Life in the Spirit

Friends in Christ, today St. Paul speaks about life in the Spirit. In other places he contrasts life in the Spirit with living in the flesh. So what is his idea of living in the Spirit?
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We are hylomorphic beings: body and soul composites. Jesus says, don’t be afraid of the one who can kill the body, but rather of the one who can cast the soul into hell.
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So, we are body and soul, but St. Paul says, that the Christian has a 3rd aspect to himself:[i] Body, Soul, and – Life of the Spirit. The spiritual life. In his Greek, this spirit is pneuma. It is a supernatural change to the human person, which happens in baptism.
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In chapter 3 he says, there are some people who are ‘of the flesh,’ (1 Cor 3:1) the word is sarx. They are sensual, people, dominated by their lower nature or passions: sarkikos people.
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Then there are people whom he calls the ‘natural man,’ also translated: the ‘unspiritual man.’ The Greek word here is psychikos, from where we get the word ‘psyche.’ This is the person caught up in the ‘soulish’ realm, where is the intellect and will. The gifts of God are foolish to him. St. Paul may have in mind those Greek thinkers, who saw the mind as very superior, like proud, intellectual-types today, who are not open to God.
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But here’s the point: whether you are a fleshly man, sarkikos – caught up in your passions – or a man of the psyche, a thinker, an intellectual, you are still not of the pneuma. You are still not of the Spirit, you are walking in the flesh.
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Neither the fleshly man nor the intellectual man is anything, unless he receives the Holy Spirit. This ‘Spirit’ is the ‘God-consciousness’ in us, it is grace, which separates us from the ordinary, unbaptized person walking around today. It is a real difference in our person.
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Other people, non-Christians, have sarks and psyche, but not pneuma. They live a natural life, but they have no supernatural life.
This makes more sense then, when we read St. Paul: He says, ‘The natural man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him. ‘In the past’, he says, ‘you were carnal – fleshly. But the spiritual man judges all things, because we have received the Spirit that is from God.
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We are body and soul just like everybody else on the planet. But the Christian is also a New Creation, because he walks in the Spirit.

 

[i] This subject is explored in an article by Tim Staples, Soul, body, Spirit.

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