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 isborn of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be bornagain. 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 thatis born of the Spirit. (Joh 3:6-8)
From time to time you may have heard a child say somethinglike, "If I don't get my way, I'm going to hold my breath until I die!� Theadults will just laugh and tell the child to go ahead and try. We know that itis impossible to do that because the body�s own autonomous system willeventually take over and force a new gulp of air into the lungs. It�sinteresting, though, that even children realize that without breathing there isno life. In our modern, scientific age, we can give a very detailed explanationof 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� asa metaphor for spirit. Just as the body cannot live without air, the soulcannot 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 iswhat Jesus said to Nicodemus in the passage from John quoted above. If you lookat different translations, you will find that some use �spirit� throughout thepassage instead of switching between spirit and wind as the KJV does. Thereason is that Jesus uses the words �pneumatos� and �pneuma� which literallymean �wind� and �breath� to describe the operation of the spirit. It isbeautifully poetic. We see and feel the effects of the wind even though wedon�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 foundationprinciple of salvation. If that spirit from God is generated (birthed) in man,man has eternal life. Without that spirit, man remains dead. Salvation intoeternal life, then, is simply receiving that breath of life, the spirit of God.
The question that naturally comes up is, �How do I get thatspirit in me?� The answer is given in the famous verse, John 3:16 and manyother places in the New Testament. Anyone who believes (has faith) in JesusChrist, is given that spirit of life in return. What that means is thatsalvation is not a matter of saying the right words of confession, praying theright prayers, getting dunked in or sprinkled with water, performing sacramentsor rituals, keeping or not keeping festivals, doing good works, or any othersuch 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 fromfaith. If an action is taken from faith, it leads to salvation. All thequestions of dogma, doctrine, interpretation or prophecy can be tested withthis touchstone. If something increases our faith in Jesus, then it leads tosalvation. If it diminishes faith, it leads to destruction. And, finally,things which neither increase nor decrease faith may be intellectuallystimulating, or a practical necessity, but are irrelevant to salvation.
Thus there really is no need to get into complicatedarguments about salvation. It�s a problem of pneumatics. Either you live byfaith, receive the breath of God and are saved, or you suffocate from lack ofthat breath and end up dead.