1 Corinthians 15:46
However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
I. THE NATURAL PRECEDES THE SPIRITUAL. This is seen in —
1. Nature. Not until the earth was complete did God create man, a spiritual being, "in His own image and after His own likeness," etc. Thus man stands at the head of the creation. By his physical organisation, which is natural, he is connected with all that is below him. But by his higher nature, which is spiritual, he is allied with God.
2. History. A nation is well advanced before it exhibits marked spiritual characteristics. Our own ancestors were rude men. Now the Anglo-Saxon race leads the world of thought.
3. The progress of revelation. The Old Testament histories and genealogies prepare the way for Christian doctrine. Bible study proceeds from the natural to the spiritual.
4. The development of religious life. "When I was a child I spake as a child," etc. The existence of such a principle suggests the necessity of great consideration for weakness. "We then that are strong ought to bear," etc. Weakness may be on the way to strength. Therefore it should be encouraged.
II. THE NATURAL CONDITIONS THE SPIRITUAL. The spiritual life must inevitably be affected by the natural life with which it is associated. What a help health is to the spiritual faculties! what a restraint sickness is! As dissipation enfeebles the body, it very soon weakens the mind. How distressing it is to see a really great man like Solomon or Alexander a slave to dissipation! We feel that this is robbery. The spiritual power of such men requires the best assistance of their natural powers. How much has been lost in this way!
III. THE SPIRITUAL GOVERNS THE NATURAL.
1. The questions, What shall I eat? What shall I drink? What is the limit of indulgence? are answered here. The natural is for the spiritual, the spiritual governs the natural. That which is truly best for the spiritual must determine the activities of the natural.
2. The more spiritual classes cannot thrive if the less spiritual classes are neglected. The thought and the sympathy of the palace must enter the hut and transform it into a neat cottage. The thought and the sympathy of the hut must go out to the palace, that the helping hand of kindly interest may be grasped. The masses must be instructed. But if the masses need education, then surely they must be willing to be taught. Christianity urges all men to be considerate, the higher to consider the lower, the lower to consider the higher.
IV. THE NATURAL IS TO GIVE WAY TO THE SPIRITUAL. Not until the spiritual is completely realised does man discover the end of his existence. A tree lives, blossoms, bears fruit, and dies. It has accomplished the purpose of its existence. Not so, however, with man. He just begins to live when he dies. How emphatic are the words of Christ! "I am the Resurrection and the Life," etc. "I am come that they might have life," etc.
(H. M. Booth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.