After a one-week hiatus, Alean and I have returned to Washington state following a wonderful visit with dear friends in New Mexico. It is good to be home, but we are thankful for the break, and for good friends with whom to spend it.
This week, we are returning to our look at the phrase “you who are spiritual,” with part three of that series “What is a spiritual Man or Woman?”.
Thus far we have seen that the Apostle Paul views humanity as either the “natural man” without God, as “carnal man” with God, but driven by the desires of the flesh, or as the “spiritual man,” the pneumatikos, guided by the Spirit of God.
In part two, we learned that the Christ-follower views the world through an enhanced set of eyes, perceiving things that the natural man and carnal man cannot see.
This week, we look more deeply at that insight and the effect it has on the spiritual man, particularly with regard to the way the he understands scripture, and finally regarding how he views the natural man.
The Pneumatikos and the Word
How does it happen that one person can read a passage from the Bible and find it empty, perhaps tedious or confusing, or in some cases foolish and nonsensical, while another person can read the same passage and find it rich with meaning, depth, and blessing? Somehow, the latter has been granted an insight into the passage that the former simply does not possess.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, ESV
Young kids like to play the game, “I know something you don’t know…” singing it to the same melodic tune as “Nya, nay-nya, nya, nya,” and with the same snoot of superiority. In a sense, that is what the apostle Paul is telling the church at Corinth in the above passage.
The Christ-follower has a Spirit that the world does not have, and an eyesight with which to view the world around him or her that the world does not have, and really, cannot even imagine. As a Spirit-animated Christ-follower, there are truths you understand that are complete poppycock to the man or woman without the Spirit of God.
There is another spirit – make no mistake – a spirit that animates the natural man. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, and there he mentions this spirit, “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2, ESV). All of us are internally influenced by one Spirit or the other.
Furthermore, it is the Holy Spirit of God that inspired the scriptures which bless you, but confuse the non-believer.
No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:21, ESV
Paul told Timothy, “All scripture is God breathed.” Since it is the Spirit of God who inspired the scriptures, it follows that those whom the Spirit indwells will have exceptional insight into, and understanding of, those same scriptures. I am not suggesting magical, super-secret insight, but rather that scripture simply makes sense to you where it does not do so for the worldly man or woman.
Even the exchange of scriptural concepts between believers is influenced by the touch of the Spirit. The Spirit teaches the speaker or writer, and the Spirit guides the understanding of the reader or hearer.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. – 1 Corinthians 2:13, ESV
This has echoes of what Jesus said when he told his disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13).
The Pneumatikos and the World
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. – 1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB
From time to time, I see Christ-followers who become agitated by the attitudes of the world. I understand that, and occasionally fall into that trap as well. We expect the world to embrace our values, our ethics, and our mores. And when they don’t, we are incredulous!
We see a massive proliferation of every manner of moral decay. Rampant sexual abuse. Drug addictions on an unprecedented scale. The normalization and celebration of homosexuality, bisexuality, and now transgenderism and gender dysphoria.
Hospitals are withholding gender identity from Certificates of Live Birth till the parents and child can decide on gender at a later date.
We have witnessed decades of the slaughter of our unborn. Blatant nudity and sexual perversion on our movie and television screens. Wife swapping parties where the partner is chosen as casually as with a dart board, or by blindly pulling car keys out of a bucket.
We shake our indignant fists and stomp our feet and say, “This should not be! They should know better!”
NO!! They do not. And it is absurd for us to expect them to know better.
Read the verse again: But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB).
To the natural man, this is normal life. This is how things are supposed to be. This is what makes sense to the unenlightened mind of one controlled by “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.“
So, teach the world, but do not be shocked or dismayed by their lack of understanding, or their embrace of the profane. Rather, expect it. They do not see with the eyes with which you see.