1 Corinthians 2

Last time, we saw throughout chapter 1 that next to God, all men are fools of some kind.  My conclusion from all of that talk about all of us being fools was to be God’s fool, because it is His foolishness that confounds the wisdom of the powers that be, human or otherwise (and Paul presupposes otherwise, and even said so in his own defense against the Sanhedrin Council, Acts 23:6-8).

In this study of chapter 2, we will actually begin to examine the nature of that heavenly wisdom that so confounds the natural man.  It is, according to Paul, indeed ancient wisdom from before the beginning of time, and we will spend a little time examining that, as well as WHY this wisdom is so confounding to the natural man, who by definition here is incapable of walking in the Spirit.  Once again, we will consider the differences between the man walking in the flesh and the man walking in the Spirit, and the need to do the latter, not the former.

I subdivided this brief chapter like this:

KV:  13 – Wisdom from heaven, taught by the Spirit, interprets spiritual things for spiritual men

“…which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

1-5:  Not the wisdom of men, but the power of God

6-9:  Yet there is a heavenly wisdom from eternity past

10-13:  The Holy Spirit interprets and teaches us that wisdom

14-16:  The natural man cannot see the spiritual wonders of Christ

To place this in some kind of historical and societal context, what Paul was really addressing had its foundations laid by the famous philosophers of Greece, and the attachment of the people to such philosophers as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, not to mention some of the more minor but still well known ones like Epicurus.  The Greek people were very connected with their thinkers, being a big part of the society of the day, and of course when these people became believers, they dragged their philosophies in the door with them. 

However, last time, we learned that Christ was an offense to Jews and a stumbling block to the Gentiles.  The sentiment that it provoked in the philosophers was something like, “Do you mean to tell me that for all the sinning, and demeaning, and nastiness that comes from man, some random guy dies on a Roman cross and it’s all cancelled?  Just like that?  That’s stupid and useless!”  But it really isn’t, is it.  That’s not really a question.

KV:  13 – Wisdom from heaven, taught by the Spirit, interprets spiritual things for spiritual men

“…which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

The wisdom that comes from God is the answer to everything, believe it or not.  What Paul’s message is in this chapter is that not only is that wisdom from God superior to what you can know through earthly philosophers that cannot bring you to God, but that for the believer, it is the only wisdom needed.  It is given to us directly by God, through the Holy Spirit (Himself God), and if we don’t understand it, He will Himself through those same means interpret it for us.  See that Key Verse again.

Now, this doesn’t mean that believers are any better than the rest of mankind.  In fact, we are likely worse, for we know the truth and still cling to our sin, sometimes loving it more than we love God.  But God still desires us to be perfected and is busy at doing that in our lives. 

1-5:  Not the wisdom of men, but the power of God

Paul wants the reliance of the Corinthians on their own national philosophers to end, so that the faith of the Corinthians wouldn’t rest on the wisdom of men, but rather the power of God.  Let’s look at the text.

1:  And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

  • Why would Paul, a man with the equivalent of three doctoral degrees, 2 earned before he was 21, a man who spoke at least 4 languages that I can name (Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, and quite probably some dialect of Syro-Phonoecean at a minimum), and a Pharisee of the strictest sect, NOT come with superiority of speech or wisdom?  I would!  I’d have milked my pedigree for all it’s worth!  We do it all the time when introducing speakers.  A man that has travelled all over North America in his preaching (I have preached in a number of places before I knew what I was doing), who has a degree in evolutionary biology from Carleton University, and work-equivalent degrees in Computer Science and another work-equivalent degree of an MBA in Economics.  He speaks both English and French, and reads koine Greek!  Okay, I can’t go on, I’m already embarrassed at all the nonsense I just said about myself which is only basically true.  It was ALL true for Paul.  And yet, he would not use his worldly credentials to backstop his message.  Why?  Because all of that stuff I was just talking about is garbage compared to the riches found in Christ Jesus, and I get that opinion from Paul!
  • Paul did not want the faith of the Corinthian church to be built on the wisdom of men or the credentials of the world.  None of that EVER leads to Christ – NONE of it can save anyone.  Only Christ can do that, and that’s what Paul wanted their faith built on – the risen Christ!  So he DID NOT COME in the wisdom of men and what they all think is important.  Instead, he proclaimed the testimony of God – the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

2:  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

  • And at some point, every preacher worth his salt will make a choice just like this.  Do I learn “techniques” for preaching?  Do I video myself and learn how to make better hand gestures?  Do I learn to make people submit when I talk to them so they can decide to become Christians?  NO TO ALL OF THAT.  Don’t get me wrong, there can be value in knowing how to speak, and what words are more impactful, and when a well-timed hand gesture can add to a point.  But NONE of it is NECESSARY.  Only one thing is needed – PREACH CHRIST!  PREACH HIS CRUCIFIXION!  PREACH HIS RESURRECTION!  PREACH HIS CENTRALITY!  That’s how you will impact people.
  • I need to say a word here about decisional evangelism.  I’ve seen it, I’ve believed it, I’ve done it myself.  However, if you were to spend 15 minutes in a room with me, and I’m really pouring on the gospel, by the time 15 minutes is passed, you’ll probably “decide” to confess to anything just to get out of the room we’re in.  The statistics actually bear me out on this.  Billy Graham crusade numbers have been kept very meticulously and studied by evangelicals hoping to duplicate the phenomenon.  What they have found (and I’m talking LifeWay Research, Billy Graham’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention no less) is that really out of the millions of people that have made profession of salvation over all this time, only 10 percent of them have really stuck with it.  Oh sure, there is some minor variations given age groups, but it isn’t what is called “significant difference” in terms of statistics.  What does that say about decisional gospel preaching?  The numbers tell me that if only about 10 percent of people are going to stick with it, it may not be the best way of doing things – or is it? 
  • Think about what a decisional preacher is really doing.  He is presenting the Gospel – Christ crucified – to as many people as possible.  Where the preacher errs is taking on the responsibility for manipulating people into a decision against their will.  And friends, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.  No, I think Paul would have us preach Christ and let the word return to the Lord having accomplished the mission it was sent out to do in each individual heart.  We didn’t find Christ – He found US!  Why pretend differently?  Preacher, that’s your choice – decide.

3:  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,

  • And why would such a man be in weakness and fear and trembling?  Because Paul was coming in the humility of Christ, not in the confidence of Saul.  Saul was the confident soldier, the persecutor of the church.  Paul was the humble servant of Christ.  Look here, there’s more because this verse ends with a comma.

4:  and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

  • I take this to mean that Paul preached in plain speech.  He didn’t use the theological jargon that we can be given to at times, and he wasn’t trying to convince ANYONE.  He just preached the gospel. Straight up.  No tricks.  No techniques.  No calculated hand gestures.  But beloved, when he preached, he preached instead in the power of the Holy Spirit!  God spoke through Him!  And that power was on display for those who would believe then.  Why do we believe we have to take a different course?  To analyze the marketing statistics and see what people want to hear about?  To “survey the congregation” to see what theology to teach or what songs to sing?  No, brothers!  We have a bible!  Preach that!  We have theology.  Pick your songs accordingly.  We have the same Holy Spirit Paul did!  Open your mouths and PREACH!  Don’t argue, don’t defend, don’t even TRY to persuade.  Leave that to God!  Or did you forget that’s what the Holy Spirit did for you when HE saved YOU?

5:  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Why?  Why this insistence by Paul that faith NOT be built on the wisdom of men?  What does he mean by that?  It helps if you know a little about ancient philosophy.  There are essentially three things you need to have the faith it takes to believe the gospel.  There’s a lot here so I will try to ‘splain.  No, there is too much, let me sum up.  You need the Notia, that is the data or information to inform you.  Then you need the Assentia, that is the idea of assenting knowledge to help you arrive at belief.  Be careful, this is not enough – if you stop here, you are a perfectly qualified devil – the demons believe and tremble, James tells us – you also need the Fiducia, the good faith, if you will, or the persuasion that moves you into action.  This word is derived from Fide, or Faith.  We get our word “fiduciary” from it today.  The wisdom of men always seems to stop at the first two.  Paul wanted their faith to rest instead on the power of God to change them from sinners to saints!

How about you?  Is your faith a simply intellectual position you argue?  Mine was for a time.  You can usually tell from the file-card responses you hear (or worse, give) from such individuals.  The awkward points that are made as they attempt to try to be part of a spiritual conversation and feel left out, I suppose, thought that certainly wasn’t intended.  The desire to be known as the smartest person in the room, like my Systematic Theology professor.  God, have mercy on the people here this evening that such a thing would not befall any of them.

6-9:  Yet there is a heavenly wisdom from eternity past

This is important, because there is indeed a wisdom that comes from eternity past down through the ages to today that God once held as a mystery, but now will declare to His people.  Interestingly, we seem to be the only ones that can grasp it.

6:  Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away;

  • Paul refers to this wisdom here.  He describes it as a topic for the mature, but the Greek here is telios, something that has reached its end, and is by extension perfect.  Brothers, I must ask – as this is a reference to people that we speak wisdom with earlier in the sentence, who is this talking about?  I think it is speaking here of other believers.  Here is why – no one who is not a believer is a part of the “mature” group.  They are the contrasted group later in the sentence.  Any believer?  I don’t know – but why not?  Why shouldn’t believers speak of things that increase their faith in God?  The last of the Minor Prophets, Malachi (that great Italian Prophet Malachi), says in 3:16 of that book, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name.”  And look what God says about them in the following verse!  ” ‘They will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My  own possession, and I will spare them as a man  spares his own son who serves him.’ ”  But what does he say concerning those who did NOT fear the Lord?  “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”  (Mal. 3:9)  No, we are not of those who will pass with the wicked.  And that should make us very humble – and very thankful.

7:  but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;

  • Rather, Paul tells us that when this mystery is spoken, it is spoken in a mystery.  It is in fact what Paul tells us is “the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”  What could that possibly mean?  Look for a moment at Romans 8:29-30. 
    • “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
  • This is the mystery!  That God, before time began, in the eternity that is past, foreknew certain people.  For reasons known only to Him, those individuals that He foreknew, he also predestined – or if you like foreordained – that those individuals would be conformed [made to be like, fashioned into the image of] to the image of His Son [that would be Christ, 2nd person of the Trinity].  Even that had a purpose in the ancient mystery – that this Christ, Messiah, or Anointed One of God would be made to be the firstborn of many brethren.  This isn’t speaking of His birth, others had been born before He was – this wasn’t even about being raised from the dead, that had happened before Jesus rose from the dead – Elijah had accomplished this on the son of the Shunamite woman for example, or when a dead body touched the bones of Elisha, Elijah’s successor – this was about His being the firstborn.  In Jewish culture, the firstborn always referred to a son unless it specifically listed a daughter.  The position of firstborn is what carried all the privilege of the family, all the notoriety if I can use a word, all the glory, all the rights, and all the power.  He is our elder brother – the one who controls everything.  And we are to be conformed to HIS image.  I don’t have enough paper to print out what that all means, I suspect.  And these ones who He predestined, He also called to Himself!  And those whom He called (all of them), He also justified – made us to be in right standing through His Son!  And those whom He justified, He also glorified!  And all of this was finished, not when Son Jesus died in time on the cross, but before time began in an everlasting covenant called by theologians the Covenant of Redemption.
  • Because Paul is bringing this up in terms of predestination, and words mean things, this MUST be speaking of the Doctrine of Sovereign Election, one of 5 Doctrines of Grace seen throughout Scripture.  That’s the mystery – and like I said, only believers can really even have a chance of grasping this.  Thank God for sending His Holy Spirit to guide us into His truth.

8:  the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

  • If the rulers of this world, and I think this refers to the humans ones here from the context, had understood who it was that they were putting to death, if they had truly understood that He is really the “King of all kinging, and the Lord of all lording,” as it says in a number of places in the New Testament, they would have left well enough alone.  I suspect this might be why the natural man cannot understand this heavenly mystery – the Lord was actually intending this self-sacrifice all along.  And it goes forward from there in directions that we can’t even imagine.  See what Paul says.

9:  but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

  • Paul here cites the Scriptures that he knew, the Old Testament.  This is Paul saying, Yep, this is biblical doctrine!  He quotes really two verses here all mashed together:  Isa. 64:4, and Isa. 65:17, which respectively read as follows.
    • “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (64:4)
    • ““For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”  (65:17)
  • Both verses have the context in their own passages of God doing something completely unexpected and sudden.  I don’t know if that applies in an eschatological sense, but I see no reason it should not, as both passages in Isaiah are both eschatological.
  • Paul is saying that this is a long-known and well-established fact – that only believers in Yahweh even have a chance at grasping this wisdom – because it is specifically for them!  Who are they?  They are US if we have genuinely been justified before God as those predestined elect people that God both foreknew and foreordained before the beginning of time!

This passage in my thinking has been long on displaying the rewards of those believers who will endure in their faith until the end, whatever that might mean.  Fast-forward to the present time.  The curse of Confucius has come upon us – we live in interesting times.  We live in times of a medical pandemic, regardless of what you may think of the virus called COVID-19.  It is dangerous, and although the CDC numbers have now put the kill rate of the virus at about 0.5% globally, it still has teeth if you have ANY other medical conditions that make you weaker.  Problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney issues, liver issues, blood pressure issues – like that.  The more of those that you have, supposedly the worse your outcome will be if you contract the disease.  Folks, I have all but one of those, in that my kidneys are fine so far.  If I got this thing, I might end up meeting the Lord a lot sooner than you might like or than I planned.  And that isn’t the worst of it.

Here in Canada, where we never really had a “great awakening,” a lot less people these days identify as professing Christians.  Despite that, the government is attempting to roll back personal freedoms like a wolf at an all-you-can-eat sheep buffet, and not just for Christians, although a lot of the COVID-19 restrictions seem designed to exactly do just that.  No singing or praying in a church?  You’re kidding, right?  No, they aren’t.  So we came up with a social distancing plan that currently makes out sanctuary capable of handling about 10 percent of the room’s capacity, and people that don’t want to chance the virus (most are seniors, so I get it) have the option of listening in over the phone.  It isn’t perfect, but it works.  The singers wear masks and are more than 20 feet from the crow.  The preacher stands behind a plexiglass shield installed on the pulpit.  It works.  And there are still people that would have us close for the rest of the year at least.  We are currently one of three churches open in Ottawa, I’m told, although August will bring more of that, because the restrictions have been further relaxed (for everyone but us).  Did you get that last bit?  That’s important, because it means that we are NOT considered essential, even though I hear a lot of people going absolutely stir-crazy because they live in a nursing home and can’t go anywhere, nor can they even now be visited by family.  Interesting times indeed.  It’s pretty clear to me at least that we need what Paul is going to talk about next.

10-13:  The Holy Spirit interprets and teaches us that wisdom

With the non-stop sideshow that’s going on around us all the time, it is pretty easy to be distracted at a minimum – or even struck dumb in the face of all these perceived (if not real, and I think some of it at least is NOT real) threats.  Television news channels from CNN to CTV are filled with talking heads telling us what to think about things, and I for one resent that, because they are assuming that I am not able to think through things myself, and any of you who know me know that isn’t true.  These news sources claim to be telling the truth, and I don’t doubt that is their goal, but whose version of truth are they really presenting?  I prefer my Truth to be the Truth as it is in Jesus, and there are very few that offer news from that perspective, and fewer that take that on as an over-arching worldview.  That aren’t wildly Charismatic, that is.

My point there is that God must teach us the truth and its implications and associated behaviours, not CNN or FoxNews.  And here, Paul tells us, that is EXACTLY what is happening.  Let’s look at the text again.

10:  For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

  • Remember, everything in the Bible has a CONTEXT.  What is the context here?  Verse 9!  Those things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man?  It says right here that God has revealed them to US!  It even talks about how – through the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  Paul includes, almost parenthetically, how this is done – It happens because the Holy Spirit, who came to live inside us when we were first justified before God, just happens to search everything out, and that includes the deep things of God, which have not yet been seen, nor heard, nor entered our hearts.  You heard me, God has revealed these things to BELIEVERS!  US!  Come on, you have to be excited by that!

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.

  • Think about this?  Can you hear my thoughts?  No, you can’t though because I’m not really a complicated person, you often could make an educated guess if you know me well enough.  But unless I specifically tell you what I am thinking at any given time, you really have no way of knowing.
  • God is just like that.  No one can guess at God’s thoughts.  Especially in light of His holiness, being SO different from we sinful creatures.  But God knows His own thoughts.  And God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit knows those thoughts.  And that same Holy Spirit, with God’s permission no less or it would not be happening, TELLS us what God’s thoughts are concerning us.  And all of God’s thoughts that concern us are written for us in His holy Word.  The Spirit is particularly good at illuminating that for those who will study it.

12:  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

  • Here Paul is making the point.  Beloved, we have not received the spirit of the world system [kosmos here].  No, we have received the Holy Spirit as a gift from God, and part of His actual job is to teach us those things that are freely given to us by God Himself.  Yes, I’ speaking directly from the Word of God when I say that God has revealed all His secrets concerning us, and He has done so throughout the Scriptures!

13:  which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

  • Think about this.  Where did you learn about Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?  In the Scriptures alone!  Illuminated by the Holy Spirit for the glory of Himself (God) alone!  We didn’t go to school for this knowledge.  Where did you learn about how empty professions of faith do NOT save you, but that you must really be convinced for real (recall we talked about the Feducia)?  Okay, you might argue that some random Gerry guy preached this to you, but HE got it from the Word of God.  Hopefully I showed where it IS in the word as well (James 2 if you need a reminder).  But Gerry, I will argue now, did not teach you anything.  It was the Holy Spirit using my words (despite me, His failing servant) that taught you.  See how Paul says it here?
  • Which things we also speak.  Paul dealt with this in his letter to the Romans (you can look it up, it’s in chapter 10).  It is the foolishness of preaching that God uses here.  God’s servants speak from the Word of God.
  • Not in words taught by human wisdom.  What, do you think we made this stuff up?  I know a few atheists that claim the bible is a “bunch of made-up fairy tales.”  I guarantee that those guys have never read any of it, nor put it to the scholar’s tests of authenticity and historical accuracy.  If I were to take the time to do it now, this would run longer and I have a bedtime, so maybe another time, but there are academic tests for this, and the New Testament passes with flying colours.  No, we did not “make things up.”
  • But in those taught by the Spirit.  No, I suppose if you want to say they were made up by anyone, they were made up by God, but that isn’t the same thing as Gerry making this up.  Or Paul.  Or Peter or any of the other Apostles.  If God makes up words, those are the words we use.  If Gerry makes something up, I’m still using the words God made up, but I’m writing fiction.  God is not the author of fiction.  Ever.  He is only and ever full of Truth.
  • Combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  I prefer the marginal rendering here:  “Interpreting spiritual things for spiritual men.”  I prefer it because it brings out a nuance that I’ve been hitting on throughout this study – that spiritual things can only be grasped spiritually, and it is the Holy Spirit that guides our interpretations as we walk in the Spirit.  Also, the truths of which we have been speaking are spiritual in nature, and as such can only be grasped by those who are truly walking in the Spirit – by believers.  All the rest of the world sees nothing but foolishness.  Old wives’ tales.  Stuff we “made up.”  But we know better, because (v.12) God gave us His Spirit to guide us into all truth, has He not?

It turns out that once we know something via means of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we really know it.  Yet, outside of evangelism, should we be showing all of this to the world at large?  Probably not.  For those outside the church, we should make a special effort in Christ to make sure we get the cart and horse in the right order.  Although inside the “walls” of the church any topic of interest is fair game, we must preach the need for repentance from sin and faith toward God before unbelievers.  And as it turns out, there is a very singular and powerful reason for this.

14-16:  The natural man cannot see the spiritual wonders of Christ

The unbeliever has no such advantage as the Spirit of God Himself living in their heart.  For the average believer, many doctrines of the faith offer at best confusion, and at worst open hostility for the preacher.  Heck, the Gospel itself is offensive to their sensibilities for the most part.  The exception to that would seem to be for that member of God’s elect who is at that moment receiving that internal and irresistible call of God to respond positively to the Gospel.  And brothers, although there are a few examples of people arriving at this call to faith in Christ without human intervention (like Augustine for example), the vast majority of people arrive at this point when someone proclaims the everlasting Gospel to them!  But that isn’t my point.  My point is that unless God opens their eyes, they have no chance of grasping this wisdom and the wonder of Christ and his atoning sacrifice on our behalf.  He just has no ability to even see the kingdom of God.

What do I mean by that?  This is important, so we’ll spend a minute or two looking at this.  Let’s look in our Bibles at John chapter 3, beginning in verse 1. [NASB]

  1. Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
  2. this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these  signs that You do unless God is with him.”
  3. Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  4. Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
  5. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
  6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
  7. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
  8. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Do you see what the Lord said to Nicodemus in verse 3 here?  If you are not born from above, you cannot even SEE the kingdom of God, never mind ENTER it.  He even upbraids Nicodemus in verse 9 for not knowing this stuff, because according to the Lord Jesus, it’s dead-level basic.  And the word for “born again” may also be translated “born from above.”  It is thought that the Lord was playing deliberate word games with Nicodemus to make the point in verse 3.  And now let me ask – how much did you have to do with your own birth?

If you said, “nothing,” you’d be correct.  It is the same with that spiritual birth.  You may have in fact made a choice to do this, but my suggestion is that you were simply following the demands of your new nature.  And if that’s what happened, you got what you wanted, because God forgave your sins and made you one of the family by adopting you.  But UNLESS that happened, you cannot grasp even this simple principle as Nicodemus at that moment could not.  (It is thought that he later did, so it is probable that Nicodemus is counted among our number.)  And if you are hearing this, and you are having trouble getting your head around what I’m saying, try asking God to forgive you of your sins, and start being convinced that Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on your behalf was enough for your sins.  See if that doesn’t clear things up a bit.  After the incredible joy and peace you feel at the moment pass perhaps.  That’s what I went through.  Not everyone does.  But on with the text.

14:  But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

  • Isn’t this what we have just been talking about?  The natural man, that is the unconverted man, the unregenerate man, the unsaved man, the unjustified, unacquitted, GUILTY man does not accept the things of God because he just plain doesn’t understand them.  They are to him, nothing but foolishness.  Why?  Because that natural man has a dead spirit.  He was born that way.  It is a result of “the fall.”  There is not other explanation that so easily fits this situation.  I could break out Occam’s Razor here if you want and explain that the simplest explanation for something is usually the correct one.  It has to do with conservation of energy and entropy and all that sciencey stuff I have a degree in, but I don’t want to bore you with a long-winded explanation – although it may already be too late for that.

15:  But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

  • Now what the heck does that mean?  This is actually all speaking of the concept of illumination, and action in the mind and heart of the believer of the Holy Spirit.  Unlike revelation and inspiration, which were given to the writers of Scripture alone, illumination is available to all believers right from moment one of their Christian life.  When Paul says, “But he who is spiritual examines all things for the sake of investigating them,” he means that every Christian has access to the Holy Spirit to illumine any given text that said believer should know about, when they should know about it. 
  • The natural man just cannot do this.  They are simply not properly equipped.  They can analyze and examine our faith until the Lord returns, but unless the Lord shows them His mercy, or better, by grace saves them, they have no hope in understanding the reality involved in our faith.  Worse, they cannot accept what I just said, and will tell me that I’m proud, or stubborn, too much a scholar, or more modernly, “racist,” because they don’t like what I say.  This is why we shouldn’t be surprised when they want to tell us what we believe, and why it is wrong.  We need to realize that they are simply wrong.  Don’t debate or try to explain unless they are asking, like Nicodemus was.
  • Paul explains why not in the second half of the verse – even though the spiritual man examines everything, no one can successfully examine him.  This is logical, too.  If they can’t properly analyze God properly, what makes anyone think they will be any more successful with God’s people?  They read in the Scripture that homosexuality is a sin, and they don’t agree, so they protest.  Let them.  Sinners should have NO PLACE in the church.  It shouldn’t surprise us that when they appraise us, something happens to us like happened to Stephen.  They tried to analyze Jesus, and they couldn’t so they crucified Him.  Now it’s our turn.  Just be faithful, saints.  Haters gonna hate, apostates gonna apostatize.  Let them.  It’s just part of the territory, and part of our sanctification.  And from what I can observe, it only hurts for a little while, and then we’re home!  I know no one wants to go through this, but if that’s what God ordains for us, who are we to say no?

16:  For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

  • Indeed?  Who are we to tell God how to do things?  He’s GOD, PEOPLE!  Whatever happens to us is HIS will.  And WE, having the mind of Christ, should know that.  Now THAT’s something worth considering.
  • What does it mean to “have the mind of Christ?”  It could mean that Christ has written down what He wants for us, and what and how He thinks so we can follow Him.  And that would be true, because we now have in our hands the completed Word of God, the Bible.  But I think it means more than that.  I think it also means that we have the Holy Spirit to instruct us in real time about the things we need to know in any given moment.  The Holy Spirit, you will remember, in Romans, was also called the Spirit of Christ.  His mind is ALSO the MIND of Christ!  We may not be able as His creatures to instruct Him (and there were some attempts in the OT, like Job and Habakkuk, that met with the spectacular failure of those servants of God and their repentance.  But he can certainly instruct us, as He says in one place, “I will guide you with My eye,” or in another, “and you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk you in it!’ “
  • God has given us His Word and His Spirit to guide us.  What more do we really need?

So it is that we see God has once again provided all that we need in our walks with Him.  Just wait for the next study when you see just where that is and some of the implications that it has for us as we walk with Him day by day, all the way to the end!

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