and Marion Kerby, two fun-loving ghosts trying to do a good deed that would get them out of limbo and into heaven.  The movie was Topper, and the fact that it was already more than twenty years old didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the story.   Perhaps it was just because I was bored that I enjoyed it so much, or perhaps I fell prey to the mystique that surrounds the concept of spirits who once inhabited human bodies, in which case I was not alone.  Topper, released in 1938, spawned two sequels in 1938 and 1941, a television series in 1953, a television pilot in 1973 and a yet-to-be-released remake of the original film starring Steve Martin in 2010; and Topper is not alone in it’s ability to enchant viewers with ideas about what happens after we die.  In Carousel, Billy Bigelow was turned away from heaven’s gate until his spirit returned to earth and alleviated all of the distress he’d caused in his lifetime.  In Here Comes Mr. Jordan, remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait, a the spirit of a sports figure accidentally killed before his time is sent back to earth to inhabit the body of someone who’s time is up. 1   And the list goes on, for who can forget the more current films and TV series such as Ghost, The Sixth Sense, or Medium?  But, as entertaining as these media presentations may be, do they give us an accurate picture of the spirit of man?  Unfortunately, many people seem to adopt such popular stories as their own personal beliefs; perhaps because they feel so good and offer such happy explanations to perplexing questions; but the Christian must turn to the only truth that is valid for information regarding the spirit of man—the Word of God.  Let’s look at what God has to say.

The Bible is clear that man is multidimensional—a triune being consisting of three parts; in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we read, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  A couple of other things are also clear:

  • God is the creator of man’s spirit.  Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. (Zechariah 12:1)
  • Without the spirit, there is no physical life.  No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death.
    (Ecclesiastes 8:8) and, for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)
  • Outside of Christ our spirits are dead to, or separated from, God.  And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1-2)

We understand the body because we can see and touch it; and we have a fair comprehension of the soul because it is generally understood to have to do with our mind, will and emotion.  But what of the spirit?  It seems so much more esoteric, and every –ism that exists seems to offer a different slant on it.  Perhaps some of the confusion is because the triune being of man exists in a multi-dimensional universe of which he has little or no comprehension.  Many may assume that if something is outside of the realms of time and space it doesn’t exist—it’s make believe or science fiction.  And so, where ignorance exists, the enemy steps in and creates confusion in the form of superstition and false belief systems.  Certainly, down through the ages, civilization after civilization has fallen into paganism; worshiping unseen spirits of the moon, the harvest, the sun, whatever seemed important to them—creating their own spiritual deities because they did not comprehend the truth. Unfortunately, evil not only exists in spirit form but also works overtime to skew mankind’s understanding of the spiritual realm.  Man can even be inhabited or possessed by evil spirits:

  • Numbers 5:30 speaks of when the spirit of jealousy comes on a man.
  • A distressing spirit overcame Saul. (1 Samuel 16:16)
  • There are also perverse spirits, false spirits, lying spirits, foul spirits, defiant spirits, and all manner of evil and unclean spirits that bring destruction upon mankind.2

So that’s the bad news; and the enemy would love for us to believe that’s all there is.  BUT, and it’s a big but; while there are many kinds of spirits, only mankind shares His image, so it is reasonable to assume that our spirit is meant to be a mirror image of His, and His Word shows us the truth.  The spirit of man is the “designation of that aspect of existence that is noncorporeal and immaterial.  Its Latin derivation (as with the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible—ruach and pneuma) denotes blowing or breathing (Jb 41:16; Is 25:4).  So the noun spiritus signifies breath and life.  God, the source of all life, is himself Spirit (Jn 4:24).  He put a spirit within all human beings so that they could commune with him in his realm and in his nature.  A Christian’s experience of Jesus Christ is made real when that person experiences the Spirit of Jesus Christ in his or her spirit.”3

Good news indeed!  The evidence is clear in scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 assures us that we receive revelation from God through His Spirit—things that man alone could not comprehend.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the HolySpirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
  • Job 32:8—But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
  • Haggai 1:14-15—The LORD motivates us through our spirits to accomplish His work.  So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.
  • Romans 8:14—For as many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God
  • Proverbs 17:27b—And a man of understanding is of calm spirit.
  • Proverbs 18:14— The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?
  • Proverbs 20:27—The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, searching
  •  all the inner depths of his heart.
  • Luke 1:80 speaks of John the Baptist, so the child grew and became strong in spirit…
  • God’s power over the evil spirits is evident repeatedly throughout the New Testament as both Jesus and his followers cast the evil spirits out of people.  In Matthew 8:16 we see it only took a word; when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed.  And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of God’s Spirit that is available to be manifested in our spirits.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.

God is so gracious to give us all the instruction we need to deal with anything, including spiritual matters, if we only seek his truth.  We are provided with both instructions and the examples of those who have gone before.

  • Proverbs 29:23—A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:15 shows us that we are to both pray and sing with our spirits.
  • Galatians 6:1— Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
  • In Acts 11:12 sets an example for us regarding following the Spirit; Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing.
  • 1 Corinthian 12:4-11 instructs us about the gifts that the Spirit of God manifests in our spirits; there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.   And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.   But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
  • Genesis 41 relates the story of Joseph from his betrayal by his brothers to his position as second in command of Egypt.  He was so sold out to God that even the pagan king acknowledged it; and Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
  • And then there’s Daniel, who was introduced to Belshazzar as a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.  And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers
  • In Acts 11:24 we see in the life of Barnabas how evangelism grows out of the fullness of the Spirit of God; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And a great many people were added to the Lord.
  • Galatians 6:1—Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
  • 1 John 4:1-3—We are to be discerning of spiritual things.  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

Yes, we are to test the spirits; so here we are, right back at the movies.  What about all of that?  Is it OK to talk to the dead?  Do our spirits have opportunities to come back and make things right after we die?  Again, the Bible is specific:

1 Samuel 28 :3-20 relates the story of King Saul, so desperate for a prophetic word and he made a very bad decision that cost him greatly, and we see in 1 Chronicles 10:13 that the penalty was death.  The entire account is related here because it is so very appropriate for today.


 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.  Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem.  So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa.  When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”  And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”  So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”  Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”  And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”  Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”  And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”  And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?”  And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.”  So he said to her, “What is his form?”  And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.  Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”  And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”  Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?  And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.  Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.  Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”  Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.


So, God’s opinion of seeking after the spirits of the dead is quite clear:

  • The penalty for interacting with evil spirits or who acted as a medium within the spiritual realm was severe.  A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:27)
  • And in Hebrews 9:27 we see that there are no second chances, for it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…

But once again, there’s some really good news.  Hebrews 9:28 continues the last thought; so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.  Jesus is again the answer to our every question—whether in regard to the things of this world or the things of the spiritual realm of which we have so little comprehension.  And it gets even better, for we have God’s wonderful promise; and you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.   Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15)





1 Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topper_%28film%29 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carousel_%28film%29  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Here_Comes_Mr._Jordan

2  Isaiah 19:14; Micah 2:11; Matthew 12:43-46; 1 Kings 22:22-23; Luke 11:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:8

3 Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.


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About Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker, the founder of Standing in Faith Ministries, endeavors to serve others by sharing the faith lessons God has taught her through the everyday trials of life. She is a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; and she worked for many years as a registered nurse and as a real estate broker. A survivor of breast cancer and several other major illnesses, Barbara holds the unshakable belief that God is big enough for any problem that life throws at you. It is this faith that enabled her when she worked as a hospice nurse, providing comfort to the dying and their loved ones. It is this faith that she writes and speaks about. Barbara graduated from the Los Angeles County Hospital School of Nursing and holds a BS in Health Science (Summa Cum Laude) from Chapman University, a Certificate in Fundraising from Loyola Marymount University, and a Certificate in Grant Writing from the Grantsmanship Center of Los Angeles. A Christian since childhood, she pretty-much grew up in church and has served in a variety of ministry roles including music, teaching, administration and counseling. She completed several post-graduate-level courses in Theology, trained as a church counselor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, and completed a variety of schools and workshops with Aslan’s Place and other ministries. Barbara is a prayer minister endorsed by Aslan’s Place, where she often participates as a team member in ministry across the USA and abroad. She participates in a network of home churches, worshiping and developing relationships in a small group setting. Barbara is the author/editor/publisher of Pug Parables, I’m Still Standing and Richard’s Story which are available at Barbara's Store. She also has a DVD series, Unraveling the Mystery of Dream Interpretation, available at Aslan's Place. Barbara speaks to groups of any size, sharing her testimony and teaching others how to stand in faith. She is passionate about the fact that Christians can overcome every difficult circumstance through an intimate relationship with God in all three of his persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Barbara can be reached through her website www.standinginfaith.org