SPIRITUAL AND FLESHLY
First Corinthians 3:1-2 says, "And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshy, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet able to receive it. But neither yet now are you able." These few sentences are closely connected with the previous section. Furthermore, the teaching here follows the previous section and continues on the subject of the spirit of man. The division of the Bible into chapters and verses was made by men later for the sake of convenience; they are not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should look at these words together with the words in the previous chapter.
Before we cover the proper meaning of these two verses, let us look at the apostle Paul and consider how clear his spiritual perception was. He knew what kind of people would receive his letter, whether they were spiritual or soulish, and whether they were controlled by the spirit or were under the domination of the flesh. Although his speech was concerning the spiritual things, he did not feel that he could simply pour out everything to his listeners regardless of whether or not they could receive it. He only communicated spiritual things to spiritual men. It was not a matter of how much he had but how much his listeners could receive. There is not any sense of boasting in his own knowledge. The apostle received in his spirit the words which he needed to speak. He had the spiritual knowledge, and he also had the spiritual words. He knew how to deal with believers on different levels. Therefore, we ought to know the spiritual words or the words taught by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual words are not necessarily words fully loaded with profound matters of the Holy Spirit of God. Spiritual words are the words revealed by the Holy Spirit in the spirit. They may not be very high or profound. They may be very ordinary words and may not be special at all. The fact that these words are known through our intuition, as taught by the Holy Spirit, is what makes them spiritual words. When these words are spoken, there will be significant spiritual effects.
In the previous passages, the apostle told us that the intuition is the only faculty to know God, to fellowship with God, and to know the things of God. He also told us that in every regenerated spirit there is the mind of Christ; this means that every regenerated spirit understands what Christ will give us in the future. He then proceeded to divide all Christians into two categories—the spiritual and the fleshly. He also mentioned the difference between the intuitive power of these two kinds of Christians. These two verses are a response to the question, "If the spirit of man knows all the things of man, and if a spiritual man discerns all things, why are there so many Christians who are regenerated in their spirit yet do not feel that they have a spirit and are unable to know the many deep things of God through their spirit?"
In response to this kind of question, the apostle said, "But the spiritual man discerns all things." Even though Christians have a regenerated spirit, not all Christians are spiritual. There are many who are still fleshly! Although man’s intuition has been revived, man must still reserve a place for it and provide a chance for it to work. Otherwise, the intuition will be suppressed and unable to fellowship with God; it will not know what it is able to know. The "spiritual" believer does not do anything according to the mind, emotion, or will. He puts all these on the cross so that they will take a submissive position. In this way the intuition will have the full freedom to receive the revelation of God and direct the mind, emotion and will to carry out the revelation. However, "fleshly" believers are not this way. They are regenerated, and their intuition has become alive to God. They even have a good chance to become spiritual believers; nevertheless, they are bound by the flesh. The lusts of the flesh are still very strong and powerful, pressing them to sin. There are still many unbridled thoughts, reasons, and plans in the fleshly mind; there are still many fleshly interests, likes, and inclinations in the emotion; and there are still many worldly judgments, decisions, and opinions in the will. As a result, these believers walk according to the flesh day and night. They are busy and cannot find the time to listen to the voice of their intuition. The voice of the spirit is always very small. Even if a believer calms everything down and listens very attentively to this voice, he still may not hear it. How much worse will it be when every part of the flesh is stirred up throughout the day? When a believer is very manipulated and in every way affected by the flesh, his spirit becomes numb and unable to receive "solid food."
The Scripture likens a newly regenerated believer to a baby because the life he has obtained in the spirit is as feeble as a physical baby. There is no problem if the believer grows out of babyhood within a short time, because every grown-up begins by being a baby. However, if a believer remains a baby for a long time, and if the stature of his spirit remains the same several years after regeneration, then something is wrong. A man’s spirit can grow, and the intuition in the spirit can also grow and become stronger. A newborn baby does not have self-consciousness; his nerves are very feeble, and he is childish in every way. A newly regenerated believer is just the same. His spiritual life is like a spark of fire, and his intuition is feeble and not very functional. However, a baby should grow daily. His knowledge should be broadened daily through use, exercise, and growth until his self-consciousness becomes fully developed, and he can utilize his senses. The same is true with a believer. After he is regenerated, he should gradually learn to use his intuition. The more he uses it, the more experience and knowledge he will gain, and the more he will grow. Just as a person’s consciousness is not very keen when he is born, a believer’s intuition is not very sensitive when he is first regenerated.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)