Becoming God's Spiritual Person
Does Scripture Use the Concept of "Spiritual Person"?
From this point forward (unless otherwise designated), “the spiritual person” refers to the Christian concept of being spiritual.
The word “spiritual” (the same Greek word) is associated by Paul (the prominent writer in the New Testament) with many things: “gifts” (Romans 1:11; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, 14:1); “the Law” (Romans 7:14); “things” (Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 9:11); “meat” and “drink” (1 Corinthians 10:3, 4); the individual’s “body” (1 Corinthians 15:44); “wisdom” and “understanding” (Colossians 1:9); “songs” (Colossians 3:16); “wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12); and “people” (Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 2:15). The meaning and point of each occurrence must be determined by Paul’s point in the context of his writing. Peter associated the same word with “house” [likely referring to a temple] and “sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5).
The contrast was between that which was filled with or focused by God’s Spirit and that which was not. Or, that which was dedicated to defining and furthering God’s objectives in this physical world and that which was not. In reference to people, that contrast/ consideration was stressed in numerous ways. Evidently, one of the reasons for the events of Acts 2:1-4 was to fill the apostles (the twelve) with the Holy Spirit so the Spirit would guide their speech (as promised in the gospel of John 14:25-27 and Luke 12:11, 12 ). When Peter was the spokesman for the twelve as they defended themselves before the Jerusalem council one of the reasons for his being spokesman was that he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When the apostles reported to Christians about their arrest and appearance before the council, the apostles prayed with the Christians assembled, the assembly place shook, and all present were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31). Ananias and Sapphira put the Lord’s Spirit to the test (Acts 5:1-11). When the apostles urged a resolution of the problem in the Jerusalem Christian community in Acts 6, the qualifications for those selected included that they were to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Stephen, who defended himself before the Jerusalem council, was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). One of the reasons Barnabas was sent on a highly sensitive trip to the first known (to us) gentile congregation (in Antioch) was because he was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:24). Ananias was directed to a penitent Paul by God for two objectives: (a) to restore Paul’s physical vision, and (b) to fill him with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). Those who assembled at Cornelius’ home to hear Peter were filled with the Holy Spirit as they listened to Peter (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15). The Spirit provided differing gifts in different people by his will (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
The Christians in Ephesus were urged not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). If they behaved as the “old self” who existed before they belonged to Christ instead of the “new self” who had been created again in the righteousness and holiness of the truth, they grieved the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:20-32). In the multiple instructions to the Christians in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) was the direction not to quench the Spirit. Were I to paraphrase both instructions, it would be this: ”Do not make it more difficult for God to exert His influence in your life by opposing His Spirit as God seeks to direct your life.” I do not understand the admonitions to be a “There is a single thing God appoints me to do, and I must find that one thing,” emphasis. To me, it is a focus that allows God to determine who I am and what I do no matter where I am or what my situation is. The spiritual person seeks to accurately reflect God in his or her life at all times in all situations. Spirituality is more a “this is what I am” constant reflection than it is an occasional “affirmation of conviction.”
Basically, people (a) who were in Jesus Christ, (b) who placed their confidence in the fact that God was at work in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and (c) who focused physical existence on God’s values and objectives did the following: They used maturity, perspective, and ability to achieve their total purpose in physical existence. They did this by seeing and evaluating physical reality through the Spirit’s eyes. This is not a declaration that being spiritual is a human accomplishment. It, instead, is an emphasis on the fact that spiritual people surrendered themselves to God’s objectives in this physical world.
Your attention now is directed to statements Paul made to Christians in 1 Corinthians and Galatians.
Consider Some 1 Corinthians Statements
The Christians in Corinth formed a troubled Christian community. They fractured Christian fellowship. They were guided by arrogance in a response to an immoral situation. They settled disputes among themselves as did godless people. They were self-centered in regard to family relationships. They acted without compassion toward Christians who sought to outgrow the past influences of idolatry. They had a poor understanding of spiritual gifts. They did not understand the importance and nature of love. They even challenged the nature and purpose of resurrection.
Today, we likely would arrange the priority differently were we to arrange the significance of the problems Paul addressed in the Corinthian Christian community. However, the first problem Paul discussed was their fractured fellowship in Christ. In varying ways, the material in the first four chapters addressed the Corinthian Christians’ fellowship problems. The key to addressing all their problems began with addressing their concept of Christian fellowship. In fact, most of their problems existed because of their failure to understand Christian fellowship among those in Christ.
In the midst of this section, in 2:10-16, Paul wrote of the spiritual person. It is easy to see the contrast and miss the point. There seems to have been a real struggle over the significance of their spiritual influences. They viewed Paul’s influence and Apollos’ influence (and perhaps Peter’s) as being in competition (see 1:10-17 and 3:1-9). In the thinking of groups of the Corinthian Christians, Paul, Apollos, and Peter were not fellow servants in Christ with a complementary, common objective. Instead, these men had selfish objectives and motives. The Christians influenced by each man should champion the man who influenced them.
Obviously, there was (and is) a real contrast between the people who reject God’s existence, and people who are directed by the Spirit’s influence for God. However, that is not Paul’s point. The problem did not arise from an outside attack on the Christian community. The problem existed because of the fractured fellowship within the Christian community. There always will be attacks from without the Christian community produced by those who reject God, Jesus Christ, and the work of God’s Spirit. There will never be a time when those who are not spiritual are not the enemies of those who are spiritual. However, THERE SHOULD NEVER BE A TIME OR SITUATION WHEREIN THOSE IN JESUS CHRIST SHOULD BE THE ENEMIES OF THOSE IN JESUS CHRIST.
The problem: “Who is forming your view of other Christians ‘who are not in your camp’? Is your primary influence from the person who rejects the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ? Or, is your primary influence people who are devoted to the God who gave us Jesus Christ?” Were the thinking and values of the Corinthian Christian individual formed by people who thought that the things of God’s Spirit were foolishness? Or, were the thinking and values of the Corinthian Christian individual formed by spiritual people who lived in complete surrender to God? Were the Corinthian Christians thinking as did idolatrous people or as did spiritually mature people? Whose influence was in charge of the Corinthian Christians’ behavior? Was it the view of godlessness or was it the mind of Christ?
When a person becomes a Christian, the person begins intensive reeducation. This reeducation was commonly known among first-century Christians as a “renewing of the mind” (see Romans 12:1, 2 to note the concept). If the Christian renews his or her mind, this reeducation results in a transformation. The person becomes a different person who sees things differently, has different values, has different definitions of right and wrong, behaves differently, and forms different relationships.
As an example, use Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:17-32. Begin your considerations with an overview of Paul’s statement. (a) This is the way gentiles who do not belong to Jesus Christ think and behave [4:17-19]. (b) This is not the way you were taught to think and live as a person who belongs to Jesus Christ [4:20, 21]. (c) There was the “old self” you were in your pre-Christian existence. (d) There is the “new self” you should be who has been created in the likeness of God [4:22-24]. The problem: you behave like the “old self” you were instead of the “new self” you are supposed to be in Jesus Christ [4:25-32].
How was that wrong thinking and behavior expressing itself among the Christians in Ephesus? Significant problems among them were deception, harbored anger, stealing, ungodly speech, opposition to God’s influence in them, a lack of compassionate kindness, and a lack of forgiveness. Do such problems sound familiar?
Note: there was a pre-conversion set of values and behavior. There was a post-conversion set of values and behavior. The difference in the pre-conversion individual and the post-conversion individual was the result of (a) placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ, (b) realizing that the living God was at work in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and (c) being reeducated to think and behave in ways consistent with the living God and Jesus’ teachings.
Note the contrast: the pre-conversion individual’s thinking was futile, his (her) understanding was darkened, he (she) was filled with ignorance, and he (she) had internal hardness. The post-conversion individual was kind, compassionate, and forgiving. The contrast was that of opposites! What caused the transformation in the person? It was caused by a “renewing of the mind” that was based on a faith in the living God and Jesus’ death and resurrection!
Consider the Statement in Galatians 6:1
Of the numerous things in Paul’s insights declared in Galatians 6:1 that could be called to your attention, you are asked to consider but one. The “spiritual” are asked to restore “a man” caught by a trespass. Since Paul’s instructions focus on a restoration, the “spiritual” person and the “man” both must be within the Christian community among the Christians in the Galatian congregation. The “man” has been caught in a trespass (NAS; TEV), “overtaken in a fault” (KJV), “overcome by some sin” (LB), overtaken in a trespass (RSV), caught in some wrong doing (TEV), “trapped in some sin” (NIV), “misbehaves” (JB), or did “something wrong . . . on a sudden impulse” (NEB). Thus a Christian yielded to a temptation and violated God’s values.
Note that the “spiritual” Christian should be asked to restore the Christian who has been captured by a temptation. Why the “spiritual” Christian? The “spiritual” Christian was more likely to have a gentle spirit, more likely to consider the weakness of self, and more likely to realize a person’s ability to be deceived by temptation. This was not Paul’s call to destroy the sinful person through confrontation. It was Paul’s call to gently restore the sinful person by using (among other things) introspection.
The problem could have arisen in the fallen Christian because he (she) was deceived by the message of the Judaizing teachers, had abused Christian freedom, or had lost a battle to the flesh as it attacked the Spirit. Paul did not specify the source of the temptation. However, the last conflict he cited was that of the flesh confronting the Spirit.
What you are asked to see and consider is that the “spiritual” person is asked to restore. Why? By using words today’s people are more likely to use, because “spiritual” people are more likely to relate and thereby be gentle. “Spiritual” people understand how prone to temptation humans are. The “spiritual” people will not excuse the mistake, but their agenda is to restore the deceived rather than defend an ideal. “Spiritual” people understand Christian focus on recovery, and do not resort to demolition. Christians focus on reclaiming those who need forgiveness, not on isolating themselves from those who might “contaminate” them.
In any living congregation, there will be multiple levels of spiritual development at any time. There will be infant Christians to adolescent Christians. There will be multiple levels of ability to reflect spiritual maturity. In those many varieties and levels, it is the “spiritual” people who should seek to restore the person victimized by Satan. Not just anyone is gifted in the restoration of the fallen. Restoration is about the person, not “the position” the Christian community takes regarding the sin. “The position” focuses on forgiveness because that is God’s focus. Simple? No! However, neither is God’s forgiveness of us!
In a troubled Corinthian Christian community, Christians were urged not to fracture their fellowship. Also, in a complex situation generated by some from outside the Galatian Christian community, Christians were urged to restore those who had been tempted and had yielded to the temptation. In each situation, it was “the spiritual” people who were to be active in solving the situation.
It should be obvious from these two situations that there were (a) those in Christ who needed the maturing of continued spiritual development (b) in order to commit themselves to being the “spiritual” people. In any Christian community, there are those who have not developed mature spiritual motives and perspectives and those who have. Neither chronology, age, nor physical successfulness is under consideration. Under consideration is (a) the degree of a yielding commitment to the Spirit’s influence in life, and (b) the ability to see situations from God’s perspective. God’s perspective is found in (a) having the motives Jesus taught, and (b) having God’s values and priorities. When God provided humanity a Savior, He did so because He valued people, not because He valued systems. The Christian who “sees” through God’s eyes will value people, not systems. When the Christian community values its systems above its people, that Christian community is in serious spiritual trouble.
Problems are exacerbated and fractures in fellowship grow worse when those in charge of solutions do not “see” through God’s eyes. Too many times Christians allow the spiritually immature who are not filled with God’s Spirit nor God’s motives to determine the focus and direction of the Christian community. The result: Satan celebrates as God weeps. Why? The Christian community champions objectives and values that do not reflect God’s concerns for humanity.