NATURAL - SPIRITUAL
By Larry White
I would like to introduce some concepts and ideas to you and I would like for you to consider them and think about them as we work together in the church, doing the work of the Lord.
I. According to the scriptures, man is made up of:
Body Soul Spirit σόμα ψύχη πνεύμά soma psuche pneuma
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Body - σόμα, soma, is the outward organism by which the soul and spirit function. An instrument.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The scriptures portray the body as a vessel (bottle). 2Cor.4:7, and a tent or tabernacle. 2Cor.5:1
Soul - ψύχη, psuche, literally, breath and therefore life. There was some misunderstanding in past centuries concerning Greek transliteration so the English Y (wye) was used to transliterate the Greek u (upsilon) of which the capital looks like Υ, therefore ΨΥΧΗ, PSUCHE became PSYCHE, from whence come words like psychology and psychic. The Greek understands psuche to be man's immaterial part as it animates his physical body. His animal or physical life. The same thing beasts have; body and soul. The Orientals call it Chi. (Qi)
Spirit - πνεύμά, pneuma, literally a movement of air, wind, breath, from whence comes pneumatic, and pneumonia. In the Greek, it is the eternal part of man that lives on after his flesh dies. This is the inner man that is in the image of God and that makes us different from the beasts. Our intellect, our moral perceptions, our conscience and our ability to reflect upon what we have done or said are all attributed to man's spirit. The spirit includes the heart, the mind and the will of man.
In a nutshell, this is man. Take anyone of these away from the others and man dies.
There are different shades of meaning and different usages of the terms in the scriptures that may be a bit confusing. By metonymy, the soul is taken for both the soul and spirit. "Do not fear him who is able to kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Mt.10:28. Or sometimes the soul is taken for the body, soul and spirit. "In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." 1Pet.3:20. Spirit can be my spirit, the Holy Spirit, the spiritual realm, or generally of that which is spirit. So the definition is really dependent on the context in which it is used.
II. Now from these concepts, the scriptures recognize three types of individuals.
1. The Natural Man.
There is the ψύχικος άνθροπος, (psuchikos anthropos) or soulish man, KJV has "natural man". Since the psuche animates the physical body, the "psuchical" man is devoted to nothing higher than that. This is the man who has what pertains to his fleshly nature at heart. His pride, the desires of his eyes and the lusts of his flesh are the things that are most important to him - things that pertain only to his earthly life.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God; which things also we speak, not in words taught by man’s wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, applying spiritual things with spiritual men. But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
This does not mean that he doesn't have a spirit. It means that he is not aware of it, even though he has one. This man is totally blind to the things of the spirit. He has no aspirations of wanting something better. "Pie in the sky when you die bye and bye" is a bunch of foolishness to him.
The natural man is the man who has not had the spiritual element in him awakened to understand the things of God and have a union with God on a spiritual level. The only base from which he works is his natural sensibilities and manly intellect. So he isn't necessarily a brute - he may be very intelligent, but what he is as a human is all he knows and all he cares to know.
2. The Spiritual Man.
The opposite of the soulish man is the πνευμάτικος άνθροπος, (pneumatikos anthropos) or spiritual man. This man is devoted to the spiritual, eternal, divine interests of his life. This man has had his spirit awakened to a new life and has the ability to discern spiritual things and receive the things of the spirit.
But he who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is rightly discerned by no one. For “Who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
He is aware and is able to discern both aspects of his nature - soul and spirit, and is able to control one over the other. He is able to judge things in the natural man's life - what is right or what is wrong and how best to go about doing the will of God, because he has the mind of Christ. But the natural man cannot do the same. He hasn't the faculty to judge (discern) the spiritual man. He has no idea what the spiritual man is about; what he is doing or why.
Now these are our two natures: soulish and spiritual. Between these two primary natures will be where most of us think and behave.
3. The Carnal Man.
This is the Christian who has that new living spiritual principle of life awakened in him, but is still having problems with the flesh. This is the term σάρκικοι (sarkikoi) or fleshly.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men but as to carnal, as to infants in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For whereas there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not carnal and walk like mere men?
So the carnal man is a Christian who is not mature yet and is not able to handle deep or weighty matters of spiritual teaching. He is the Christian who loves God and keeps his word and yet slips into envy and arguments and ends up walking as a mere man - if only briefly.
Most of the letters of the New Testament scriptures are written to just such Christians, the reason being is because that is how most of us are to a degree. We are all in the process of putting to death the deeds of the body and living more fully in accord with what is spiritual.
III. Now let us see how this applies to three aspects of our lives as Christians.
1. In our conversion:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’
This birth is making our spirits alive. Spiritually alive, meaning active, powerful, aware and sensitive. We were dead in sins (natural man). When we were immersed into Christ this changed.
Buried with him in immersion, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.
And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the Sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
In this new birth of our spirits, there was also a death.
In him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.
Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism [immersion] into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of Sin.
In this death we put off the body of the sins of the flesh - we destroy or nullify - take out of commission the body of sins. That is because our old man is crucified, (i.e., the fleshy principle of action which we used to follow in our flesh is put to death). This does not mean that the old man isn't around any longer. Crucifixion is a slow death - we still have our inclinations and propensities that we must continually on a daily basis deny and put to death.
Paul says that we are not in the flesh - i.e. we do not function in the realm of what is flesh anymore, but we are in the spirit - i.e. we live and function in the spiritual realm and serve God with our spirits and have the rule and control over the flesh.
But you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.
The Holy Spirit takes up his abode or residence in our hearts and therefore with our spirits and makes us alive in our spirits and gives us the ability to crucify the flesh because of our new ability to see and discern.
2. In our walk as Christians.
Since we are in the spirit, we can walk in the spirit and not in any way fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Gal.5:25). Sin will not have dominion over us because our old man is dead - put out of commission, and we can take our body and devote it to the glory of God - our spirits are now in control and we do not have to serve sin, like the natural man does. We walk in the spirit and not in the flesh.
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.
3. In our worship and work in the church.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him.
Jesus said there would come a time when people would worship in spirit and truth. Now is the time.
For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Worship in spirit is not in outward form only but a real and close communion of our higher nature (our spirits) with God who is a spirit. It is the union and association with God on a spiritual level as we lift our hearts and lives to God.
Worship in truth is in reality, instead of type and symbolism in the flesh. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Our work should also be on a spiritual level.
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
The kingdom or church is a spiritual organization (not of this world Jno.18:36), it has a divine spiritual origin and purpose (according to the eternal purpose, Eph.3:8-11). We have a spiritual work (the work of the Lord), and we fight a spiritual warfare (against the principalities and powers in the heavenly realm, Eph.6:12).
I am pleased to be a part of this work, because we are becoming spiritually aware of the work there is to do. And when our work is comprehended on that level, then there is harmony and activity and progress for the kingdom. The work with carnal Christians is always difficult because the desires of the flesh are at cross purposes with the spirit and the efforts of the congregation are disjointed, if there are any efforts at all.
We are not out to make money - that is not our work.
We are not seeking to entertain the members - that is carnal.
We are not trying to cater to the appetites of men - that too is carnal.
What we are about is building ourselves up in love and saving the souls of people around us.
We may be a small church, but there are some among us who can see the future, not by prophecy, but by faith. Faith in our potential for growth, faith that we can become a shining light to all the people in our area and glorify God by our work, and most importantly, faith in God who is able to accomplish this in us. If anything gets accomplished it will be God who does it through us. So where then should our trust and hope be?
Let us all be busy about encouraging each other to our work - provoking each other to love and zeal - for there is much to be done.
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR February 10, 1985)