“To live is Christ” means that we live from the indwelling life of Christ. But we cannot begin to understand this concept apart from understanding the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit?
Yes, the Holy Spirit.
Because the Holy Spirit is the out-flowing agent of the inner life of God (his zoe). Put another way, the Holy Spirit brings God’s life.
Genesis 1:1-2. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
You probably know what happens next. God creates all kinds of life. Plant life. Sea life. Air life. Creatures. Creepers. Mankind.
But what (or who) brought about this life? Genesis 1:2 tells us it was the Spirit. The Hebrew word for “spirit” is ruach. This is the same word as “wind” or “breath.” In fact all of creation comes by the ruach of God. In Genesis 1, God will speak 10 times, each time resulting in a creation. God’s word releases ruach.
Psalm 33:6. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath (ruach) of his mouth all their host.
More specifically, Genesis 2 describes the creation of mankind by the breath of God.
Genesis 2:7. Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath [neshama] of life, and the man became a living creature.
Note: The word for breath here is not ruach. It is neshama. But notice here in Job 33:4 how these two Hebrew words are used interchangeably.
Job 33:4. The Spirit [ruach] of God has made me, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty gives me life.
Man is dirt and ruach. God “formed” us, like a potter does with clay, from the dirt, but it was the breath that gave life. It was God’s breath or spirit, the Spirit, that made us into “living creatures” (nephesh chay).
Psalm 104:29-30. When you hide your face, they (all living creatures) are dismayed; when you take away their breath [ruach], they die and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit [ruach], they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
As I heard Tim Mackie say the other day, “we are living on borrowed ruach.” Psalm 104 reminds us that God controls life as he controls breath. And he controls all breathing as the Spirit. God creates life by the breath of the Spirit, and he takes life away by taking away the breath of the Spirit.
So what is my point in all of this?
Before we move further in our study of the indwelling life of Christ, we have to understand the role of the Spirit. If we just jump into the New Testament texts concerning the Holy Spirit, we are likely to land with some very bad theology concerning his nature, function, and ministry. But if we can gain a biblical understanding of the Spirit beginning with the Old Testament, we can see what we should see- the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God’s life. Without the Spirit, there is no life. By the Spirit, “to live is Christ.”