In 1st Corinthians 2, vrs 12-16 the Apostle Paul writes:
For different translations, click here: (RSV) (NRSV) (NIV)
A note about the use of the term: ‘natural man’
At first glance, the one who reads this passage might come to believe that the Paul is talking about two different groups of people; those who have the Spirit of God in them, and those who do not. But through a New Christianity, we look at who Paul is referring to, differently.
We acknowledge that each person has a soul, and that this soul becomes the primary form of existence, when the body stops functioning. Whether the soul goes forth to enter heaven, or hell, is not relevant here; rather the importance to our discussion, is that it does indeed, go on after death. (Even if you hold the belief that this “going on after death” doesnít occur until after a ‘judgement day’, even so, at that time, the existence does continue.) With this in mind, we realize that this ‘soul’ must be with us now, also, in life; and that the soul is what Paul refers to when he talks about the “Spirit of God” which has been given to us. So the question becomes this: If the Spirit has been given to you, will you receive it?
In the popular computer game Sims 2, there is a pizza delivery service that is available as a source of food. The driver arrives at the house with the pizza, but if you donít ‘accept’ the delivery, you donít ‘receive’ the pizza. This concept of receiving is different from our usual notion of receiving a package in the mail, where our acceptance of the package is assumed. In the case of the ‘gift’ of the Spirit, our acceptance is NOT assumed, by Paul. That is why he uses terms like ‘natural man’ (which is the body, or the lower self) and ‘spiritual man’, which acts in coordination with the Spirit of God (or higher self). We must acknowledge and accept the presence of the Spirit within, in order to be spiritual.
This reasoning forms the basis of Paul’s statement in the 14th verse of the passage. The natural man can not receive the things of the Spirit of God, because he has not accepted and received the Spirit of God, and this is why these things are as foolishness to the natural man.
But what does this have to do with sin? Everything!
A man by the name of Abraham Maslow carefully defined natural manís ‘hierarchy of needs’. These include physiological needs, safety and security needs, social needs, personal needs of self esteem, etc. Maslow wasn’t suggesting or recommending specific behaviors, but instead, he was reporting his observations of behaviors that most animals (including natural man) already demonstrate. As such, natural man’s tendencies are to look first to satisfy his or her own needs and wants, and worry about the needs of others later. These are the realities that Paul was describing when he talked about natural man.
The spiritual man, in coordination with the Spirit of God within, functions on a level above that of natural man. While natural man might stockpile food, clothing, and other resources, to prepare for an unforseen event; Yeshua teaches that a spiritual man will share what he has, with those who are in need, and, like the lillies of the field, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. This act of charity would seem as foolishness to natural man. Yeshua also teaches that a spiritual man will consider his neighbor to be his equal, even as far as to “love your neighbor as yourself”. Natural man, will look for ways to gain advantage over his neighbor, or consider working with his neighbor, only as long as it will be to his own eventual advantage. Loving your neighbor as yourself, is foolishness to natural man.
From part one of this series of articles, we found that hamartano (which is translated many times in the New Testament as sin) can be defined as “wandering from the law of God”. The essence of the passage that Paul has written here, in his first letter to the Corinthians, describes the fact that when man has cut himself off from the Spirit of God, (having chosen not to receive it,) and instead, lives in his natural state, he will naturally wander from the law of God. He looks out for his own self interest first, and worries about the needs of others, only after his own needs have been met. The dictionary defines this behaviour as seflishness. Thus, we see that sin equates to and stems from selfish behaviour. Therefore, it would seem to be correct, to answer the question, “What is sin?” in this way: Sin is anything that you do that is selfish, or anything that you do, as part of, or in the process of putting yourself and your own needs ahead of everyone else.
So, it seems like we are to ‘be good’, and try not to be selfish. But wait, this sounds like the old ‘saved by works’ line of reasoning, which Paul seems to refute many times over, in his letters. In fact, this is what lead the protestant revolution in the church, when Luther tried to suggest to the Popeís representatives that Paul was really saying that we are ‘saved by faith’. So whatís up with trying not to be selfish? Doesn't that go against Luther's teachings?
Well, there is more that we need to know, before we can fully understand sin! So let’s move on to What is Sin? (Part 3).
Grace and peace to you all,