For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Three Representative Men
1 Corinthians makes a clear x-ray of man where we find three kinds of people: the natural man, the carnal man, and the spiritual man.
1. The natural man. This is the unregenerate man. He lives in the sphere of his mind, his thoughts, and is therefore an enemy of God. He does not know God or God's ways. It does not matter if his soul is refined or if he has exquisite tastes-he is a man on his way to hell. The smallest of the children of God is greater than him in calling, vocation, and destiny.
2. The carnal man. In 1 Corinthians Paul effectively profiles the character of the carnal man. He is still a child, spiritually speaking; he is not able to assimilate spiritual teachings and is prone to jealousy and dissension. The works of the carnal Christian are mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 and can be broken down into five groups: 1) sins that defile the body, 2) sinful fellowship with satanic works, 3) sinful temper, 4) religious sects and factions, and 5) lustfulness.
3. The spiritual man. Watchman Nee summarizes the characteristics of the spiritual man. These characteristics reach his spirit, soul and body. a) The life of God floods his whole person, so that its members live by the life of the spirit and work on the strength of spirit. b) He does not live an anemic life (of the soul). Every thought, imagination, feeling, idea, sympathy, desire, and opinion has been renewed and purified by the Spirit and has been submitted to his spirit. c) In his body, physical fatigue, pain and need do not force the spirit to fall from his ascended state. Each member of the body has become an instrument of justice.
Oswald Smith, in The Endowment of Power, relates the natural, the carnal, and the spiritual man with the three stages of life of the people of Israel, which is its representation and figure. For the natural man it is Israel in Egypt, for the carnal man it is Israel in the wilderness, and to the spiritual man, it is Israel beyond the Jordan.
In Egypt, the life of Israel is of absolute slavery in which labor is the only task and the joys of life are a shadow in the service of Pharaoh. In the material things, he suffers from the slavery of work; in the spiritual- bondage to idols. Man becomes so used to this state, that he does not know the voice of freedom, nor agrees to pay the price to get it.
In the desert, man walks with God; however, the law exposes their sinfulness. Placed in a tight spot, he disobeys and is condemned to wander forty years. Israel has no horizons, but death. There are no lasting joys but those allowed by the present circumstances. Lives lived by sight and the appetites of the soul.
In Canaan, man begins to enjoy the unsearchable riches of Christ, without restrictions. He has lived the circumcision of himself and the world. Now he is free from the law, and, therefore, he has entered into the rest which is Christ. Indescribable grace!