Excerpted from What Is Man? by Herb Hodges
According to the Bible, there are four kinds of people on planet earth at any time. These four people are mentioned in I Corinthians 2:14-3:3. Let me briefly mention and describe them. The first one (I Corinthians 2:14) is called “the natural man” (literally, the psuchikos man). The Greek word, psuchikos, is derived from the word, psuche, which I mentioned above, the word for “soul.” The word psuchikos is a Greek adjective which means, “adapted to soul.” So the “natural man” is a man who is adapted to his soul because his spirit is dead and thus his only inner resource for living is his soul. This man just “does what comes naturally” (he lives soulishly), because he has no supernatural life, no relationship with God. Because his spirit is dead, he cannot live “spiritually” in a Biblical way. This is the lost man who is devoid of God and His Life and will spend eternity getting what he wanted, independence of God. The first man mentioned is the non-Christian man.
The second man mentioned (I Corinthians 2:15) is “the spiritual man.” Here, the Greek word is pneumatikos, which is a Greek adjective meaning, “adapted to the spirit.” Please note carefully the real and radical difference between this man and the “natural” man. This man has been “born of the Spirit,” “born again,” “born from above” in a real, revolutionary, relational birth in which the Holy Spirit has literally re-entered his previously dead spirit and quickened it with the very Life of God. In that moment, the person received Eternal Life, that very quality of Life which God lives. At the moment of his new birth, his body and soul may not be greatly changed, but great change is on the way as the aftermath in his total person of the New Birth that has occurred in his spirit. Not only has this man been born of the Spirit in his own human spirit, but his entire life has taken on a new priority and a new vocation, to ‘grow in the Spirit’ and become like Christ. These must not be taken merely as visionary and unrealistic ideals, but as realities which will occur in his lifetime as he cooperates with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The second man mentioned is the normal Christian man.
The third man mentioned (I Corinthians 3:1) is called “carnal.” The word used here is sarkinos. Note that the “natural” man is psuchikos, the man “adapted to his soul” because his spirit is dead and his only inner resource is his soul. Note that the “spiritual” man is pneumatikos, the man “adapted to his spirit,” because his spirit is alive and is dominant over his soul in his experience and lifestyle. Thus, his human spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, controls both his soul and his body, and he is thus called “spiritual.” The “carnal” man, however, is controlled by his sarx, or his “flesh,” which is the combination of his body and soul acting independently of the Holy Spirit. The “flesh” is everything a human being receives by his first birth, in which his spirit is dead. Also, note that the word in this case is not “sarkikos,” but a very close similarity, “sarkinos.” The difference is spelling is hardly noticeable, a “k” in the first and an “n” in the second, but the meaning is substantially different between the two words. The word “sarkinos” describes a new-born Christian, a spiritual baby which has just been born, and thus is still more baby than mature believer. Like any baby, though this person is saved, he lives a “baby” Christian life with a baby’s self-curl, self-centeredness, and self-seeking. It is reasonable that he should do so, because he is a baby in Christ (see I Corinthians 3:1c). So the third person mentioned is the new-born Christian.
The fourth man mentioned (I Corinthians 3:3) is also called “carnal,” but this is that slightly different word. Whereas one “carnal” person (carnal # 1) is called sarkinos, “fleshly,” because he is born as a self-centered baby, though actually and truly born, the other “carnal” person (carnal # 2) is called sarkikos, also “fleshly” but with a different time-frame, because he has remained a baby a long time after his birth. So one “carnal” person could be called good carnal, and the other (we one we are most familiar with because of our teaching) could be called bad carnal. What is the difference between the two? Simply this: the first one is a baby and can’t be anything else—because he has just been born! This baby is a wonderful thing! But the second one is still a baby years after being born, and he won’t be anything else. One (sarkinos) is a wonderful spiritual baby, but the other (sarkikos) is a willful spoiled brat! This is the reason a Christian is commanded to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). Spiritual immaturity is expected and accepted in a Christian who has just been born of the Spirit, but it is sinful in a person who has remained a baby (“protracted infancy,” a sad tragedy both spiritually and physically) for years after being born again. The fourth person mentioned is the nominal Christian man—God’s biggest problem on earth.
In nature, human beings are made of three parts—spirit, soul and body—and that Divine order reveals the order of importance of the three. The spirit, being the determinant for the others, is most important. The soul, basically a combination of mind, emotion and will, is next most important. And the body is least important of the three—though not at all unimportant. To show the importance of the three, if your body is right, you will be healthy; if your soul is right, you will be happy; but it is only if your spirit is right that you will be holy. It is God’s design that you be “whole,” that is, healthy, happy and holy. “Healthy” refers to your physical life; “happy” refers to your psychological (note the word psyche, the word for the soul, at the beginning of that word) life; and “holy” refers to your spiritual life, or the life that defines your relationship with God. Holy is a word that refers to your status with God, your relationship with Him, your usefulness to Him, and finally, your moral character (which will become progressively holy as you cooperate with Him). If you are only “natural” or “carnal,” you cannot adequately understand man. Man can only be adequately referenced by referring to God, and he can only be adequately understood by a person who knows God in personal relationship with Him and cooperates with God in daily life.
Remember that I said that man as he was created is complex by nature, and further complicated by sin and corruption. Study these things carefully, because your understanding of man and His relationship with God will be determined by them. It is important to fathom these things if we are to understand man’s person.
Which category are you in? If you need help getting to number two from one of the other three, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.