What Does it Mean to Be “Spiritual?”

by Jerry Senn

"Brothers [and sisters], if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you also be tempted." 
— Galatians 6:1

Paul had just warned the Galatians with these words, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25). Even earlier (in chapter 5) he had urged them to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (v16).

This is perhaps why Paul presents the nine spiritual attributes (fruit) Christians are to continue developing in their daily walk. He lists, love, joy, peach, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (vv 22-23).

Being a spiritual person is “one whose life and conduct alike are controlled by the Spirit of Christ . . . Since gentleness is included in the fruit of the Spirit (5:23), it follows that spiritual people will take this or any other kind of action ‘in a spirit of gentleness’. . . It is easy for certain types of religious people to sit in judgment on one who has suddenly yielded to some moral temptation, to make their disapproval manifest, but this is not the way of Christ . . . Paul empresses on them that one test of true spirituality is a readiness to set those who stumble by the wayside on the right road again in a sympathetic and [uncritical) spirit” (FF Bruce, “The Epistle to the Galatians”).

And so, what does it mean to be Spiritual? It means, in all the complex and difficult decisions of life, the spiritual person will ask himself or herself “what would a person who is indwelt by the Spirit of God do? Paul isn’t referring, in our text, to “some super-spiritual” group of elite Christians, he is saying to ordinary Christians, if you follow the desires of the Spirit, you will be in that act a “spiritual” person.”

"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." 
— 1 Corinthians 10:12