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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

38- Between the spirit, The soul and the flesh

 

The spiritual man is exalted above the flesh and the material things. He does not act according to the flesh.

St Paul the Apostle said about that There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit (Rom 8:1)

He also said, For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom 8:12). And he explained this matter by saying, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God (Rom 8:5-7). And here we face an important question:

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Is the flesh a sin? The answer is: No. Why?

*The flesh is not evil in itself, otherwise God would not have created it, as God does not create evil. But God, after creating Man with this flesh ,saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Gen 1:31).

* If the flesh was evil, the Lord Jesus Christ to whom is all glory, would not have become flesh (Jn 1:14).

* Also because the flesh can share in worshipping and serving God. It bows and kneels, raises its eyes up and raises the hands up for prayer, fasts and labours in the service.

* That is what many saints did. Their bodies and their souls shared in the spiritual work and they lived, while in the flesh, a righteous life. Their bodies were holy.

* The flesh is not evil, otherwise God would not raise it and grant it a kind of transfiguration so it becomes more spiritual, luminous and heavenly (1 Cor 15:44, 49). It is raised in glory...

* If flesh was evil, we would not have honoured the bodies and relics of the saints, and no miracles would have occurred from their bodies, as it happened with the bones of Elisha the Prophet (2 Kings 14-:21).

We honour the bodies of the saints and keep their bones in our monasteries and churches, we welcome receiving them and rejoice in obtaining them, anoint them with spices and receive blessings from them.

* If the flesh was evil, St Paul the Apostle would not have said: ...glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are Gods (1 Cor 6:20) .Then the flesh could be a means to glorify God.

* The flesh also is not evil because the Holy Bible states: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?... Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you (1 Cor 6:15, 19). For the temple of God is holy which temple you are (1 Cor 3:16, 17).

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The flesh then is not a sin and is not evil. But the sin is in acting according to the flesh in its lust and earthly desires. The sin is allowing the body to overcome the spirit.

If the flesh is not evil, why then talk about the struggle between the body and the spirit. And why is the Apostle saying Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:16, 17).

The Apostle here does not talk about the flesh as it was created by God.

St-Takla.org         Image: The Holy Spirit, stained glass صورة: الروح القدس، زجاج معشق

St-Takla.org Image: The Holy Spirit, stained glass

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: الروح القدس، زجاج معشق

Adam and Eve, before the sin, each of them had a body, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. They lived in complete innocence: And they were both naked... and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25). Young children and babies have bodies but dont have the lust for sin. But the Apostle is talking about the sinful body.

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The flesh then is not evil in itself, but...

The flesh is made up of material. And it leans to the material and gets excited about it, gets separated from the control of the spirit and resists it.

And here the struggle starts and the sinful lust starts...

But the bodys need for material in a natural and pure way is not wrong. For example, the body needs material food and types of nutrition, and there is nothing wrong in that. But the Apostle says that man: nourishes and cherishes it (Eph. 5:29). And the Lord blessed those who care about the hungry, the thirsty and the naked...

He considered the care given to them as if given to Him personally. He said to those on His right hand, on the last day: Come you blessed of My father... for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink... naked and you clothed me (Mt 25:35-36) .They were all acts done for the benefit of the body.

This is half the truth. What is the other half?

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The spiritual man repeats the saying of the Holy Bible I discipline my body and bring it into subjection (1 Cor 9:27). Which means curb its lust.

To give the body its natural need from the material, and nothing more. If the body began to lust for the material and love it in a way that will get him out of the spiritual range, then the spiritual man will discipline his body and bring it into subjection. Which means to make him a slave for the spirit and not to be separated from it in conducting itself.

The spiritual man reaches that by asceticism, fasting and crucifying the flesh.

The Apostle St Paul says about this matter: And those Christs have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24)..

They resist: The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes (1 Jn 2:16). That is what the Apostle called: Love of the world

We do not kill the flesh because killing the flesh is a sin. Therefore we do not pray over one who has committed suicide, except if he was in a state of insanity where he was not accountable for his deeds... But we try to kill the sinful lust of the flesh. That is restraining the desires of the flesh because of the longing of the spirit to be close to God.

The idea of asceticism in the concept of the spiritual man is to give the spirit a chance to do its work, free from the heaviness of the body.

The spiritual man looks after the flesh, but in a spiritual manner. He refrains from the care that feeds the lust of the flesh, from which the Apostle warned us (Rom 8:6, 7).

And when he leads the flesh in the life of asceticism, he is not satisfied by the negative state, but on the positive side, he makes asceticism a chance to feed the spirit. And he makes the spirit share with the body in this asceticism. So it does not only become just asceticism of the body, but also of the soul.

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The spiritual man establishes a balance in his care about the flesh and the spirit.

While he gives food to the flesh, he also gives the spirit its food. As he gives the flesh daily food by a number of meals and types of nutrition, so he gives the spirit its food from spiritual readings, contemplation, prayer, tunes, hymns and also Holy Communion.

As he treats the flesh when it is sick, he also treats the spirit in its sickness. He even turns more to protection. And as he gives the flesh its share in exercise, he also uses the spiritual exercise. And as the ordinary man takes care of the adornment of the body and its good appearance, so the spiritual man also cares about the adornment of the meek and calm spirit. He makes his spirit adorned by virtues and the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22,23).

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The spiritual man makes his main concern: his spirit and also the spirits of others.

He avoids anything that disrupts the way of the spirit whether of sinning against himself or becoming a stumbling block to others... He cares about the safety of his spirit and his spiritual growth. That is because his spirit is Gods breath of life in him, (Gen 2:7), while his flesh is of dust. With the spirit, he becomes like Gods angels in heaven and he forms a relationship of love with God, and a relationship with the spiritual world of angels and saints.

By taking care of his spirit, he returns to the divine image in which God created him from the beginning (Gen 1:27).

God created man in his own image (Gen 1:26). How Wonderful!

And by taking care of his spirit, he also takes care of his eternity. This eternity, which our material life on earth is nothing when compared to it... Also by taking care of his spirit, he enters into a fellowship with the Holy Spirit and works with God...

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Here we ask an essential question: What is the spiritual life? And we sum up this life in two points:

1- To subdue the flesh for the spirit.

2- To make ones spirit submit to the Spirit of God.

The whole life of the spiritual man is summed up in these two essential matters. The flesh is submitted to the spirit so he does not resist or lust for whatever the spirit longs for. The flesh also does not get into a struggle with the spirit as it happens with the beginners and those who are lacking spiritually. All that is on the negative side. As for the positive side, the flesh shares with the spirit in the spiritual work. And so the flesh is rewarded with the spirit in the eternal life, because it shared in the good work with the spirit and pursued the life of the spirit, so it deserved to become a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:44).

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We also say that the spirit of man is submitted to the Spirit of God because the human spirit, on its own, has its sins.

Not all the sins of man are caused by the flesh but there are sins of the spirit. And the Holy Bible says: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov 16:18). And in the prayer of the Third Hour we say Purify us from the iniquities of the body and soul... and in the Holy Mass: Purifying our souls, our bodies and our spirits.

The devil, who is a spirit and has no material body, has his falls and his continuous sins. He has fallen in pride (Is 14:14). And he became the resistant and the rebellious, and the Lord called him: ...a liar and the father of it (Jn 8:44). We also say in the Holy Mass: ...and death that entered into the world through the envy of the devil. Then the devil has fallen in the sin of envy, although he is a spirit and of course caused many to stumble and misled them... All that while he is a spirit. Therefore, he and his devils are called in the Holy Bible: evil spirits and impure spirits.

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The spirit then could sin, if separated from God. So the spirit needs the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore God granted us the holy anointing, (1 Jn 2:20,27) by which the Spirit of God dwells in us and stays with us till the end and guides us to the truth (Jn 16:3).. He will also teach us all things, (Jn 14:26). And will convict us of sin (Jn 16:8). In brief, our whole spiritual life depends on the work of the Holy Spirit in us, our response to His work and our sharing with Him in the work.

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The spiritual man does not work on his own, but the Spirit of God works in him, with him and by him.

He is a tool in Gods hand and a responding tool. He is a branch in the vine (Jn 15:1), He is fed from it and it gives him life. God works in us and without God we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).

Acting in the spirit does not mean only his human spirit but in communion with the Spirit of God. Only on this condition, one is called a spiritual man.

The Spirit of God directs him and guides him. He is the One that gives him spiritual warmth and grants him the gifts and the potentials by which he works. He also grants him the strength and the ability.

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The spiritual man also has the obedient spirit. He does not grieve the Spirit of God or resist Him or quench the Spirit.

He does not claim doing a work on his own, but he kneels before God saying: Let it be according to Your will, O Lord. I, by myself, did nothing, but: all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (Jn 1:3).


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