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What Kind of Person are You? The Threefold Classification of St. Paul

If someone asked – what kind of person are you – what would you respond? Would you say you are law-abiding and hard-working? Would you say you are religious or prayerful? Would you say you are focused on yourself? Take a minute or two right now to think about it. Then read 1 Corinthians 2:10 through 3:4.

"God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 'For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apol’los,” are you not merely men?" (1 Corinthians 2:10-3:4).

Notice what St. Paul is doing here. He’s telling us that people tend to fall into three major categories: (1) the unspiritual person or simply, the ‘natural’ person, who thinks faith and spirituality (‘the divine things’) are foolish because he relies only on human or natural reasoning (instead of seeing the world with the eyes of faith); (2) the spiritual person who is filled with the Holy Spirit and is constantly maturing in his knowledge of Christ; and (3) the person of the flesh or simply, the ‘carnal’ person, who may be a part of the Church, but is focused on satisfying personal wants and desires (‘the earthly things’). All of us know people who fit into St. Paul’s three categories. But what’s harder to see, and far more humbling, is that each of us is probably living our lives in more than one of these categories at any given moment.

Thus, our focus always must be on Christ who implants the Holy Spirit within us. That is why Sacred Scripture reveals time and again that what we need most as humans is prayer so that we may fit into St. Paul’s second category. And that is why Sacred Tradition encourages us to pray like Mary who is the prototype of the spiritual person.

So take some time andask yourself: what kind of person am I? Do I tend to focus on human reasoning alone? Am I more comfortable when I avoid the ‘divine things’? Do I find myself going to Church but still focusing on my selfish desires? Am I fixated on my body (whether I want food, sex, exercise, or drink too much or too little)? Am I fixated on my career? Or, am I deeply religious and prayerful? Am I truly a person of the Holy Spirit?


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