What the Bible Says About the Three Stages of Man Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: What the Bible Says About the Three Stages of Man Part 1
Series: What the Bible Says About....
Text: “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom 7:6)
Scripture Reading: Romans 7
In Romans 7, Paul describes man as being either a natural man, a carnal man, or a spiritual man. All of us fit into one of those categories. At one time or another each of us may have lived as a natural man or woman, a carnal man or woman or a spiritual man or woman. Let me begin by giving you a brief description of the three stages of man.
The natural man or woman is the unsaved person and he can rise no higher than his intellectual or moral powers can lift him.
The carnal man or woman is a saved man or woman who is still subject, at least partially, to the power of sin and he lives under the control of the old nature of Adam that is within him.
The spiritual man or woman is the believer whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Today, we are going to learn about the three stages of man from the seventh chapter of Romans. The spiritual man is described in verses 1-6; the natural man in verses 7-13; and the carnal man in verses 14-18. Let’s begin by reading the first six verses of Romans 7. Here is where Paul describes the spiritual man.
The Spiritual Man
1 Do you not know, brethren—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during his life?
2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.
3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.
5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
Paul says first that the spiritual man (the saved man) has been delivered from the law. He is speaking of the Mosaic Law. For our purposes today, just think of the Ten Commandments when we refer to the law or to the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law had over a thousand year’s trial with God’s chosen people. Yet Israel didn’t keep the law. Remember that Stephen in his defense said that they had, “…received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:53).
Both the laws of God and civil laws have a hold on us for as long as we live. What’s the old saying, “Nothing’s certain, but death and taxes.” You can’t escape the tax laws, and you can’t escape death.
Next, Paul denounced a religion that consists of trying to earn good points with God by keeping the Law. He illustrates this with the analogy of the marriage relationship. A married woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. When her husband dies, however, she is free to remarry. The parallel idea is that Christians, having died to the Law, are free to be joined to Christ. So we might ask the question, “How is this fact, that the power of the law ends at death, revealed in the life of the spiritual man?” The answer is that he is no longer “trying” for victory any more than he is “trying” to be saved. The spiritual Christian has discovered a more thrilling way to victory in his life. Because of his identification with Christ in His death, the claims of the law are broken.
That’s what it said in verse 4, “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
Through Christ’s death at Calvary, we are dead to the law. Sin can no longer dominate us and neither can the law. As believers, we are under grace which promises us strength to do what God’s Word commands, and then it pardons us when we fall short and repent. The purpose for our being dead to the law, and married to another, the Lord Jesus Christ, is so that we can bring forth fruit unto God. The fruit which we are to bring forth is the living of a righteous life and winning others to the Lord.
The spiritual man has also discovered a more thorough way to victory. The failure of the flesh no longer overwhelms him. According to verse 5, “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” Paul explains, that when we were natural beings (that is, when we were lost), that the law ignited our sinful passions. It told us what sin was, but it didn’t give us the power to overcome it.
Note the Living Bible’s paraphrase of verse 6, “…and now you can really serve God; not in the old way, mechanically obeying a set of rules, but in the new way, with all of your hearts and minds.” We no longer have to serve God by keeping a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts”; instead, Christ’s law of love is written in our heart. We don’t obey the new law, which Christ brought, because we fear God, but we obey because we love Him.
When we were under the law and married to sin, we tended to do only enough to meet the minimum standards of God. But now that we are married to Christ, we want to be all that we can be and to do all that we can do to please him and to demonstrate our love for Him.
Paul did not say that the law is dead, but what he said was that we are dead to the law. The Ten Commandments still apply, and you sin when you break any one of them. However, the law has lost its power to condemn us because of our union with Christ, and because the sufferings of Christ in His body when He was crucified answered the demands of the law and purchased for us a covenant of grace. The Holy Spirit provides the power to live in newness of life with Christ. That is Paul’s picture of the spiritual man. Next, he describes the natural man in verses 7-13. He wrote: