Scot McKnight: The Life-Giving Breath of the Spirit

The Spirit of God is the one who brings life to our spirits.

Scot McKnight is professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He is a regular speaker at Catalyst, the Q Conference and churches around the world.

The Bible opens with a two-verse introduction that conveys the biggest picture possible: In the beginning God created it all. Then the Bible explains how that happened: There was chaos called tohu va-bohu, usually translated “formless and void,” along with a colossal cloud of impenetrable darkness over it all.

Enter now the ruach: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The word Spirit is what we commonly see as the English translation of ruach. It also can be translated as “wind” or “breath.” When we read biblical references to ruach, it can be puzzling to try to discern in each instance if it refers to the divine spirit, the human spirit or just wind. And at times, the wind is God’s Spirit blowing where it wants. At other times, it is the breath we breathe, and without that breath our bodies die. At other times, it is the Spirit of God.

We need to see that the spirit that gives us life is connected to the Spirit who grants life (see, for example, Gen. 2:7) as well as eternal life. So when I say repeatedly that we need to be open to the Spirit, I mean we need to let God suffuse the spirit of our birth and creation as humans with God’s own Spirit. Only in that way can we become all we have been created to become.

To be open to the Spirit, then, can mean releasing what God has created in us. It also can mean letting the Spirit wash over us to revive our spirits. And it can sound like a divine guest taking up residence in the deepest part of our souls. All of this and more is what it means to be open to the Spirit.

Here is a bold but beautiful confession to stand on: Wherever there is life, there is the Spirit (John 6:63; Rom. 8:20). Without the Spirit who is Life itself, there is no life. Which means we must see the Spirit reaching out into all of creation. Creation and every person on earth are suffused with the presence of the Spirit. Yet at the same time we recognize the particular work of the Spirit in our spirit accomplishing the work of redemption.

Old Testament scholar and spiritual-formation writer Richard Averbeck has written about this beautifully: “The Spirit of God is the person of God who vivifies [makes alive] the spirit of people to God.” If we are given spirit at creation or birth, it is God’s Spirit who animates us with transformed, eternal life.

God creates all and sustains all creation by the Spirit. Each human has or is a spirit. God’s Spirit blows over all creation and all humans like the wind.

And someday, God will revive this world by blowing mightily with the Spirit. This reviving will awaken the human spirit into Spirit-prompted living.

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Excerpted from Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God With Us, God Transforming Us by Scot McKnight; Foreword by Dave Ferguson Copyright © 2018 by Scot McKnight. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.