MBS136 WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL LIFE? A DEFINITION
But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.1 Corinthians 2:10
A. The Three Factors in Spirituality
The first factor is regeneration. The term “regeneration” means, “to be born again.” It means, “to have salvation.” Obviously, living the spiritual life presupposes that one has been regenerated, that one has been saved. An unbeliever simply cannot live the spiritual life. Only a believer can develop the spiritual life and, therefore, the first factor is salvation or regeneration.
The second factor in spirituality is the Holy Spirit; it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live the spiritual life. In fact, the word “spiritual” relates this life to the Holy Spirit; indeed, He is involved in five different ways in our spiritual life. First, the Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual truths (Jn. 16:12–15).
Secondly, the Holy Spirit is involved in guiding us (Rom. 8:14).
Thirdly, He gives us assurance of our salvation (Rom. 8:16).
Fourthly, He is praying for us (Rom. 8:26–27).
And fifth, He is the One who gives us the spiritual gifts for the growth of the local Body (1 Cor. 12:4–7).
The third factor in spirituality is time; it takes time to reach the stage described by 1 Corinthians 2:15 as he that is spiritual. Just as physical development takes time, so spiritual development also takes time. No one is spiritual the day he is born again. Thus, it takes time to become spiritual.
B. The Key Concept
The key concept in spirituality is maturity. Just as it can be used in the physical sense and in the emotional sense, maturity can also be used in the spiritual sense. All of us are born physically as babies, and in the course of time, we mature to adulthood. By the same token, all of us are born again as “spiritual babes” or spiritually immature, and it takes time to reach spiritual maturity. Some people never develop to physical or emotional maturity. Things could also happen to keep a believer from developing to spiritual maturity, but the key concept is maturity.
C. The Definition
Simply stated in the words of Dr Charles Ryrie: “Spirituality is a grown-up relationship to the Holy Spirit.” The spiritual life is a life that produces a spiritual believer.
I. THE SIX RAMIFICATIONS
A. New Believers
First, a new believer cannot be called “spiritual” because he has not, as yet, had enough time to grow and develop in spiritual knowledge and experience. A new believer can be Spirit-filled, but that does not make him spiritually mature because a new believer lacks one crucial factor: time.
A second ramification is that an older believer may not be spiritually mature because, while he has had the time, he has not allowed the Holy Spirit to control him. So the new believer may be Spirit-filled but lacking in time to mature, while an older believer has had the time, but may not be Spirit-filled. In that case, it is not time that he lacks, but “yielded-ness.”
The third ramification is that a believer may backslide in certain areas and yet not lose all the ground that he has gained. He may lose ground only in certain areas, but not in all the areas of his life. For example, a believer can be Spirit-filled in the area of marriage and can be Spirit-filled in the area of his finances. But if he commits immorality and backslides in the area of marriage, it does not mean that he has automatically lost his Spirit-filling in the area of finances. That is why a believer can backslide in certain areas and not lose all the ground he has gained up to that point.
D. Stages of Growth
Fourth, there are stages of growth. Just as in the physical realm there are stages of growth, there are also stages of growth in the spiritual realm. It is a growing grown-up relationship to the Holy Spirit. A new believer cannot possibly be spiritual in the Pauline sense of the term. For that reason, a new believer must not be placed in a leadership position in the local church (1 Tim. 3:6). Maturity or spirituality cannot be achieved by a sudden, an emotional or an ecstatic experience. Even so, there is always room for further growth and development (1 Cor. 13:12; Phil. 3:12–14). There are stages of growth because spirituality is not only a grown-up relationship with the Holy Spirit, it is a growing grown-up relationship with Him.
E. Areas of the Spiritual Life
The fifth ramification is that spiritual life is composed of many areas. It involves your personality, your family life, your church life, your employment life, and your national life.
F. Duration of Babyhood
The sixth ramification is that although we are born again as spiritual babes, babyhood need not last long. In 1 Corinthians 3:1–3, we see that Paul expected his readers to have been mature by the time he wrote that letter. Between his evangelization of Corinth and the writing of the Book of 1 Corinthians, there was a period of four to five years. So babyhood need not last very long.
II. THE THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUALITY
A. Spirituality is Evident in the Believer
The first characteristic of spirituality is that it will be evident in the believer himself. This will be seen in at least four areas.
First, we are going to be developing a Messiah-like frame of reference. Some of the characteristics of this “Messiah-likeness” are given in Galatians 2:20: Christ lives in me; Galatians 5:22: the fruit of the Spirit; 1 Peter 2:21: that ye should follow his steps and 1 John 2:6: “that we abide in the Messiah.”
Secondly, there will be knowledge, not knowledge in general, but knowledge in the area of the Word of God (1 Cor. 3:1–3; Heb. 5:14). A believer who does not have knowledge of Scripture cannot be said to be spiritual.
Thirdly, this will be seen in his attitude. He will be characterized by a spirit of thanksgiving (Eph. 5:20) and unity of the Spirit with other believers (Eph. 4:3). In fact, one of the ways by which the Corinthian church proved its babyhood was in the divisiveness, which characterized the congregation. It was also a congregation characterized by failure to exercise church discipline. Through these various attitudes, they showed themselves to be unspiritual.
Fourthly, it will be expressed in his conduct (Heb. 5:13–14). In his day-to-day conduct, spirituality will be evident.
B. Spirituality Will Be Seen in the Believer’s Home
The second characteristic of spirituality is that it will be seen in the believer’s home. It will be evident in the wife’s submission to her husband, and the husband’s submission to meeting the needs of his wife. Ephesians 5:22–33 emphasizes the fact that the husband is responsible for the spiritual maturity of the home.
C. Spirituality is Seen in Participation in Church Fellowship
The third characteristic of spirituality is seen in the believer’s participation in church fellowship (1 Cor. 12).
III. THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD—1 CORINTHIANS 2:9–3:4
But as it is written, Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, And which entered not into the heart of man, Whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knows, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining spiritual things with spiritual words. Now the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judges all things, and he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able; for ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men? For when one says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men?
This passage points out eight things.
A. Divine Revelation Now Given Through the Written Word—1 Corinthians 2:9
The first point is that divine revelation has now been given through the written Word of God (v. 9). Whereas in the past, certain things had not been revealed, now many more things are being revealed, and divine revelation has now been given through the written Word of God.
B. The Illuminating Ministry of the Holy Spirit—1 Corinthians 2:10–11
The second point is that the Holy Spirit now has the ministry of illumination (vv. 10–11). The Holy Spirit illuminates the mind in the revelation of the deep things of God. God has provided His revelation in the written Word, and the Holy Spirit functions as our “illuminator.” He illuminates our mind to understand the things of God which no man can know but by the Spirit only. So, men are classified according to their ability to receive and understand the deep things of God.
Overall in this passage, there are four such classifications of men. The first classification is the natural man. The word that Paul uses here is psuchikos, and it literally means “soulish man.” This is the one found in 1 Corinthians 2:14.
The second classification is: babes in Christ. The word Paul uses here is sarkinos, which literally means “flesh-man.” That is the word used in 1 Corinthians 3:1–2.
The third category he uses is the “carnal man.” The Greek word here is sarkikos, which literally means the “fleshly man,” and is used in 1 Corinthians 3:3–4. The fourth classification is the “spiritual man”, the mature, adult man. The word used is pneumatikos in 1 Corinthians 2:15.
C. The Indwelling Ministry of the Holy Spirit—1 Corinthians 2:10
The third point is that believers have received the Holy Spirit, and He knows the deep things of God (v. 10). We have the Holy Spirit in order that we, too, may understand the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God; therefore, He knows the deep things of God. Believers have received the Holy Spirit, who knows the deep things of God, in order that they might also understand them from the Holy Spirit.
In the four classifications of men in this passage, one of them is an unbeliever. The other three all refer to believers, but not all have the capacity to understand these deep [spiritual] things. However, regardless of the spiritual state of the believer, he has received the Holy Spirit and therefore, if he is willing, he is able to learn from the Holy Spirit the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit teaches these deep things of God by helping us to understand the written Word of God. He helps us to understand it by His ministry of illumination.
D. The Divine Wisdom Hidden in Scripture—1 Corinthians 2:13
The fourth point is that the divine wisdom is hidden in the Scriptures, and the divine content is understood only as one learns to compare spiritual things with spiritual words (v. 13). God is not just going to reveal His divine wisdom by some kind of visitation or vision. His divine wisdom is hidden in the written Word of God, and the divine content of the Word of God is understood as one learns to compare spiritual things spiritual words.
E. The Classification of Men—1 Corinthians 2:1–3:4
1. The Natural Man
The fifth point is to describe the first classification of men: the natural man (v. 14). Again, the Greek word used is psuchikos, the “soulish man.” This is the unregenerate man, the unsaved man. The unsaved man remains spiritually unchanged because he does not have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Jude 19). Because the natural man is an unsaved man, he does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, none whatsoever! As far as he is concerned, they are foolishness, and the unsaved man has a need to dispose of or do away with the supernatural.
That is why, for example, the unsaved man needs the Theory of Evolution. He believes in evolution, not because of any scientific validity of the theory, but because he needs to do away with any possibility of the supernatural. Furthermore, not only are spiritual things foolishness to him, he cannot know them; there is an innate inability to comprehend, to receive, to know or to interact with spiritual truth. He simply does not have the ability to know the deep things of God. He does, however, have the ability to know the deep things of Satan (Rev. 2:24), but not the deep things of God.
The reason for all this is because these things are only spiritually judged, spiritually discerned or examined. The ability to receive the things of God is not attained through schooling. That is why there are educated men who do not discern anything spiritually. On the other hand, there are uneducated men who do have spiritual discernment because their ability to discern spiritual truth does not come by means of education, but by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who enlightens their minds. And because the natural man does not have the Holy Spirit, he is unable to achieve these things.
2. The Spiritual Man
In the sixth point, 1 Corinthians:15–16, Paul next describes the “spiritual man.” The Greek word is pneumatikos, which means “the mature, adult man.” The spiritually mature man is someone who discerns all things (v. 15). The word “discernment” means that he does not have to run around asking questions. He is marked by discernment, and his mind is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He freely receives all things, but he understands them with his mind. Romans 7:14 points out that the law is spiritual, and according to 1 Corinthians 14:37, the spiritual man will be able to understand that which is spiritual. That is why the spiritual man will recognize that the writings of Paul are the Word of God. In Galatians 6:1, Paul mentions that the spiritual ones are to do the work of restoration. A spiritual one is characterized by the meat of the Word of God, which is the deep things of God. The reason the spiritual man is able to discern all these things is because he has the mind of Christ (v. 16). The Holy Spirit illuminates the mind of the spiritual man to discern what is the mind of Christ on any given matter.
3. The Babes in Christ
The seventh point, 1 Corinthians 3:1–2, discusses babes in Christ. The Greek word is sarkinos, which means the “flesh-man,” the immature man. The emphasis of this word is on weakness. It describes the brand-new believer, and “flesh-ness” is the mark of a babe in the Messiah. A new believer, simply because he is a babe, can only understand the milk of the Word of God, not the meat of the Word of God. He is not able to bear the deep things of God. Just as a newborn baby cannot be given a steak dinner, even so, a new believer must be given the milk and not the meat of the Word of God. There is no sin, of course, in being a babe in the Messiah. Every one of us who is a believer today started our walk in the Lord in this way. We were born spiritual babies. Now some of us have grown to maturity, while some of us have not. And that is where the problem sets in.
4. The Carnal Man
The eighth point, 1 Corinthians 3:3–4, concerns the “carnal man.” The word used here is sarkikos, which means “fleshly man.” This is one who is able to receive the meat of the Word of God, but who does not do so. The babe in the Messiah does not have that capacity as yet. The carnal man is a believer who does have the ability to receive the meat, but he does not do so because his carnality hinders the full ministry of the Holy Spirit. The carnal man is dominated by his flesh (Rom. 7:14). He is one who cannot get along with other believers, as was true of the Corinthians, who were “fleshly.” In knowledge, he is like the babe, but he should not be because he has had time enough to mature. Like the babe, he is still immature; however, while the babe in the Messiah cannot help it, the carnal man can help it, but chooses not to. The carnal man is someone who “walks as a man.” His lifestyle is no different from that of the natural man (2 Cor. 10:2); they differ only in the fact that one is saved and the other is not.
IV. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN BABYHOOD AND MATURITY—HEBREWS 5:11–14
The second passage emphasizes the contrast between the characteristics of babyhood and maturity, the carnal man and the spiritual man: Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partakes of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.
A. The Difference in Understanding—Hebrews 5:11
Verse 11 emphasizes the difference in understanding. The spiritual man is able to understand things … hard of interpretation. The things which the writer of the Book of Hebrews calls hard of interpretation, Paul called the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10). One example of what constitutes the deep things of God or the things … hard of interpretation is the Melchizedekian Priesthood, because that is what he is discussing in the context. A baby believer and a carnal believer will not be able to understand the deep truths concerning the Melchizedekian Priesthood, but the spiritual man will understand such things.
The carnal man is someone who has become dull of hearing. The very fact that the writer says become dull points out that the man used not to be this way. This is not a baby believer. This is someone who has been a believer for some time but has not progressed to maturity; he has remained spiritually immature. A carnal man is someone who has become dull of hearing, and therefore is unable to understand the deep things of God.
1. The Test
The test in this verse is either the possession of knowledge or the lack of it. The carnal believer lacks knowledge of the deep things of God; he lacks knowledge of things … hard of interpretation. But the spiritual man does have knowledge of the deep things of God; he also has knowledge and understanding of things which are hard to interpret.
2. The Obligation
The obligation upon the believer, as given in this verse, is to develop and mature so as to be able to understand and discuss things which are hard to interpret, to be able to understand and discuss the deep things of God.
B. The Differences in Position—Hebrews 5:12
Verse 12 emphasizes the differences in position. The spiritual ones are those who now have the ability to be the teachers of the Word; they have knowledge, which is now sufficient to qualify them to teach. They have become partakers of the solid food, or the meat of the Word of God. But while the spiritual man is a teacher, the carnal man is still a pupil. He still depends upon someone else to re-teach him the first principles: the fundamentals of biblical faith. Again, they have become such as have need of milk. This means that they used not to be this way. Whereas they were born again as baby believers, needing the milk of the Word of God, they had become carnal, still needing the milk of the Word, and had not progressed to the meat.
1. The Test
The test in this verse is either independence or dependence. Are we dependent upon teachers only, or have we become independent of most teachers? None of us will ever be totally independent of the need to be taught. But if we are always under teachers and never doing any teaching ourselves, that shows immaturity.
2. The Obligation
The obligation in this verse is the need to show ability in teaching instead of being re-taught the same things time and time again.
C. The State of Babyhood and Carnality—Hebrews 5:13
Verse 13 describes the state of babyhood and carnality. These were two of the four classifications of men in the 1 Corinthians passage. Here, they are lumped together because the characteristics are the same. Whereas for the baby believer there is no sin in being immature, for the carnal believer it is sin to remain immature. The baby believer just has not had sufficient time, while the carnal believer has had plenty of time.
In either case, anyone who continually partakes of milk only—and both the baby believer and the carnal believer do partake of milk—shows that he is without experience of the word of righteousness. It shows that a carnal believer has failed to make practical use of the knowledge, which he has. He can handle only the milk because he does not have discernment. The problem is that he has remained a babe, meaning he lacks knowledge. The characteristic of a baby believer is that he needs milk because he lacks knowledge. Once he has had sufficient milk that will give him the spiritual strength to gain knowledge from the meat of the Word of God. The carnal believer is not someone who lacks knowledge as such, but he lacks the exercise of that knowledge in real-life situations in order to be able to discern good and evil, to discern right and wrong. The reason is that he has remained a babe and, because of that, he is carnal.
1. The Test
The test in this verse is either to use it or lose it! If, as baby believers we do not begin to use the milk of the Word of God, we cannot progress to the meat, and we will keep losing the nurture even of the milk, so that we will have to be re-taught the same things over and over again. So, if we do not use the milk, we will lose the benefit of it. But, having used the milk, and started to digest some of the meat, if we do not then use the meat, we will remain spiritually immature. We will simply move from babyhood to carnality.
2. The Obligation
The obligation in this verse is that, in order to attain spirituality as believers, we must display skills in discussing the major issues of biblical theology and doctrine, for, in this context, the writer is dealing with the great doctrine of the Priesthood of the Messiah within the doctrine of His Melchizedekian Priesthood. The clear understanding of the Melchizedekian Priesthood is an example of what it means to be spiritually mature. An immature believer simply will not be able to understand it.
D. The State of Spirituality and Maturity—Hebrews 5:14
Verse 14 describes the state of spirituality and maturity: solid food is for the fullgrown men. The solid food is the meat of the Word of God; it is the things [which are] hard of interpretation; it is the deep things of God. The expression fullgrown men means the spiritually mature man; the man who has been born again, who has the Holy Spirit and who has submitted to the Spirit’s illuminating teachings. He has received the milk of the Word of God and has used it. He has progressed on to the meat of the Word and is using that, too. This is the fullgrown man, the spiritually mature man. He is spiritually mature because he is among those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. In other words, the spiritually mature man is someone who uses what he knows. Spiritual maturity is the result of careful exercise.
The meat of the Word of God is not mere knowledge. However, it must include knowledge, for you cannot divorce the meat of the Word from the knowledge of the Word of God. But meat is not merely knowledge. Digesting the meat includes putting to use what one knows. Someone who is partaking of the meat of the Word of God and yet does not use it will regress to needing milk. But someone who is partaking of the meat of the Word of God, and is using it, is the spiritually mature man.
1. The Test
The test in this verse is that we must show ability in using the Word in real-life situations, in specific situations. The carnal believer will not show the same ability to apply the Word of God in real-life situations as the spiritually mature man does in applying the Word to anything with which he is confronted.
2. The Obligation
The obligation in this verse is to properly use all that we know as believers. This will show maturity. When the Bible deals with the question of what maturity is and what spirituality is, it emphasizes the issue of the knowledge of the Word of God and the application of that knowledge in day-to-day living.
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