Home > Bible Study, Hebrews, S. Lewis Johnson > The Four Types of People: Teachings from Paul and the Author of Hebrews

The Four Types of People: Teachings from Paul and the Author of Hebrews


From a study through Hebrews with S. Lewis Johnson

The Bible identifies four types of individuals:

  • The Natural Man (1 Corinthians 2:14) — “The natural person does not accept the things 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 Carnal — Babe, or Carnal-Weak (1 Corinthians 2 and 3) — the way every Christian begins, when converted.  These may partake of milk, but cannot take meat.
  • The Carnal-Willful, as contrasted with the Carnal-Babe.  These are characterized by the carnality of persisting in failure to respond to the word of God.  Their spiritual growth has stalled.  Paul mentions these in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 — “And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.”  The writer of Hebrews also addresses these, in Hebrews 5:12-13:   For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
  • Mature Christian:  the spiritually-growing believer, who can eat meat instead of milk, as described in Hebrews 5:14 — “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

A few more observations from Hebrews 5:11-6:12

The elementary principles listed in Hebrews 6:1-2 are from Judaism (not basics of Christianity).  The descriptions, especially in the KJV term “baptisms”, sound like they could refer to basic Christianity, but all were part of Judaism, which the readers of Hebrews were familiar with.

A translation point concerning Hebrews 6:6:  the correct understanding of this passage, which starts in verse 4, is not “if they fall away” but “and then have fallen away.”  Most modern translations, such as the ESV, NASB and HCSB, translate this correctly.  This does give a different understanding than the KJV and NIV rendering “if they fall away.”  We are to best understand the passage as describing the characteristics of these people:  they have once been enlightened, they have tasted the heavenly gift, they have shared in the Holy Spirit, they have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come — AND they have already fallen away.

Hebrews 6:3 includes the interesting words “if God permits.”  We will go on, past the “elementary principles,” to maturity:  if God permits.  We learn here of the condition that God will not permit:  that condition described in Hebrews 6:4-6, that of apostasy from a profession of faith.

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