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044 Not Human

The last time I wrote to you all, I began with John's observation that when Jesus appears the second time, we will "be like Him, for we will see Him just as He is." (I John 3:2b, NASB). That sounds a little bit weird to us, almost as though we're not going to be exactly human.

It turns out that that is precisely what it means.

Take a look at Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. He was chastising them for dividing along sectarian lines, creating rivalries between factions following his teaching as opposed to those following Apollos' teaching, or Peter's, or even Jesus'. The first three chapters of this letter address what is the basis of Christian unity--and it's not the particulars of anybody's teaching, it's a common relationship that all believers have in the Christ.

(As a brief rabbit trail, I note that an awful lot of Protestant teachers misuse this passage to attempt to prove that unity occurs by all of us breaking out our Bibles and agreeing about what it says. They accomplish this feat of misinterpretation by highlighting one line out of the entire 3 chapters and misreading it: I Corinthians 1:10 says that they should "be of one mind." That phrase expresses nothing more than a general desire that the Corinthians shouldn't squabble, but these folks import their own preconception that that means that we should all agree about what the Bible teaches. "See?" they announce, confidently. "We're supposed to agree. So we have to examine the scriptures." It somehow escapes their notice that the next three chapters explicitly teach something very different from that, observing that the point is not who teaches what but rather that the same God provides the growth regardless of who's teaching what. There's certainly nothing wrong with examining the scriptures, but our unity doesn't come from that, it comes from recognizing our common relationship with God through Christ. But I digress.)

At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul explains how he approached them when he first visited them, teaching them as though they were what they were: infants in Christ. His point was not to chide them about their immaturity, which was perfectly normal considering that they had been newly born into the Kingdom of God at the time, but to explain that the version of his teaching that they were using to exalt themselves was the kindergarten version of the faith. His point was "You're arguing over the kindergarten version. How stupid is that?"

But take a look at how he expresses that. He uses several words to contrast what they were with what they could have become. They were "sarkikoi," from the Greek "sarx" which means "flesh." He couldn't speak to them as though they were "pneumatikoi", or "spirit-people." They were "sarkikoi," or "flesh-people." And then he equates "sarkikoi," with "anthropoi," which means literally "human beings." "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (I Corinthians 3:3b)

One wants to ask Paul, "What did you expect them to behave like? Zebroi? Octopoi?"

Paul meant what he said. The sort of behavior they were manifesting was common human behavior. "Sarkikoi," (flesh-people) feel jealousy toward each other, and that leads to quarreling. "I really don't like the way that she flirts around." "He's so arrogant. It makes me sick." "I would have said that so much better than he did." "If he could read, he'd be a [Calvinist|Arminian|Dispensationalist|Covenantalist|what have you] like me." And so forth. This, Paul calls "behaving like a human being." Note that the word "only" in that passage, "behaving only in a human way," does not actually occur in the passage; it's implied by the tone, but there's no Greek word expressing "only." He simply says "...behaving like anthropoi."

The contrast to this is behaving like Spirit-led people, "pneumatikoi", who are not human beings.

There are a handful of places where Paul describes "pneumatikoi". In his letter to the Romans, for one instance, Paul says that when people live according to the Spirit they fulfill the "righteous requirement of the Law" (Romans 8:4). They're living in a manner that God intended for us to live from the beginning, but in which none of us have succeeded in living. "The fruit of the Spirit," he explains to the Galatians, "is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...." (Galatians 5:22-23a). These, he contrasts with behavior that obviously expresses the patterns of the flesh: "...sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19b-21a).

The point is that in the Spirit, we're being made into something that is not really human. It's something else; something higher, something better, something that feels at home in heaven. As humans, we can't inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21b). Paul says exactly that elsewhere as well: "...flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). But he says instead, "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." (I Corinthians 15:49).

We'll see Him as He is, and we'll be like Him. Not human. Something higher, from heaven.

And the point he's making to the Corinthians in chapter 3 is that they're supposed to be taking on the characteristics of those heavenly creatures already. They're supposed to be becoming "pneumatikoi" rather than "sarkikoi", because "sarkikoi" are just "anthropoi". In the flesh, they're only human. In the Spirit, they're not human at all; they're something better.

Now, let's be candid. I'm just as "only human" as you are. I'm embarrassed to tell you just how "only human" I am. It's ugly. It's evil. And it's depressingly common. We don't know anybody who's truly "not human," though in fact some of us may know some folks who begin to commence to start to sort of approach that, a little.

But there's much, much more for us in the Spirit. If we do it right--if we approach Him willing to be transformed as He wants to transform us--we can become something utterly different from what we've already become. There is so much more for us that we have a hard time imagining it.

And the "so much more" that is available, is available right now. We just have to make ourselves available to be transformed.

Remember the last memo, in which I described how we're drinking of God as though from a huge keg with our mouths on the spout and our hand on the spigot? And how it's not God's hand on the spigot, regulating how much we get? It's our own hand? Imagine, if you can, God's great, gentle hand covering ours on the tap, and Him asking "Will you let me step up the pace a little? Will you let me show you how much more you can drink?" He's not going to drown us. If we understand His character, we know that He's not going to force us to drink any more than we're willing to drink. But He's eager to give us more than we've ever imagined. All we have to do is ask for it, then obey whatever He tells us next. It's there for us.

Let's make time for God regularly, and tell Him "Change me so that I willingly turn up the tap and get more of You." We have nothing to lose but our flesh...and whether we like it or not, we're already slated to become something more than human.

Next time, as Christmas approaches, I'll try to say something about how we can make ourselves more available to God to be made into whatever-it-is-that-we're-supposed-to-become. See you then.

Phil Weingart


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