Paul's Seven Men
Richard Jeffery, Reading, England
In his writings, Paul makes frequent allusions to men of seven different classes. In the broad outlook, he distinguishes only two, namely “saved” and “lost”, as in 1 Corinthians 1.18, where he speaks of “them that perish” and those “which are saved”. But when he wishes to speak of those of the old order “in Adam”, and those of the “new creation”, 2 Cor. 5. 17 j.n.d., he uses varying prefixes to denote his seven men. Let us look at these, noticing how thoroughly the apostle by the Spirit of God has set forth these things for our instruction.
1. The First Man
Adam was the head and the first of the race; see Acts 17. 26. He was “created”, Gen. 1. 27; he was “formed”, 2. 7; he joined Eve in disobedience, 3. 6. The fruit of this is described in Genesis 3 by the words “afraid”, v. 10; “sorrow”, v. 16; “cursed is the ground”, v. 17; “sweat”, v. 19. Guilt is implied in verses 12-13, and banishment in verse 24. The apostle writes “The first man is of the earth, earthy”, 1 Cor. 15. 47, and this man is confined within the limitations of all that is of the earth. Moreover, this is characteristic of the whole human race, “As is the earthy (man of dust), such are they also that are earthy”, v. 48. We see then that we derive our nature from this first man; sinners in the sight of God have the sentence of death, through sin, upon them, Rom. 5. 12; 6. 23.
2. The Natural Man
The natural man is another man often alluded to by Paul. He is the ordinary unconverted man, whether educated or illiterate, civilized or uncivilized, religious or not. He is governed by natural instincts, appetites and senses. In 1 Corinthians 2. 14, Paul says of the natural man that he “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”. From this and other Scriptures we see, then, that this natural man is unable to understand the things of God; like the pious and learned Nicodemus, he knew not “these things”, John 3. 10, for the things of God are only made known to man by the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2.11. The Spirit indwells every born-again person, thus enabling them to receive the things of God.
3. The New Man
We now come to a brief consideration of the new man, who is born again and a Christian in the true sense. The proper rendering of 2 Corinthians 5.17 is “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation”. Such a man has not mended his ways or taken up religion; rather he has been born again, having repented of his sins and having received the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Thus, according to the promise of God, he has received the divine gift of everlasting life, John 5. 24. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, such men are “partakers of the divine nature”, 2 Pet. 1. 4, having been “born again, . . . by the word of God”, 1 Pet. 1. 23.
There should be no confusion between this “new man” and the “new man” in Ephesians 2.15, where the apostle writes of the Jew and Gentile made one in Christ, the “middle wall of partition” having been broken down by the cross.
4. The Old Man
This name is not, of course, a reference to some aged person as some might suppose; rather it is the term that Paul uses to denote that old nature in the believer that is still present “to tempt and annoy”. The great apostle was no less troubled by the old man than any of us. He is very emphatic about identifying him and his works, and gives us Spirit-taught advice as to how we are to deal with him. In Romans 6. 6, for example, he writes: “our old man is crucified with him”; this is the language of faith. Believing that Christ died for us, we reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin”, v. 11. The language of faith is supplemented by works. For example, “put off concerning the former conversation (behaviour) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts”, Eph. 4. 22; “put on the new man, . . . putting away” things characteristic of the old man, vv. 24-31.
5. The Carnal Man
This is Paul’s description of a Christian who is not getting on very well in the life of faith. Carnal is another word for “fleshly”, denoting that behaviour which is similar to that of any unconverted person. It is the exact opposite of “spiritual”, Rom. 8. 5-9. In these verses the apostle points out the way in which the carnal mind is opposed to the spiritual mind. The carnal mind manifests itself in many ways; see, for example, 1 Corinthians 3. 1-4. In this passage, Paul points out to the saints at Corinth the marks of their carnality, namely, envying, strife and divisions. Because of this, they were unable to take the meat of the Word of God, and, as babes stunted in growth, they could only assimilate milk, or the elementary truths of the Gospel. Paul’s ministry amongst the Corinthians was thus a restricted ministry; he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, v. 1.
Some of the Hebrews were also stunted through carnality, Heb. 5. 13. They were senile and dull of hearing, so instead of being teachers as they ought to have been, they had need to be taught again the rudiments of the Word of God. Their senility produced hardness of hearing, v. 11, and loss of memory, v. 12.
6. The Spiritual Man
Here is a man whom we should all seek to emulate. The spiritual man is one whom the Spirit not only indwells (as is true of every believer, Rom. 8. 9), but also controls. He has the ability to “know the things ... of God”, 1 Cor. 2. 12, to speak words which the Holy Spirit teaches, v. 13, and to recognize and acknowledge “the commandments of the Lord”, 14. 37. One of his most useful spheres is in the practical realm, where his spirituality is such that it disproves the strange notion held by some that one can become so spiritually minded as to become of no earthly use. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To what sort of person does Paul appeal when he seeks spiritual first-aid for a believer who falls into sin? Does he appeal to the brother who has a persuasive manner, or the brother who is an employer and knows how to handle offenders? Does he suggest obtaining help from one who has rather an overbearing manner in the assembly and might scare the wrong-doer into getting things put right? No! the apostle has had a long experience helping those who have fallen by the way and is well qualified to give his advice as led by the Spirit of God. Consider Galatians 6. 1, for example: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault (this may be called a mishap), ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted”. The spiritual man is called in to render first-aid to his fallen brother. His primary object is restoration, not remonstration. He will not assume the spirit of the Pharisee, and say in effect, “I am not as other men are”, Luke 18. 11, or “this is not the way I should behave”. Rather he will be as his Master, “meek and lowly in heart”, Matt. 11. 29, and in such a spirit he will be used by the Lord to effect the restoration of the one who has been overtaken. At the same time, he will consider himself liable to be tempted in the same way, and will remember the exhortation, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”, 1 Cor. 10. 12.
The spiritual man (or woman) acts in the same manner as did the Samaritan in Luke 10. 33. Seeing the unfortunate traveller fallen amongst thieves, he “came where he was”, and rendered loving help. Or again, the prophet Jeremiah takes his place with the nation of Israel and confesses: “The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!”, Lam. 5. 16. He identifies himself with a fallen people, and cries to the Lord for their recovery.
7. The Second Man
Alternatively, the Second Man is called “the last Adam”, and clearly refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Second Man in that He is Head of the new creation; He is “from heaven”, as distinct from the first man who “is of the earth, earthy”, 1 Cor. 15. 47. In using the title “the last Adam”, v. 45, Paul indicates that there will not be another.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthy so “we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”, v. 49. What an incentive for the believer to seek to show those features of the heavenly Man now! As we read of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel records, we are given a glimpse of how very different He was from all other men. There was a complete absence of all those Adamic marks of failure which so mar even the best of Christians.
As we have briefly noted these seven men in Paul’s writings, may the lessons that God would teach us become more clear, and by the help of His Holy Spirit may we be enabled to bear the image of the Second Man, as did those early disciples, when the people “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus”, Acts 4. 13.