And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.(Gen 2:7)

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (Joh 3:6-8)

From time to time you may have heard a child say something like, "If I don't get my way, I'm going to hold my breath until I die!" The adults will just laugh and tell the child to go ahead and try. We know that it is impossible to do that because the body's own autonomous system will eventually take over and force a new gulp of air into the lungs. It's interesting, though, that even children realize that without breathing there is no life. In our modern, scientific age, we can give a very detailed explanation of what breathing does. Yet, it really isn't necessary to do that. We know that "to breathe" is synonymous with living. No breath -- no life.

Little wonder then that the Bible uses "breath" and "wind" as a metaphor for spirit. Just as the body cannot live without air, the soul cannot live without spirit. In Genesis, it was God's breath (neshamah or ruach) that made Adam a living soul. Without that breath, or spirit, of God in him, man is nothing more than a walking, talking, animated sack of soggy minerals. Without that breath of life, man is dead.

This dual use of breath or air as a metaphor for spirit is what Jesus said to Nicodemus in the passage from John quoted above. If you look at different translations, you will find that some use "spirit" throughout the passage instead of switching between spirit and wind as the KJV does. The reason is that Jesus uses the words pneumatos and pneuma which literally mean "wind" and "breath" to describe the operation of the spirit. It is beautifully poetic. We see and feel the effects of the wind even though we don't see the wind itself. Just as the wind blows from a source we don't see, the spirit comes from an unseen source as well.

More importantly, Jesus is laying out the foundation principle of salvation. If that spirit from God is generated (birthed) in man, man has eternal life. Without that spirit, man remains dead. Salvation into eternal life, then, is simply receiving that breath of life, the spirit of God.

The question that naturally comes up is, "How do I get that spirit in me?" The answer is given in the famous verse, John 3:16 and many other places in the New Testament. Anyone who believes (has faith) in Jesus Christ, is given that spirit of life in return. What that means is that salvation is not a matter of saying the right words of confession, praying the right prayers, getting dunked in or sprinkled with water, performing sacraments or rituals, keeping or not keeping festivals, doing good works, or any other such action. All of those things can be a means of acting out ones faith. However, salvation is the spirit of God in you and that spirit only comes from faith. If an action is taken from faith, it leads to salvation. All the questions of dogma, doctrine, interpretation or prophecy can be tested with this touchstone. If something increases our faith in Jesus, then it leads to salvation. If it diminishes faith, it leads to destruction. And, finally, things which neither increase nor decrease faith may be intellectually stimulating, or a practical necessity, but are irrelevant to salvation.

Thus there really is no need to get into complicated arguments about salvation. It's a problem of pneumatics. Either you live by faith, receive the breath of God and are saved, or you suffocate from lack of that breath and end up dead.


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