In the Spirit

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What is the meaning of "in the Spirit," and how does a Christian enter into "in the Spirit?" This article explains both.

Submitted: April 17, 2010

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Submitted: April 17, 2010

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IN THE SPIRIT
en pneumati
 
Introduction
 
According to Dan Wallace, “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,” (.p. 742) indicates ten (10) different uses of the preposition en + dative. They are listed here in the order in which they appear in his book. (The embolding is mine to single out one form.):
 
 1.spatial/sphere: in (and various other translations)
 2.temporal: in, within, when, while, during
 3.association: (often close personal relationship) with
 4.cause: because of
 5.instrumental: by, with
 6.reference/respect: with respect to/with reference to
 7.manner: with
 8.things possessed: with (in the sense of which possesses)
 9.standard: (= Dative of rule): according to the standard of
10.as an equivalent for eij (with verbs of motion)
 
“Greek” Magic?
 
It should be understood that there is nothing magical about the Greek language that leads to an accurate translation simply because something is written in Greek. In fact, by noting the several different uses of the preposition en + dative, it should be obvious that if an accurate translation whose intended meaning is to be consistent with God’s intended meaning, an accurate interpretation must precede an accurate translation.
 
The following passages contain the phrase en + dative:
 
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; KJV
 
Colossians 1:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the spirit. KJV
 
Revelation 1:10 I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, KJV
 
Revelation 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. KJV
 
My interest is in the passages of Scripture where the sense of the passage would permit en + dative to be translated “in the Spirit” where “in the Spirit” would be interpreted as “spatial/sphere.” Consider the “sphere” side of “spatial/sphere.”
 

 
(Please note that just because the English phrase “in the Spirit” appears multiple times in the same version of an English language Bible does not mean that each appearance should be interpreted in the same manner.)
 
The “sphere” Use of en + dative
 
 1.Consider two circles:
 
circle #1: label “in the flesh” – sphere #1
circle #2: label “in the Spirit” – sphere #2
 
 2. Consider that the born-again Christian at any given moment can be living his Christian life either in circle #1 or circle #2 with no other alternative. It’s one sphere or the other.
 
 3. Consider circles # 1 and #2 as absolutes; you are either in one of the other. The nature of this absolute is that you can to no degree be in both circles at the same time.
 
 4. Consider the fact that Romans 6:13 teaches that the Christian can “yield” himself in either of two directions: 1) to his sin nature; or 2) to God (the Holy Spirit).
 
Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin (the old-sin-nature): but yield yourselves unto God (the Holy Spirit), as those that are alive from the dead, and (ascensive use of the conjunction kai = even) your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. KJV)
 
The ascensive use of the conjunction kai simply implies that when you yield yourself to God the Holy Spirit you are simultaneously yielding your members (body parts) in service to God the Father either from your priesthood or ambassadorship, whichever is applicable at the time of yieldedness. You cannot yield yourself (total self implied) without yielding your members (various body parts).
 
5.When the phrase “in the Spirit” is understood to be used “spherically,” the following would be true:
 
1)When you are “in the Spirit,” all behavior will be “new-man” behavior.
 
2)When you are “in the Spirit” in-so-far-as behavior is concerned, the Christian is required to produce all behavior:  mental, verbal, or overt. For example, the Christian, not the Holy Spirit, is required to produce the ninefold fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: (KJV)
 
· The Holy Spirit produces none of these.
· The believer must produce every one of these.
 
3)Why, then, are these characteristics of the humanity of Christ referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit?” (See Addendum below on “the fruit of the Spirit”)
 
a.It must be understood that any of the ninefold fruit of the Spirit can be produced by both an unbeliever and a carnal believer from the sphere “in the flesh.”
 
b.Hence, the question and the answer, “Why, then, are these characteristics of the humanity of Christ referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit?” It’s because they are produced by the believer while functioning “in the sphere of the Spirit” and not produced while functioning “in the sphere of the flesh.”
 
c.The phrase “fruit of the Spirit” answers the question WHERE you were you when you did this, not BY WHOM did you do this. You were “in the Spirit,” not “in the flesh.”
 
d.This does not imply that if you were “in the Spirit” when you did these things that you could not have done the very same thing from the sphere of the flesh. It just so happens that you were “in the Spirit” when you did this, and not “in the flesh.”
 
Here’s the point: When you manifest any one of what is referred to as a “fruit of the Spirit,” both the old-man and the new-man can produce love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. The old-man produces while “in the flesh,” and the new-man produces while “in the Spirit.” So, if someone says, “Where were you when you produced that?” your answer would be “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit.”
 
The ninefold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is dealing with the question from “where” they can be produced, not “by whom” they can be produced. You as a Christian will produce the fruit from the sphere to which you have yielded. Yieldedness (Romans 6:13) is the means by which a believer enters the realms of “in the Spirit” or “in the flesh.”
 
e.The new-man functions “in the sphere of the Spirit,” and the old-man functions “in the sphere of the flesh.”  As far as Christians are concerned, the new-man is spiritual, and the old-man is carnal.
 
f.It is the Christian who must produce love, produce peace, produce longsuffering, produce gentleness, produce goodness, produce faith, produce meekness, and produce temperance.
 
g.When the Christian produces the fruit from “within the sphere of the Spirit,” the Christian is reproducing the character of Christ’s humanity from which divinely good service emanates.
 
6.While Galatians 5:22-23 does not state that these ninefold fruit of the Spirit can be produced by a carnal believer and an unbeliever, they none-the-less can do so. The difference: the carnal believer and the unbeliever produce from within one sphere (in the flesh) and spiritual Christian produces from within another sphere (in the Spirit).
 
7.How does a believer get “in the Spirit” or “in the flesh?” Answer: It takes a mental attitude of surrender in one direction or the other. This is what is referred to as “yielding.” When you yield, you surrender. The new-man functions within the sphere of the Spirit.
 
8.Displacement or Saturation? Being “in the Spirit” is best understood as saturation rather than displacement. When a solid rock is dropped into a tub full of water, the rock does not become saturated with water. It displaces water. If you drop a towel into a tub full of water, the towel does not displace the water, it becomes saturated with water. In like manner, when the born-again Christian yields to the Holy Spirit and enters “the sphere of the Spirit,” the Christian does not displace the Spirit, but becomes saturated with the Spirit. Hence, every thought, every spoken word, and every act that comes from this Christian’s life while “in the Spirit” is permeated with divine nature qualifying them as Christ-like character and/or Christ-like service unto God.
 
An Organic Relationship
 
Wallace uses the phrase organic connection onp. 129 – “(since believers are said to be in Christ, because of their organic connection to Him, they now associate with Him in many and profound ways.)”
 
This organic connection with Christ explains the connection between the Christian and the Holy Spirit when the born-again Christian is “in the Spirit.” The connection with the Holy Spirit is organic in the same manner as the organic connection with Christ.
 
Summary Conclusion
 
“in the Spirit” is the sphere from within which the born-again Christian is to live his Christian life. This sphere is entered by yieldedness as a free-will choice.  From within the sphere of the Spirit, the Christian functions from his new-man to produce Christ-like character and Christ-like service.
 
ADDENDUM
 
The Fruit of the Spirit
karpoj tou pneumatoj
 
The word “fruit” (karpoj) is a nominative singular noun.
 
The words “of the Spirit” (tou pneumatoj) are genitive singulars of the definite article o( and the noun pneuma.
 
The question arises regarding the type of genitive of the phrase o( pneuma (the Spirit).
 
According to Dan Wallace, “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,” (pp. 727-729) the indication is thirty three (33) possible uses of the genitive case. Well, now, one might scratch his head and say, “Wow! I wonder which use is intended here?”
 
I believe that many Christians view the phrase “of the Spirit” as a “Genitive of Production/Producer” wherein the genitive (Spirit) produces the noun (fruit) to which it stands related – in other words, fruit produced by the Spirit. While this may be a common understanding, I believe it to be incorrect. My belief is not based solely upon an exegetical study of our subject, “in the Spirit,” but also upon forty-eight years of Christian living wherein I cannot say that I am aware of the Holy Spirit producing one bit of Christ-like behavior in me that I did not produce myself. Blasphemous? No. Biblically correct? Yes. The Holy Spirit has not been left out of the process. It’s simply that His role is passive, rather than active as is commonly taught and believed.
 
Dan Wallace lists the phrase “of the Spirit” under Genitive of Production/Producer, but does so in the section titled “Illustrations (possible),” and only as a footnote in this section along with five (5) other references, two of which are followed by (perhaps). This certainly is not a strong case for Genitive of Production/Producer. In fact, on p. 104, Wallace says of the Genitive of Production/Producer, “This usage of the genitive is not common.”)
 
Genitive of Association does explain the meaning of the phrase “of the Spirit.” It says the genitive substantive (Spirit) indicates the one with whom the noun to which it stands related (fruit) is associated. If someone were to argue that Wallace states that “This usage is somewhat common, but only in certain collocations,” and that “fruit of the Spirit” does not represent a collocation, it should be pointed out that he notes on p. 129 when discussing Matthew 23:30 that “This is one of the less frequent examples involving a head noun/adjective (fruit) not prefixed by sun. The point: “fruit of the Spirit” can be a Genitive of Association without the head noun (fruit: karpoj) containing the prefix sun (meaning “with).  Whether anyone believes that “fruit of the Spirit” is a Genitive of Association or not, it is clear, that there is no grammatical reason for denying its possibility. I believe that “fruit of the Spirit” is a Genitive of Association that makes this particular understanding consistent with the understanding that “in the Spirit” is a dative of sphere.
 
Final Statement
 
Final statement consistent with a dative of sphere and a genitive of association: While the Christian is producing the fruit of Christ-likeness, he is doing so because he is associated with the Holy Spirit through yieldedness to the Holy Spirit which places him in the sphere of the Spirit.
 
“in the Spirit” Analogies
 
The Christian produces thought, speech, and acts (deeds).
 
The thought, speech, and acts are not the Christian, but something the Christian produces.
 
When the Christian yields to Holy Spirit, the Christian can be said to be “in the Spirit.”
 
The Christian is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Christian.
 
When the Christian is “in the Spirit,” the product of the union of the Christian and the Spirit is called the “new-man” and his manifestations are thought, speech, and action.
 
There are a few analogies that picture aspects of this union. Why only “aspects” of this union? It’s because analogies have a tendency to breakdown if the analogy is pressed to far. For example, if in the biblical analogy, the “fig tree” represents “Israel,” don’t ask yourself what the bark on the fig-tree represents. It represents nothing, and to think that it does presses the analogy beyond the intended use of the fig tree in the analogy. So, the following analogies should not be pressed beyond the purpose for which they are intended.
 
Analogy #1 (intended only to show the nature of the union of the Christian and the Spirit when the Christian is “in the Spirit”):
 
Hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O2) are distinctly different gases. However, when hydrogen and oxygen are combined, they form water (H2O), a product completely different from hydrogen; a product completely different from oxygen; yet a combination of the two.
 
If we establish (H) to represent the Christian, and (O2) to represent the Holy Spirit, when the two gases are combined to make water, the water represents the new-man. The new-man is not the Christian, nor is the new-man the Holy Spirit, yet the new-man is a combination of both.
 
(Note: Isn’t God wonderful. Hydrogen is gas. Oxygen is gas. However, hydrogen and oxygen, when combined, become a liquid. Water is a liquid. Liquid water is not gas, but a combination of two gasses. The new-man is not the Christian. The new-man is not the Spirit; yet, the new-man is the personification of the union of the Christian with the Spirit. Is God amazing, or what!)
 
Analogy #2 (intended only to show the nature of the union of the Christian and the Spirit when the Christian is “in the Spirit”):
 
Sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) are elements different from one another. However, when they are combined, they become an ionic compound, NaCl (sodium chloride), that we know as salt. Salt is completely different from sodium, and salt is completely different from chloride; yet salt is a combination of both sodium and chloride.
 
If we establish sodium (Na) to represent the Christian, and chloride (Cl) to represent the Holy Spirit, when the two elements are combined to form salt, the salt represents the new-man. The new-man is not the Christian, nor is the new-man the Holy Spirit; yet the new-man is a combination of both.
 
Analogy #3 (intended only to show how Christian thought, Christian speech, and Christian actionstake on divine nature when they are manifested while the Christian is “in the Spirit”):
 
This illustration contains three separate phenomena: cloth, dye, water. (Mentally, keep them separated.)
 
Take three pieces of cloth. Dye one red, one blue, and one green. (The cloth is not the dye and the dye is not the cloth.)
 
Let the red dye represent Christian thought.
 
Let the blue dye represent Christian speech.
 
Let the green dye represent Christian deeds.
 
Sew the three pieces of dyed cloth together into one piece. The three pieces of dyed cloth sewed together represent the Christian as a whole.
 
Place water in a bowl, and let the water represent the Holy Spirit.
 
Wringing-out the dyed cloths soaked with water represents the Christian producing thought, speech, and action while “in the Spirit.”
 
Now, immerse the three pieces of cloth in the water. This immersion is analogous to the Christian yielding to the Holy Spirit.
 
The red cloth absorbs water, and when the cloth is rung-out, red-water comes forth. The water was not red dye, and the red dye was not water, yet when the cloth is rung-out, the water is red. When the Christian produces thought while yielded to the Spirit, the thought becomes divine in nature as indicated by the red water.
 
The blue cloth absorbs water, and when the cloth is rung-out, blue-water comes forth. The water was not blue dye, and the blue dye was not water, yet when the cloth is rung-out, the water is blue. When the Christian produces speech while yielded to the Spirit, the speech becomes divine in nature as indicated by the blue water.
 
The green cloth absorbs water, and when the cloth is rung-out, green water comes forth. The water was not green dye, and the green dye was not water, yet when the cloth is rung-out, the water is green. When the Christian produces overt action while yielded to the Spirit, the overt action becomes divine in nature as indicated by the blue water.
 
Please note that in these three analogies, the Holy Spirit is passively present in all three. By yielding to the Spirit, the Christian is said to be “in the Spirit,” and when the Christian is “in the Spirit,” the Christian absorbs the Spirit and the Spirit infuses the Christian in such a manner that all thought, speech, and action produced by the Christian manifest themselves as divine character or divine service.
 
The Concepts of Absorption and Infusion
 
Let’s illustrate the concepts of absorption and infusion:
 
Place a bowl of water on the table.
Place a ShamWow on the table.
Now, place the ShamWow in the bowl of water.
Lift the ShamWow out of the bowl.
The water is gone from the bowl.
The ShawWow has absorbed the water.
The water has infused the ShamWow.
This union of water and ShamWow illustrates the union of the Holy Spirit and the Christian when the Christian yields to the Holy Spirit. As the ShamWow and the water become one through absorption and infusion, so the Christian and the Holy Spirit become one when the Christian yields to the Spirit. This union is tantamount to the Christian being “in the Spirit.” They are united as one.
 
Isn’t this interesting? The ShamWow absorbs the water, and the water infuses the ShamWow. The Christian absorbs the Spirit, and the Spirit infuses the Christian when the Christian is “in the Spirit.” The two become one so that all Christian production (thought, speech, action) while “in the Spirit” has a divine nature worthy of blessing-in-time and reward-in-eternity.
 
The Hungry-Heart
 
In conclusion, if someone should say, “This is much too deep, far over my head, too difficult to understand,” that person has not been totally prepared by God the Father to make sense of the spiritual life that He provides. God will continue to process this life through the circumstances of life until such a “heart-hunger” exists that no matter how difficult the process of understanding seems to be, the hungry-heart will not cease to seek this wisdom until it becomes a reality in their lives. You and I cannot create heart-hunger. Only God can do that. What you and I can do is to live life “in the Spirit” to demonstrate it’s reality to those who are in need of it. Let us do so!
 
As the Deer Pants for the Water
 
As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You.
 
You alone are my strength, my shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You.
 
I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
And the apple of my eye.
 
You're my Friend and You are my Brother,
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything.
Written by Martin Nystrom
 


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