Spiritual versus the Fleshly

by Richard Mansel, managing editor
nocommunicate44.jpgThere are many reasons why people misunderstand the Bible. One of them is that they do not have the proper mindset. Skepticism, hatred or prejudice will make it impossible for them to see the truths contained in God’s Word.
If we move past these temptations and we are willing to accept Scripture for what it says, we may still find it indecipherable. We must put on the proper glasses if we will see Scripture, as it is intended and ascertain God’s true will for our lives.
Jesus’ teaching manifested this gap throughout his ministry. Maybe the most vivid example is in John 6:53-58, where the disciples misunderstood the words of the Lord. Utterly appalled by what they heard, they left Jesus completely when he said, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53, NKJV). Jesus was referring to the Lord’s Supper in a spiritual sense while the people listened through fleshly ears and heard cannibalism.
The Beatitudes are another perfect example. In a fleshly sense, they seem nonsensical. Blessed or rich are the poor, meek, hungry and mourning? That runs counter to everything fleshly man knows of the world. Spiritually, though, they make perfect sense.
To be “poor in spirit” means: “a complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance” /1 Those who mourn do so for the sins that afflict the world. The hungry are those who cannot be satisfied without righteousness.
The meek are those who place themselves under Christ, while retaining their strength and resolve. Meekness is not weakness in a better suit. The original word referred to a horse that submitted to a rider. Yet, it still possessed all of its power.
We place our will in God’s able hands so he can lead us in his paths.
When we live by the Spirit, we speak a different language than those who walk by the flesh. That is why they cannot understand why we live as we do (Romans 8:5). “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
When spiritual people cite God’s will that we refrain from sexual sin and remain married for life, fleshly people consider us repressed and ignorant. However, if they saw the sacred nature of marriage and sex in a spiritual sense, they would understand (Hebrews 13:4; Song of Solomon; Ephesians 5:22ff).
The fleshly do not see morality in terms of a higher authority. They only understand it in animalistic terms. Once again, we speak a foreign language that they will not hear.
The Jews came to Jesus demanding a sign. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). They protested that it had taken 46 years to build the temple. John adds that Jesus was speaking of his body. They heard with fleshly ears and Jesus spoke of the spiritual.
We need to fulfill the Great Commission and carry the gospel to the world of the lost. However, we must remember that they will not always appreciate what we are saying (John 15:18-19). They will misunderstand and spew hatred at the message of the cross and try to silence the Word.
Maybe this reminder will help us understand why we seem to be speaking a foreign tongue when we converse with the world. Go into all the world, with new insight.
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1/ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 50

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