Supposedly, we are in a time of spiritual awakening—I mean, with angels floating around our heads and paranormal activity on the increase, we now hear the words “spiritual” and “spiritual-ity” often—even on TV and at the movies!
Now Christians are obviously not opposed to the spiritual, in fact, we embrace it. Nevertheless, it may be that we have missed what a spirituality centered in Christ really is.
In our culture “spiritual” often means no more than “religious” or even “ritualistic.” Yet, more recently, “spiritual” is good while “religious” is bad. So all in all, being spiritual is a bit confusing.
If, though, we allow the New Testament (NT), and particularly Paul—after all it was he coined this word—define what it means to be spiritual, we come up with a completely different understanding than those current in popular thought.
Paul thought of the word in relationship to the Holy Spirit, thus he spoke of Spirit-uality. The Greek word translated spiritual occurs 17 times in the NT, literally means something like spirit-ness.
Thus, for Paul, spirituality had nothing to do with being religious—a thought both Jesus and Paul repudiated—but with what happens to a person who encounters God’s Spirit—that is, what happens when our spirits come in contact with God’s Spirit.
For example, in 1 Cor. 3:1, Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, we were not able to speak to you as those who are spiritual (led by the Spirit) but as those who are carnal (led by the flesh), even as babies in Christ.”
While Paul touches on being spiritually immature here, the focus is on our unwillingness to yield to the Spirit of God, and this is the way one becomes Spiritual. Paul had already pointed out that the unspiritual, (those without the Spirit of God) cannot understand the things of God for they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:10-16).
Thus, being spiritual in the New Testament has to do with being changed by the presence of God—that is what the Spirit symbolizes: God living in us.
For those interested in following what the New Testament say about being Spiritual, the references are: Rom. 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1Cor. 2:13-15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3, 4; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 1:3; 5:19; 6:12; Col. 1:9; 3:16; and 1Pet. 2:5.