"And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know ... For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 8:2, 13:9)

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New creation and transformation of the inward man

Synopsis: a significant part of the New Testament is a symbolic description of the functioning of the human psyche. Terms such as birth of the spirit, spiritual baptism, new creation, earnest, seal and anointing of the spirit, the Body of Christ, etc. describe this one theme from different perspectives. The aim of the lecture is to integrate the variety of New Testament terminology to illustrate how the Bible not only draws a coherent picture of human psychology, but also shows a method of character reform through learning and practicing the truth.

Personality = spirit + body

The basic theme of the Bible is reconciliation of man with God. In the New Testament, we find two main themes related to reconciliation: one concerning the way God provided the equivalent price of reconciliation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; the other concerning justification, i.e. the way in which personality is genuinely raised from sin to the standards of divine justice. The lecture is focused on justification, and special interest is laid on the Biblical terminology which describes this process. The New Testament uses a number of terms that take different perspectives on the human psyche and it is not obvious how they form a coherent picture. The graphic below lists a total of 18 such terms, some of which we understand even intuitively (e.g. reason and heart); others, on the other hand, seem to possess a very 'mystical', undefined dimension:

[the graphic displays only in desktop screen version, download as PDF]

The twofold structure of the graphic reflects the view that the human personality consists of the spirit and the body. It is, in a sense, an echo of the view that the church has kept for ages - that man consists of soul and body. However, in this context, the precision of concepts is a necessary condition for readability. First of all, from the point of view of Biblical terminology, the concept of the soul embraces the entire living being, and thus also the material body. Therefore, one cannot say that man consists of soul and body because the body is an element of the soul - man is a soul. In the lecture I do not speak about man as such, but about personality, i.e. about the elements that affect our behavior. Man seen in this way (i.e. reduced to instructions of behaviour) also consists of a spiritual and material element - spirit and body. This Biblical approach to the topic is increasingly corroborated by science, especially in the fields of quantum physics, epigenetics and, what is particularly important from the point of view of the subject of the lecture - psychology.

The basic fact that both the Bible and modern science speak about is that the human personality consists of two elements: permanent and changeable. Obviously, this is a certain simplification, but I use it here to convey the essence of things. Namely, the permanent element, which is what we commonly call the character, consists of traits of behavior that remain more or less constant over time. We do not control these reactions consciously - we simply set them off on the principle of stimulus-reaction. Because we enact these scripts outside the direct control of conscious thought, psychology talks about the subconscious. The Bible, on the other hand, refers to this aspect of behavior as the body (or the law of the body), because these are the mechanisms of behavior programmed in our nervous system - our body. An important feature of this system is that it works here and now. The law of the body does not include past or future, nor does it take into account arguments or points of view. The law of the body will trigger a reaction if the corresponding stimulus appears.

Whereas the body works on the 1-1 principle (action-reaction), the spirit works on the principle of x to 1. The consciousness has the tools to make a decision based on a lot of information covering more than just the present. Also the past and the future provide man with hints on how to proceed - on the basis of projections of the future we can decide today about the direction that will be the most beneficial. The amount of data the spirit can work on to take a decision is virtually unlimited. But this is at a certain cost. First of all, within a second consciousness can perform several operations, which means that it is much slower and more energy-intensive than the subconscious, which at the same time will perform several thousand of operations. This in turn reserves the action of consciousness for new, difficult situations. For economic reasons in known and repetitive situations our behavior is guided by the subconscious, or the body. According to research, 95 percent of our behavior results from the subconscious.

Justification of the spirit and the body

From the point of view of the Biblical teaching, the problem of sin concerns both the spirit and the body. The Spirit is about making the right decisions based on a sound understanding of the surrounding reality and the rules that govern it - in other words, it requires knowledge of the truth. If one does not understand why something is malfunctioning, the possibility that this will be corrected 'by chance' is close to zero. The lack of knowledge of the truth is the basic reason why Adam commits the original sin: seeing Eve with the fruit, he is convinced that the death sentence has also fallen on him (because he is one body with his wife). Everything that happens from that moment on results from this misconception. The ensuing fear of death in turn triggers in our forefather subconscious self-defense reflexes which lead to sin and make Adam hide from God, and when it does not work - put the whole blame on Eve ('the woman you gave me ...').

Reconciliation of man with God requires, therefore, not only the reform of consciousness (spirit), but also of the subconscious (body). The New Testament provides a multithreaded description of this process, using a number of concepts that have been mentioned in the graphic above. The basic premise is the teaching about the justification of the body: our subconscious instructions can be 'overwritten' with instructions that will conform to the principles of God. Because the image to which we change is Jesus Christ, our goal is the Body of Christ - working out new instructuions of behaviour corresponding with the character of the Lord. The image we wear in the body (subconscious) is to correspond to the greater, divine order. Therefore, the task of the spirit is to learn about this order - to know the truth - so that through its conscious observance the subconscious can be gradually transformed. That's the shortest way I could summarize the whole process. Below I offer a more detailed description with particular emphasis on Biblical terminology:

  1. Earnest (2 Cor. 1:21,22; Eph. 1:14) means that the spirit the love of truth - the agape love (2 Thes. 2:10-12) is given to the elect. The spirit works in the consciousness, causing the desire to learn about the Biblical teaching, how to follow it and serve it. The concept of the earnest refers to the 'start-up capital' that is to be developed into the maturity of understanding and practicing of the truth.
  2. Agape works in the symbolic heart (Rom. 5:5), which stands for the will to act. The notion of the spirit (Eph. 4:20-24; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 9:14) encompasses will and understanding - the mind (Lk. 24:45; Rom. 7:25). Subjection by the believers to the operation of the love of the truth begins the process of shaping of the new way of thinking - this change the Bibli calls begettal of the spirit (Jn. 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:15). That which is shaped is consciousness - the will to act on the basis of the truth. The renewed consciousness is called the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).
  3. The growth of the new creation means development in understanding of the larger structure of reality, understanding and application of the universal principles that govern man and have been shown in the Bible. Their superiority is shown in the symbol of the heavens (Eph. 1:3, 2:6; Col. 3:1-4) - just as the earth is 'immersed' in outer space and moves in accordance with the universal laws of physics, so man functions in a specific reality limited by laws which cannot be cancelled or changed.
  4. The subconscious - in the Biblical nomenclature called the body (Mt 6:22,23; Rom. 8:1-11; 2 Cor. 4:10,11), natural man (1 Cor. 2:14) or inward man (Rom. 7:22) - is susceptible to shaping new behavioral patterns. The development in knowledge and practice of the truth at the level of the spirit transfers the image (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) of the truth to the body. This process of identification of the body with the spirit the apostle Paul calls the sealing (2 Cor. 1:21,22; Eph. 1:13). The sealing leads to the birth of the spirit (Jn. 1:12,13; 1 Pet. 1:23) - the beginning of the complete personality (body and spirit) in the image of Jesus Christ.
  5. If the body means built-in, subconscious patterns of behavior, patterns modelled on the image of Jesus Christ the Bible calls the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 12:12,13). The character of the Lord has an archetypal dimension because every creature must ultimately be in accordance with the principles he represented. From this point of view, the Bible speaks of the believers that they are in Christ. If, however, the point of reference is individual development, then Christ is in us (Col. 1:27, 3:11).
  6. If the sealing process is advanced and involves the entire person, then we can speak of the anointing of the spirit (2 Cor. 1:21,22) or baptism in the spirit (Acts 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:13). Baptism literally means immersion; spiritual baptism means immersion in the spirit of Christ of the whole person - spirit and body. The anointing conveys the same sense. When the priest was anointed under the Old Covenant, oil was poured over his head in such a quantity that it ran down to the edge of the robes (thus embracing the whole person).

In conclusion, the purpose of the lecture was not argumentation, obviously. If this were the case, the thematic scope of the issues presented here would require a book form rather than lecture. My goal here was to organize concepts around a common topic that I think they belong to - the theme of personality change (justification). I hope that the form and logic of the text turned out to be interesting for the reader. Ultimately, however, the belief comes through experience - personal experience of the Word of God. The content of the lecture can at best be a help or a clue. Regardless, I wish all readers that the personal work of the study of the Bible will give effect in the form of an ever deeper and more precise understanding of the Scripture as a whole, as well as its diverse spiritual terminology.

Keywords: new creation, inward man