What Does It Mean to be Spiritual?
Text: 1 Cor. 2:6-16, Selected Passages from 1 Corinthians
a sermon by Robert J. Young

What does it mean to be spiritual?

I want to worship with that group across town--they are so spiritual. The devos on campus are so spiritual--the small groups are so spiritual--our youth group is so spiritual.
Almost an obsession in modern day America. New age spirituality, angels, renewed emphasis on spiritual side of humanity, if not on God and Christ.

Did you know the word spiritual only appears in the OT once, Hos. 9:7. Is only in seven books of the NT with 29 occurrences--29 total occurrences in 27 total books. Did you know 20 of those 29 occurrences are in Romans and 1 Corinthians.
Further, 26 of the 29 occurrences are in Paul. John's spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah in Rev. 11:8 sheds little light, nor do Peter's two uses in 1 Pet. 2:5 regarding the spiritual house and spiritual sacrifices. What does Paul mean when he uses the word spiritual, so infrequently used in the NT as a whole, especially by other NT writers.
In our text Paul distinguishes worldly wisdom from spiritual wisdom. Spiritual wisdom is God's secret wisdom, wisdom hidden, wisdom which speaks of God's plans for "our glory." Spiritual wisdom is not discerned by worldly rulers, but is only revealed by the Spirit. Most obviously, whatever spiritual means, it has something to do with the spirit, either human, or divine--the Holy Spirit.
The revelation of the Spirit, taught in words by the spirit, expresses spiritual truths in spiritual words. One without the Spirit cannot accept these nor understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

I. To be spiritual means TO HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD
The spiritual person possesses God's spirit, or rather, is possessed by God's spirit. The spiritual person is "drunken" on the spirit.
Continue, 3:1ff, spiritual is in contrast to worldly. Worldly is infanthood, spiritual is maturity. These to whom Paul writes are still worldly. How does Paul know? How does he draw that conclusion? In 3:3, you are jealous, quarreling, worldly. You are acting like men (in contrast to acting like God because of having his spirit). Division, disagreements, dissension. This is worldliness. This is the opposite of spiritual.

II. To be spiritual has to do with HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS
Paul also reflects this in Gal. 6:1ff. Spiritual people are unselfish as God is unselfish, giving and giving. Spiritual people care for others, risk themselves for others. Spiritual people treat others right. Spirituality has to do with how we get along with others. The church where dissension and strife, selfishness and arched backs, my way or no way, united turned to untied because the "I" gets out of place, red faces, raised veins, arguments, power plays--this should never be described as a spiritual place. Spiritual people seek the restore the fallen, to lift up those who have quit.
But 10 of Paul's 26 uses of the word are in the last few chapters of 1 Corinthians. Spiritual is the opposite of material (9:11). Spiritual is the opposite of physical (chapter 10).
Let us continue our search for answers to our question, What does it mean to be spiritual?

III. To be spiritual means I ACCEPT JESUS AS LORD OF MY LIFE
12:1-3 is in some ways a difficult passage, but the overall conclusion is easy.

Quick on the heels of this conclusion, Paul iterates our next point.

Or in 13:1ff,
V. To be spiritual means TO DEMONSTRATE LOVE

Continuing in 14:1ff,
VI. To be spiritual means EDIFYING OTHERS, 14:18-19.
Stop thinking like children, for children seek their own good, not the good of others.

Ultimately, for Paul,
VII. To be spiritual means TO HONOR GOD'S WORD, THE LORD'S COMMANDS, 14:37

Two verses later, Paul suggests
Spiritual is not disorderliness, solely experiential, humanly contrived and planned. In our world with its emphasis on spirituality, this is not a popular message, but if we cannot learn what it means to be spiritual by reading God's word, how can we learn? Where would we learn?

Let us briefly ummarize these concepts.

There is much disagreement in today's religious world about reception of Spirit, but Bible cannot be wrong, Acts 2:37ff. Encourage you to accept Jesus as Lord, put him on as Lord in baptism, the obedience of faith, the presence of the spirit, the dependence upon God's inspired, infallible word, the decision to obey him, live for him.

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Last updated February 23, 2001.