1-2-1 The Hidden Man
1 Pet. 3:4 speaks of the spiritual man within us as " the hidden man of the heart...a meek and quiet spirit" . This confirms that this " man" is the personification of a spirit, or attitude of mind. Thus our real spiritual person is " hidden" . The world therefore cannot understand us, or be truly close to the believer who has the spiritual man utmost in their heart. The Gospel itself is a " mystery" ('something hidden'), yet this hidden mystery is the dynamic power in our " hidden man" of the Spirit. All that is hidden will be openly revealed in the Kingdom (Mt. 10:26). The inward man of Rom. 7:22 is what is so important; yet the LXX in Lev. 3:14-16 uses the same word to describe the fat surrounding the intestines, which God appeared to so value in the sacrifices. It was not that He wanted that fat in itself; but rather He saw that fat as representing a man's essential spirituality, that which is developed close to the heart, unseen by others, but revealed after death.
The real spiritual self which we are developing now will be revealed openly when the Lord comes, both to ourselves and also to our brethren. It is crucial to appreciate that God will not turn us into spiritual beings after the judgment seat. The spirituality which we now have will then be manifested in physical, bodily terms. This is why Rom. 8:11 encourages us that if we have this spiritual man within us, then " If the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he...shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that (now) dwelleth in you" . Our life is now " hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), and will be made manifest at his glorious appearing. Even after we die, our ‘spirit’, our essential spiritual personality, is still actively recollected by God (cp. Heb. 12:23). It is our spiritual man which is hidden; it is here called " our life" because it is the guarantee of our eternal life. What higher motivation could we require than to here and now develop the spirit of Christ? " Greater is he that is in you (i.e. your spiritual man, Christ Jesus), than he that is in the world" (1 Jn. 4:4). If the spiritual man is within us, we must surely win our spiritual conflict, ultimately!
Rom. 2:28 continues this theme of our real spiritual self being hidden, by saying that the true believer will " inwardly" (same word translated " hidden" in 1 Pet. 3:4) circumcise his heart. The works of the flesh are " manifest" , but by inference those of the Spirit are hidden (Gal. 5:18,19). Mt. 6:4,6,18 gives triple emphasis to the fact that God sees in secret. He alone truly and fully appreciates our spiritual self. This is sure comfort on the many occasions where our spirituality is misunderstood, both in the world and in the ecclesia. Yet it also provides an endless challenge; moment by moment, our true spiritual being is known by the Almighty, " Thou whose eyes in darkness see, and try the heart of man" . The spiritual man which God now knows (" sees" ) and relates to, will be what He sees at the day of judgment. God dwells in " secret" , i.e. in the hidden place, as well as seeing in " secret" . God is a God who hides Himself (Is. 57:17) due to human sinfulness. If we fail to see the spiritual man in our brethren, this must be due to a lack of real spiritual vision in us. It is human sin which is somehow getting in the way.
" Our secret sins..."
Those disfellowshipped by the Ephesus ecclesia had committed their sins " in secret" (Eph. 5:11,12 cp. Rev. 2:2), i.e. in the hidden man. This is the arena of sin; in the heart. God will therefore judge the " secrets of men" at the last day (Rom. 2:16). It is in this context that Rom. 2:28 stresses the importance of being spiritually circumcised " inwardly" (same word as " secrets" ). It is our real spirituality which will then be judged, and made open for all to see. There is enough Biblical hint that this fact will result in some surprises. Many that are first shall be last. That principle will prove true in many cases at the day of judgment; not just a few odd balls who the rest of the ecclesia misjudged. Because of the evident impossibility of our truly knowing the spiritual state of others, we need to be so careful of forming any opinion of others, apart from firmly believing that they are " in Christ" if their doctrine and lifestyle live up to this. There must be so much hidden spirituality in others which we do not appreciate. " Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor. 4:5). There are some instructive parallels here:
|" Bring to light" ||" Make manifest" |
|" The hidden things of" ||" The counsels of" |
|" Darkness" ||" The hearts" |
The hidden man is therefore " the counsels" of the heart. How we speak and reason to ourselves in our self-talk, this is the indicator of the hidden man. This will be 'made manifest' to the owners of those hearts, the Greek implies. " All things are naked and opened" unto God anyway; the second coming will reveal nothing to Him. The making manifest of our hidden man will be to ourselves and to others. The purpose of the judgment seat is therefore more for our benefit than God's; it will be the ultimate self-revelation of ourselves. Then we will know ourselves, just as God knows us (1 Cor. 13:12). Through a glass, darkly, we can now see the outline of our spiritual self (1 Cor. 13:11,12), although all too often we see this picture in the spiritual mirror of self-examination, and then promptly forget about it (James 1:23,24).
But then we will experience self-knowledge of a kind quite beyond our present possibilities. Then we will appreciate the seriousness of sin, and also the significance of the spirituality we have developed. The Lord must have had this in mind when He told the parable of the virgins. The faithful grab their lamps, their spiritual selves, and see for the first time during their lives of waiting the real state of their oil. They can see for themselves whether they are fit to meet their Lord or not. The fact that we can examine ourselves now, and know whether we are in Christ (2 Cor. 13:5), shows that we can have a foretaste of the judgment seat even now. But is that what our all too hasty and ad lib self-examination sessions are like? Paul rebuked Corinth for their inability to know whether they had the Christ-man developed within them: " Know ye not...that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). We must reckon ourselves dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). The Greek for " reckon" is that translated " impute" or " count" , and which often appears in the surrounding chapters in Romans, speaking of how God " counts" us to be perfect. We must reckon ourselves as God reckons us.
The Christ-man is first born at baptism, but it is quite possible for it to lie dormant or even die unless it is nurtured. Almost all of us have discovered the presence of our real spiritual man some time after baptism. The spiritual self is begotten by the word, leading to the birth at baptism (2 Cor. 5:17; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23); yet it is the word which makes the " man of God" perfect or mature (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Note that the " man of God" here probably refers to our inner spiritual self, rather than just being an epithet for a believer. In this case, 1 Tim. 6:11 records Paul speaking to Timothy's spiritual man: " Thou, O man of God, flee these things" . " Man of God" was a term used to describe the Old Testament prophets; it is as if Paul is addressing himself to the word-developed man within Timothy. We must likewise relate to the spiritual man within our brethren.
" That which is not corruptible"
We must not look at the outward man, either in ourselves or in others, " but at the things which are not seen (which) are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). These are parallel with the things of the " inward man" which will not perish as our body does, but which are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16). Here again we have encouragement that our spiritual character is eternal; in some way it is preserved in God's mind/Spirit beyond our death. " The hidden man...a meek and quiet spirit" is not corruptible (1 Pet. 3:4), surely alluding to the description of our spiritual treasures as eternally lasting in Heaven, where there is no corruption (Mt. 6:19,20). Our future inheritance is described by Peter as " incorruptible" (1 Pet. 1:4), yet he also speaks of God's word which creates the new man, as also being " incorruptible" (1 Pet. 1:23), as is the hidden man which it develops (1 Pet. 3:4). This teaches us that the new man created within us here and now by the action of the word, is in fact strongly related to the future " incorruptible" inheritance we will receive at the second coming.
" The spirits of just men..."
It is this sense that having a spiritual mind now associates us with the spirits / spiritual characters of just men of the past (Heb. 12:23). Where our treasure is, there our heart, our spiritual man, is also; and that treasure of a spiritual character is reserved in Heaven, to be physically manifested at Christ's return. That inheritance in Heaven is incorruptible; that spiritual man cannot be destroyed (1 Pet. 1:4); this is our spiritual house in the Heavens which will remain when our earthly house of this mortal body returns to dust (2 Cor. 5:1,2). Hence the persecuted believers of the first century, faced with death, committed their souls (their spiritual being) to God, to be kept by Him (1 Pet. 4:19). Paul uses similar language in his swansong (2 Tim. 1:12). Perhaps this is the solution to Rev. 6:9,10, which speaks of the souls of the faithful under the Christ altar, continuing to exist in some sense after their physical death. This is perhaps one of many allusions in the Apocalypse back to the Gospels; this time to Mt. 10:28: " Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" . These persecuted souls appear again in Rev. 20:4, where the " souls of them that were beheaded...lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" .
The point is being made that the spiritual man within us in this life is still recognized by God after our death, and in the Kingdom this spiritual man will be given a glorified bodily form. Of course it is evident that we personally are not conscious after death. It is God who is conscious of us, not the other way round. In this same sense 1 Tim. 6:19 speaks of our good works being stored up until the judgment day. It was a spiritually discerning hymn writer who penned: " Those characters shall firm remain / their everlasting trust...when (all other things) have mouldered into dust" . Because of this, the fact we have the spiritual man within us now is a sure guarantee that we will be in the Kingdom (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). It is the spiritual aspect of our characters which will continue to know and relate to each other in the Kingdom age. The spiritual aspects of our friendships within the ecclesia are eternal. No wonder there is such joy of fellowship possible for us now! The closeness of spirit after a moving Bible study or exhortation, the intense unity of fervent collective prayer, these are expressions of that interlocking of spiritual character which will continue eternally. By contrast, if our relationships are based around human similarity, these will " perish" along with the outward man. The same is true of marital and family relationships.