Tenth Sunday After Pentecost- The Three Sides To A Spiritual Man
I Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2 You know that when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols, according as you were led.
3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost.
4 Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit;
5 And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord;
6 And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all.
7 And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.
8 To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;
9 To another, faith in the same spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit;
10 To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches.
11 But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.
Paul’s opening words in 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Now concerning” introduces a new topic. Almost every English translation presents Paul as introducing spiritual gifts in 12:1. In fact the Cambridge publication of the King James version italicized the word “gift”, which means they added the word to try to make the sentence make sense. However Paul does not use the typical word he normally uses for spiritual gifts. Instead, the Greek word Paul intentionally uses would better be rendered “matters related to the Spirit.”, or as the Douay Rheims version, which the Catholic Church has approved, says spiritual “things”. Spiritual gifts or Spiritual graces are a part of the larger subject that Paul will discuss later on in the chapter under the broader topic of matters related to being spiritual.
We read in 1 Corinthians1:5,7 that the Corinthian church excelled in three areas – in all knowledge, in all utterance, and were found to not be wanting when it came to the gifts or the graces of the Spirit. Yet in spite of having all these, they were not spiritual. In fact he says in I Corinthians 3:1 that he “could not speak to them as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh". It is very rare to find Christians who have the discernment to recognize that a gifted, eloquent teacher, whose knowledge of the Catholic faith is extensive, and who in addition, has miraculous gifts of the Spirit as well, need not be a spiritual man at all. He could be completely carnal.
Unfortunately, we live in a day when most Christians think that a man is spiritual if he is a good preacher, one who can give a homily in a lively way, put people at ease with his many jokes, and speak eloquently as well.
Now I am not saying that it is like this in every case, but most TV Evangelist, and some Hosts of programs on Catholic television networks today are respected, unfortunately, for their gifts and not for the fruit of Christlikeness in their lives - in spite of the fact that Jesus clearly taught that false prophets would be identified by the lack of Divine fruit in their character (Matthew 7:15-20).
Jesus also said that in the day of judgment many would come before Him and say that they had prophesied and done miracles in His Name. But He would reply that He never knew them (Matthew 7:22,23). They called Jesus "Lord" and had gifts. But there was sin in their lives. This shows us clearly that much "Christian" activity and even supernatural gifts do not make a man spiritual. In fact, they are not even an indication that a man is born again, for the Lord told these people that He NEVER knew them at any time!!
To understand what makes a man spiritual, we could first of all make a list of all the abilities that Satan possesses. That would show us clearly the things that are NOT the marks of true spirituality.
Consider activity, for example: Satan is a full-time worker who is active day and night (Revelation 12:9-10). He never takes a vacation. He is always seeking for people whom he can accuse - and he has many helpers as well!! He also has plenty of Bible- knowledge, for he quoted the Scriptures even to Jesus. He has supernatural gifts, zeal, many co-workers, a great following and authority over many people. But he is not spiritual!!
What makes a man truly spiritual could be summed up in three statements: An upward look, an inward look and an outward look. A spiritual man looks in these three directions constantly:
1. Upward - in worship and devotion to God and Christ.
2. Inward - in acknowledging and repenting of his unChristlikeness.
3. Outward - in seeking to help and bless other people.
A Spiritual Man Looks Upward
God has called us first of all to be His worshippers - to hunger and thirst after Him. A spiritual man worships God. His one desire is God. Psalms 73:25 says “For whom have I in heaven but Thee? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?” Money does not mean more to him than God. As the deer pants after the waterbrooks, so the spiritual man longs after God. He longs for God more than a thirsty man longs for water.
A spiritual man longs for fellowship with God more than he does for ease or comfort. He longs to hear God speak to him daily.
Those who worship money, ease and their own convenience, will always find something or the other to complain about. But the spiritual man never has any complaints, because he desires only God and he always has Him. He is never disappointed with the circumstances of his life, because he sees the mighty hand of God in all those circumstances and he humbles himself underneath that hand joyfully at all times. Because a spiritual man is in touch with God he does not need any laws or rules to regulate his life. He has found the tree of life (God Himself) and so he has no interest in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because he is taken up with simple and pure devotion to Christ, he is not sidetracked by secondary issues. Looking at Jesus, the spiritual man becomes increasingly like his Lord year by year.
A spiritual man humbles himself constantly. And so God exalts him constantly. He is exalted higher and higher - into a closer and closer relationship with God. Such a man having seen the realities of the heavenly life will always seek to do his good deeds hidden from man's eyes.
A Spiritual Man Looks Inward
The upward look leads on to an inward look. As soon as Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: with his train filling the temple....”. He said “Woe is me, because I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:1-5). It was the same with Job, when he said, “With the hearing of the ear, I have heard thee, but now my eye seeth thee. Therefore I reprehend or abhor myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6) Then there was Simon Peters testimony- when he saw Jesus miraculously fill their ships with fish, “he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8) And last but not least was John, when he saw the “Son of Man”, standing in the midst of the seven Candlesticks. He said, “When I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead.” (Revelation 1:17). When we live in God's presence, we become aware of many areas of unChristlikeness in our lives. The spiritual man is thus constantly getting light over the hidden sins in his life.
The spiritual man "endeavors to have always a conscience without offense toward God, and towards men." (Acts 24:16). Just as the businessman does his best to make more money, and the research scientist does his best to make new discoveries, even so the spiritual man does his best to keep his conscience clear at all times.
A spiritual man judges himself constantly, because he discovers many things in his life that need to be cleansed away - things that other may not be disturbed by, in their own lives.
A spiritual man realizes that he has to die inwardly every day, to many things that hinder him from being effective for God. So his lifestyle becomes one of taking up the cross and "Always bearing about in his body the mortification or dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in his body." (2 Corinthians 4:10).
The spiritual man has no problem in humbling himself before anyone or in asking for forgiveness from anyone - whether that person be older than him or younger than him. He realizes that his prayers and his service will never be accepted by God, if he has hurt even one other person - whether wife, brother or neighbor - in any way. And so, as soon as he realizes that he has hurt someone, he “leaves there his offering before the altar, and goes first to be reconciled to his brother: and then returning he offers his gift." (Matthew 5:23-24).
A Spiritual Man Looks Outward
The upward and inward look leads on to the outward look.
A spiritual man is one who realizes that God has blessed him only in order that he might be a blessing to others. Since God has forgiven him so much, he gladly and readily forgives all who have harmed him. Since God has been so good to him, he is good to others too. He has received freely from God and he gives freely to others.
A spiritual man is genuinely concerned for the welfare of others. He is filled with compassion for lost and suffering humanity and can never ignore a brother whom he sees in any need - like the Levite and the priest did, in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
God is concerned for fallen man - to help him, to bless him, to lift him up and deliver him from Satan's bondage. The spiritual man's concern is the same. Like his Master, the spiritual man seeks to serve others and not to be served. Jesus "went around doing good and healing people who were oppressed by Satan" (Acts 10:38).
A spiritual man does not seek to gain anything from others through his service for them - neither money nor honor. Like God, he only seeks to bless others through his life and his labors. He will NEVER expect any gifts from anyone - for he trusts in God alone for his every need. A little booklet, called the Didache that has come down to us from the second century titled "The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles", tells us that the early apostles taught all believers in their time to beware of any preacher who asked them for money, for such a person was a false prophet.
A spiritual man looks upward, inward and outward. If he looked only upward, he would be unrealistic - "so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly use". If he looked only inward, he would be depressed and discouraged most of the time. If he looked only outward, his work would be shallow. But a spiritual man looks in all three directions constantly. As I Corinthians 12:1 said “Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” May God help us to be balanced - and spiritual.