When we understand how God made us, and the changes wrought through salvation, we are better equipped to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. We need to start with a solid understanding and description of what we are, and what our environment is. If you are a regenerated Christian, you can say, “I am a spirit, I have a soul and I spend this time in this body.”
The Body & the Natural Realm
God created us with bodies. Each of us lives in a unique body, inherited genetically from our parents, who inherited their bodies from their parents, and so on. The body is made up of skin, muscle, circulatory system, heart, brain, etc. Our body was made to function in this earthly environment for a limited time and under earthly restrictions, and it is our body that communicates and relates to this world. The body has five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. The body is not a spiritual entity, but is often affected by what goes on in both the soul and the spirit. Before we were born into this world, we did not have the body we have now, and after we die, it will go into the ground (in one way or another). The body is not eternal.
Because the body is a part of the natural realm, it is subject to natural laws. Some of these are time, decay, hunger, pain (sunburn, broken bones) and tiredness. Illness, stress and accidents are also a part of this realm. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust; the positive and the negative of the natural realm do not discriminate between believers and non-believers. Likewise, natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and the like do not always represent signs or judgment from God.
Warfare in the natural realm consists of taking care of our bodies; generally speaking, most of us don’t have any trouble seeing the need for brushing our teeth, eating properly, exercising regularly and getting proper sleep (though we may not actually do them). We do need to be aware, however, that when our bodies break down, it is often a clear indication that there is something wrong in the soulical realm.
We need to not only take care of our bodies (God loves your body), but also be aware of what is going on in the natural realm. God is constantly speaking through creation; this is one of the reasons there is such debate regarding the creation of the universe, the evolution of man, and the existence of alien life. In his present state, man often relies on “faith in the insupportable” to divert his thoughts from being confronted daily by the infinite majesty and order of the created natural realm (it takes more faith to believe in the poorly researched and illogical hypotheses of much of the scientific community than it does to believe in an infinitely creative God. By the way, among evolutionists, there is no agreement on what the main tenets of evolution should be, except that evolution opposes creation. True science wonderfully reveals God’s existence and workings in the natural realm; it’s often when we try to apply scientific, natural reasoning to the supernatural and spiritual realms that science turns into deception and manipulation).
We can conclude that that which pertains to the natural realm is subject to natural laws, and is under the control of the One Who created it.
The Spirit & The Spiritual Realm
Spiritually speaking, there are only two kinds of people on the earth today — dead and alive! God first created man after His own likeness: as like begets like, Spirit begets Spirit. The thing brought forth depends on the seed.
There is no specific mention of a “human spirit” in the scriptures. The idea is expressed in a variety of ways, from spirit to heart and kidney in the Old Testament, yet the same word, pneuma, is rendered evil spirit and the spirit of God in the New Testament (for instance, in the first chapter of Mark the word “spirit” is rendered as the Spirit of God, Jesus’s spirit, and unclean spirits). In this case, the scriptures shed surprisingly little light on this issue, except that one of the purposes of the Word is to divide between an individual’s spirit and soul. This is important, in that it clearly differentiates between the two, even if there is no clarification of the boundaries, purposes or destiny of each (there is no mention of an eternal soul, or eternal spirit, for that matter). It is the spirit that communicates with and relates to God. Since we were born dead in our spirit, it took an act of the spirit to enable us to even hear God’s knocking. Without our spirits functioning, we had to make do with what we had control over — our soul (mind, will and emotions) and our body to meet our God-given needs for love, acceptance and value.
Spirit of God
Generally speaking, when we speak of something in terms of its being “spiritual,” what we are really saying is that it has a spiritual source and spiritual attributes. What are these attributes, and where do they come from? If like begets like, and Spirit begets Spirit, what is true of the seed is true of what that seed grows into, even if it appears different. For example, Jesus was begotten of the Father, by the Holy Spirit. What attributes are we speaking of here? Holiness, Righteousness, Peace, Eternal Life, Joy, Omnipotence, Omniscience, et cetera. All of the characteristics or attributes of the Father are found in the Son through the Holy Spirit! So for something to be truly Spiritual, it would have to have those same characteristics. Likewise the spiritual realm would be described in those terms; in the true spiritual realm, there is no shadow of turning, no mistakes, no doubt, no flesh. There is only the Perfect Presence of Love.
The spiritual realm has its own set of senses that function there. When God originally created Adam in the garden, He breathed into them His own life; He made them a living soul. He breathed into them zoe; a part of Himself. Before they were lowered, the man (image of God), and then, after they were divided, Adam and Eve, retained the spiritual senses required to have perfect communion (communication to the degree that all their needs were met just by being with Him) with the Living God.
Because we humans have a tendency to believe everything revolves around ourselves, we have transferred our ideas of our senses as we experience them today onto the senses Adam and Eve must have experienced with God in the garden. They walked with Him, spoke with Him, saw, felt, heard and probably even smelled His presence, and were heard, etc., by Him in return. Who knows what it was truly like? But we do know that after they sinned, and God’s Spirit was withdrawn from them, they no longer had the senses necessary to commune with Him on the level that truly satisfied their deepest needs.
What loneliness and desolation they must have felt! On their own for the first time in their lives (we have no idea how long they were in the garden before they sinned), they suddenly had to rely on their soulical and natural senses to try to meet their needs on all levels. God must have seemed a million miles away; even if He appeared to them, all they had left were their natural and soulical senses to communicate with Him, poor substitutes for the spiritual senses indeed!
But they muddled through, learning to use what they had, though obviously mis-interpreting their surroundings and God’s dealings with them at every turn. And so it is today — because the senses we are often relying on are still the wrong ones. Through Christ we became spiritual beings, and the true spiritual senses are now again available. But in order to experience them, the other senses, both soulical and natural, have to be seen as the substitutes (sometimes idols) that they are. Spirit speaks to spirit, and God did not pay that Great Price to commune with us over the telephone, or even Face to face, but Spirit to spirit.
The environment inhabited by God is what we can refer to as the “spiritual environment.” This is where He dwells, and because we are in Him, this is truly where we already dwell (in spiritual places). Because we have not had our spiritual senses tuned, we often don’t realize the reality of where we already are, and so often misunderstand what our Father is doing and saying. We feel out of place here on earth, but instead of understanding that the reality we yearn for is available for us now (in spirit), we focus on the supernatural realm, which we can partially understand, investing in a future heaven-state. In this way we put off till “someday” what God is doing in us and through us today!
There is no true “spiritual” warfare, that is, between spiritual beings or in the spiritual realm. By definition, that which is spirit is one with God, and in Him is no controversy, disagreement, or disorder. Therefore, the only kind of “spiritual” warfare going on now is actually between the spiritual and another realm, either the natural, the supernatural or both. Even these battles are completely under God’s control.
What Does “Spiritual” Mean?
When we refer to something as “spiritual” we are saying it is from the same place and made of the same stuff as God; it is therefore eternal, righteous, perfect, holy, loving, kind, pure, unchanging, unchangeable, gentle, true, etc. If a concept or thing doesn’t fit this description, it is not spiritual, but fits into either the natural or supernatural realm.
The Soul & the Supernatural Realm
Each of us is born with a soul. The soul is made up of mind, will and emotions. The soul is distinct from both the body and the spirit. For instance, the mind is not the brain, and we have the same will after we become a spirit being as we did before salvation. The soul God gave each of us is the one He wanted us to have; it ain’t broke, and He is well pleased with it. It is only when we depend on its attributes to get our needs met that we run into trouble. This is how we create flesh, or self-life.
The way our soul is put together, a combination of our individual strengths and weaknesses within our soul, can be referred to as our temperament. Each of us has a unique temperament, though there are many ways we can generally categorize them, often according to strengths and weaknesses, or what is socially desired or devalued (someone with a strong will, passion, and intelligence is often referred to as a leader or gifted person, while someone with low motivation, low intelligence and passivity is often referred to as “slow.” It is important to remember that God does not value one person’s temperament more than another’s; He specifically created each of them!).
The soul relates to our selves and to others. Its senses include understanding, choosing, feeling, awareness of self and others (intuition) and sense of time. There is also a sense of God, but God Himself must quicken this sense to recognize His Spirit. It is also in the soul that the so-called “spiritual” gifts are located: we can use the gifts without the spirit of God having anything to do with it. Before we became Christians, this would be called witchcraft, ESP, sorcery, deja vu, luck, etc. Using the gifts with our own strength after we become Christians is called manipulation and idolatry.
The supernatural or soulical environment consists of those areas between the natural (that which was created and can be recognized by the natural senses) and the spiritual (that which has the same characteristics as God; holy, eternal, omnipotent, etc.). Most of us spend the majority of our time and thoughts dwelling in this realm. Though this is one realm, it contains many regions. In order to understand our beliefs we can say that the supernatural realm is where the angels and demons dwell, also described as heaven and hell. We can also say that the realm to which our soul relates is the soulical environment. Our soulical senses work just as well (or as poorly) in heaven as in hell.
The most important law that predominates over this realm is that God reigns supreme, and nothing happens here without His express determination, just as in the natural realm.
The supernatural realm can also become a distraction, as many believe that it is the same thing as the spiritual realm. So we often mistake what happens there, and what we see, as being 100% true and infallible. Thus, we can experience visions, manifestations of God, angels and demons, etc., and falsely conclude that there is absolute authority and clarity in them. This can be not only a distraction but misleading and a deception, especially when doctrines are then built upon what we believe God has shown us in this imperfect realm.
Supernatural warfare, often erroneously called spiritual warfare, is waged between the inhabitants of the supernatural realm. This would be angels, demons and humans. As in all areas, warfare here is strictly under the control and direct supervision of God. Though we often differentiate between these realms, God does not, except to accommodate our current understanding: He is not nearly as picky about our using the right terminology and methodology as we are. He is sovereign as much here as anywhere, and has no battles to be fought or won. We, on the other hand, mistakenly believe this is our home, and spend much of our thought-life and energy dwelling on its terrain.
Soulical warfare refers specifically to us humans, and must be fought with weapons more powerful than the field of battle; we can’t use soulical weapons to fight soulical battles. The soulical battles involve overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil in our individual lives. These enemies can only be overcome through spiritual weapons made available through dependence on God.
What is “Supernatural”?
The supernatural realm, therefore, is simply a temporary plane of existence that God created for the expression of His love. “Super” simply means “over” or “above.” So “super”-natural is simply over or above the natural realm. We perceive the supernatural realm with our supernatural (or soulical) senses, so it is important to fine-tune these faculties.
Supernatural vs. Spiritual
This may seem like a nit-picky point, but it’s important to distinguish between these two realms. By elevating certain aspects of the supernatural realm, like the angelic and demonic, we give them much too much influence and authority in and over our lives. We will only begin to walk in authority over these areas in as much as we believe we have the authority. So let’s save the term “spiritual” for those things begotten of God Himself, and “supernatural” and “natural” for those realms God has already put under our authority, even though we may not yet be walking it out.
Adapted from Practical Christianity by Dianne Thomas