Bible_Godly Wisdom

The Spirit Versus the Flesh

1 Corinthians 3:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to infants in Christ.

The Holy Bible has many great things to say about those who are referred to as “spiritual” persons. However, it does not speak well of those who are referred to as “fleshly.” Therefore, clearly, a God-fearing Christian wants to be a spiritual person, does he not? Sadly, many Christians who should be spiritual are often, in reality, just the opposite.

Romans 8:5-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For setting the mind on the flesh is death, but setting the mind on the spirit is life and peace because setting the mind on the flesh means enmity toward God, for it is not subjected to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Galatians 5:16-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Therefore, do we, want truly to be spiritual men and women? If we are going to understand fully what it means to be a spiritual person, we might start by looking at the opposite term, “fleshly,” as it was used by the apostle Paul.

Flesh or Fleshly: The Greek (sarkinos) refers to the physical human being (Heb. 7:16), as well as physical characteristics (1 Cor. 3:1; 2 Cor. 1:12, but also to the human nature that dwells within us. (2 Cor. 3:3) The third sense refers to our mental bent toward wickedness, our behavior which is typical of human nature, but it has a particular focus upon more improper physical desires, that is ‘worldly, base.’ This is a human that reflects the characteristics of this world and its attributes. This fleshly nature is cultivated by the ruler of the world. The spirit of this world is poisonous, which is difficult to escape because it permeates society. If we breathe it in, we will adopt its attitude, its aims, and will be living in the flesh. The spirit or energizing force controls the world of unrighteous human society, and it is demonic and alienated from God. The world caters to selfishness and the desires of the fallen flesh. The world’s pattern of thought and conduct runs counter to Gold’s will and purposes. To be “fleshly” means to be dominated by the flesh, that is, to have an earthly, worldly viewpoint.

1 Corinthians 3:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to infants in Christ.

However, more importantly, what did Pail mean by the “spiritual men”?[1] It means that we are biblically minded, having the mind of Christ, being guided by the Spirit inspired Word, the Bible. (Isa. 55:8, 9; Rom. 11:33) This Christian has a thinking ability that comes from his or her fully applying God’s Word in their life. It is acquiring the mind of the “only begotten God[2] who is in the bosom of the Father,[3] that one has made him fully known.” (John 1:18) Spiritual Man: (Gr. pneumatikos) This is in reference to our Christian spiritual conduct, our pattern of life that is controlled by the Spirit inspired Word of God. (1 Cor. 13:1; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21) It is the spiritually mature Christian life. It is ‘spiritual,’ spiritual conduct,’ ‘guided by the spirit inspired Word.’

We need not look any further than the apostles of Jesus Christ to find our perfect example demonstrating how one can become truly spiritual. Let us start by tracing how they grew into a spiritual person. First, we must note that those Jesus chose as apostles were all teachable, receptive to being taught, hardworking and devoted men. It is these types of qualities that made the apostles ready to be taught by Jesus. After being chosen by Jesus some were literally in constant attendance with him for about two years. They saw Jesus perform many miracles, including raising people from the dead. They listened to a carpenter’s son give some of the most profound discourses of all time, far superior to the Jewish religious leaders of their day. The apostles drew on Jesus’ strength, examining how he easily dealt with friend or foe, as well as his unbending need to stand for right principles. The apostle Peter would make the following observation years later, “we are witnesses of all the things that he did both in the land of the Judeans and in Jerusalem.” (Acts 10:39; Mark 3:14) Jesus taught the apostles, too, that they should be eager and willing to share the things they were learning. It was this excellent training that helped the apostles to become spiritual men. It was this instruction that gave them “the mind of Christ,” the feelings, nature, and understanding of Christ so that they could judge things in his way. Spiritual men and women see things from “the spirit according to the will of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Peter 4:6; James 1:27.

You Can Be a Spiritual Person

If you are going to be a spiritual person today, it takes similar training as to what the apostles went through.

Ephesians 4:20-24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that you take off, according to your former way of life, the old man, who is being destroyed according to deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds24 and put on the new man,[4] the one created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and loyalty of the truth.

In the daily lives, the “natural” inclination, leaning for persons who lack spirituality is to give way to their fleshly thinking. As we have learned the natural man in his human imperfection and weaknesses is mentally bent toward evil. The mental inclination that guides and directs urges them in a direction that conforms to a world that is alienated from God and under the control of Satan. The natural inclination of the Christian mind, though, is made over to something “new,” so that that one has a biblical mindset or worldview, thus this renewing of the mind makes them into a spiritual person.

As the Christian mind changes, it impacts every aspect of his or her life, which is being made new into this new personality. Even after we have become a Christian and have been serving God for many years, this renewing of the mind must continue so as to continuous control every aspect of one’s life. This means the Christian will be spiritually clean, morally clean, and mentally clean, now having a spiritual thinking, “the mind of Christ.” However, what happens if a Christian allows fleshly thinking to influence his or her life.

Fortunately, God saw fit to give us an example from a first-century Christian congregation in Corinth, Greece. These ones had been Christians for some time. (1 Cor. 1:2) Nevertheless, many within the congregation allowed themselves to be overly influenced by the Greek minded world that surrounded them. How was it that these once spiritually minded Christians became “fleshly”?

There were certain prideful ones who were false teachers and even false apostles, who adopted the standards of the world into the Christian congregation. Spiritual sickness, disorder, error and vileness followed, causing many to become like the world that Jesus had said to be no part of, i.e., they became “fleshly.” That ancient Greek world was very much like the liberal progressive twenty-first century we live in today, which certainly was not Christlike, as is true of ours. Their culture, art, science, religion, games, philosophy, was worldly, fleshly, mentally bent toward evil.

Their congregation was trying to be world-minded and Christlike minded at the same time, bringing, the mindset of the world into the congregation because it was the progressive thinking of their day as the liberal progressives of our day say we need to adopt progressive thinking. What were the results? This fleshly progressive way of thinking was reflected in by the things they became able to do and developed into a new belief system. While the congregation became blinded to their new worldly mindset, the spiritual person could plainly see they had become fleshly in their way of thinking. It could not be hidden from the spiritual person. They now became divided as they began promoting one human over another. A rivalry spirit became a part of their mindset. (1 Cor. chaps. 1-4; see James 3:13-18) Fornication was now acceptable. (1 Cor. chap. 5) They took each other to court. (1 Cor. Chap. 6) They were more concerned with themselves and their rights that they stumbled others, in the matter of idolatry, within the congregation. (1 Cor. chaps. 8-10) They began to lack any appreciation for those who were supposed to be taking the lead in the congregation, as well as self-indulgence regarding the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. Chap. 11) Paul had to tell them that they were accountable for stumbling the weaker ones, who were an important part of the congregation. Instead of spiritually feeding these weaker ones, to mature them, they corrupted them with their worldly thinking.

how-to-study-your-bible1In the ancient Grecian culture, the secular, so-called wise of the world, fleshly Greek writers stressed the harsh, supposed “masculine” qualities, such as pride and egotism, which God does not. On the other hand, the Corinthian Christians needed to focus their attention on and cultivate love, godly love. (1 Cor. Chap. 13) Even the Christian doctrine of the Corinthians was strongly influenced by fleshly thinking. Some of the Christians in Corinth, just like the Greek philosophers at Athens, found the teaching of the resurrection hard to accept. These unreasonable Christians had lost their spiritual mind. (1 Cor. 15:12-57; Acts 17:32) Today, the liberal progressive world and liberal “Christian” wants to be progressive in their thinking, accepting homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, even having homosexual church leaders. The liberal Christian believes The Bible is not “God-breathed” and has errors, contradictions, and mistakes. They believe the virgin birth of Christ is a mythological false teaching. The liberal Christian believes that most of the human authors of the Bible are not who they are traditionally believed to be: Moses did not pen the first five books, Isaiah did not write Isaiah, Daniel did not rite Daniel, and several New Testament books were written after their supposed authors were dead. For the liberal Christian, abortion is not prohibited in the Bible and it is an acceptable practice. Does this not illustrate that trying to mix worldly thinking with the teachings of Christ and the Word of God as a whole produces poor results in every way? We should examine this truth in ourselves, in our own personal way of thinking. Nevertheless, how can one develop “the mind of Christ” and become a truly spiritual person?

[1] NOTE: While Paul used a masculine term as will we this is applicable to both men and women.

[2] Jn 1:18: WH NU “only-begotten god”, P66 א* B C* L syrhmg,p[V1] “the only-begotten God,” P75א133copbo[V2] “the only-begotten Son.” AC3(Ws)QYf1,13 MajVgSyrc

[3] Or at the Father’s side

[4] An interpretive translation would have, “put on the new person,” because it does mean male or female.