Vol. 7, No. 8
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Many people wouldn't recognize what is truly spiritual even were it a dog that bit them! Unfortunately, many members of the churches of Christ demonstrate no greater insight into what is truly spiritual than any other befuddled religionists. These dreadful assertions require but precious little reflection and the least observation of religious people for their validation.
An incident a few years ago on an Internet forum hosted by a University associated with the churches of Christ, as well as moderated by a member of the church, is a case in point. A participant wrote about his "most spiritual" observance of the Lord's Supper. This brother's car broke down while he was on his way to worship. Stranded, he and those who were with him surveyed the contents of their car for available items that could be pressed into service for observance of the Lord's Supper. Stepping over the guardrail with a blanket and some of these items, they proceeded to observe the "most spiritual" Lord's Supper they had ever experienced--with Twinkies and Dr. Pepper! These brethren wouldn't recognize what is truly spiritual even were it a dog that bit them!
Imagine the great outcry from the host, moderator and numerous forum members! There was none! Could it be that many of these brethren wouldn't recognize what is truly spiritual even were it a dog that bit them? Still other Christians find worship "so spiritual" when they dim the lights, clap or hoot and holler. Doubtless, Christians in first century Corinth imagined that their awful attempt to observe the Lord's Supper was "spiritual"; we all know how God viewed Corinth's ingenuity or really deviation respecting the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Observance of the Lord's Supper in first century Corinth was hardly spiritual, but brought divine condemnation through the stern epistle of the apostle Paul.
Sometimes brethren who may boast of great learning and many degrees, as well as Christians who are adversely influenced by them, do not know what one little, Christian girl knows--what is truly spiritual. Twelve-year-old Sarah Beth Smith is a Christian. She is not content to be merely a child when it comes to religious matters; she actively and vocally seeks opportunities to be all that she can be at this stage of her life as a Christian, and she puts to shame many other Christian men and women with the youthful heartiness with which she is "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14).
Sarah has taken it upon herself to prepare the communion each Sunday, morning and evening. After each worship, she dutifully and happily retires the leftovers from the Lord's Table. With the help of her mother, Sarah has taken her Christian service a step further respecting the Lord's Supper, and mixes and bakes the communion bread. Sarah told her mother while so involved in the kitchen, "Isn't this so spiritual!" This youngster in the faith and in years knows more about what is "spiritual" than some older brethren, who exchange the authority of the Word of God for Twinkies and Dr. Pepper, for handclapping, for dimmed lights, for praise teams, for instrumental music, etc.
It should be axiomatic, common sense and unmistakenably recognized that something can only be "spiritual" if it is authorized in the Word of God. But alas, not so for many and even many Christians. For instance, the "spiritual" disposition that the Corinthians should have exhibited, but did not, refers "to a pattern of life controlled or directed by God's Spirit" (Louw and Nida). "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1). "They [the first century Corinthian Christians] were so far from forming their maxims and measures upon the ground of divine revelation, and entering into the spirit of the gospel, that it was but too evident they were much under the command of carnal and corrupt affections" (Henry). Even a dictionary definition of the word "spiritual" notes that it depends for its meaning and use on its correlation "2 a : of or relating to sacred matters" (Merriam). Hence, Twinkies and Dr. Pepper, dimmed lights, clapping or hooting and hollering, candles, flowing robes, etc., none of which are authorized in the New Testament, could possibly be "spiritual."
The spiritual child of God abides by the commandments of God discernible in the New Testament. "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37). "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13). "The spiritual man is one who walks by the Spirit both in the sense of Gal 5:16 and in that of 5:25, and who himself manifests the fruit of the Spirit..." (Vine's).
The spiritual child of God contrasts with even other children of God who have faltered in sin: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). In addition, the spiritual Christian resorts to what is spiritual for Christian worship: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16). "...'spiritual songs' are songs of which the burden is the things revealed by the Spirit, Eph 5:19; Col 3:16..." (Vine's). Together, spiritual Christians comprise a spiritual house, a vibrant church of Christ: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
To the apparent surprise of even many Christians, spiritual maturity occurs only with premeditated and diligent application of the Word of God to one's life. Only then, will the child of God be spiritual in his understanding and subsequent conduct. "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10).
The spiritual state is reached by diligence in the Word of God and in prayer; it is maintained by obedience and self-judgment. Such as are led by the Spirit are spiritual, but, of course, spirituality is not a fixed or absolute condition, it admits of growth; indeed growth in 'the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,' 2 Peter 3:18, is evidence of true spirituality. (Vine's)
What is truly spiritual? It is not Twinkies and Dr. Pepper and other human delusions respecting what is spiritual. For something to be truly spiritual, in worship or in daily life, it must pertain to and be governed by the Word of God.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible. CD-ROM. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997.
Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains. CD-ROM. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. CD-ROM. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1985.