The Spiritual Man

See full series: 2022-sermons
See full series: closer-to-god-2022

The Spiritual Man

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Galatians 6:1


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Closer to God 2022 (33)

Pursuing Holiness (12)


Today we conclude our study of pursuing holiness as part of our theme, Closer to God.  We have devoted a considerable number of lessons to how a pursuit of holiness will affect every are of our lives.  We have discussed what holiness is, examined the holiness of the triune God (each person in the Godhead), as well as noted how our pursuit of holiness will affect our disposition, attitude, what we do, where we go and who associate with, our conversations, our appearance (how we dress), our service to others and our attitude toward God’s word.  Today, I want to present a concluding lesson to holiness by discussing the spiritual man.  The spiritual man is another way that scripture defines the one who is walking with God.  This also gives us yet another perspective of how and why pursuing holiness affects every area of our lives.


  1. What does spiritual mean?
    1. We are spiritual beings –
      1. While we possess flesh and blood, we also have a spiritual nature.
      2. We are created in the image of God – Genesis 1:26-27
      3. He has placed eternity in our hearts – Ecclesiastes 3:11
      4. Our ability to reason and think beyond this life, we have a conscience – Titus 1:15, 1 Peter 3:16, 21; 2 Timothy 1:3 – Paul served God with a pure conscience, etc. – these all point to our spiritual nature.
      5. And what we do with that nature is where our holiness will be found.
    2. What do we mean by spiritual?
      1. Can mean that which is non-material. God is spirit – He is not flesh and blood (John 4:24).  When we speak of things, “not if this world” – they are spiritual.
      2. Something the emanates from God and is thus consistent with His nature. When we are called upon to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) or to be perfect as he is perfect (Matthew 5:48) or to love as He is love (1 John 4:7-8), etc.
      3. Something that stands in contrast to the secular – e.g., Ephesians 5:19 – we sing spiritual songs.
      4. One who vigorously pursues the will of the Holy Spirit, as revealed in God’s word – this is what we are addressing in this lesson.
    3. False ideas about being spiritual
      1. Asceticism or monasticism – this is one who isolates himself from the world or even deliberately physically punishes himself to supposedly draw him closer to God.
      2. One possessing spiritual gifts – either today or in times of miracles – First, we know that the age of spiritual gifts is past (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12), but even in the first century Paul was concerned about those who abused their spiritual gifts (e.g. 1 Cor. 14:27-33).
      3. Being merely moral – we know many today who profess to live moral lives, but they define the standard for themselves and believe they are spiritual. Others, follow many, most or all the moral standards of the Bible, but they still have not surrendered to His will.  Acts 10:1-2 – Cornelius was a devout and moral man, but still needed to be saved.
      4. Many see that their thinking has evolved beyond the level of mere mortality – they are “in tune” with who they are. Thus, they call themselves spiritual people.
  2. We are called to be spiritual
    1. The Bible makes a distinction between the carnal man and the spiritual man.
    2. The carnal man is following the ways of the world and rejects the ways of God.
      1. 1 Corinthians 1:18-23 – 1 Corinthians 2:14 – described as “natural”, following after the flesh and his own reasoning. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned.   In fact, he CANNOT know them.  NOTE: This is not because it is impossible, but he CHOOSES to not know them by the way he reasons.
      2. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – Paul could not speak to them as spiritual, because they were carnal. Being carnal prevented Paul from being able to fully develop the gospel in their lives.  He had to address ungodly attitudes and behaviors because of their carnal minds.   NOTE: Paul here is speaking to Christians who are thinking carnally.  The point is one can profess to be a Christian, but live and think carnally.
      3. Romans 8:1, 5-9 – contrasts the spiritual and carnal minds. The carnal minds sets his mind on the things of the flesh which is enmity against God.  He does not subject himself to the law of God.
      4. What does the carnal man look like? We have lists of the way they live.
        1. Galatians 5:16-21 – the works of the flesh will result in one not entering the kingdom God.
        2. Romans 1:18-32 – these are the ways of the carnal.
        3. James 3:13-16 – the wisdom of this world – bitter envy, self-seeking – earthly, sensual (appealing to the natural senses), demonic (the types of things Satan loves you to do).
        4. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – selfish pursuers. They are thinking about themselves.
        5. Ephesians 4:17-20 – in the futility of their mind with their understanding darkened…
        6. 1 John 2:15-17 – he loves the world and things in the world – the lusts, etc.
    3. The spiritual man is following the ways of God
      1. Galatians 6:1 – “You who are spiritual restore such a one”.  Note that Paul has defined this in the previous chapter – Galatians 5:16-26.  Describing the carnal man who follows “the works of the flesh” and contrasts him with he who is led by the Spirit
      2. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 – we have the mind of Christ, and judge accordingly.
      3. Romans 8:1 – no condemnation to those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Sprit.
      4. These two ways are complete opposites. You cannot hold on to both. You are following one path or the other.  Consider what Jesus said, Matthew 6:24 – no one can serve 2 masters.  Galatians 5:17 says, “these are contrary to one another.”
  3. Qualities of the spiritual man
    1. In this section, I want to present a number of scriptures, most of which we are familiar with and many we have touched upon in our studies of holiness. Here I want you see just how much the New Testament talks about being changed.  Let’s notice some qualities prevalent in the spiritual man.
    2. He is transformed and renews his mind – Romans 12:1-2. You are no longer what you used to be. The old man has been put away and buried and you are now a new creation – Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17 – if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…  The idea of transformation is the foundation of the English word for metamorphosis.  A transformer changes something – like a caterpillar to a butterfly, OR how an electrical transformer converts (changes) the raw power into a usable and consistent form.  Similarly, the carnal man is transformed into a spiritual man.
    3. He walks in the Spirit and does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh – Galatians 5:16-17. Paul will proceed to describe what this is like – Galatians 5:22-25.
    4. He sets his mind on things above – Colossians 3:1-10. What does this look like?
      1. His life is hidden in Christ – vs. 3. Galatians 2:20 – it is Christ living in Him.  He is seeking to imitate Christ in all that he doe – cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1.
      2. He puts to death his earthly members – vs. 4- 9 – another list is given. He doesn’t live the way he used to.  Recall 1 Peter 4:1-3 – we’ve been there long enough.
    5. He puts on the new man who is renewed in knowledge – vs. 10. The idea of renewal is to become reestablished in a new and often improved manner, or superior to before.  This implies the GROWTH we continually talk about as Christians (2 Peter 3:18).
    6. He brings every through into captivity to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. A challenging thing to do, but here is one who is continually thinking about what it means to serve Christ.  He controls what goes into his mind, so that what comes out is pure and undefiled (cf. Matthew 15:11, 15-20)
    7. He possesses the wisdom from above & the fruit of the spirit
      1. Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit – qualities present when the Spirit is influencing our lives.
      2. James 3:17-18 describes the wisdom that is from above – it is first (before anything else) pure, THEN (not necessarily in order, but ALL these qualities are present) peaceable, gentle, yielding, merciful and good, without partiality or hypocrisy.
      3. This is the disposition and attitudes that regulate our conduct.
    8. He will concede that he belongs to the Lord and live it – cf. Acts 27:23 – Paul spoke of the “God to whom I belong”. Galatians 2:20 – Paul is not bashful in pointing out he belongs to the Lord in all things.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that we have been purchased and thus we belong to God.  As Paul here notes, this affects how I take care of myself – my body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit”.
    9. He thinks of others – Philippians 2:1-5 – He seeks unity with his brethren, AND he considers others better than himself, looking out for their interests.
    10. He has no confidence in the flesh – Philippians 3:3-11. The spiritual man understands how the flesh will fail you, both physically and carnally if we let it.  Paul proceeds to describe how he walked away from worldly pursuits.  Therefore, the spiritual man is always alert and sober – 2 Corinthians 2:11, 1 Peter 5:8-9 – sober and vigilant.
    11. He knows he needs the will of God and seeks it
      1. We devoted 2 lessons to God’s word and how we will approach His word if we are pursuing holiness. Consider Romans 7:14, For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. While Paul is addressing the LOM, the point is God’s law is from Him and I need to view it as such.  It exposes sin and the solution.
      2. Jeremiah 10:23 – the spiritual man knows that he cannot direct his own steps spiritually. In fact, he realizes there is NO WAY he can outthink God.
      3. Psalm 1:2 – seeking to please God, he continually studies His word – 2 Timothy 2:15.
      4. Hebrews 5:12-14 – in time he has matured and is able to discern between good and evil. He is a spiritual man in this.
      5. Colossians 2:8 – warns us – beware lest anyone cheats you through philosophy and empty deceit. Ephesians 4:12-15 – he is not “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine…”
    12. He reflects the image of God and Christ in his body – Romans 8:29 speaks of how those belonging to God are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” The idea of conformity is to be like-natured, or of the same essence.  Can people see Christ in us?
    13. He views life in light of eternity
      1. The spiritual man realizes the temporal nature of this life – James 4:14. James 1:10 – as a flower, we will pass away. 1 John 2:17 notes that the world is passing away with its lusts, “but he who does the will of God abides forever”
      2. Everything is about preparing for heaven, our eternal reward – 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
      3. This is why his mind is “on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2). Matthew 6:19-21 – his treasure is in heaven.
    14. He views the afflictions of this world as a “light affliction” – 2 Corinthians 4:7ff, 17-18. We have seen this in our recent studies of 1 Peter as he seeks to encourage these brethren to endure whatever happens.
    15. EVERYTHING in his life is about God – that is why I present this as our concluding lesson on pursuing holiness. One who is pursuing holiness will be spiritual – and it will affect every area of his life.
    16. Finally, it is his choice.
      1. Romans 6:16-18 – we must understand that in this life God will NOT force anyone to follow Him.
      2. BUT, also understand that it is a choice you are making. You can either decide to follow God and pursue the spiritual man, or you can conform to the world and continue in carnal living.
      3. But just know, that the choice we make WILL have eternal consequences. 2 Corinthians 5:10 notes that we will ALL stand before Christ in judgment and receive our reward based upon what we have done.
      4. Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses in his farewell address said this to Israel, I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

And thus we can see some qualities associated with the spiritual man.  A number of years ago, Jimmy Tuten said the following in an article about being spiritual: Being spiritual is the desire to be right with God, to want to make the right decisions in every walk of life and in knowing what we are and what we do. It is how we look at life continually. [1]   That about sums it up.  So what about you?  Are you going to pursue holiness or not?  It WILL have a bearing on whether or not you draw closer to God.  Think about it!

[1] Jimmy Tuten, Guardian of Truth XXX: 14, pp. 428-429, 439.  July 17, 1986, via