Identifying the Natural Man in Paul’s Resurrection Motif of 1 Cor. 15

Natural ManThe subject of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 is hotly debated, controversial and even confusing to many. Much of the discussion centers around the type of body discussed in the chapter. What does Paul mean by the use of natural body and spiritual body? Many believe he speaks about a fleshly (human biology) body and versus a non-material body. How does he use the terms in 1 Corinthians.

While some begin their study of the resurrection in Corinthians in chapter 15, I have found it very rewarding to begin the study at the beginning of the epistle. There are wonderful gems and insights that all build toward to a crescendo. If you’re playing a piece of music, you don’t understand the music piece by playing the end of the music. It’s a story of notes, timing, breaks, melodies, lyrics and chorus that start from the beginning or intro and leads to the end.

To start at the end or in the middle of the song will keep you from getting the true message. It’s the same way in 1 Corinthians. To start at chapter 15 prevents you from learning all the rich background and framework Paul lays out for that pivotal chapter. Let’s look at just one of these points in chapter two on the natural and the Spiritual.

 The Natural Man Versus the Spiritual Man in 1 Corinthians

To some, it may appear that “natural” from the Greek psuchikos and “spiritual” from pneumatikos (Gk.) are only used in 1 Corinthians 15: to speak about the type of resurrection body received at the resurrection. This is not so. Paul actually defines the meaning of these terms in the earlier chapters so that when the reader encounters them again in chapter 15, he or she understands them and knows how to apply them.

When he speaks of natural man or the psuchikos man, he says it is the man who does not receive the revelation of God. He also does not have the Spirit of God, implying the miraculous indwelling of the Spirit as out-poured in the first century according to the prophecy of Joel.

The Natural Man Refuses the Revelation of God And Is Void of the Spirit of God

“But the natural 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).

Notice that Paul has said nothing about the person’s physical body. He does not say this man does not have a spirit or soul. He only speaks of him as not receiving the things of the Spirit. He regards them as foolish. He is unable to know them, because they must be revealed by the Spirit.

Observe that he says the church had received the Spirit from God and the words revealed by the Spirit. “Now were have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:12-13).

So, the difference between the natural man and the spiritual man is that one rejects the knowledge of God through the Spirit, whereas the church received it. Note that Paul said in 1 Corinthians that “some do not have the knowledge of God, 1 Cor. 15:34. He is describing the natural or psuchikos man that he has already identified in chapter 2:14.