16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Paul said they no longer knew Christ according to the flesh, even though they, (not Paul but the other apostles), did once know Him in the flesh. Those who knew Jesus when He was here on Earth, didn’t continue to base their relationship with Him on a fleshly level once He died and was resurrected. In the same way, Paul said, they didn’t recognize anyone according to the flesh—whether they were Jew or Gentile, rich or poor etc.
So how did they know Christ, and others, if not through their fleshly relationships? By the spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:11:
11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
No one knows the mind of a man except the spirit that is in him. And no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God. The only way to know God is through His Spirit. The only way to know people is through their spirit. If we want to know God’s thoughts, we have to know His Spirit, and the same is true with people. (It’s worth noting that when we come across people who are filled with the Spirit of God, we already “know” them to a certain degree because we share the same Spirit).
So, if we are to get to know someone by their spirit, how do we find out what is in their spirit?
34 …the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.
You know what is in a person’s heart by what they say. This is how you get to know people, through talking with them—through words. We get to know God through His Word as well.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
Jesus’ words are spirit and life. Words are spiritual. They reveal the spirit they come from. Jesus’ words give life because He is life (John 14:6) and comes from the Father of life. We come to know Him and His life through His words.
67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Peter told Jesus that they knew He had the words of eternal life. Through these words they had come to know and believe that He is the Holy One of God—the Messiah. They came to know Him through His Word.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
While Jesus was here in the flesh He spoke directly to His disciples, but once He ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit came in His place. The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of all that Jesus has said and done. We know Jesus, and the Father, through the Spirit, and the words which reveal His Spirit. We get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ this same way—by getting to know their spirit, through their words which reveal their spirit.
In the Garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God daily, but when they sinned, they didn't want to talk to Him. They didn’t want Him to know what they had done. They knew their words would give away what just happened, and they did (Genesis 3:8-11).
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
These ones that the Lord will tell to depart from Him, even though they did miracles and prophesied in His name, are those whom He doesn’t know. Those He never knew. Those who are not of the same Spirit as He is. They are those who practice lawlessness—who sin—those who do not do the will of the Father.
The Lord knows those who do the will of the Father—who keep His Word. These are the ones He knows. He doesn’t know a person just because they use His name to prophesy, cast out demons or do miracles.
If we want a relationship with the Lord where we know Him and He knows us, we need to spend time in prayer—walking and talking with Him—to get to know each other. We know Him through His Word; and by keeping His Word He knows us, recognizing that we are of the same Spirit.
Consider these verses from the gospel of John:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
We are to abide in Him, and He in us if we are to bear fruit.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
If we abide in Him AND His words abide in us, our prayers are answered. We become fruitful. Those not abiding in Him are thrown away as a branch that has dried up.
8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, and in so doing we prove we are His disciples.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
When we keep His commandments, we remain in His love, and His commandment is to love each other as He has loved us.
Once again, by spending time daily with the Lord, abiding in Him, allowing His Words to abide in us, we will develop a relationship with the Lord, come to know Him more intimately, bear fruit which glorifies the Father, and ensure that He knows and us, recognizing that the same Spirit which is in us is in Him.