Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen, What the Bible Says About the Three Stages of Man

 Title: What the Bible Says About the Three Stages of Man

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:

The Natural Man

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
8 But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.
9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died;
10 the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me.
11 For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me.
12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

In these verses Paul explains that if the spiritual man (the saved man) is delivered from the law, the natural man (the lost man) is doomed by the law.  As a “natural man” Paul discovered that the law of God exposed the hidden nature of sin in his life.  The law did this in two ways. 

First, it showed him his sinful nature.  He said, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (v. 7) He saw, because of the law, a hideous caricature of what he was without God in his life. 

Second, the law activated his sinful nature.  It happened like this, “But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.  I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” (v. 8-9) Paul is saying that before the law was introduced, there was freedom from an accusing conscience, a kind of “false peace” brought about by his ignorance of sin.  The coming of the law changed all of this. Its straight edge revealed the crookedness in his human nature; and he became aware of his inability to keep the law.  Sin has no existence apart from God’s law, since by definition sin is the violation of God’s law.

The law of God also shows us the seriousness of sin.  All sin is against God; thus it demands eternal damnation and condemnation.  Since “the wages of sin is death,” we learn that the law not only reveals sin, but that it also produces death. 

There are at least fifteen Hebrew words in the Old Testament for sin and they cover the entire spectrum of all possible kinds of wrong attitudes toward God and others.  And the Greek New Testament has almost as many words to cover the various kinds of sin.  When you consider all these different words for sin, you have an idea of what God thinks about sin in all of its forms.

The law cannot save.  Salvation alone is the glorious prerogative of God’s incomparable grace. We are saved by grace, through faith, and not by anything that we do. Paul, as a sinner, found that even his best efforts to win salvation were to no avail.  The law that stood before him was “holy, and just, and good.”  It was an uncrossable barrier.  The best moral efforts he could muster shriveled up and died under the unrelenting searchlight of God’s perfect law.  The law revealed what was righteous, but it could not supply the power to be righteous.

There is yet another type of man, the carnal man.  Paul describes him in verses 14-18.

The Carnal Man

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.
17 So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

If the spiritual man is delivered from the law by the grace of God, and the natural man is doomed by the law, then the carnal man is defeated by the law.  Between what the law demands and what the flesh can produce, there is a “great gulf fixed.”

The temptation of the carnal man (the saved but defeated Christian) is continually to revert to human effort and good works as a means of earning God’s approval. The word carnal describes, then, a Christian who, though saved, is still in bondage to the power of the flesh.  He is constantly beset by the tugs and pulls of a self-centered ego.  It is this ego that Paul has designated as “the flesh.” 

In verses 13-15 Paul shows us the conflict in potentialities that exists in the Carnal Christian.  There is a clash within the carnal man because of the old, Adamic nature and the new Christ like nature existing side by side.  Even though he knows what’s right, he can’t do what’s right. 

Paul knows that in the Christian there are two wills.  There is the fleshly, sinful nature which causes him to sin and that which is born of God, which does not commit sin.  He doesn’t have the ability within himself to do good, so his will fluctuates between the domination of these two natures. 

The Living Bible paraphrases verse 18, it reads: “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned.  No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right.  I want to but I can’t.”  Paul describes a conflict within himself so intense that he is almost pulled apart at times.  The answer lies only in daily submission to the Holy Spirit.

In the last verses of Romans 7, Paul asks, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  It is Jesus Christ who has rescued us from the penalty of sin.  

In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (v 1).  Therefore, for those who are in Christ Jesus, we do not live under the constant threat of punishment by God. In many ways this chapter is the consummation of Paul’s argument concerning the depravity of man and the righteousness God provided to meet man’s need.  Even a casual reading of Romans 8 will leave us with the impression that the Spirit of God and the absence of an attitude of defeat go hand in hand.

Life in the Spirit enables us to live free from the law. This does not mean that the believer is free from sin or free from the prospect of death, but it does mean that the principle of sin and death does not have dominion over him. This indicates that Jesus Christ came to be the sin offering for us, since the law could not be that offering.

We do not fulfill the law by walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh, but God fulfills the law in us when we walk after the Spirit of God. Therefore, we are assured of the righteousness of God which the law could not provide but the atonement of Christ does provide.  Law brings out the worst in us, but love brings out the best in us. The Holy Spirit within us helps us to do what God wants us to do and to be what God wants us to be.


 

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