The Spiritual Man 

 

Because of these principles, Paul speaks to his readership (even in dodgy Corinth) as if they are all sanctified and acceptable in Christ. Faithful elders will " watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17); not for your physical life, but they will look carefully at the spiritual man within the people who comprise their flock. Because of the fact that " our earthly house of this tabernacle" will soon be " dissolved" , whilst our spiritual house or " man" will last eternally, Paul concluded: " Henceforth know we no man after the flesh" (2 Cor. 5:1,16). All he saw was the spiritual  man within a person.

He continues: " though we have known Christ after the flesh, henceforth know we Him no more" ; i.e. because Jesus has now been glorified, He no longer has a flesh man for us to know. God was manifested in the flesh of Christ, but now Christ is living " in the Spirit" , thus justifying God's righteousness (1 Tim. 3:16). He was " put to death in the flesh, but quickened by (on account of) the Spirit" , the Spirit-man within Him (1 Pet. 3:18). Thus Christ's sacrifice was acceptable by reason of his " eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14); his perfect spiritual character was what enabled his physical blood and death to win our salvation. His resurrection was due to his " spirit of holiness" (Rom. 1:4). We can only relate to Him now as a spiritual being. We can not now know Him after the flesh. Now his mortal flesh has been destroyed, He is " the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18 R.V.); He is called " the Spirit" in Revelation because the spiritual character He developed in his mortal life is now what He is. However, it must be stressed that this does not mean that Christ is without a body; a " Spirit" or spiritual man can only exist in a bodily form. His spiritual being is manifest and personified in the spiritual man within each of his brethren. Therefore we should only relate to them as Christ, as the spiritual man Christ Jesus which is within them.

The manner of inspiration reflects how God sees His servants. Often the Spirit caused the Bible writers to portray God's children in an extremely positive way. Thus Lk. 22:45 says that the disciples fell asleep from sorrow, when in reality this was due to their lack of spiritual awareness and sense of spiritual urgency. Likewise, Lk. 1:18 records only a few (apparently harmless) of the many words which Zacharias doubtless said, not without strong disbelief, during the abnormally long time he remained in the temple. These examples illustrate how God looks so positively upon His children.

" Cannot commit sin" - ?

The fact that God looks at us so positively, as if we are actually Christ, in that we are " in Him" , means that in this sense we cannot sin (1 Jn. 2:1), in that Christ cannot now sin. Our spiritual man is now " saved" in prospect. The devil is now dead in Christ, and sin is likewise dead in us too, insofar as we are " in Christ" (Heb. 2:14; Rom. 8:3). " The old man" of sin has been destroyed in our association with the death of Christ, so that " the body of sin" might be destroyed at the judgment seat (Rom. 6:6). Sin is dead without law (Rom. 7:8), and yet sin is described, in the same context, as being dead in us (Rom. 6:11; 8:3); this is because we are not under any legal code. Salvation is by grace, through our faith that God really is giving it to us. And if we truly have faith, then we will show that faith in a life of conformity to the spirit of Christ.  We are " free from sin" (Rom. 6:22), in the sense that we are not now under any legal code which could impute sin to us (Rom. 5:13). The spiritual man is born of God, and therefore " cannot commit sin" (1 Jn. 3:9). God " will not" (in the present and in the future, the Greek implies) impute sin to those in Christ (Rom. 4:8). As it is impossible for God to see men as righteous outside of Christ, so He finds it impossible to see them as sinners when they are truly counted as in Christ (Rom. 6:20 cp. 22). " Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (Jn. 8:34), but those in Christ are counted as not being the servants of sin, but of Christ (Rom. 6:17). The connection with Jn. 8:34 makes this tantamount to saying that they are reckoned as not committing sin.

It is worth following through Paul's argument in Romans. Chapters 1-5 convict all of sin, demonstrating that works can in no way save us. Chapter 6 then outlines how we can be saved; through association with Christ through baptism and a life " in Christ" , which will result in God seeing us in the exalted way He does. Chapter 7 basically goes on to say 'But, of course, you'll still sin, even though chapter 6 has explained how God doesn't look at that side of you if you truly try to live " in Christ" '. Paul says many things about his life in Rom. 7 which seem to consciously connect with his description of life before baptism in Chapter 6  (e.g. 7:13 = 6:23; 7:14 = 6:17; 7:23 = 6:12,13; 7:24 = 6:6; 7:25 = 6:16,17). The reason for this is that after baptism, we have two people within us; the man of the flesh, who totally dominated our pre-baptismal life, is still within us; but (as Chapter 7 so graphically shows) he is now in mortal conflict with the man of the Spirit, with whom we identify our real selves. Chapter 8 then goes on to encourage us that despite this conflict, sin is dead in Christ, and if we are in Him, then this is really how God sees us. Therefore Rom. 8 stresses that our state of mind is so crucial; if we are led of the Spirit-man, then we are assured of salvation at that point in time. Rom. 9-11 then appeals specifically to Israel to accept the glorious truth of all this, and then Chapters 12-16 show the practical response we should all make. Recognizing the existence of the new and old men within him, Paul can speak in Rom. 7 as if he is two different people; “I myself serve the law of God”, but “my flesh” serves sin. Likewise David asked God not to hide his face from him, David personally, (Ps. 27:9; 69:17; 102:2; 143:7), but to hide His face from David’s sins (Ps. 51:9). And one wonders whether the way the records of the Lord’s temptations are written implies some similar recognition by the Spirit of the two ‘men’ within the Lord.

Heb. 10:18,26 states that Christ only made one sacrifice for sin, implying that the sins of those in Christ were atoned for at one moment in time. He will not make another sin offering each time we sin, and therefore we should not sin wilfully, because that assumes that he will once again sacrifice for sin. Thus we will be crucifying Christ afresh (Heb. 6:6). The sacrifice of Christ can make us perfect in God's sight, so that " once purged" we should have " no more conscience of sins" (Heb. 10:1,2). This does not refer to " conscience" as the guilty streak within us. Paul is saying that our spiritual man ought to have no more guilt for our sins, which are now forgiven. But if we allow sin to be the governing principle in our lives, we can no longer be reckoned as sinless (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 3:8). This struggle to allow the Christ man to guide our lives rather than the flesh man is what spiritual life is all about. The evident 'benefits', if we may use so weak a word, from being 'led of the Spirit' are worth reflecting on daily, for they must surely motivate us.

Flesh v. Spirit

We need to learn to look at each other as God looks at us. Men judge after the fleshly side of a person, whilst God judges according to our spiritual man (1 Pet. 4:6). Paul's statement that " old things are passed away" at baptism, leaving only the new man, is in the context of telling Corinth that Paul did not know any man " after the flesh" (2 Cor. 5:16,17). In other words, he reflected on the fact that they were baptized, that they were in Christ, and that therefore in the eyes of God, their old man had been destroyed. We must realize that these two men exist, rather than just treat people as the person they appear to be on the outside. The Hebrews were encouraged to appreciate that God's word really does divide asunder soul and spirit, the two people within us (Heb. 4:12). This recognition is vitally necessary, for with differing motives, the flesh and spirit men within us are quite capable of doing the same external works. We need to realize more the fundamental opposition which there should be between flesh and spirit within our minds. " Though we walk in the flesh (cp. Paul's recognition of his fleshly side in Rom. 7)...the weapons of our (mental) warfare are not carnal (of our fleshly man), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" . These strong holds which are pulled down are defined in v.5 as " imaginations...every thought" which have to be 'cast (cp. 'pulled') down'. Those strong holds exist in the recesses of our natural minds. Rom. 6:13 encourages us not to yield our minds as weapons of sin, but as weapons of God (Rom. 6:13 AVmg.). Our thinking is a weapon, which both sides in this conflict can use. The sinful man within us is " warring against the law of my (spiritual) mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin" (Rom. 7:23). Yet 2 Cor. 10:5 describes our spiritual man as overthrowing our carnal man, and bringing those thoughts into captivity to the Christ man. The impression is created of constant attrition, with victories for both sides. In Rom. 7 the impression is given that the carnal man is winning; whilst 2 Cor. 10:2-5 paints the picture of the Christ man triumphant. To get this picture over, perhaps the Spirit used a spiritually depressed Paul in Rom. 7, and a triumphant Paul at the time of writing 2 Cor. 10?

The Unity Of The Spirit

The natural man cannot possibly understand the love of Christ, but the Spirit " in the inner man" can fully comprehend it (Eph. 3:16-19). This failure of the natural man to understand the things of the spirit is the basic reason for all division between genuine brethren. Time and again we are reminded of the fact that our fellowship with each other is due to the fact that we both have the spiritual man inside us (Eph. 2:18; 4:3,4; Phil. 1:27;2:1). Our spiritual man is not limited by the bonds of space.  Thus Paul was bodily absent from Corinth, " but present in spirit" (1 Cor. 5:3), i.e. his spiritual man was present with them. It was the same with Colosse: " I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit" (Col. 2:5). When our spiritual man groans, Christ groans too in Heaven, an infinite distance away (Rom. 8:23 cp. 26). There is no time barrier, either. Thus our spiritual man is in close fellowship with " the spirits of just men made perfect" , having died many years ago (Heb. 12:23). This is the glorious unity of the Spirit; we are not just connected with all living saints, wherever they may be, but with the spiritual characters of all true saints throughout history.

So we stress that it is our spiritual men who are in fellowship. We need to remember that we each have, potentially at least, this spiritual man within us. The letters of John reason that having Christ within us is parallel with having love within us. For some, it is difficult to believe that they have any love in them. The circumstances of life seem to have driven this out completely. But through baptism and continual feeding on the word, the man of love really is developed within each of us. We need to appreciate the truth of this for ourselves, and also for others in Christ. We need to constantly remember that the spiritual man is there, surely, within all those with whom we come into contact in the ecclesia. " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 Jn. 5:1). Our spiritual man is what is born of God. All true believers are here spoken of as if they are their spiritual man. All true believers in Christ therefore have a spiritual man within them, which we must seek out, even imagine at times, and with which we should fellowship.

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