What You Do Not Understand About Christians
I remember when I was a youth, I had a basketball coach who made us pray before our games. If the state had caught up with him, our town would have defended him. He was loved, but I knew he was different. He was a bit fun. He was a bit crazy. He was a bit weird, but no one has ever motivated me like this man did. He was a Christian. Years later when I became a Christian, I wrote him a letter thanking him for letting his light shine before our team back in the day. Why the difference?
Man is born into the world as a living organism, but he is dead, spiritually (Eph 2:1). His physical body lives a certain number of years, and then he dies. This is a man of the world. He is taught tribal prejudices and maybe a skill in which to labor during his days upon the earth. He may end up a president or a prison inmate, or both. Time and chance seem to visit all people. Some people have natural gifts that distinguish them, but most people just find their place in life and live out their years.
There is another man born into the world, as a living organism, also dead, spiritually. He follows the course of the world like the other man; however, something happens to him during the course of his life that makes him different. This man is the recipient of a second nature.
So, there is a man with one nature, and there is another man with two natures. This is not commonly discussed by men because it is a reality known only to the second class of men. At first glance, you might say, “two is better than one.” It is important to consider more carefully these two natures. For clarification purposes, we can call the first and common nature, “carnal nature.” It is earthy, worldly. The second nature we will call, “spiritual nature.” This is not to say that all people born are lacking a soul. We would argue that all men have souls, as distinguished from their physical bodies; and therefore, all men are spirit and body. However, this second nature has certain qualities that set it apart.
Carnal nature begins with life in the body. All human bodies perform similar functions. They eat and produce waste. They live and move and have a personal being. No two humans are the same. They reproduce, and then they die. Up until the mid-1800s A.D., all men acknowledged they were creatures, created by a Being greater than themselves. A new idea that they evolved from a ball of gas, amoeba, and/or jellyfish became popular, but some ideas prove silly with time. The point is: men are biological.
Spiritual nature is disputed by those who have not received it. They cannot believe there are some people with one nature and others with two natures. People with two natures find it difficult to describe what has happened to them, but they are aided by the biblical explanation.
First, a person with a spiritual nature is said to have been “born again” or “born of the Spirit” or “born of God.” God has caused this to happen (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). The person is purported to have been “made alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13).” This spiritual birth is preceded by this person being exposed to the knowledge of God in Christ, from the Bible, the Holy Scriptures (Rom 10:14–17). Exposure to God’s Word, in a person chosen to receive this gift of God (Eph 2:8–9), comes through the work of the Holy Spirit (Phil 2:13).
Second, a person with a spiritual nature has become possessed by a Spirit (Acts 2:38; 10:47). This Spirit is the indwelling Holy Spirit of God (Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16). Here is where the identity of the second nature becomes clear. The Holy Spirit is the person of God occupying the heart and mind of this second class of people. The carnal nature is natural to every man, but the spiritual nature is the nature of God’s personal presence, in the person receiving the second (spiritual) birth. The Holy Spirit promises to never leave this person (Heb 13:5).
Third, a person with a spiritual nature now has an internal conflict within herself. Her carnal nature wants to think, speak, and live in a certain way. Her spiritual nature wants her to think, speak, and live in a different way than her carnal nature. The apostle Paul described this conflict in Romans 7. In his mind, the mind of Christ which the Spirit gives him (1 Cor 2:16), Paul knew what was pleasing to God, but in his carnal flesh, Paul often succumbed to doing what he did not want to do in his mind.
Fourth, a person with a spiritual nature is given knowledge and wisdom into the depths of God (1 Cor 2:6–16). The wisdom of man and the wisdom of God are very different (1 Cor 1). Although man was created in the image of God, he submitted to the lies of Satan, which facilitated his fall from personal relationship with God in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). Man lost his mind, the mind he had been given by God. Man’s fallen mind became set on the fallen world he now found abode. In the futility of his mind, he focused on the lust of his eyes, the lust of his flesh, and the pride of life he toiled to attain. He built towers, to prove he was a god, and put his name at the top to prove he was bigger than his neighbor (Gen 11). All of it was vanity (Eccl 1:2), but man insisted that every day, in every way, he was getting better and better.
By contrast, the man made new has a new Spirit and a new principle working in him. His days are to be filled with learning Christ and becoming more like Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit teaching, leading, and guiding him, the new man progressively conforms to the image of the second Adam, who is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Paul told the Corinthian believers, “We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).” The reason is that they had the Spirit, who is from God, indwelling them. Every day, in every way, he that is spiritual is becoming more like Christ (Rom 8:29), who is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).
Growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18), the perfect God-man, is what begins to separate the carnal man from the carnal/spiritual man. God is re-creating this second man. He is different. The things of the world grow strangely dim and less interesting for him. The 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 Cor 2:14). Paul encouraged the new men at Colossae, “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth (Col 3:2).” This mind set presents another distinction.
Fifth, a spiritual man is not of this world. His citizenship has been changed. Although he remains a resident in this world, he claims that heaven is his home. He is seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). This makes him an ambassador for Christ in the world (2 Cor 5:20), exercising a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). He proclaims to all men everywhere, “Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2)” and “risen from the dead (1 Cor 15)” and “ascended and enthroned at the right hand of God.”
Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15), having been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18). Every knee must bow, and every tongue must confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” He that is spiritual has a commission to herald the kingdom of God, here now in the Spirit (Rom 14:17), and yet, coming in full glory, at the second advent of Christ. This is why the speech of spiritual men is different than carnal men.
Finally, the eternal destiny of the spiritual man is different. He that is spiritual has already been given eternal life (Jn 17:2). It has come in the form of a promise from God, in His Holy Word. The carnal man laughs. Faith in the promise of God, who is true (Rom 3:4), is foolishness to him. Faith in Christ, who is the Word of God, is the spiritual man’s salvation, granted to him by God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29). Without this faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). God rewards the spiritual man with a new and abundant life, for the remaining time of his existence in the world; and He then gives him eternal life, a resurrection body and spirit in the presence of God.
The spiritual man anticipates, looks forward in a positive sense, to death. Death is a simple doorway to the fulfillment of all that God has promised him, which is summed up in the word, “heaven.” This is different for the carnal man, who fears death more than anything. Death holds the promise of righteous judgment and just punishment for sins committed against God, during his life. Death holds the terrifying prospect of eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Mt 25:46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). This difference is the unchangeable state. If God wills, a carnal man can be transformed into a spiritual man; but once death visits any man, his eternity is sealed.
In summary, we have considered a number of distinctions between men with one carnal nature and men with two natures, carnal and spiritual. First, we saw a spiritual re-birth. Second, we considered the possession of the Holy Spirit. Third, we reviewed the conflict of these two natures. Fourth, we looked at the growth process of a spiritual man. Fifth, we contemplated his identity, as a citizen of a kingdom not of this world. Lastly, we mused contrasting eternal destinies.
In conclusion, we must name these men. The carnal man is a man of the world, a citizen of the kingdom of sin, a child of the devil (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10) and son of disobedience (Eph 2:2). The carnal/spiritual man is a man of God, a citizen of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). It is God who has created both categories of men, some as vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22), and some as vessels of mercy prepared for glory (Rom 9:23).
One might ask, “Why has God not made all men spiritual?” This is a mystery that belongs to God (Dt 29:29), and which has not been revealed to us in full. All things of God bring glory to God, and the display of His character attributes is seen in this separation of men. We would not know of God’s mercy had He not delivered sinful men, from the consequences of death, judgment, punishment, wrath, hell, and the lake of fire. We would not know of God’s justice had He not left some to reap what they sowed as sinful men.
It is just for God to save some, but not all. The reason is that God has given all men the message of repentance and faith in Christ (Acts 17:30). All men are responsible, but no man is able to save himself. Some men heed the call of God, for them to trust the substitution of Christ, in their place of punishment. All men must have their sins paid for. Carnal men choose to pay for their own sins in hell. Spiritual men trust Christ’s payment on their behalf and in their place.
One reader will marvel at the bizarre story told here, and one reader will nod in agreement, with these words, explaining what the Bible teaches regarding this dichotomy of men. My dear reader, examine yourself, and then do what God has instructed you to do in His Word, by His Spirit, and according to His grace. Some will, and some will not.
David E. Norczyk
December 4, 2020