A Natural and a Spiritual Body
In 1 Corinthians 15:44, the Apostle Paul speaks of the contrast between a natural and a spiritual body. Today, we hear a lot about “spirituality” especially from a new age perspective. However, most people claiming to be spiritual are completely out of harmony with the manner in which the term is used in Scripture.
In fact, the way many use that term is what the Bible emphatically calls the “natural” man. There are two Greek terms used to describe these contrasts. When these are understood, the difference between the natural body and the spiritual body becomes quite clear. While most associate spiritual body with immaterial, that is not a complete description.The first, natural is derived from the word “psychikos” from which we get our word “psyche” or psychic. On the other hand, spiritual is derived from “pneumatikos.” Contrary to many, the natural man/body is not material as opposed to a non-material spiritual body or man. The natural man is one who is guided by human wisdom and feelings. He rejects divine revelation considering it foolishness.
“But the natural (psychikos) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor. 2:14). On the other hand, the spiritual man receives divine revelation through God’s revealed words of the Spirit.
“But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:15). Thus, a true spiritual man is one who has the “mind of Christ.” We can only receive God’s mind/the mind of Christ through God’s divine revelation, (1 Cor. 2:11–13). Those in the spiritual body of Christ are called spiritual, (1 Cor. 3:3; 14:37; Gal. 6:1).
This is why Paul wrote to the Romans saying “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). Solomon, writing almost 3000 years ago, said, Where there is no revelation [from God] the people perish. (Prov. 28:15)
How the Natural Body Compares With the Spiritual Body
Additionally, the Bible defines the natural man as those who separated themselves not having the Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit as revealed and received in the post Pentecost pre-parousia interim. The Holy Spirit given to believing Christians by Christ, (John 7:39, Acts 2:33; 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 3:2–5), distinguished Christians (spiritual Israel) from unbelieving or natural Israel in the flesh.
Jude wrote that those who did not have God’s Spirit separated themselves as “sensual (psychikos) people. James speaks of their “wisdom” as descending not from above (heavenly) but as earthly sensual (psychikos) and demonic, (Jas. 3:15).
Thus, in all the examples above, we see that those noted as “natural” or “sensual” from (psychikos) were not guided by God’s revelation. (This is the manner in which Paul contrasts natural body and spiritual body.)
On the other hand those considered spiritual were likewise, not immaterial as without human bodies, but were simply those who both had and were guided by the Holy Spirit. When Paul speaks of the Israelites under Moses who ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink from a spiritual rock, he was not denying the Israelites ate real food they could taste, chew and digest. A spiritual body is not necessarily immaterial.
He speaks of that food as in the “manna from heaven” which found its origin in God, i.e. came from God’s divine power, .(1 Cor. 10:1–4)
A Natural and a Spiritual Body?
Speaking of the natural body in 1 Cor. 15:44, he characterizes a body which did not operate under the power of the Spirit. The natural body of 1 Cor. 15, was the Old Covenant body of Moses. Those who lived in that body or world, could not attain to the righteousness of God. As man is determined by his world, soteriologically, man could not rise above the death (separation from God’s presence) which dominated the world of Moses.
Sin had dominion over them being under the law which could not take away sin, (Heb. 10:1–4), through their weakness, (Rom. 8:3). Hence, they were in a ministration and “body of death,” (Rom. 7:24; 2 Cor. 3:7).
The natural and spiritual body of 1 Cor. 15:44, are not a contrast of biology versus spirit, but of soteriological somatic (bodily) existence in a world dominated by human strength (the natural man) as opposed to divine strength (the spiritual man). The latter is the realm of the spiritual body.
Christ’s Spiritual Body is the Church
Christ’s spiritual body, the church, represents the spiritual man and wisdom of God. In this spiritual body, we have peace, righteousness, and power over sin (spiritual death) and Hades, resulting in life in the kingdom of God.
As a direct result of baptism into Christ, Paul wrote that believers would walk in “newness of life” sharing the “likeness” of Christ’s resurrection at the consummation of the Jewish age. We walk in His spiritual body. As a result, he says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace, i.e. the spiritual body.” (Rom. 6:14)
Summary of the Natural and Spiritual Body
In summary, the natural man is one who is guided by human wisdom, void of the Spirit of God. He considers divine revelation foolishness and seeks to live by his own wisdom puffed up in the vanity of his own mind.
In the spiritual body the spiritual man, realizes he cannot attain to righteousness and life on his own. He therefore seeks the power of divine wisdom and guidance by renouncing human strength to be guided by divine revelation. He chooses to live in Christ’s spiritual body. In so doing he is transformed from a world of death to a spiritual body in a world of righteousness, i.e. life or resurrection from death.
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