Christian Life Distinctives
Christian life distinctions we need to know
- Spiritual. Spiritual comes from the Greek word pneumatikos, which means pertaining to or relating to the Spirit. By its lexical meaning and its use in the context it refers to one who is at any point in time rightly related to the Holy Spirit. Most of the Scripture passages that teach about the Holy Spirit and believers show that the Holy Spirit works in us so we can serve God correctly. The ministry of the Holy Spirit emphasizes function in our lives. A central passage is Galatians 5, specifically Galatians 5:16-6:1, and it means walking by the Holy Spirit in the sense that one needs the Holy Spirit to live correctly. You may have learned it as “filled with the Holy Spirit” from Ephesians 5:18. Only a Christian can be spiritual. A believer is either spiritual or carnal. Some confuse spirituality with maturity. In some contexts it may have that meaning, but I question that. Some understand 1 Corinthians 2.15 as spiritual maturity, but it is better understood as one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and is also walking by the Holy Spirit. Personal sin takes one out of being spiritual into being carnal. Confession of sin (1 John 1) changes one from living by the flesh and puts one into living by the Holy Spirit. We continue on living by the Holy Spirit by faith, or depending on the Holy Spirit. Spirituality can be summarized by 1. walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), 2. grieve not the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and 3. quench not the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Zechariah 4.6 is an Old Testament example of the need for the ministry of the Holy Spirit for correct service for God: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”
- Spiritual or Christian growth. Spiritual growth refers to the progressive advancement in the biblical faith. This of course depends on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, fellowship, learning God’s word, faith, testing, and application. Ephesians 4:12, 14, 15; 2 Peter 3:14-18, 1 Peter 2.2, Hebrews 5:11-6:6, and others refer to this.
- Spiritual or Christian maturity. Spiritual maturity refers to the various stages or levels of spiritual growth. These levels are not very clear in the Bible, though I think we could demonstrate some. This is different from spirituality in which both immature believers and mature believers can be either spiritual or carnal at any point in time. Ephesians 4:13, Hebrews 5:11-6:6, Colossians 1:28, James 1:4 and others speak of spiritual maturity. Galatians 4.19, Ephesians 4.13, Romans 13.14, and 2 Peter 1.4 all refer to the goal and possibility of spiritual maturity.
- Sanctification. Sanctification refers to a set apart condition. Believers are set apart for God’s priestly service. There are three kinds of sanctification. 1. Positional which every believer has (Acts 26.18; 1 Corinthians 1.2, 30; 6.11; Ephesians 1.1; 2 Thessalonians 2.13; Hebrews 10.10; 1 Peter 1.2); 2. experiential or progressive which is the day to day sanctification (John 17.17; Romans 6.19, 22; 12.1; 2 Corinthians 7.1; 1 Thessalonians 4.3-7; 5.23; Hebrews 12.10, 14; 1 Peter 1.15); and 3. Ultimate or absolute which occurs in heaven (Philippians 3.21; 1 John 3.1-2; Jude 24-25).
- Fellowship with God. This emphasizes the friendship relationship with God the Father and the Son. Sin breaks the fellowship; confession of sin restores the fellowship. When in fellowship with God, believers partner with God in service and enjoy a close friendship. The central passages are 1 John 1 and John 13. Since one is no longer walking in darkness (sin), the Holy Spirit also leads and controls the believer as Galatians 5 teaches. John 15:1-9 use the term “abide” which also refers to fellowship with Jesus Christ.
- Carnality. Carnality comes from the word for flesh, sarkikos, and by extension often refers to man living apart from God’s power and Word, whether a believer or unbeliever. When one lives by his own power, he is directed by or living by his human fallen nature which works through the flesh or body. The believer who lives by his human nature instead of by the Holy Spirit is said to be carnal. The central passage is 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where believers are living like unbelievers and are called carnal. Galatians 5:16-21 states the conflict between the flesh and the Holy Spirit, and gives some works of the flesh that are sins. Carnality is opposite to spirituality. Confession of sin to God restores the believer to walking in the light and to fellowship (1 John 1), to walking by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5), to one living rightly related to the Holy Spirit, or spiritual (1 Corinthians 2.9-3.4).
- Eternal Security. Eternal security means that when a person believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, God keeps that one’s salvation secure. He can never lose his eternal life. The Bible clearly teaches that once we believe in Jesus Christ as savior, our eternal destiny is fixed and secure. Security looks at our eternal salvation from God’s viewpoint (Ephesians 1:13-14; John 10:27-30).
- Assurance of Salvation. Assurance means that you, a believer in Jesus Christ have confidence that you are in the family of God, that your sins are forgiven, and you have eternal life. Assurance looks at our eternal salvation from man’s viewpoint. The central passage is 1 John 5:13. Each clear verse about eternal salvation, such as John 3:16, stresses the basis for assurance is because God keeps his word.
- Christian service—ministry. Christian service is serving God and believers through the power of the Holy Spirit, mainly in the area of one’s spiritual gift, through godly love, when abiding in Christ, and to God’s glory. This is the application and expression of the Christian life (John 15:1-5; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
- Godly love or Christian love. This is God’s kind of love in us for others, especially for believers. John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 demonstrate that God’s love is sacrificial. Since this is true, godly love—Christian love—is also sacrificial. It is produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer who is walking or living by the Holy Spirit’s power (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 5:5). Christian love is not dependent on the person who is loved. It depends on the source. Godly love pleases God (2 John 5-6). The basic idea in godly love is sacrifice for others—think of others first and do for them that which is in accord with God’s will and God’s good. Furthermore, it includes many ideas: responsibility, which is being accountable to God, to doctrinal principles, and to one’s level of spiritual growth; protection of others by way of verbal protection (what we say), mental protection (our thoughts), and physical protection; self-control which relates to sacrifice, responsibility, and protection; and thankfulness. First Corinthians 13:4-7 personifies love by saying what it is and does, and what it is not and does not do. Godly love contrasts to friendship love which is for certain people among those one knows.