A spirit is a disembodied and immaterial personal being in the spiritual realm or dimension. Humans have a spirit, being made in the image of God. An demonic spirit can also inhabit a physical body giving it animated life or causing its owner to behave irrationally.
Humans are made in the image of God, who is body (Lord God Jesus Christ), soul (Lord God the Father) and Spirit (Lord God the Holy Spirit). For humanity, the New Testament uses the Greek word for spirit as pneuma, independent from the soul or psyche (Hebrews 4:12). The pneuma is the rational, reasoning capacity of mankind as opposed to the more basic or instinctive aspects of the soul. The soul is the seat of the sin nature and wars against the spirit. The word flesh is used in the New Testament interchangeably with the body and soul as the two have intertwined dependencies and often serve as a liability to the spirit, more so than an asset. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mat 26:41)
Moreover, when a person dies, the soul and spirit survive the body and enter their destined realm (Luke 16:19-31) (2 Corinthians 5:8). The spirit, soul and body are reunited in the resurrection of the saints (1 Cor 15:51-54) (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and the resurrection of the unbelievers (John 5:29).
The Old Testament equivalent in mankind is the neshamah first encountered in (Genesis 2:7) when God breathed into Adam to make him a living soul. The pneuma in the New Testament is also equated with breath or wind. The rational spirit of man communes with the Lord, "The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly." (Pro 20:27). The soul or heart of man however, is always at odds with the Lord, being the seat of the sin nature.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb 4:12)
The word of God is able to separate the spirit from the soul and body, ostensibly for God's word to gain a reasoning, rational foothold into the spirit of man without the encumberance of the soul and body. Jesus Christ describes a person who is driven by the desires of the soul and body as the type of ground where the word of God cannot take root (Luke 8:5-15)
- Main Article: Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, Rūakh HaQōdesh; Greek: Άγιον Πνεύμα, Agion Pneuma; Latin: Spiritus Sanctus; also called the Holy Ghost) is the Third consubstantial Person of the Holy Trinity or the Godhead, in Christian religions which trace their roots to belief in Christ and abide by the Nicene Creed.
Scripture describes different realms of existence. The obvious one is the physical realm, in which our bodies exist and with which we interact all the time. The physical realm can be investigated by science.
There is also the realm of the mind or soul. The connection between mind and body is obscure. The mind has influence over the physical realm, in that mental processes result in physical actions. The mind does not have power over the physical realm. Those who practice sorcery would have other humans believe that they are affecting reality with their minds or words, but Scripture teaches (Deut 18) that such people are being assisted by agents in the spiritual realm who also have an intent to deceive humans, including the sorcerer.
One objective means to determine the reality of the non-physical spirit and soul is to examine the non-physical aspects of humanity that are recognized by all peoples, scientists included. Mathematics and logic do not exist in the physical realm yet all human minds use them in exactly the same manner as a means to accurately describe the physical world. Art, fashion, language and even science are all disciplines which leverage mental processes that do not exist in the physical world. For example, the scientific method does not exist in the physical world, yet scientists use it to examine and describe the physical world. Scientists also use it to examine and describe the non-physical world (e.g. psychology) to circumscribe behaviors that are common to all humans.
The Bible teaches us that there is also a realm of the spirit, and that this is able to affect both the mental and physical realms. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and he created beings that are wholly spiritual (angels) as well as those that are wholly physical (lower animals), physical and mental (higher animals) and mankind, who are a mixture of physical, mental and spiritual -- spirit, soul and body. Mankind is the only creature made in "the image of God", so we may surmise that the three parts of God (spirit, soul and body) are represented in each individual.
It is essential to a proper understanding of Christian doctrine about creation and the physical world that we appreciate that it is all in subjection to the spiritual world and affected by spiritual things. Since spirits are all personal beings, they are not subject to scientific experimentation. In particular, we cannot experiment on God, nor can we place an angel in a lab and run a series of tests on it. Therefore we need to recognise that science is, of its very nature, unable to explain everything that happens in the physical world.
In general, the physical world operates with a regularity that derives from the character of God. Humans are not privy to all of the rules that God has put into place for his own use. For example, the laws of aerodynamics are separate from the laws of gravity, and cannot properly operate without gravity in place (e.g. air pressure). Yet aerodynamics allows an object to fly, overpowering gravity's immediate effect. As a note, God does not violate, set-aside or diminish his laws. Miracles are not a suspension of law, but are God using another set of laws (e.g. aerodynamics) to affect an outcome that it otherwise not possible.
Different kinds of spirit
God himself is the preeminent spirit, the source of all being and creator of everything that is, including all other spirits. In particular, one of the persons of the Godhead is the Holy Spirit (רוּחַ קָדְשׁ (ruach kodesh), in Hebrew; το πνευμα το αγιον (to pneuma to hagion), in Greek). It is notable that, in both Greek and Hebrew, the word for spirit is also the word for breath and for wind. Jesus Christ, in speaking with Nicodemus (John 3:1-16) noted that being born in the spirit is like being born in the flesh, and that the spirit is like a wind that cannot be discerned.
The spirit of man is the seat of rationality and reason. It survives the death of the body which it inhabits, and immediately enters its destined realm. One of these realms is heaven, the other is hell. Prior to Christ's death, no human spirit had ever entered heaven (John 3:13). While we are told that Elijah was caught up into "heaven" with a chariot of fire, this word means "sky" (2 Kings 2:11).
God created some beings who are purely spiritual, the Ben-Elohym which the Scripture calls angels. The angels have a hierarchy that is likened to military structure. Some of these rebelled against God and became evil. The chief of these was a powerful angel named Lucifer (in the Hebrew, Heyl-el), also called in Scripture as Satan (adversary/enemy), or simply "the devil". Both Satan the and evil angels are generally referred to as demons or unclean spirits. The Bible says that Satan was thrown to earth and took one-third of the angelic host with him. All angelic beings were created within the same time frame as the first six days of Creation, just prior to the laying of the creation's foundation (Job 38:6,7)
God created men as spiritual beings. Humans are made in the image of God, and, like him, are triune beings made up of body, soul and spirit. It is very difficult for us to distinguish between soul and spirit, but the Bible teaches that there is a distinction (Hebrews 4:12). In our initial state, our spirits are ruined and dead because of sin. Those who repent and believe the gospel are baptised in God's Holy Spirit and their own spirits are made alive in him (Romans 8:11). As Christ noted, they are "born again" of the spirit at the moment they believe. There is no "second baptism" or a point in time to trust Christ and another point to receive the Holy Spirit. The human is transformed into a new creature all at once (1 Corinthians 5:17). There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Ephesians 4:5).
Spiritual interactions with the physical world
The most obvious interaction of the spiritual with the physical is the creation of the world, simply by the word of God: he spoke and it was done. Next, we see various miracles recorded in the Bible and done even into modern times. Some of the miracles concern the casting out of unclean spirits, so it is evident that demonization is another way in which the spiritual realm can affect the mental and physical realms. People who are demonized are affected in their minds and souls, which is evidenced by irrational and self-destructive behaviour; they may also have extraordinary physical strength. [Note that it is impossible for a true Christian to be demonized, because he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. A Christian who forgets what God has done for him may be oppressed and deceived by demons, but they cannot control him.]
God often interacts with the physical world using a combination of physical and spiritual actions. This does not mean that God suspends or sets aside his laws at any level of the creation. He simply invokes laws that humans do not have access to. One of these is Resurrection of the dead. Another is the remission of sin through blood. In broader terms, God transported John the Apostle through space and time to the end of the age, where John reported that he physically "looked" and "saw" and was asked to measure the walls of the City of God. Then God moved him back in time to Patmos where he would write about these things. In very real terms John was a "time traveler", but it does not mean that God made special rules or an exception for John. Clearly the capacity to travel time is already built-in to the creation and God had used it many times before to assist prophets in visions of the near or distant future, especially as it concerns the birth, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God's spirit "overshadowed" Mary to impregnate her (Luke 1:35). God reversed the ages of Abraham and Sarah so that they could have children. Sarah at age 90, was fair enough to gain Pharaoh's attention (Genesis 12:11-15).
Angels rolled back the stone covering Christ's grave (Matthew 28:2,3). Angels protected Elisha in battle (2 Kings 6:17). Angels will preach to mankind in the last days (Revelation 14:6,7). Fallen angels in pre-Flood times were able to manipulate human biochemistry and sire giants (Genesis 6). Angels protected the Garden of Eden at least until the Flood destroyed the world (Genesis 3:24).
The appearance of angels is often quite energetic (Matthew 28:2,3) and they impose their presence upon the physical world. This electrical-style interaction is the result of charge-separation created by their entry. Any object moving from one degree of charge to another will experience this kind of electrical interaction. As the Earth is negatively charged body, we may surmise that the angels are postively charged bodies. This dovetails with the scientific understanding of stars which emit an extraordinary level of protons and behave as positively charged bodies. The angels are called "morning stars" and are likened to the stars of heaven.
- The word "spirit" By Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Accessed June 4, 2011 from <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spirit>