Institute for Christian Teaching

Education Department of the Seventh-day Adventists




















Daniel Nae


Adventist Theological Seminary





545-03 Institute for Christian Teaching

12501 Old Columbia Pike

Silver Spring, MD 20904 USA







Prepared for the

International Faith and Learning Seminar

held at

Friedensau University, Friedensau, Germany

July 2003










     There is an increasing interest today in spirituality, and it is obvious when we notice the amount of books and articles recently published. At the same time, there is an incredible diversity of approaches. Of course, we find traditional Christian spirituality, Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindus spirituality, but we could also find a large range of publishing works, from positive thinking and self-esteem to ecological spirituality; or a very specialized treatment of the subject, like family, feminist and masculine spirituality.

This diversity confuses and makes it “notoriously”[1] difficult to define the term spirituality. What does it mean to be spiritual? To have a large cultural horizon? To use “pious words” and have an “aesthetic sensibility”?[2] To make good jokes?

The noun spirituality derives from the Latin spiritualitas, an abstract word related to spiritus and spiritualis, which translated Paul’s pneuma and pneumaticos. The word is first evidenced in a fifth century letter wrongly attributed to Jerome and referred to the Pauline thinking of a life “led by the Spirit”(Rom. 8,14).[3]


In the 12th century, spiritualitas received a philosophical meaning expressing something of the entitative order. Later other meanings were added: “persons exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction” or “ecclesiastical property” were called spiritualitas. The term spirituality came to English usage via French spiritualité, a word that described the devotional life in the 17th Century and became widely used after appearing in the titles of Auguste Saudreau’s Manuel de Spiritualité (1917) and Pierre Pourrat’s La Spiritualité Chrétienne (1918 – 1928). The latest work was translated into English, and after 1950 the term has become widely used and was adopted by scholars of different religions, by secularists and even Marxists[4].

The first part of this paper deals with the Biblical definition of spirituality. More precisely with the concept of spirituality in Paul’s letters. The second part tries to apply the theoretical conclusions to the setting of a Christian college.


Biblical Spirituality

The word spirituality is not found in the Bible, but the concept surely is. It is expressed by words that have the root spirit. For instance, the word spiritual (pneumaticos) is common in New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters. Seeing how it is used, we can discover some insights about the biblical concept of spirituality.

The word pneumatikos occurs 28 times in New Testament. In his writings, Paul used the word in two ways: as an adjective (a spiritual something) and as a noun (masculine or neutral, spiritual man or spiritual things).[5]

Ho pneumatikos is presented in contrast or antithesis to:

a.     psychikos, “natural man” (1 Cor. 2:14);

b.     sarkikos, “fleshy man” (1 Cor. 3:1);

c.     psychikon, “natural,” an “earthly one,” (1 Cor. 15:44).

The contrast is presented not only in 1 Corinthians, but also in Romans and in Galatians. In Romans the contrast is between flesh and Spirit, and in Galatians between the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

There were factions in the church of Corinth. These factions “ranged under the names of Paul, Apollos and Cephas and which were rooted in a false affection towards philosophical speculation.” There was a reliance on wisdom that Paul wanted to refute.  He contrasted mere reliance on wisdom with the “folly of the cross, which formed the center of Paul’s preaching (1:17-2:16).”[6]

Gordon Fee suggests that the church in Corinth experienced an “internal strife,” but the critical problem was a “conflict between the church and its founder,”[7] the apostle Paul. He comments:


    For Paul this conflict presents a twofold crisis-over his

    authority and his gospel. Furthermore, the key issue

    between Paul and them, which created both of these crises,

    has to do with the Corinthian understanding of what it

    means to be “spiritual” (pneumatikos).[8]


The contrast between what the Corinthians considered to be a pneumatikos and what Paul meant by it will help us to better understand the concept and apply it to our lives.


Natural vs. spiritual


     In 1 Corinthians 2, the apostle Paul presents the spiritual man (pneumatikos) in contrast with the natural man. The natural man is the person who has not received the Holy Spirit. Barrett says, “He is not in any ordinary sense a ‘bad man,’ or a foolish man, or an irreligious man. But lacking the Spirit of God he cannot apprehend spiritual truths…”[9] And the author continues:

    This is not simply a matter of inspiration. The Spirit of

    Christ crucified, and the wisdom taught by the Spirit is

    the word of the cross (1:18), and to the natural man this

    is foolishness, for it inverts the values by which he

    lives (emphasize added).[10]



The natural man is the person that “completely fails to appreciate the ‘wisdom’ of God because it is so directly contrary to man’s accepted philosophy of life.”[11] According to Fee, by natural persons (psychikoi) Paul “is designating people who are not now, nor have ever been, believers. They are strictly people who know only the ‘wisdom of this age’ (v. 6).”[12] Fee concluded his commentary on 1 Corinthians 2 with the following words:

    The Spirit should identify God’s people in such a way that

    their values and worldview are radically different from the

    wisdom of this age. They do know what God is about in   

    Christ; they do live out the life of the future in the

    present age that is passing away; they are marked by the 

    cross forever. As such they are the people of the Spirit,

    who stand in bold contrast to those who are merely human

    and do not understand the scandal of the cross. Being

    spiritual does not lead to elitism; it leads to a deeper

    understanding of God’s profound mystery-redemption through

    a crucified Messiah[13] (emphasis added).


According to Paul, to be spiritual means first to renounce to rely on human wisdom, or the wisdom of the age, and to build a philosophy of life based on God’s revelation about the Messiah and His death on cross.



Flesh vs. Spirit


     When Paul begins to directly address the Corinthians, he calls them carnal (sarkinoi, cf. 3:1). Fee sees that “the change is deliberate.” While the word psychikos in 2:14 “has been used to describe the person totally devoid of Spirit,”[14] the word sarkinoi has been employed to confront the Corinthians with the reality that they are immature,[15] and they are still “characterized by flesh”[16] (sarkikoi).

     The conflict between sarx and pneuma is common in Paul’s letters (Romans 8:5-9; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). They are “mutually exclusive opposites that battle for control of a person,”[17] “diametrically opposed and men have to choose between them.”[18] Paul also described the antithesis between flesh and Spirit in Romans 8:5-9.

     The flesh is “our fallen, egocentric human nature and all that belongs to it,”[19] “an orientation to our world which is dominated by rebellion and sin.”[20] In Romans 8:5 Paul says: “they that are after the flesh do mind (phronousin) the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” For Dunn the verb phronein (“to think”) in verse 5 is defined as “to take the side of;”[21] for Schneider as “to allow oneself to be dominated by”[22] or not. It means that every man has the possibility to choose “to have the mind set on the things of the flesh.”[23] For Kasemann phronein “denotes the direction not merely of thought, but of total existence.”[24] Harrisville says that it “refers not only to mental activity, but also to the focus of one’s life.”[25] Those who walk after the flesh do so because they “are” of the flesh.[26]


According to the passage we have just considered, to be spiritual means to choose to be led by the Spirit of God and not by the desires of the flesh.



Fruits of the flesh vs. fruit of the Spirit


Both Romans 8 and Galatians 5 contain the promise that a person could “walk after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 5:16).

Paul uses three expressions in Galatians 5:15-25 to describe the life lived according to the Spirit and not the flesh: pneumati peripateite (5:16), pneumati agesthe (5:18), and pneumati stoichomen (5:25).

Paul’s exhortation to loving service (5:13) is first explained[27] by the term of peripateo (“walk”), which speaks us


a “way of life”[28] that is “continually Spirit-controlled.”[29]

The next expression is pneumati agesthe, “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18). If we compare Galatians 5:16 with 5:18, we could see the same idea; but in the last verse we have another antithesis: “if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” “Spirit” is opposed to both the “law” and to the “flesh.” F. F. Bruce said: “to be led by the Spirit brings simultaneously deliverance from the desire of the flesh, the bondage of the law and the power of sin.”[30] Waggoner showed that “the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition, but against the fruits of the Spirit ‘there is no law’ (Gal. 5:23), therefore the law is against the works of the flesh”[31] (Gal. 5:19-21). In fact “we must never set the law and the Spirit in opposition to one another as if they were contradictory,” because the Holy Spirit “writes the law in our hearts.”[32] In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul speaks about the “fruit of the Spirit” (kartos not kartoi) that those “led by the Spirit” will naturally bear.


The third expression, pneumati stoichomen (Gal. 5:25) represents Paul’s conclusion of the whole passage (Gal. 5:16-25). It has the form of an exhortation: “if we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.” Only enjoying “the life of the Spirit because of what God has done in the Christ event”[33] and remaining passive is not enough: “one must make an active decision to be led by the Spirit.”[34] As F. F. Bruce remarked:


    Walking by the Spirit is the outward manifestation, in

    action and speech, of living by the Spirit. Living by the

    Spirit is the root; walking by the Spirit is the fruit, and

    that fruit is nothing less than the practical

    representation of the character, and therefore the conduct

    of Christ in the lives of His people...It is those whose

    conduct is directed by the Sprit who are, in Paul’s 

    estimation, the true pneumaticos (cf. 6:1)[35] (emphasize 



     In the beginning of the practical section of his letter, Paul encouraged those who had considered themselves pneumatikoi to show it in their relationships. Like the Corinthians, who considered themselves “spiritual” because of their wisdom and speech, the Galatians considered themselves “spiritual” because of their obedience to the mosaic requirements. Paul wrote to both the Corinthians and Galatians that it is love that finally counted (1 Cor. 13; Gal. 5:13.14; 6:1). To be spiritual is more than enjoying being a Christian; it bearing the fruit of the Spirit: it is love in action.


Implementing Biblical Spirituality

in the Setting of an Adventist College


Biblical Spirituality is a “deep relationship with God made possible by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit”.[36] It is “Holy Spirit-uality.”[37] In other words, when we are speaking about Christian spirituality we have to think about the Spirit’s work in and through our lives.


    True spirituality shows itself in yielding the fruit of the 

    Spirit, for which the opportunities are given in

    intercourse with other members of the Body of Christ. It is

    the regular discharge in the Spirit of Christ of the duties

    that arise from the relations of the present life that

    Christians are trained for their future life with God.[38]


It involves an intentional and systematic effort to get acquainted with the Holy Spirit, the Person we know so little.  Without Him, we will not be able to think spiritually, to accept His guidance and to bear His fruit.




Knowing the Spirit


Christian Spirituality course.[39] I was asked several times: “Shall we teach spirituality? Isn’t it a personal, intimate experience every one could have?” It depends on our understanding of the word spirituality. If you define spirituality as “a personal, mystical experience”, it is not a surprise that a rock singer calls himself spiritual; similarly the person dedicated to occultism does the same. But according to the Bible, the unconverted persons could not call themselves spiritual. They are “dead in trespasses and sins...without Christ...strangers...having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:1, 12). Only by conversion he or she becomes spiritual, transformed by Holy Spirit. And a person born again has to know how to grow spiritually. “Teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” asked Jesus one of His disciples (Luke 11, 1). We were created with a hunger and a thirst for God, but how to be “filled” is a teachable experience.[40] 


Theological Forum. As a part of the Spiritual Master Plan of the school we could organize a forum in which the theologians and students will present papers underlying the “personality” and the “mission” of the Holy Spirit.[41] Such a forum gives the opportunity to focus their studies on a much-neglected subject, to clarify their understanding, to ask questions, and to become more familiar with our wonderful “Friend.”[42]

 Small groups. If a forum could be primarily a theological opportunity to understand the personality and the mission of the Holy Spirit, a group for prayer, study and service could be one of the best way for teachers and students to experience the work of the Spirit in their lives. All great revivals in Church History began with small group meetings.[43]


Week of prayer. One of the most rewarding experiences for a campus is a spiritual week of prayer. Inviting a powerful preacher, not necessarily a theologian, could give the students the vivid example of how the Holy Spirit works.[44]


Thinking spiritually


The supremacy of revelation. True spirituality springs from what the Bible calls “the mind of Christ”, a spiritual thinking that always gives the first, the last and the best place to the revelation of God and not to human reason, or the “wisdom of this world.” When the apostle Peter received “the spirit that is of God” (1 Corinthian 2, 12) he was able to recognize Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16, 16); but when he received “the spirit of the world” (1 Corinthians 2, 12), i.e. when he accepted the thinking of the natural man that finds no place for the cross in his life, he was rebuked by Jesus as no one had been before or after.


The cultivation of spiritual thinking involves knowing how God thinks and the humility to recognize that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways [God’s ways] higher than your ways [man’s way], and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaih 55:9). This intentional cultivation could be done in many ways. Here are just two examples.

The Book of the Year. The book of Education, by E. G. White is recommended in 2003 as the book of the year for the Adventist Church in Romania. We could encourage teachers and students to try to discover the basic assumptions of the worldview Ellen White has presented in this acclaimed book, to compare her philosophy of education with what we are confronted with today.

Spiritual retreat. Another possibility is to organize a spiritual retreat with the teachers of the school. A speaker could be invited to have a small seminar or a book could be studied in advance[45] and discussed at the retreat. Such an occasion where teachers could meet, pray and study together are not only unforgettable, but also very helpful.  



Led by the Spirit


Knowing the will of God. It is the responsibility of the Christian teacher to underline the importance of knowing the will of God. Our students have to make many decisions during the college years, and they have to develop a personal model of discovering the will of God. Ellen G. White says there are ways in which God reveals His will to us: “in His word, the Holy Scriptures...in His providential workings...and through the appeals of His Holy Spirit, making impressions upon the heart...”[46] These are the three most important methods God uses in communicating His will to us and they must form the core principles of the model we have.[47] 


Acting from principle. There are principles that guide us in knowing God’s will, but there are also principles for all the aspects of our life. It’s a duty for a Christian educator to instill in the students the idea that they must act from principle and not from impulse.


Bearing the fruit of the Spirit


Christ-like character. There is a powerful statement in

the book of Education that says:

    True education does not ignore the value of scientific 

    knowledge or literary acquirements, but above information

    it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual

    acquirements, character. The world does not so much need

    men of great intellect as of noble character…Character

    building is the most important work ever entrusted to human



In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul speaks about the “fruit of the Spirit” (kartos not kartoi) that somebody will naturally bear if he or she is “led by the Spirit.” A simple analysis of the text shows that this “fruit” is love, the essence of God’s character (1 John 4, 16). His character is wonderful is its symmetry. The perfect balance is expressed in different ways: mercy and justice (Exodus 34: 6,7; Psalm 85, 10), “power of will and power of self-control,”[49] the passive and active


Christian virtues.[50]

Such a character represents the ideal both teachers and students must have. In order to have a good influence,

    The teachers…need to be self-possessed, to keep their

    temper and feelings under control, and in subjection to the

    Holy Spirit. They should give evidence of having, not a one

    sided experience, but a well-balanced mind, a symmetrical

    character[51] (emphasis added).


The students must develop a character that is in the same time “beautiful in its symmetry” and firm, as the following statement says:

    The greatest want of the world is the want of men-men who

    will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost soul

    are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its

    right name, men whose conscience is as true to the duty as

    the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right

    though the heaven fall. But such a character is not the

    result of accident; it is not due to special favors of

    endowments of the Providence[52] (emphasis added).


Such a character is the result of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As Paul says, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Romans 5, 5).


Spiritual disciplines. Many specialists in Christian spirituality consider that the spiritual disciplines are the means of grace by which the Spirit is working in us the image

of Christ.[53] They are the ways we could develop a relationship with God. By exercising theses spiritual disciplines we become changed into His likeness. For instance, by meditating at the love God disclosed at the Calvary, we are changed (2 Corinthians 3, 18).[54] It is essential therefore to take time for us and to give time to the students to contemplate God, especially as He is revealing Himself in the life of Jesus. This will lead us to a life of joyful service.[55]




True spirituality is more than a concept; it is a modus vivendi, being transformed and living for other’s wellness and happiness as Christ did. He was a “prototype”[56] of what Paul is describing as being “led by the Spirit” and bearing the “fruit of the Spirit”. In fact it is a way of life and Christ is “the way” (John 14:6). And nothing is more important for our colleges to find out this “way”.



[1] C. J. H. Hingley, “Spirituality”, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 807.


[2] William G. Jonson, “Spirituality,” Adventist Review, May 19, 1994, 508.


[3] Walter H. Principe, “Christian Spirituality”, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), 931.


[4] Ibid.

[5] Colin Brown, “Spirit”, The New International Dictionary of the New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 3:707.

[6] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove: Inter-

Varsity Press, 1970), 443-444.


[7] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 6.


[8] Ibid.


[9] C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 77.


[10] Ibid.


[11] ” 1 Corinthians,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, edited by Francis D. Nichol (Washigton, D. C.: Review and Herald, 1957), 670.


[12] Fee, 116.


[13] Fee, 120.


[14] Fee, 124.


[15] John Ruef, Paul’s First Letter to Corinth (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 21.


[16] Curtis Vaugham, and Thomas D. Lea, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 39.


[17] Dieter Luhrmann, Galatians (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 107.


[18] Henry Barclay Swete, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 208.


[19] C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 174.


[20] Paul J. Artemeier, Romans (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985), 133.


[21] J. D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8. World Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1988), 425.


[22] Thomas R. Schneider, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker Books House, 1998), 411.


[23] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 305.


[24] Ernst Kasemann, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 219.


[25] Roy A. Harrisville, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Romans (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1980), 219.


[26] Schneider, 410.


[27] Martín Luther, A Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 503.


[28] Hans Dieter Betz, A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979­), 277.


[29] Robert Alan Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 158.


[30] F. F. Bruce, New Century Bible Commentary: Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 245.


[31] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1978), 120.


[32] John R. W. Stott, Men Made New (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 73-74.


[33] Frank J. Matera, Galatians (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992), 211.


[34] Ibid.


[35] Ibid.

[36] David G. Benner, Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 74.


[37] Loron Wade, “Spirituality,” Adventist Review, August 24, 1995, 1109.


[38] Henry Barclay Swete, 210-211.


[39] If you would like to see a syllabus of a Christian Spirituality course, you could contact John Dybdahl, Jane Thayer, or Ben Maxson who have taught such a class and, I suppose, will be happy to share with you what they have discovered.


[40] See Erwin R. Gane, Enlightened by the Spirit (Boise, ID: Review and Herald, 1995.


[41] See Seventh-day Adventists belive...(Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1988), 58-68.


[42] See Morrris L. Venden, Your Friend, the Holy Spirit (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1996.


[43] See Kurt W. Johnson, Small Groups for the End-time (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1997). The small groups could study Garrie F. Williams, How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit and Know it (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1991), and Give the Holy Spirit a Chance (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1993). The books are organized as seminars. Another book that could be the guide for a small group seminar is Communion with God (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1964.


[44] The most beautiful remembering we have from México, where my family and I spent three years, was a week of prayer. Always the week of prayer has been a special event at Montemorelos University. It has been the spiritual climax of every semester and every time a special speaker was invited. In that occasion, I mostly remember, the speaker doesn’t look “special.” He started preaching and after the first occasions I was wondering: “What has he special?” He was neither a very attractive person, nor an expert in homiletics. Soon I discovered: he was speaking as “one having authority,” or power, the power of the Holy Spirit. And nothing impressed my wife and me that week than the un-expectable request of our oldest daughter to be baptized. I had the privilege to do this.

[45] For instance Sire, James W, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997).


[46] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1948), 512.


[47] See also Morris L. Venden, How to Know God’s Will in Your Life (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1987). In his thought-provoking manner, Venden presents several other principles taken from the life of the giant of faith, George Muller In one chapter addresses the question “How important are feelings in knowing God’s will?” In the answer he help the reader to make distinction between the simple feelings and the conviction of the Spirit in our mind.



[48] Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View: CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 225.


[49] White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1948), 4:656.


[50] Ibid., The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1942), 497.


[51] Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students (Mountain View: CA: Pacific Press, 1943), 191.


[52] White, Education, 57.


[53] See for instance, Richard Foster. Celebration of Discipline. HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.


[54]  “It is a law of the human mind that by beholding we become changed” says Ellen White in Patriarchs and Prophets, 91.


[55] According to Matthew chapter 17, I believe that Biblical spirituality is a well-balanced combination between “mountain transfiguration” and “valley service”, between a contemplative relationship with God and a loving involvement in helping the people in need. Because of the space limitation of this paper I considered more the first aspect of the Biblical spirituality. The second dimension would be the subject of another paper.


[56] Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Growe: InterVarsity, 1996), 52.