|Volume 21 Number 4 April 2019||
T. Pierce Brown
In these days, one may hear of one group that is more “spiritual” than another because they sing songs to a livelier tempo, because they greet each other with a holy kiss, or because they produce a sort of “exalted feeling” by something they say or do. However, what does the Bible mean by the term, “spiritual?”
In most of our conversations and prayers when mention is made of “spiritual” and “material” things, they are assumed to be mutually exclusive. If we look in the dictionary, we find the first definition of spiritual to be “of or pertaining to or consisting of spirit, not material, incorporeal.” If it is not made up of matter, then it is probably spiritual! Is that what God meant in Galatians 6:1 when He said, “Ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness?” Surely not! Much of our thinking and language is built upon Socratic, Aristotelian or Platonic concepts rather than biblical ideas.
The most apparent meaning of the word in Galatians 6:1 is, “The word ‘spiritual’ means that which is produced, directed, or controlled by God’s Spirit.” Let us see how close that comes to fitting every use of the word in the New Testament.
In Romans 1:11, Paul mentioned “some spiritual gift.” If he was talking about the same thing of which he spoke in 1 Corinthians 12:1, 11, 30, 31; 14:1, 12 (and who can doubt that he is?), then the thing that made the gifts “spiritual” is that the Spirit produced them (1 Corinthians 12:8ff).
Space limitations prevent us from giving even a partial exegesis of each passage where the term “spiritual” is used, but even a casual reading of them will convince a person that the meaning I have suggested will fit all of them. Romans 7:14; 15:27; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 3:1; 9:11 and 14:37 all use the term “spiritual” in such a way that we can see that it refers to that which is produced by God’s Spirit. When Paul spoke of the natural body and the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15:44-46, we need to realize that we will not be disembodied spirits. We will have spiritual bodies. The union of an earthly father and mother produced the present natural body. The process takes about nine months. The Spirit of God will produce the spiritual body in a twinkling of an eye.
In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4, we find that the Israelites “did eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink.” If Paul was speaking of the manna they ate and the water that came out of the rock, then we must conclude that the reason they were called “spiritual” is that the Spirit of God produced them. They were not natural. If we wonder why he said, “The Rock was Christ,” the simplest explanation may be that the rock out of which the water came represented Christ, for He gives us living water.
In Ephesians 1:3, we find that “he hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.” If “spiritual” means “produced or directed by the Spirit of God,” then we are to understand that all blessings such as forgiveness that we have in Christ are by God’s grace, not able to be produced or achieved by man’s work, wisdom or power. Of course, that grace must be accepted on God’s terms.
Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 speak of “spiritual songs.” They are songs we are to sing as a result of the fact that we are “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) or the parallel expression that “the word of Christ dwells in us richly” (Colossians 3:16). If I am not mistaken about the grammatical construction and consequent meaning of Colossians 3:16, the imperative verb, followed as it is by a modifying participle, shows that the teaching and admonishing in spiritual songs is how we obey the command to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. A comparable example might be, “Clean the floor, sweeping it.” “Clean” is the imperative. “Sweeping” is how the command is to be done.
When Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5, “We are built up a spiritual house,” he surely means that a church produced by the Spirit of God is “spiritual,” and one not so produced is not, irrespective of how pretty the singing or how loving the fellowship! We are to offer up “spiritual sacrifices.” Can anyone properly deny that the sacrifice given or ordained of God is a “spiritual” one? If my analysis and reasoning are correct, then the sacrifice of praise of Hebrews 13:15 is a “spiritual” sacrifice (offering) just as in Ephesians 5:19.
The only verse of which I am aware that my conclusion may not seem to fit at first glance is Ephesians 6:12, and it does there when properly understood. The Authorized Version reads, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood—but against—spiritual wickedness in high places.” I suppose we normally understand that to mean “those whose spirits are wicked,” and no doubt these are wicked spirits. Yet, if we say “spiritual” means “produced of God,” then we have wickedness produced by God. This will not do. The American Standard translators apparently recognized some difficulty with that translation and supplied the word, “hosts.” So “hosts” or “forces” would seem to be the logical word. Those Satanic forces were those that had been produced by God but perverted to evil uses.
Our study has led us to conclude that in the New Testament the word “spiritual” is never used to refer to some ethereal, non-material thing or something that is “better felt than told,” or some quality or feeling that is ecstatic or that gives one a “holy glow.” Instead “spiritual” always refers to something that was produced or directed by the Spirit of God. The way to be more “spiritual” in our worship is not by turning on a glow of red lights to remind us of the blood of Christ when we take the Lord’s Supper, dimming the lights during prayer or going through some other psychological gimmick, but by making sure our thinking, talking and acting is produced by the Spirit of God.
“I don’t have time to _____________.“ “I have to hurry; I have a deadline to meet and I’m running out of time.” “I don’t have enough time; I have an appointment, and I’m going to be late.” As we get older, we often hear, “There are some things I want to get done, things I want to see and do and I’m running out of time.” Why are humans so wrapped up in time? We humans are so wrapped up in time because as an old song said, “there’s a time to live and a time to die.” Men realize that from the time of birth until the time of death is such a short time compared to eternity. A dictionary defines “time” as “all the days that have been or ever will be; the past, present and future.” I came across the following article by Frank Chesser about time, and I want to share it with you.
From out of the bosom of eternity came time. God “Inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15) while man dwells in time. Eternity gave birth to time as a temporary arrangement for transient humanity.
“One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). This was Peter’s way of saying that time means nothing to God. God was neither younger when time began, nor will He be older when time ends.
“In the beginning” marks the commencement of time, the universe and man (Genesis 1:1). At time’s inception, there was no backward look for prior to time was eternity. Everything material is limited by time as is time itself for time’s final sunset was predestined in eternity.
Time is not eternity’s interlude, for eternity is without beginning or end. If time’s duration is a billion years, it will only be a microscopic pebble on the unending shores of eternity. When eternity bids goodbye to time, time will not be missed. There will be no void to fill.
Man’s body is birthed for time but his spirit for eternity. The moment he enters the door marked “Life,” he commences a hasty exit toward the door marked “Death.” His days on earth pass with more swiftness than a “weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6), a fleeing “shadow” (Job 14:2) or a dissipating “vapor” (James 4:14). Time marks him at birth and claims him at death.
Time rushes on, unchecked and unaltered, carrying every material object to its inevitable end. Rust, decay and death are its perpetual companions. We are all running out of time. The only thing that really matters is, are you prepared to meet God? Are you ready to go? When time is swallowed up in eternity, where will you be? “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 teaches that to every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, die, plant, pluck up, kill, heal, break down, build up, weep, laugh, mourn, dance, cast away stones, gather stones, embrace, refrain from embracing, get, lose, keep, cast away, rend, sew, keep silence, speak, love, hate, of war and of peace.
The “Wise Man” fairly well covered the options of men’s “time.” We go on to read in Ecclesiastes 3, “no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end; whatsoever God does, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it nor any thing taken from it.” Perhaps the most profound statement of His works is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13, which says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
From this, can you conclude with me that all the things we can do with our time are worth nothing unless what we do is in accordance with God’s instructions to us in His Holy Word? May God bless us in doing His will.