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Intro to Biblical Spirituality

What is biblical spirituality? Good question. In formulating an answer, we need to begin with the adjective spiritual.

by Stephen Yuille on October 28, 2019

Intro to Biblical Spirituality

What is biblical spirituality?[1] Good question. In formulating an answer, we need to begin with the adjective spiritual. It’s used in the NT in reference to that which originates with the Holy Spirit or, in slightly different terms, that which is the result of the Holy Spirit’s activity; hence, we read of spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:13), spiritual wisdom (Col. 1:9), spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1; 14:1), spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), spiritual people (1 Cor. 2:15; 3:1), spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5), and a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5).

What can we conclude from this? Of particular significance is the fact that, according to the above references, the term spiritual doesn’t refer to that which is immaterial as opposed to that which is material or corporeal, nor does it refer to the spiritual part of man (the soul) as opposed to the material part of man (the body).[2] From its NT usage it’s evident that the term spiritual simply refers to that which is related to the Holy Spirit. Jonathan Edwards explains, “It is with relation to the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, that persons or things are termed spiritual, in the New Testament. ‘Spirit,’ as the word is used to signify the third person in the Trinity, is the substantive, of which is formed the adjective ‘spiritual,’ in the Holy Scriptures.”[3]

What does this mean for our understanding of spirituality? To begin with, it challenges several widespread assumptions as to what it means to be spiritual. For some, it’s to enjoy a heightened awareness of the spiritual realm. For others, it’s to possess a greater consciousness of one’s own place in the cosmos. For still others, it’s to experience a deeper connection to God without the perceived burden of intermediaries. But the obvious problem with these views of spirituality is that they have nothing to do with the NT use of the term spiritual.

Based on Scripture, we can affirm that spirituality is “simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit.”[4]

[1] For a helpful introduction to the subject, see Peter Toon, What is Spirituality? And is it for me? (London, UK: Daybreak, 1989).

[2] Mark Talbot, “Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” in For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality, Timothy George and Alister McGrath (eds.), (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 126.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959), 198.

[4] Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979), 19.

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