April 25, 2009

One word changes eternity

Little words can make a big difference. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Today’s verse from two translations reads (italics mine):
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18, NKJV)
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (NASV)
The KJV version is okay. It is true; Jesus was made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. He died and rose again because the power of God brought Him back to life.

However, the NASV is the more accurate translation and it implies far more. This translation makes a specific reference to Jesus’ spirit — rather than the Holy Spirit, and contrasts what happened to the flesh (or body) of Jesus with what happened to His spirit. His spirit was alive but His flesh was dead.

If “made alive in the spirit” meant Christ’s physical resurrection, it would have to say something like, “He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the flesh.” However, the resurrection was a spiritual and physical occurrence. Therefore, the point of using “in the spirit” is that although Christ was physically dead, His spirit was still alive.

This is important. There is no way He could have ministered to “the spirits in prison” as stated in the next verse if His spirit was also dead. Whoever that term points to, ministry to them requires life.

As I read this, I thought about the human spirit too, and what the Bible says about it. The person who does not know God is said to be spiritually dead, a statement about death that refers to being separated from God and without response to spiritual things. The Bible also says that those who believe in Jesus Christ have been regenerated and made alive in their spirit, meaning that separation no longer exists and they are able to know and understand the things of God. In other words, the spirit is the part of us that connects to God. Without life in the spirit, there is no connection, no communication and no relationship.

My understanding is that my spirit is all about spiritual sensitivity. My conscience, as it pertains to things of God and the highest moral values, operates through my spirit. Also, when I pray, the words may be formed in my mind and come out of my physical mouth, but there is an involvement of the Holy Spirit speaking in me and through me via my spirit.

None of these things happened before Christ came into my life. My spirit was dead in sin, but He, through the eternal life of His Spirit, gave me new life that never ends. This life did not die when He died physically, and it will not die when I die physically.

He died for my sins, and at the same time He was also alive in the spirit so that I could be made alive in my spirit and be brought to God by the power of His never-ending life. This is so awesome and wonderful that my words do not compare to the thrill and gratitude that fills my heart over this one little word.

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