(Part 1 of 3)
1 Corinthians 2:14… “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (KJV).
This verse has been on my heart recently and I would like to share some thoughts. What kind of man is the “natural” man? The word “natural” here stands opposed to the word “spiritual.” It singles out those who are ruled and influenced by natural instincts and desires, in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit of God. There are people, sinners and Christians alike, who reject revelations or teachings that come by the Holy Spirit. They do not embrace them because they do not understand them. The Corinthian church had a fondness for learning, wisdom, and oratorical display but perhaps could not understand Paul’s words. The word “natural man” has different meanings, such as, “one who is governed by his sensual natures” (that sensual nature is subject to appetite, desires, and affections), “one who rejects and resists the things of the Spirit,” or “one who sneers at both Christ and Christianity.”
Paul groups the meaning of the word “natural” in four ways…
a) The old man… The old man is the natural man, the unregenerate man, or one with a sinful nature that must be renewed. Romans 6:6 reads, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (NKJV). The old man is man as he was before his conversion to Christ by the grace of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-24, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (KJV).
b) The outward man… is also a natural man. 2 Corinthians 4:16… “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (KJV). The outward man is the body, the flesh, and the inward man is the soul. As the body is wasted by the afflictions of life and is subject to decay, the soul is renewed day by day by the Spirit of God.
c) The carnal man… is also the natural man. Paul in Romans 8:1-14 draws a distinction between the carnal man and the spiritual man. The carnal man is identified with the law of death and the spiritual man is identified with the law of the spirit of life. These two laws are two principles. One makes man to be at enmity with God and leads to death. The other makes man to be friends with God and this relationship leads to life and peace. The word “carnal” basically means “the human nature with all its frailties and passions.” Both sinners and Christians can fall into this meaning (note 1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
d) The natural man… is the old man, the outward man and the carnal man all together. Man inherited all of this from Adam’s fall. He is changed into a new man, a spiritual man, an inward man by the Spirit of God and by the grace of God. To learn more about the natural man we must turn to the book of Ecclesiastes.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a classic textbook that describes the actions of the natural man. This book reveals the vanities of the natural man. The word “vanity” means “emptiness, uselessness, worthlessness, shallowness.” All of this is accompanied by pride, conceit, self-love, self-praise, and narcissism (an excessive love for oneself and out-of-order pleasures). This book shows that anyone who is governed by sensual desires will find life to be empty. The greatest emptiness in life is being alone and being apart from God. Living apart from God brings weariness, disappointments, and depression. Solomon ends this book with the words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (12:13-14, KJV). The word “commandments” refers to God’s rules of conduct for successful living. Solomon writes of the natural man at his best. He has it all, he sees it all, and he has done it all, and his final confession is, “Apart from God, life is full of failure and pessimism.” Solomon was in a position to satisfy his every desire and he made an effort to do so. He soon discovered that without God in a person’s life, “all things under the sun,” i.e, in the earthly realm, is full of unfulfillment. Only God can fill the emptiness in a human life. Are you empty? That emptiness waits for God to fill it.
(To be continued…)
Pastor George Belobaba
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