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Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Job 32:8 (Daily Verse and Comment)

  Job 32:8

(8) But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. 
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Job's young friend utters a truth that is self-evident to those whose minds God has opened but is hidden from carnal perception. God has endowed man with a human spirit that places him higher than the animals, giving him intelligence, emotion, speech, skills, and abilities similar to but lower than God's own abilities. This spirit allows humans to function with free moral agency, to choose what behaviors they will follow.

This human spirit, however, has no moral compass in itself; it is essentially neutral, though it tends to be dragged down by the needs and desires of our flesh. A young child can become a saint or a sinner, depending on the training he receives, but if he is left to his own devices, as Proverbs 29:15 warns, he will ultimately bring shame on his family. This principle results from the fact that Adam and Eve, who, as mankind's representatives before God in the Garden of Eden, set the pattern of choosing the knowledge of good and evil rather than God's offer of knowledge that leads to eternal life (Genesis 3:1-6; 22).

Human beings, then, come in an array of moral hues, from black as sin to white as the driven snow and every shade in between. Humanity has produced Adolf Hitler, who attracted millions to his cause, as well as Mother Theresa, who repulsed millions with her Catholic beliefs. At base, we are all mixed bags, capable of the heights of altruism and the depths of egoism. It all depends on what we choose to do, yet our record tends toward the dark rather than the light.

In I Corinthians 2:11-13, Paul explains that man's essentially neutral spirit is distinct from God's Spirit. The human spirit understands only what the human mind can discover. If a man wishes to understand and do truly godly things, he must have God's Spirit, which He freely gives upon repentance and conversion. This Spirit from God is "not the spirit of the world" (verse 12), which is "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Paul goes on to say that God's Spirit teaches us things beyond any wisdom discovered by the human spirit (I Corinthians 2:13).

Within this passage, Paul hints at the fact that the human spirit, when it is under the inspiration of the spirit of this world, can counterfeit the wisdom that comes from God's Spirit alone (see II Corinthians 11:13-15). A carnal person's works may seem "right," but they are still acting under the guidance of the "natural spirituality" that is part of the spirit in man.

Consider the Ten Commandments. Most of us probably know people who agree that they are fine laws and strive to keep them. Does this mean they are converted? No! At best, men naturally follow at least the last six because they can see by the human spirit that they produce an ordered and peaceful society. The first four commandments, however, require God's Spirit to understand fully.

Paul confronts this issue head-on in Romans 2:14-15, admitting that the unconverted often follow God's law even if they have no knowledge of it. He calls them "a law to themselves," meaning that the rules they follow are their own, not God's, though they may agree with God's law at points. How? Because the spirit God breathed into Adam in the Garden of Eden allows them to reason out a correct moral sense—at least partially. Generally, though, man's moral sense is partly right and partly wrong, yet fundamentally hostile to God (Romans 8:7).

Nevertheless, the human spirit is so incredible that, in varying degrees depending on the individual, it can reason out parts of God's truth on its own and put them into action. But by no means does this mean such people are converted! Jesus and the apostles are unambiguous about conversion being a special calling by God (John 6:44II Timothy 1:9), marked by the indwelling of another Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16II Timothy 1:14), God's Spirit, that is holy and begets us as His children (Romans 8:9-14).

In Acts 5:29, 32, Peter provides the key to the difference between the converted and the "good" yet unconverted of this world: God's people obey Him rather than men, and God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. In other words, a converted person will have and use God's Spirit and obey His law diligently and increasingly, while natural man will be guided only by his "natural spirituality" and be a law to himself. Because He will do what feels right "in his heart," he will occasionally perform good works with which God would be pleased. As Jesus so bluntly puts it, even evil men give good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:11). Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh

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