Soteriology Class- Spiritual Anatomy – Part 3 Session 51 Thessalonians 5:23 • Dr. Jim McGowan • February 26, 2017 • Soteriology - Sp. Anatomy
Dr. Jim McGowan
Soteriology Class, Spiritual Anatomy – Part 3
2-26-17 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Let’s open up with a word or prayer. Heavenly Father, thank You so much for today. Thank You for Your many blessings in our life. Thank You, Father, especially for the truth of Your Word which conforms us and transforms us more into the image of Your Son and help us to have our minds renewed this morning we pray. Thank You Father God for all the ministries of our church today and all those wonderful volunteers and workers that we have who are so faithful and diligent to serve You, Father. Thank You for each one and for Your blessing upon them. And we just ask You, Lord, to help us this morning, help me especially as I endeavor to share this information. May Your name be glorified and may You be uplifted, in Christ’s name, Amen.
What I’m doing this morning is continuing with the study that we’ve been doing the last couple of times; this is Part 3 but it’s actually session 5 and I want to encourage you if you’re coming in and you have not been a part of this you can go out to our website and for those that may not be aware, I don’t know if you can read that or not but you can go out to our website and just go to the main page and you select Media and then Sermon Archives and in the second screen what it shows you, you can put in anyone’s name, you can put the topic, whatever it is you’re looking for that’s been done previously and it’ll pull it right for you. It’s real snazzy, it’s kind of nice being in the 21st century, isn’t it. So if you have friends… the reason I mention this is because we continually get calls and e-mails from people saying how do I get to the videos, how do I get to it and that’s how you do it, right there. Let me back up for a second.
Today we’re going to follow this outline, we’re going to review for a few moments Session 4 concepts and again if that’s not fresh on your mind I encourage you to go back and look at the previous sessions that we’ve done. Then we’re going to move into the issue of the physical realm versus the spiritual realm, a brief introduction, we’re going to discuss briefly some misunderstanding of some terms and then what I believe is some more correct understanding of terms. We’ll move into the second section there which is the spiritual realm versus the physical realm and you’ll see how slick I am, I just reversed that for you. And we’re going to talk about the five senses as a biblical analogy and proper nourishment for growth and how all these things come together to help us to grow as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And again the main emphasis of the Sunday School right now is soteriology so everything that I’m doing I’m trying to do it in such a way as to tie it directly into that theme because I feel like many times with the issue of soteriology we get the getting saved part down and we kind of stop there. So we want to push onward beyond that because there’s so much more than that. And that’s the exciting thing about being saved.
So let’s start our review. You’ll recall that last time we talked about the fact that there are some terms that we use, we talked about identification truth. Here are some synonyms that you’ll find and I would encourage you when you’re reading the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, look for these words; these are key words oftentimes found in combination with “in Christ,” “with Christ” for example, and when you see those I want you to begin thinking in terms of the fact that this is referring to identification truth; it’s talking about who you are “in Christ.” And I think if you’ll do that you’ll get much more out of your reading and your study time. So here are some synonyms. Again we’ve gone over these before but “in” has the idea of being placed entirely into something so as to actually share the identity of that person or thing. “With” means to intimately be joined in action and consequence. And then we’ll see “together with” or “united with” especially in Romans 6, and taken together with the word above “with” there has the same idea, underscoring the same identity and action, united meaning a oneness like a spiritual oneness when it’s communicated.
And then we have this term “baptized into” and more often than not the moment we hear the word “baptized” we think about getting wet and that’s not necessarily what the Scripture is talking about. Baptism, especially in Romans 6 and in Colossians it has a completely different meaning. It means to be immersed, not in water but into the Spirit, into Christ. It means to be entirely placed into and this is something that’s a permanent change that never changes. You can never reverse it.
We also talked about this issue of death meaning… in the Bible when we see “death,” unlike some teach, does not mean annihilation; it does not mean a ceasing of existence; it means a separation. So God has used this term or used this death is separation as a gracious and beneficial benefit for us. And this all happened when we were identified with Christ in His death and also with His burial and His resurrection.
And I have listed some verses here, Romans 6:1-11 talks about the fact that we’re dead to sin. So if “dead” in the Scripture means separated from what is this saying? It’s saying that we’re dead to the sin nature as believers but we’re also alive to Christ. Romans 7, death has released us from marriage, he uses the analogy of our relationship to the Law and he talks about marriage and he says under the Mosaic Law that if your spouse dies you are free to be remarried. Then he brings that into, he ties that into our relationship to the Law now. See, we have been married to another. Who are we married to now? We’re married to Christ; this is the analogy he uses. So we died to the Law and we’re now joined to Christ, so we’re no longer under the Law.
In 2 Corinthians He says that we’re dead to ourselves, and this has to do with the fact that when we were joined to Christ, when we were baptized into Christ where there’s an expectation now upon us that we’re going to choose to walk dead to ourselves. Another way to say “ourselves” is the dictates of the sin nature. Even as believers we still have a sin nature and we’ve gone to quite some length to explain that previously. And so that sin nature is hanging around and what’s it continually trying to do? It’s trying to draw us back out of our position in the sense it wants to get us not thinking about our position in Christ but our position in Adam that no longer exists. It wants to draw us back and get us thinking with the Adamic mentality, if you will. Galatians 2:19-20 says again that we have “died to the Law” and because we’re dead to the Law we now “live to God.” [Galatians 2:19-20, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”]
Colossians 2:20 says that we died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world and what that’s referring to in context is when Paul was talking to the Colossians he was talking about the ordinances, the additional ordinances of Judaism and Gnosticism. [Colossians 2:20, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees,”] So at that point in time in Colossae you had teachers going around that were claiming to have special knowledge, special wisdom and if you joined their little group you could be a part, you could be initiated into the special knowledge. And Paul says that’s all bogus, he said when we died to the Law we died to all of that and we died to the elementary principles of the world at the same time.
Colossians 3:5 and verse 20 says that we died to sin, again the sin nature, and we died with Christ to the world. [Colossians 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Colossians 2:20, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as…..” ] Isn’t that interesting, we died to the world, we’re not a part of the world any more, are we; we’re in the world but we’re not what? of the world, and that’s all because of our identification with Christ.
When we talk about death being a separation one of the things we need to understand is that… we’ve all heard this expression that nature abhors a vacuum. Right? Nature abhors a vacuum. Well, that’s also true in the spiritual realm. When we die to something we also are drawing to something else automatically. So separation from one thing means that we’re joined to another thing. And that’s what we’re saying here. Identification always joins us, so in our identification with Christ we’ve been joined to Christ. Our death with Christ, in our identification with us, has separated us from our former life. So our identification with death, through death, Christ’s death, our joining to that death with Christ, joins us to His death and that death, Christ’s death, our identification with that death separates us from everything that was Adamic.
So here I have it summarized, it might be a little bit easier to understand it if you look at this chart. When we were “in Adam” notice, we said you’re joined to one thing, you’re separated from something else. So “in Adam” we were joined to what? The Old Man, the Sin Nature, Adam’s entire History, and the trio of enemies, the World, the Flesh and the Devil, and we were under Satan’s authority, as unbelievers. Notice that when we were “in Adam,” when we were going to Adam we were separated from Christ, right? That’s the very definition of what it means to be an unbeliever. But now let’s come to the other side, once we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, now we are joined to Christ and what does that mean? It means we now have a new man, or we are a new man, we have a new nature, we share Christ’s spiritual history, His righteousness and His life.
And guess what, we have a different future. In the short term, right now, it can be good or bad, can’t it? Anybody having a little good and bad going on in your life? Yeah, sinus infection, that’s not so much fun, right, a little bad there. But guess what, long term it’s really bright, no more sinus infections, right? But notice what also, when we were joined to Christ what are we now separated from? We’re separated from the Old Man, Adam’s History, we are separated from the World and the Devil, notice what’s not there, what word is missing? Flesh, we’ll talk about that in a minute. So we separated from the World and the Devil, it says the Sin Nature no longer has the claim over us that it had. What’s the difference now? As a believer I still have a sin nature but what’s the big difference? I now have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit which enables me and empowers me to be able to choose righteousness. The unbeliever doesn’t have that; they’re left to their own devices and they come up with all kinds of devices, don’t they? Sadly!
All right, this is a very, very important slide here. We might ask the question, well why is all this information important in the first place? And we’re saying here that there are at least two areas of application that touch directly upon what God is doing in the life of the believer. The first one is the primary manner of dealing with the Sin Nature comes about because we were identified with Christ.
So what do we mean by that? If we look at Romans 1-14 Paul does a masterful job of outlining for us what that means. But if we focus just on verse 11 here, this is from the King James Version, notice that… you can view this verse as a bridge.
Now generally when I show this slide I have that bridge separated so the two pieces are apart but if you look on the left hand side you see the first part of the verse, and it says what? “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin…” Why can we reckon ourselves dead to sin and let me say here this means the sin nature. Why can we do that? Well, again because we are identified with Christ, we are positionally “in Christ.” So now we consider, we count it to be a fact that we’re dead to, or separated from the sin nature in the sense that it no longer controls us. But most of us stop right here, and this is where we have our spiritual checklist, right? Okay, if I do this and don’t do that and don’t do that and do this… whew, okay! And then what we find ourselves doing at this point, if that’s all we’re doing, is we bring a bondage upon ourselves. We put ourselves under our own sense, if you will, of a law; my law is don’t do these three things, do these five things; that’s my personal law.
But you’ll notice in that verse that there’s not a period after “unto sin,” that’s only the first half of the verse; the second half of the verse says what? We’re to do what, we’re to reckon two things, we reckon ourselves dead to sin but we’re also to reckon, to count, to consider that we are “alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” Now let me ask you a question; do you think it makes a difference where you place your focus in that verse? If I’m placing my focus on reckoning myself dead to sin and that’s all I’m doing I’m going to find myself trying to do things in my own strength. Would it not be more beneficial for me to look at the second half of the verse and choose to put my focus there? So now if I’m focusing, if I’m reckoning, if I’m considering myself “alive unto God in Christ” am I going to be thinking about sinful things? Am I going to be wanting to involve myself in sinful things? And the answer is no.
Now, I’ve got news for you, you still have a sin nature, don’t you? And the sin nature, which part of that verse does He want you to focus on? He wants to bring you back over to the left hand side and make you forget about the right hand side of that picture. So what do we have to do? We have to choose to “reckon ourselves alive unto God.” It’s a moment by moment choice.
Let me back up, we said why is this important? We said there’s two areas of application. The first area of application is dealing with the sin nature. Now what’s the second area? Again, in previous sessions we talked about this thing that we’re calling the continuity of person and we don’t have a lot of time to go into that right now but basically what we’re saying, and if you remember looking at the chart on the left you see that what happens is in our spiritual transformation from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ” there are still some things that come across with us. Right? Positionally we’re in Christ, right? But as I’ve said before, when I become a believer do I suddenly … if I liked chocolate ice cream before I was a believer do I suddenly not like chocolate ice cream because it’s not godly?
No, everybody knows chocolate ice cream is godly so of course I’m going to like that. Somebody laugh, come on, lighten it up out here.
No, there are some things that come with me into my transformation of being a believer. I sure wish that I had gotten my new body when that happened, it didn’t as you can tell, but there are certain things here, characteristics. Remember Peter, when he got saved did his personality change? Did he not continue to be Peter? Yeah, he did, and his Peter-ness had to be brought under control. Right? Just your Peter-ness has to be brought under control. That’s what we’re talking about here.
So what we’re saying is this… let me back up here, that there is actual spiritual change that’s taking place in the continuity of person and those are the things I said that remained the same through the radical spiritual transformation of the new birth. And again we mentioned that includes your human body, your personality, your identity, your earthly relationships, your personal characteristics, your likes, your dislikes, your earthly skills and knowledge, all of these things are things that come through the spiritual transformation and have not been renewed, per se.
The thing we want to understand is that this process now of God dealing with our continuing person is always in the direction of Christ. As He works on us He’s making us more like the Lord Jesus Christ. So this should be an encouraging thing to you because it isn’t something vague. You know, a lot of times well gee, I wonder what God wants to do with my life? What’s He doing? I just can’t understand what God’s doing. Well, yeah, you can understand what God’s doing; He’s making you more into the image of His Son. So it’s not a vague notion, it’s not a vague direction, you know, God didn’t just save you and then kind of tap you on the hiney and say good luck. No, He’s walking with you, He has actual processes in place.
Here’s some news for you, it might shock you. Guess what? We’re not trying to be a good person and Christ-like! Do you realize… I think some people really have a problem with this; they wake up in the morning, oh, I just want to be Christ-like today. Well, guess what? You already are Christ-like. Are you not already Christ-like positionally? So now what has to happen is you have to reckon that to be true in your life. You have to allow the Holy Spirit to make that a reality as you walk it out. But here’s something exciting; God Himself is carrying out all of the processes in your life that are Christ like. He’s doing it, He’s not just trying to vaguely change your character. He wants us to be like Christ and that is where everything that is happening in your life is taking you. And that’s why we need to understand and know that everything that happens to us, EVERYTHING, happens to us, whatever happens in us, around us, it’s all part of God’s process to accomplish us being conformed to the image of His Son. And that’s exciting when you stop and really think about that.
For the majority of my adult Christian life I’ve kind of wandered around in confusion wondering God, what’s it all about? Why are all these things happening around me, good things, bad things, you know, terrible things, what’s going on? What are You doing? And as I began to understand the truth here I began to see that God was taking a personal interest in my life. That yes, even things like sinus infections are being used to conform me to the image of His Son. Now that’s a crazy thing to think about but it’s true. EVERYTHING is being used by God.
Okay, so that’s all review. Let’s introduce some new material, so what we’re going to talk about right now is the physical realm versus the spiritual realm. Now if you were in my Sunday School class when I did this I had some speakers and I actually had some music associated with each one of these pictures but I didn’t think it would be entirely appropriate for me to do that this morning so you’ll have to take the class with me later in the classroom, something to look forward to. Okay.
So we’ve been examining what the Bible says about the spiritual anatomy of human beings, both believers and unbelievers. And thus far we’ve made little mention of the physical body, focusing mostly on the general aspects of the church age believer. And again I’m referencing now the previous session. So that’s where our focus has been but now we’re going to turn our attention to a discussion of the spiritual aspects and the physical aspects in each individual believer and unbeliever and we’re going to attempt to correctly distinguish categories that are essential if we hope to have a proper understanding of this topic. And the whole idea is for us to have a better understanding of who we are, who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming. That was actually the name of the course that I was teaching at the time.
So let’s first of all deal with some misunderstanding of terms and say right up here at the front there’s some theological debate regarding what constitutes the physical and spiritual aspects of mankind. With some variation there are two positions; one is that man is a two-part being, body and then soul/spirit being the same and that’s called the dichotomy position. And then there’s the man who has three parts, body, soul and spirit which is called the trichotomy position. And this is an in house debate and there are good and godly men in each camp and pretty good arguments on both sides of it.
The position from which I’m going to be working is as a trichotomous, that’s the position I personally take. So keep that in mind if your theology is a little bit different you might need to massage what I say a little bit but it should still work, for the most part.
The most common passage used to support the trichotomy position is 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and we probably all know this by heart. Paul says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The primary reason for disagreement regarding the terms spirit, soul and body is a failure to acknowledge that they are not always employed with scientific or technical precision. You see things change when you get into poetic contexts where soul and spirit can often be used as synonyms and I’ve given you a couple of examples here.
Look at Job 7:11, it says, “… I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” It makes it sound like they may be the same thing there. And you come over to Isaiah 26:9, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” Certain contexts make it seem that it’s hard to differentiate.
And then to add to the confusion some poetic contexts make body and soul appear as synonyms; imagine that. Psalm 44:25, the psalmist says, “For our soul has sunk down into the dust;” and then he follows that up immediately with “Our body cleaves to the earth.” Well, which is it, is it soul or body? Make up your mind here.
So the bottom line is syntactically instead of synonyms it could be that the author’s intent here may be to use soul and body to represent two halve of the whole; what’s possible. Or it could be that the word soul here is taken to mean living being. So you see the struggle we kind of have when we’re trying to figure all this out. It also seems that there are times when the word “soul” conveys more the idea of physical function, such as possessing the breath of life in the physical sense rather than focusing on the spiritual aspects of the soul as in Genesis 2:7. We all know this verse, “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
So we’ve got some potential for misunderstanding what we’re saying. Well let me come back in and maybe to try to clarify this a little bit, hopefully. If we consider that biblically the word “soul” and “heart” can vary in definition, imagine this, according to context. Isn’t that something, how words in the Bible have slightly different meanings according to the context, isn’t that interesting how that works? So they can vary and we can, or they can embrace both spiritual and physical aspects depending on the context.
So there is a place in some contexts for understanding a difference in meaning between the words soul and spirit, as already noted, and we mentioned 1 Thessalonians 5:23. But then we want to point out Hebrews 4:12 also. This is a great verse, isn’t it? It says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as” notice, “the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Kind of an interesting passage here; we sort of see spiritual things and physical things all right here in the same passage. In my opinion we can say that Hebrews 4:12 presumes the distinction between the term “soul and spirit” and I believe it’s unmistakably that this is given the use of the figure of the following speech, which is “joints and marrow,” the fact that they’re combined there or used together, and “heart” all these draw from man’s physical anatomy.
So that’s very brief but that’s just to kind of give you an idea of where I’m coming from with regards to the makeup of man. Now everything I’m going to talk about is going to come from this perspective, that man is three parts. So let’s flip the terms from the spiritual realm to the physical realm here and lets go back to the beginning. It’s always good to start with the beginning, isn’t it? So we say God made man as a created physical and spiritual being on the sixth day of creation and there it is, Genesis 1:26, “Then God said” what? “‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….” And then in chapter 2, verse 7 it says, “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
I like to use diagrams wherever I can, diagrams aren’t perfect but they assist us sometimes in our understanding and I hoping that that will be the case here. So if we look at this diagram what I’ve done is you’ll see I’ve got concentric circles, I have the physical realm side and the spiritual realm side and the spiritual realm side is what we would consider to be the eternal present where God dwells and I’m using this, I’m going to use this all through the presentation and I’m going to add to it as we go along.
So if you look at that you see the physical realm; what’s on the physical realm? Body and brain and on the spiritual realm we see spirit and soul. My argument is going to be this: that the brain is a component part of the body and it serves as the interface with the physical. Any computer people in here, you know how important it is to have the interface to be able to use your computer. What’s an interface? Well, a keyboard is an interface, right? A monitor is an interface. A mouse is an interface. If you don’t have those what do you have? A CPU that’s just sitting on your floor doing nothing. It may be doing something but you don’t know what it’s doing, you’re not able to use it. So we’re saying here the brain is the interface for us with the physical and the soul is a component part of the spirit serving as the interface with the spiritual.
So Hebrews 4:12 strongly implies that there’s a difference between the two spiritual aspects, soul and spirit, of the human being and both these aspects exist in the spiritual realm. The brain and the soul are the mutual interfaces of the human being. The brain is in the physical realm (obviously) and the soul is in the spiritual realm, just as the body interfaces and interacts with the physical realm we’re saying that the spirit of a person interfaces with, interacts with the spiritual realm. I hope that makes sense to you.
I’m just adding a little bit more here, the diagram here illustrates the brain on the physical realm side and the soul on the spiritual realm side. And we’re saying both the brain on the physical side and the soul on the spiritual side have aspects of mind, emotion and will. All right, don’t tune me out, we’re sort of getting to that metaphysical ooooooh part, you know, just stay with me, it’s not that bad, it will get better here. So let’s talk about the physical realm side of the mind. What do we do on that side? What’s the physical mind doing, where we have sympathetic mental thinking, subconscious activity, reaction to stress. And guess what, the mind is trainable, isn’t it?
Let’s look at the spiritual side of the mind; it’s also sympathetic mental thinking, it’s also subconscious, it reacts to sin. And guess what? It’s also trainable. Now obviously we’re talking about the believer here. Right, everybody with me; we’re not talking about the unbeliever right now, we’re talking about the believer. So what did we say? That was the mind, let’s talk about the emotional side. On the physical side what is going on with the emotions? Well, the emotions are influenced and affected by physical forces like hunger, pain, hormones, blood sugar, levels, etc. When I got up this morning I was famished, that was a physical thing and it was pretty emotional. [Laughter] I had to get to the restaurant as quickly as I could to get my eggs.
So then let’s come back down to the spiritual realm side; we also have an emotional aspect here, it’s influenced and affected by spiritual forces. For example, conviction of sin, meditation and reflection upon the Word, prayer and spiritual warfare. So we react emotionally in those situations also. Let’s talk will, the physical side has will, so when we make decisions, notice the wording, solely based upon what our physical senses tell us we’re using the physical side of our will, the physical aspect of our will. But is that all there is to it? I don’t think so. On the spiritual side when we make decisions based upon what we understand to be the truth then we will see, or what happens when we’re spiritually impacted? Okay.
So here’s a little bit more, adding a bit more to the picture here. Both the brain and the soul, we’re saying again, have aspects of mind, emotions and will, and as the mind, emotions and will of the brain are impacted by things in the physical realm, which includes the body, so the mind, emotions and will of the soul are impacted by things in the spiritual realm, and that includes the spirit of the person. So according to Hebrews 4:12 I have a question for you. [Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”] Where does God’s Word actually touch us? You look at that diagram; where does the Word of God actually reach us? At the intersection, if you look at that inner concentric circle, at the intersection of what? The soul and the spirit. That’s where the Word of God is impacting or where it is reaching.
Now this is really exciting stuff and, you know, I’m holding myself down here so I don’t get too rambunctious but look at 2 Timothy 3:16. We all know this passage, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Okay, we like that one. We read Hebrews 4;12, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
All right, stop and think about this for a minute. This is really neat stuff. God’s Word, where did it originate? It originates in the spiritual realm, right. But isn’t it interesting that God created a document, we call the Bible, in the physical realm. Stop and think about that for a minute. Now what happens? When we read the Bible what happens? The Bible impacts us first where? It impacts us in the physical realm because it has to go through the what? Our brain, right. And then what happens? Then the Holy Spirit comes along and He takes God’s Word into the depths of the spiritual realm of our person, right where it profoundly impacts our soul and spirit. It starts in the spirit, it comes into us through the physical, it’s picked up by the Holy Spirit, it impacts us in our soul and spirit and then it becomes a spiritual thing. It’s just amazing how that works… just amazing!
Now have you ever known anybody that says, you know, I don’t need to read the Bible, you know, I know what it’s about. What does this suggest to you? Maybe something quite different, right? That man, we have to have the Word of God moving in our lives so that we will be impacted appropriately. All I can say is like Paul, when I read this kind of stuff is “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” [Romans 11:33] Well, to me I would just say well, God, You could have made this so much easier, you know, the moment that I put my faith and trust in Christ, of course You could have just made that happen, I mean, we could have bypassed all this faith stuff, just make it happen, you know, just make me spiritual, right. Just give me my new body right now.
But God has something else in store; He has a completely different plan in place and it’s really amazing when you stop and you reflect upon how God’s wisdom has impacted our world and continues to impact our world. How does this impact, this information, how does it impact unbelievers? Again, we’re thinking about how that happens, it starts in the spiritual realm, it comes through the brain, on the physical realm the Holy Spirit takes it and applies it to the heart. And what happens? God uses this process right here to bring conviction to the heart of the unbeliever so that they can be saved. Isn’t that marvelous? Wow, that’s exciting stuff!
But what about for believers? God uses the very same process but now what He does, he uses this process to conform us, to transform us, to bring about growth and maturity and sanctification, all of these processes, in our lives. Interestingly when you back up, is this a one-time process for the unbeliever or a continual process for the unbeliever? One time, isn’t it; one time, bam, it happens. But what about for us? This is ongoing. How long is it going to go? Until the rapture, right, until we’re with Him in His presence, right? Basically. Yeah. Well, it’s kind of important to know this.
You know sometimes when somebody gets up and starts giving you all this information you’re sitting there and you’re going that’s really good Jim, you know… well again, it’s online and if you’re not getting it all it’s okay, you can download the video, look at again, I’m sorry you have to listen to me but that’s the way it goes.
Anyway, guess what? God’s working in you; hang in there. We don’t have too much more. Have you ever considered that when physicians prescribe medications that impact people on the physical side but they can’t do anything to impact you on the spiritual side. Isn’t that something. But isn’t it also interesting that God’s Word affects the spiritual realm because that’s the only thing that reaches to that depth. I don’t want to get carried away here and make anybody mad but you know there are certain areas of science and medicine that try to deal with the mind as if they get the mind okay then everything will be fine. But you see, all you’re doing is dealing with the mind; where’s the real problem? The real problem is the spiritual level, isn’t it?
So if you’re never dealing with the spiritual level of if you don’t have the tools whereby you can deal with the spiritual level you’re just dealing with symptoms. You know, sometimes dealing with symptoms looks like it works, right? You know, you put a little cream on your acne and you think it goes away, until it pops up again next week. Better move on….
Let’s talk for a second about the five senses and this is a biblical analogy, the next two points are biblical analogies, and let me give you a definition of what an analogy is so you won’t think I’m heretical here. An analogy explains an idea or a thing by comparing it to something that is familiar, a comparison between two things typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification. So that’s the point here.
Here’s an interesting picture, I hope you can see that, we all talk about our five senses, right, I mean, when you’re in elementary school they teach you all about your five senses and you’ve probably had a test, you know, list the five senses and how do you access those senses, that kind of thing. Right? So here we are, five senses: sight, how do we access sight? We have eyeballs. Hearing, you know, oh, we have ears thankfully. Touch a couple of different ways, we have hands, feet and even our skin. Smell, we have a nose and some of us have more nose than other people, like myself which is a real curse. Taste, it comes by generally your mouth and tongue. So there’s your five senses.
Did you know that the Scripture also gives an analogy of five senses with reference to the spiritual realm. I think this is kind of fascinating stuff here; five senses on the physical side, five senses on the spiritual side. Are you familiar with any of these verses? Genesis 32, it says “…[God] touched the socket of [Jacob’s] thigh… there’s touch. [Genesis 32:24-25, “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.”]
Psalm 34:8, “O taste and SEE that the LORD is good….” You know, what do you get? A Jesus lollypop? NO, that’s not what that means.
Smell, Amos 5:21, God says, “And I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.”
2 Corinthians Paul’s talking and he says that Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see….” Isn’t that interesting. And hearing, Romans 11:8, “GOD GVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NTO AND EARS TO HEAR NOT,” there’s five senses right there. I think that’s kind of interesting. In all those passages it clearly indicates that there is an equivalent correlation between the five senses in the spiritual realm and the five senses in the physical realm. Contextually Scripture often uses physical body parts to refer to the deepest part of man’s being. We see terms like bowels and kidneys and joints and marrow and heart; a lot of it depends on what translation you’re using.
But these are all sometimes used for the spiritual side which includes the soul and the spirit and sometimes for the physical side which includes the brain’s activity in thinking and emotion and will. So when we think about sense we can also take into consideration the fact that people can be diminished or distorted or maybe even have nonfunctional parts that relate to their physical senses, can’t they? As you see, I have an older brother who was born blind. Well Scripture, surprisingly… isn’t it interesting, Scripture reveals that the believer’s spiritual senses can likewise be diminished, distorted or non-functional in the spiritual realm. Right? Have you ever thought about that? That’s kind of like the question I ask whenever I’m teaching about the weaker and the stronger brother and I always say, you know, anybody a weaker brother, and no hands ever go up, you know. Thank you sister, I see that hand… you know, it’s always, everybody thinks they’re the stronger brother or sister. I always think that’s kind of interesting. Nobody ever wants to say well, you know, I could be one of those people that maybe I have diminished capacity in one of my spiritual senses, maybe [can’t understand word], you know, because I mean to say that is to admit you’re not perfect or something, right?
I’m sure I’m probably diminished in a number of categories this morning but thankfully what is God’s perfect plan? It’s that we as believers operate in the full capacity of our spiritual senses. Does that make sense? I had to throw this in here, forgive me. Deuteronomy 18 says “There shall not be found among you …one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD… [Deuteronomy 18:10-12]
When you think about this category of activity what do you normally think about? You know, people are trying to go outside of their normal five senses, are they not? And they’re trying to access something that they can’t access with their normal five senses. You may recall this, a movie a few years ago, he saw dead people. Well, there is no sixth sense. There’s a Holy Spirit, and there’s a Satanic world but there’s not a sixth sense.
All right, let’s talk about another analogy, another aspect of this. Another aspect of the correlation between the spiritual and the physical realm relates to proper nourishment for growth. Would you agree that nourishment is important in the physical realm? I know some of you believe that because I can see your waistline, it’s just like mine, right; got to have that nourishment. Well, just as there’s appropriate physical food based upon our varying levels of physical maturity there is similarly an appropriate spiritual food, which is Scripture by the way, based upon the believer’s varying levels of spiritual maturity. This is another fun question I always ask is where are you on the spiritual maturity measurement. And you know, everybody says oh, I’m over here, you know, the line goes this far and I’m over here. I’ve never had anybody say well, you know, I’m way back over here. We kind of think more highly of ourselves than we ought sometimes I think.
Here’s what it looks like. In the Scriptures we have a couple of different Greek words here that are used for various kinds of food, for various maturity levels. So we have the word brephos, which means newborn, in 1 Peter 2:2. [1 Peter 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”] Now what’s appropriate for a newborn? Milk, right? Then we have nepios, which is an infant and a number of Scriptures there, and we notice also infants are primarily feasting on milk. [1 Corinthians 3:1, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.” Ephesians 4:14, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” Hebrews 5:13, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.”]
We come to paidion, which is youth and now we’re moving away from the milk and we’re getting into the meat, right, more solid food. And then once we begin to be mature teleios, then we’re supposed to be on solid food. Right? Would everybody agree that that’s the normal, natural progression in the physical world? Well why is it that we have this going on in our churches? You know sometimes we’re hard on the congregation, well, that congregation out there is just growing in Christ the way they ought to… well, maybe we’re trying to give them a steak when they need milk.
Or maybe they’re on Captain Crunch and we’re trying to give them meat. Or maybe, God forbid, the other side of the coin is they never developed a taste for anything other than milk and here they are fifty year old… believers for fifty years and they’re still sucking their thumb and drinking a bottle. Would you say that that’s a dysfunctional way of growing in a church. I would.
So it’s incumbent on us as teachers, obviously, to do our best to try to ascertain where the congregation is and do our best to try to meet the congregation where they are, whether it be in the Sunday School class or here or whatever, we want to make sure that what we’re giving out is appropriate for where the people are. I laugh sometimes because a couple of years ago I was in the presence of our pastor and another individual and in the conversation the comment was made that well, Andy, you’re really good, you know, you’re at the elementary level. And I was sitting at the table when I that was said, I literally almost fell backwards out of my chair, are you kidding me? If this is the elementary level man, I’m in diapers. [Laughter] I mean, come on… I don’t know about you but I think what we get every week from our pastor is absolutely amazing. Here I am, you know I have a degree in theology and there’s not a time, there’s not a meeting that I sit out here and I don’t get something that I hadn’t gotten before, you know, that’s from our elementary teacher. [Laughter] So be it! Right, if that’s what it is I’ll take it.
Let’s do a quick review and we’ll wrap it up. Here we go. So the main things I want you to come away with today are things I’m going to go back over here. It’s important that we understand that there’s some key things, [can’t understand word] what God is doing in the life of the believer. And I’m hoping that you’ll be able to go back with the presentation, maybe review the chart, and God can use that to help you understand the information. We said that we have a physical and spiritual realm. We talked about the five senses and they how they impact us, or are impacted.
I would state here that all spiritual error of whatever degree is based in misunderstanding of or denial of the existence of the spiritual realm and/or the relationship of the physical realm to the spiritual realm. When the Bible says that the unbeliever is spiritually dead it’s not saying that the unbeliever has no spirit or soul but rather that the unbeliever’s spirit and soul are separated from God. And again, just to re-emphasize one more time, biblically to be separated from God is spiritual death. Physical death takes place when the physical body stops functioning and the soul and spirit is separated from the physical body in death. Ultimately as believers our soul and spirit are joined to a new body like Christ’s resurrection body at the rapture, Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus. Anybody want Jesus to come? Okay. I saw that hand. The body will not have a sin nature associated with it. Everybody right now should have popped up out of their chairs and went thank You Jesus! Can you imagine what it’s going to be like not to have a sin nature? No you can’t; I can’t either! It’s going to be amazing.
The new body—free from the influence of the sin nature is Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians believers when he says this, this is what he’s talking about when he says, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 5:23] Paul is saying bring on the new body. Oh, I can’t wait.
So the appeal to believers is to have a continuous ingesting of appropriate spiritual nourishment. Right? When we say “appropriate” what do we mean? Again, appropriate food for the appropriate maturity level. Because we want to be impacted spiritually so we can then be used of the Holy Spirit to impact others. And let me just quickly make a comment and say some of you are out there impacting others for Christ and it’s so exciting when you come and you tell us about that. Don’t stop telling us, we love to hear about how God is using you out in your own sphere of influence.
The various dietary characteristic of physical nourishment provides a type or pattern with spiritual nourishment, again appropriateness, stage of life, [can’t understand word] timing, those are all important. We say God will use the things that take place in the physical realm to have an impact on us in the spiritual realm and if you don’t believe it, James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Romans 8:28, we love to quote this verse, right? We all know that causes, “All things” but only the good ones, right? NO, God causes “All things to work together for good to those who love God….” etc. Why? Because He’s conforming us to the image of His Son.
Our senses in the spiritual realm are intended by God to be fully functional but that’s dependent upon our consistent unbroken fellowship with the Lord and our intake of and correct understanding of God’s Word. That’s why it’s so important to be in the Bible every day, every day! It’s possible for [can’t understand word] our physical senses to be in decline or be diminishing capacity, but notice, to have our spiritual senses improving in utility and functioning at the same time. You know, if you live long enough you start to diminish in capacity, right? Richard says yes, Amen. [can’t understand words]. Yeah, yeah, you start to diminish in your physical capacity but that doesn’t mean that your spiritual capacity can’t continue to prosper. That’s exciting news for those of us that are diminishing, you know.
What God is doing in the life of the believer will indeed involve physically based processes and events but the ultimate intent is for a spiritual impact. Through careful consistent and diligent study of Scripture the Holy Spirit reveals what those physically based processes are and how they are to impact us, and ultimately all the processes that God carries out in our lives, it doesn’t matter if they originate in the physical or spiritual side, they’re all intended to change the continuing person of the believer. Why? To prepare us for life in the spiritual realm. Have you stopped and really thought about that? What God is doing in your life right now, even the hard things, even the difficult things, even the things you question and say God, why is this happening? God is using everything in your life to prepare you for life in the spiritual realm. And I get excited about that.
So we need to remember that although it will experience a thousand years of considerable release from the curse of the fall, when all things are summed up in Christ this present physical realm is ultimately terminal. You see, this is why you don’t want to life for this world. This world is terminal. Christian promises that God will exchange this present heaven and earth for a new one and this is the reason for our spiritual preparation now. So that’s what we covered today. That’s a lot of material. I hope you’ll go back and look at it and if you have any questions take them to Andy… no, just kidding, anyway, let’s close in prayer.
Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your Word and thank You for the opportunity to share this morning. I mostly pray, Father, that this morning You will take something that was said and cause it to be meat to the heart of Your people and stir up a curiosity and a desire to know more about these truths in the hearts of Your people so that we might all find ourselves progressing and having our spiritual senses sharpened and maturing and growing. And thank You so much for the service to come. We pray that You’d just be with our brother Gabe, bless, encourage and strengthen him. Thank You for these wonderful people and their attentiveness and we just give you the glory. In Christ’s name, Amen.