The Spiritual and the Natural Man

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - A New Order

We have got far enough to make it unnecessary for me to let you know what it is we are concerned with at this time, other than to remind you again of the second chapter, of the first chapter, of the first letter to the Corinthians. The first and the second chapters really, of that letter, in which, for very necessary purposes and very good reasons, because of the situation at Corinth, the apostle begins his letter with this great discrimination between two kinds of people that Christians, Christians, can be; what he terms: the natural man, the natural man, and the spiritual man. And that, in his second letter, he says just quite precisely, that a transformation is supposed to be going on in Christians, a passing from the one type called the natural, to the other, called the spiritual.

Now, this morning we were occupied with the birth of the Lord Jesus, because we had said that Christ is Christianity, and Christianity is only truly known and understood by a spiritual knowledge of Christ. And so we went to His birth in order to see one thing in particular: that it was not natural, it was not natural. That's where, of course, all the intellectuals have stumbled and all the rationalists have fallen down - it was not natural, it was decidedly spiritual - for the Archangel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit shall overshadow you, therefore that which is born shall be the son of God. But you shall call His name Jesus." Severely and strictly the earthly human name. The two linked together: God and man, in this Person. That's a spiritual man or a spiritual woman in the inception; that is the very beginning: the linking of God with man, and man with God.

So we saw that by this supernatural (I was just going to say unnatural) but by this "above" and other than natural birth of Jesus, a new type and kind of humanity came into this world. And as I have said (forgive repetitions because it is very necessary for these things to make an impression on us, so we see something, and recognise it) so I repeat, that the whole of the New Testament following the birth of the Lord Jesus, has to do with the transition, the transformation, and conformity from the one, the natural, to the other: the spiritual. We understand that our new birth is not a natural thing.

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is by no means a natural thing, even at its beginning. This difference every one, every true Christian (and I'm sure it is true of all here this afternoon, this little company) everyone ought to be able to say quite, quite truly, quite definitely, "I'm not the same as I was; I am different. I am different! There is that now about me which has made me a different kind of person." Well, that's a simple way of putting it isn't it? But that's, you see, going right to the heart of it. The beginning: "Something has happened to me that I'm not the same kind of person", and it is upon that beginning, that beginning, that change, that difference, that distinction and discrimination that all the Christian life is built for its development and progress and what here the apostle calls "being transformed into the same image".

Well, that's largely repetition, and we are passing now, this afternoon, into the next thing which we come to with the Lord Jesus because it is the acknowledged and admitted regret of everybody, that we know so little about the 30 years of His life in Nazareth. We know practically nothing about those thirty years. There's one break at the age of twelve, which was very, very enlightening, it's an open window into the thirty years, but for reasons which will not stay to explore just now, the Holy Spirit has not found it in the scheme of things to give us a detailed account of His life during those first 30 years. You leave it, and leave it with the Holy Spirit's wisdom in doing that and accept it, and come to where He does definitely take up the story and the history that is at the baptism of Jesus.

The Baptism of Jesus

What we have to see is that it is just a part of this one inclusive thing, this new order of humanity which has come in with the Lord Jesus. Now, a great deal, of course, can be said about baptism, that's not my subject, but the baptism of the Lord Jesus is something that we must really understand.

I very often feel that we Christians, and people who are baptized, do get an understanding of this matter of baptism which is necessary to make this great difference, as a really fundamental thing to this tremendous difference in the kind of people, the kind of people. Baptism is so often taken now as something that you have to do if you're going to obey the Scriptures and if you're going to imitate the Lord Jesus. You don't like that word, you prefer to say follow the Lord Jesus, but it's imitating the Lord Jesus, very often: He did it and He commanded it, therefore we do it in obedience to a command. We may have a little more light upon the matter as to what it means, but as I have watched this in my own life, and in the life of so many, it has come to me more and more strongly that even yet there's light which we need upon this matter.

I was baptized when I knew very little indeed about the meaning of baptism. I was told that it was a command, I was told that it was the way the Lord went, and the Lord wanted us to follow Him in this way, and so we sang, "Follow, follow Jesus! And I will follow on..." and so on, as we went into the water. And it was external, very largely... like that, you see, an act of obedience, an act of devotion. We meant it, but with how little understanding! And ever since we've been learning the meaning of this.

Now, when we come to the baptism of the Lord Jesus we have the standard thing, we do have the standard baptism, we have the meaning of it to the full in His own case. It had to be like that, not that I'm going to try to give you the full meaning in Christ, but I do want to put my finger upon one or two aspects or details which constitute this whole matter of the absolute difference in the human type which baptism is intended to set forth and His baptism as basic; the basic factors for all baptisms.

First of all then, let us remind ourselves of the universal nature of His baptism. How can I put it most impressively? Do we, have we, who've gone this way, and do Christians who accept this matter of baptism, realise that we were all drowned? Drowned in the depth of the flood. The people who have been drowned. Now, you think that's language or that's impressive or whatever it is and whatever your thought about it is, your feeling when I say it like that, but I'm keeping to Scripture. Do you know what Peter says in his letter about this? He's speaking about the flood, the flood that then was. You read the account of the flood. What happened? Well, all, all but eight people, were drowned; literally drowned. The flood overwhelmed them, they lost their lives. They went down into the depths and they were drowned corpses after the flood.

And it was universal, for that word, with the exception of these eight, the world was a drowned world. And Peter says that, "The like figure," he says speaking of the flood, "The like figure whereunto baptism does now save us". The universal engulfment of the world, of the race, is represented by the baptism of the Lord Jesus.

It is not necessary, I think, at this point for me to remind you that baptism is a figure of the Cross - being united with Christ in His death and His burial. You know that. The whole of the following New Testament says so explicitly, positively. You say, "Then why, if this represents the Cross, why was it necessary for Him to go to the cross afterwards? Why a space of three and a half years between His baptism and His crucifixion?" And the answer is quite simple, quite clear. At this point of His baptism Jesus stepped out of what was a private life, into a public life; out from an unofficial, into an official life; out from a waiting probationary period under the eye of God, into the open, on His world mission. At this point He took up the mission for which He'd come. It's official, it's public, it's before heaven, earth and hell. And therefore, because of all those features and factors, He must put the Cross in figure and type right there as the basis of His mission, of His teaching, of His working, of His living, and of all that went to make up the fulfillment of His world mission. He must put the Cross there.

All the elements of the Cross are found in His baptism. These are statements which, of course, I cannot stay to analyse, but it's there. And the point is that He is putting all the meaning of the Cross right at the very commencement of His official public life and mission, and basing it upon the Cross. We understand that. Now, that being the case, His baptism does foreshadow the meaning of the Cross. And it is universal. John the Baptist, when Jesus came to be baptized, pointed and said "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world..." Or rightly, "Who beareth the sin of the world..." bearing the sin of the world. It's universal. He is, in this sense and aspect related to the universality of humanity, God's inclusiveness of all men in this death, in this death, in this drowning because of sin - the sin of the world.

I'm not sure how many people being baptized, are aware of that, of that, that they are supposed to have been drowned people who, mark you, in the relationship which they held to the human race before that point, in that relationship, they had ceased to exist; ceased to have a being. Before the flood, in Noah's time, all those, all those who succumbed to the flood had no more existence in relation to that race, that people, after the flood. That's something finished.

This is tremendously searching isn't it? Now, this is what the New Testament teaches! We have got to grasp about the Lord Jesus that in His death He has carried us all the way under the flood of God's judgments because of sin and when we take this position and this step, we are supposed, in the reality of our spiritual life, not to exist any longer in that old natural type. The trouble in Corinth was they hadn't grasped the significance of what really they had come into through baptism, or they had forgotten it, or let it go and not got back to the other side of the flood.

There some of the strongest things in the New Testament are said in this connection. We read in this very letter about the people who came out of Egypt and perished in the wilderness although they had been baptized, it says, into Moses in the cloud and in the sea - perished in the wilderness because they had not maintained the ground which that baptism signified. And you go into the letter to the Hebrews and you know the almost terrifying things that are said there about going back upon these foundation things - going back on them. "It's impossible to restore them again to repentance... they crucify to themselves afresh..." well, that's a dark side of things, without turning upon it, but what I am emphasizing is this: that on the one side of the baptism of the Lord Jesus there is this universal engulfment of all the children of Adam in an act of God which winds up that race so far as His acceptance is concerned. The race goes, on but it's not accepted; it's out of court with God, is this race. That is what the baptism and cross of the Lord Jesus meant.

Well, that's one thing, but notice: there is this discriminatory fact in baptism. It's a dividing thing. Eight people went through the flood, survived, but they were not on dry land all the time. That is, they were in the flood, if the flood was not in them; they were in it. They passed through it. We are told that they survived and came out on the other side because of faith; through faith, through faith, through faith.

And so there is this discrimination between the natural and the spiritual, that those who survive are believers. And believing, in the New Testament, is not a mental thing. It is not a mental assent saying, "Well, yes, I accept that truth. I acknowledge that to be truth." That is not believing, in the New Testament. Believing is something more drastic than that.

In the Glasgow Billy Graham campaign I was sitting on the platform immediately behind Billy Graham, and it was a big platform and it had to take a good deal of responsibility. And Billy Graham just said this, when he spoke about believing according to the meaning of the New Testament: "The word 'believing' means this," he said, "I came along that passage, I went up these steps, and I walked onto this platform. And in so doing, I believed that this platform would bear me. I committed myself to it. If it had collapsed you know what would have happened. If I had stood back and said 'I'm not so sure that they've constructed that platform sufficiently well to bear my weight,' I wouldn't have come on to it. But I believed! I believed that this platform could carry me and see me through all these meetings. There was strength enough in it, so I just simply committed myself in faith." So that's the meaning of the New Testament word believing on the Lord Jesus. It's not mental, it's just an act of complete committal, "If I sink, I sink, but I shan't sink, I believe I shall survive". That's believing. That's very simple isn't it? But you see, that is just it; those that went into the ark believed that that ark could see them through what was coming, would carry them through the flood - through faith they survived.

It is discriminatory in this way and it discriminates between a race that does not commit itself and those who do. It's a different order; entirely a different order of being. The baptism declares that you and I, and all that would go this way, have recognised that we have been drowned in the great deluge of God's judgment on sin, universal. There is not one, no not one, says the apostle, not one righteous. It's universal: all have sinned. So that spiritual people are those who survive the judgment and come out on the other side, by recognition of how utter this division is.

How complete, how utter this division is! I could make this show it much more impressively, if I like to do so, if I chose to do so, for if you've seen drowned people, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you've seen people as I have, taken out of the water after being drowned, been there long enough, you know what I'm talking about. There's not much hope there, no, they've ceased to exist as organic parts of a certain order of creation.

We are of a new order entirely, of men and women, of people, of mankind, of humanity. A new order in Christ. There is in Christ a new creation. Put circles round that word new: new, new, new! What is this newness? Think about that, it is discriminatory - it divides between two races - that's the baptism of the Lord Jesus. And that is why in figure and in type He went to the Jordan and demanded that as representing the human race in the inclusive, universal terms of His title 'Son of Man' - the inclusive title of the race - that is why going there, He demanded this, because He knew how great, how tremendous His Cross was going to be in this one thing: a different type of humanity to be born, to be born.

And you can see how that from that moment of His baptism, His coming up, He is so different from other men that He's occupied minds for these two thousand years to try and define that something about Him; that something about Him which was inscrutable. That leads us, you see, into this new phase, but before we can go on, we have to come to the thing so immediately associated with His baptism.

There's no gap between coming up out of the water and immediately the heavens were opened, and the Spirit lighted upon Him in the form of a dove... the anointing, concerning which He began His ministry in Nazareth immediately with, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me." These are two parts of a whole: death, the resurrection, and the anointing. And what does the anointing mean? And I have said, mark you, these are two parts of one thing.

I don't believe that the anointing should be delayed till sometime after either conversion or baptism. I don't think that is a thing that lies somewhere further on along the road. In His case, in His case it was immediate and it's intended to be that this new order to which those belong who have recognised the meaning of His baptism and had stepped out on to it themselves in committal, this new order is characterised by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It's a Holy Spirit order. It is the new birth, and "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit".

A spiritual man emerges from the baptism, or should, if we rightly understand. I believe that is why the apostles always immediately after they had baptized people, prayed for them that they might receive the Spirit. They put the two things together, but this is a new order and this new order is characteristic of the Holy Spirit; which, when we've said that, we haven't said enough; it wants explaining.

Well, if you move back again to 1 Corinthians chapter 2 you'll get some idea what the anointing means, at any rate, basically if not entirely, in that chapter where the apostle is speaking about the spiritual man, the spiritual man which the Christian is supposed to be, intended and meant to be, if rightly apprehending what has happened in the meaning of this baptism. The spiritual man is characterised by certain quite elementary things. The anointing just means that that spiritual man has capacities that no other human order has. It is searching isn't it? This is testing.

"Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them" and his reaction to them is: they are foolishness to him. What does that spell? What does that declare? The natural man is without certain essential capacities as to the things of God - the things of God. Oh, we've come into the things of God, haven't we, the realm of the things of God! What a realm! Inexhaustible! Inexhaustible; it would take us all eternity to learn the things of God and our whole Christian life should be just this: learning the things of God - all the way along, learning the things of God, things of the Spirit of God. The natural man hasn't the capacity for doing so; cannot know, cannot receive. His attitude is one of skepticism, cynicism, "All these things that you Christians think so much of, they're nonsense!" they're just nonsense to the natural man. And he acts accordingly, if the Corinthians are the example - there's an awful, awful thing for the Corinthian Christians.

And let's say this, but "he that is spiritual..." and you'll notice in the different translations that the translators have really come up against a difficulty here, they found themselves floundering here to translate into English the real meaning and sense of the original words. He that is spiritual... judgeth all things? Discerneth all things? Examineth all things? These are words that the translators have introduced either into the text or into the margin, revised or authorised, or margin, there they're juggling with a word. What does it mean? What is the meaning? Well, if they're beaten, I am of course, it's not for me to say I can do better. But what the apostle is saying is the natural man, the natural man hasn't the capacity for grasping, grasping the meaning and the sense, the implication of the things of the Spirit, but the spiritual man has capacity, has capacity for this by his new birth. And by the anointing a capacity is produced which no other species of humanity possesses. He or she possesses capacity; it may be in its infancy to begin with, and have to grow and grow until, well, we end this life, however long. And then, even then, we can say, "Wasn't I a fool; why didn't I see that before?" I think that we shan't talk like that or use that language in heaven I suppose, because they don't use language like that in heaven, but I'm quite sure that with all our study, all our experience, when we get to heaven we'll say, "Why didn't I see that? Why, really, didn't I see that?" and I think probably we'll spend all eternity with this, this remarkable, wonderful sense of, "Oh, I was blind, but this, and this and this! If only I could have seen...". However, there's a beginning here of this thing: the capacity for spiritual things, spiritual perception, spiritual discernment, spiritual understanding, spiritual apprehension - a capacity. That's the work of the anointing. It is the work of the anointing. And oh, dear friends, what a lot it does mean! What a lot it does mean.

I remember so well when I came up against this truth many years ago. I will say this to try and help out what I'm wrestling with this afternoon. I came to the realisation of this fact, that what I was really after, really after, both as for my own knowledge and understanding, and value, and good, and ability, and for my ministry, what I was really after could never possibly be realised along the line of any natural capacity. I read. Oh, how I read, and studied. I can see myself now, before I was married, in my own lodgings, alone with my book set up before me while I had my meal. And I remember studying such things as Edward Caird's "History of Religion and the Great Philosophers" - a volume like a family Bible - and having to get up from my meal and take a walk around the block to get my head steady - dizzy with it all! And that's the sort of thing I was doing, trying to find out God, trying to find something for my own spiritual good. And at last I had to say "I'm not getting there, I'm not finding what I'm after, I'm not finding what I'm after; it's eluding me".

And then, of course, I turned to the Scripture and I came to 1 Corinthians 2, "The natural man cannot," cannot, cannot - with all his effort he cannot! He doesn't get through, there's a barrier. But oh, what a tremendous thing it was to me when at that time I saw the Holy Spirit is for us, is given, and the Holy Spirit has all the capacity for knowing His own things and everything about God, the deep things of God! And if only I have the Holy Spirit, all that ever God wants me to know, I can know. I tell you, that from that day to this, that has been a real, real boon in my life; for life, for ministry, the Holy Spirit, the anointing, the capacity for seeing what "no eye has seen, nor heart conceived, what has never entered into the heart of man". This was here, the Holy Spirit is the capacity of all that ever God wants where we're concerned.

Jesus, being anointed, went out into His ministry and... two sides - what the apostle says here about the spiritual man who discerneth, discerneth, perceiveth, examineth, (whatever word you are going to choose) all things. He, he "examines all things but he is examined of nobody". I don't like the word examined, it doesn't help us. What the apostle is saying is this anointed kind of humanity is inscrutable to the world; the world just does not understand him or her. And the temptation of a young Christian is to try and make the world understand him, without being born again! And it's so difficult isn't it, young Christian, so difficult, to have to take this position, "They don't understand me, but I must accept it. They don't, they don't know, and I must just accept it, and not try by argument and discussion to make them know, until they're born again. My business is to bring them face to face with their necessity to be born again." That's Nicodemus isn't it? How the Lord tackles the situation of a very intellectual man, "I'm not going to argue with you. I'm not coming down on to your level to try and explain things to you. No, we're in two different worlds; you are of one world and I am of another, and in order to come where I am, and know what I know, you've got to come the same way: be born from above."

This is all perhaps too simple for you Christians, but what I am getting at is this: the anointing of Jesus, the anointing of Jesus was His capacity for His life mission; His capacity for His life mission. And capacity in His case, meant apprehending the mind of the Father. You see, it was a Spirit of sonship that had come upon Him. Heaven and the Father declared through the rent heaven, "This is My beloved Son!" - the attestation of sonship sealed by the Holy Spirit in His spirit - sonship. And from that time onward, by the anointing, on the basis of sonship, He could understand His Father, He could hear His Father, He knew His Father. It was a relationship. The Father and Son, Son and Father, in communion. And everything that He said, and everything that He did, and everywhere that He went, and everything through the next three and a half years until He went away, was on this basis of the close relatedness of a new order, another heavenly order, the Father-Son, Son-Father relationship. We have only the beginnings of that kind of knowledge, well, we have it if we are really born anew from above and anointed of the Holy Spirit. We do have the beginnings of that.

I'm quite sure you know very well when the Holy Spirit in you agrees or disagrees with anything that you say or do or have said, don't you? Don't you? You have many ways of putting that, "I don't feel comfortable about that..." some people have the language, "I haven't any Life about that..." Well, however you put it, you know what you mean, we know what you mean: the Holy Spirit within does not corroborate, agree, and go with us, but we have to learn a lot of lessons in that way, or He does it with life and peace, He bears witness, it's all right. It's a wonderful education is the education of the anointing, but it's the difference between two kinds of people - those who are living in the natural and trying to get through on everything by natural abilities and resources and capacities, and finding deadlock and impasse, go up a cul-de-sac and having to come back again because of no way through all the time - the natural. And the Christian and the others who are walking in the Spirit, the spiritual people who have at least this capacity of knowing, or having the beginnings of spiritual knowledge.

Well, I think the afternoon's time has gone for that. We just leave it there. How helpful it is to you, I don't know, but I'm sure that there's something that we have yet to move into at least more fully, of this matter of the different order of people to which we as Christians belong who are the Christ people, who are taking, taking their character and taking their capacities from Christ. That is true Christianity. May it be true in ever growing measure in the case of each one of us.

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