Much has been written of a controversial nature regarding the word “spirit”. The word is used in many different contexts in Scripture. It identifies, in the first instance, God’s power by which all things are made and continue to exist as described in Genesis 1:2, but it embraces a much wider concept than that. We read of “the Spirit of God”, “Holy Spirit”, “spirit of life”, “spirit” as a state of mind, the personality, disposition and so on.

Because it has been the subject of so much misunderstanding, we may easily develop a negative perception of the word, but it is important that we view it positively. Romans 8 is one of the most helpful passages, where the word is used in essentially three different ways. So the Apostle says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [the new mode of living based on the new mode of thinking based on the Word of God] if so be that the Spirit of God [the Word of God] dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ [the new mode of thinking or disposition based on the Word] he is none of his”. There is no point of identity of a man with Christ if that man does not share Christ’s thinking.

“Spirit” in the whole chapter could be set out as follows:

8:2 God’s Word

8:4 New mode of thinking based on the Word

8:5 (1) God’s Word

(2) New mode of thinking based on theW ord

8:6 New mode of thinking based on the Word

8:9 (1) New mode of living based on the new mode of thinking based on the Word (2) God’s Word

(3) New mode of thinking based on theW ord

8:10 New mode of thinking based on the Word

8:11 (1) God’s Word

(2) God’s Word

8:13 New mode of thinking based on the Word

8:14 God’s Word

8:15 (1) Old mode of thinking based on the flesh (fear)

(2) New mode of thinking based on theW ord

8:16 (1) God’s Word

(2) New mode of thinking based on theW ord 8:23 Holy Spirit gifts

8:26 (1) New mode of thinking based on theW ord

(2) New mode of thinking based on theW ord

8:27 New mode of thinking based on the Word

Let us examine the word as describing the disposition we should manifest, generated by the Word of God. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthian believers, identified their basic problem as an inability to convert their academic knowledge of the Truth into a new way of thinking and acting. It was the absence of what Paul styles “the mind of Christ” that caused the problems in their midst. He exhorts them to develop spiritual thinking, that they may be truly wise and discern between that which is carnal and that which is spiritual. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual”; or as Brother Thomas puts it, “interpreting spiritual things in spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:11–13). One who is moved by the “Spirit of God” is moved by the Word of God.

Whilst it is impossible for unsound doctrine to produce correct actions, right doctrine does not necessarily of itself produce right behaviour. Therefore the apostle appeals to his Philippian brethren, “Complete my joy, that you may think the same thing, having the same love, united in soul, minding the one thing; doing nothing from partyspirit, or vainglory; but in humility esteeming others as excelling yourselves… Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:2,3,5 Diaglott). The ecclesia was doctrinally sound but needed to be united in love and in the spirit of Christ—a disposition or new mode of thinking based on the Word of God.

There is nothing mystical or negative about this “spirit” of Christ. It is clearly a frame of mind developed through daily application to the Word, even as the Lord applied himself daily to communion with his Father, so that he was in every sense “the Word made flesh”. How is this spirit manifest in his people? Paul, writing to Timothy urges him to “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:13). So sound words should produce in us a spirit of faith and love as a manifestation of that spirit. Again the apostle exhorts his son Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:1): so a gracious spirit is also to be expected in those who are in the Lord. Furthermore, in writing to the Philippians Paul specifically outlines the attributes of the spirit of Christ as follows:

True” Grk alēthē—truth both in word and deed (Eph 4:15, 21–25)

Honest” Grk semnos—venerable, grave, of a serious disposition (1 Tim 3:8,11; Titus 2:2): the cognate word “honesty” occurs in 1 Timothy 2:2 and “gravity” in 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 2:7.

Just” Gr dikaios—right or righteous (Eph 6:1; Col 4:1). Essentially it is God’s righteousness that is involved (Rom 1:17).

Pure” Grk hagnos—pure from defilement, not contaminated, modest (2 Cor 7:11 “clear”; 11:2 “chaste”; 1 Tim 5:22 “pure”; Titus 2:5 “chaste”). “Lovely” Grk prosphilēs—(from pros toward, and phileo to love); it means pleasing, agreeable and friendly.

Good report” Grk euphēmos—good language, praise; only occurs here but a cognate word occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:8 and is set in contrast to dusphēmia—an evil report.

Virtue” Grk aretē—moral excellence associated with divine nature (1 Pet 2:9 “virtues or excellence”; 2 Pet 1:3, 5).

Praise” Grk epainos—approbation, commendation, behaviour that is praise-worthy. One writer comments: “It is not good to do right for the sake of the selfish pleasure of praise; but it is right to praise what is rightly done, and such praise has a moral beauty and may give to its recipient a moral pleasure not spoiled by selfishness.” Obviously the chief object of our spirit of praise is Yahweh, to Whom all praise is due (Rom 13:3; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 8:18; Eph 1:6, 12–14; Phil 1:11; 1 Pet 1:7; 2:14).

One uniting factor is set before us—Christ. We are therefore exhorted—“let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” and to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). The apostle’s further appeal to the Philippian brethren, on the basis of his own experience, is “Brethren, I do not reckon myself to have attained it; but one thing I do;—even forgetting the things behind, and stretching forth towards the things before, I press along the line, towards the prize of the high calling of God by Christ Jesus. As many, therefore, as are perfect, should be of this mind…” (Phil 3:13–15 Diaglott).

How harmonious would our ecclesial life be if we could all honestly strive to manifest these attributes in our dealings one with another! But we are often self-deceived and our true motives are sometimes hidden even from ourselves. If we would sincerely manifest the spirit of Christ then let us speak the truth with gravity, striving to do that which is right with a pure motive and pleasing manner, endeavouring to encourage that which is of good report, with moral excellence like that which is seen in the character of our Father and is therefore praise-worthy.

Brother Islip Collyer has appropriate words on the subject.

“The Apostles have shown us with patient reiteration that there is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, and one way of life, by bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit. Men stumble at every point. Some refuse the faith, and some, even in the name of Christ, bring forth hatred, misery, strife, impatience, cruelty and intemperate pride, whereas the essential fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. While we have life we can encourage ourselves and each other to make one more effort to bring every thought into subjection and so draw near to Christ. We will subdue all fleshly impulses, swallow down our sorrows; and smiling, though it may be through tears, we will endeavour to minister love, joy and peace, while we walk in the way that men find difficult. The guiding light of divine principles will help us.”