1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ~ 20130505 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/05 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 Natural Inability and Spirit Transformation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130505_1cor2_14-16.mp3
14 Ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ, μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστίν, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται· 15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει τὰ πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται. 16 τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου, ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν; ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν.
1Cor 2 [ESV2011]
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
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. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We will focus our attention on verses 14-16. An overview of Paul's flow of logic will help us see where we are in this passage
1:10-13 The Corinthians are dividing and quarreling, boasting in seemingly wise and popular human leaders; this is not in line with the gospel
1:13-17 The gospel is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified
1:18 This message divides all mankind absolutely into only two categories; us who are being saved and those who are perishing.
1:19-25 God has destroyed the wisdom of the wise; The wise, powerful, noble of this age have rejected the gospel as foolishness
1:26-31 God chose to save those who are foolish, weak, low, despised, the nothings so that no one would boast in his presence
2:1-5 The messenger fit the message, coming in weakness, fear, and much trembling with the simple message of Christ crucified to allow for a demonstration of the power of the Spirit
2:6-9 The cross is God's hidden wisdom, and the rulers of this age didn't understand it
2:10 God has revealed the hidden wisdom of the cross to us through the Spirit.
2:11-13 Only God's Spirit can comprehend and communicate God's hidden thoughts
2:14-16 The person without the Spirit is both unwilling and unable to receive the gospel; the person who has received God's Spirit is enabled to understand the gospel and be transformed by it.
Natural / Spiritual
The natural person is here contrasted with the spiritual person. The natural person (literally the soulish person; ψυχικός) is the person without the Spirit of God. The spiritual person is the person who has the Spirit of God. Throughout this passage Paul has dismantled the categories of the Corinthians, who wanted to be exalted, to be thought wise, sophisticated, popular. Paul appealed to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... that there be no divisions among you” (1:10). He made it clear that the cross of our Lord Jesus divides all people into two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. On the one side are the wise, the scribe, the debater of this age, the powerful, the noble, the rulers of this age who are being brought to nothing, whom he here categorizes as 'natural' or 'soulish'. On the other side, there are those who believe, those who are called, the foolish, the weak, the low and despised in the world, the nothings, those to whom the message of Christ crucified is God's power, those who are mature or perfect or complete in Christ, those who love him, those to whom God has revealed the wisdom of the gospel through his Spirit, those who have received the Spirit, whom he categorizes as 'spiritual' (πνευματικῶς).
We often use this term spiritual to refer to those who have achieved a higher level of spirituality, or those who are self-righteous and holier-than-thou. This idea of a spiritual elite who have advanced beyond the ordinary Christian flies in the face of everything Paul has said so far. Paul does not use the term this way. There are only two categories, those who have received God's Spirit, and those who have not. So the 'spiritual' in this passage refers to all believers; those who have received God's Spirit, as opposed to the 'natural person' those who do not have God's Spirit.
The Natural Person Not Willing to Accept (2:14a)
Paul tells us that the natural person, the person without the Spirit of God, does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. The things of the Spirit of God, in the context are the things freely given us by God (2:12); the things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (2:10); what God has prepared for those who love him (2:9); the secret and hidden wisdom of God (2:7); the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). This is the only message Paul preached. Christ crucified was scandalous, offensive and foolish to Jews and Greeks, but to the called, to those who believe, this same message of the cross became the power and wisdom of God. This is the message that the natural person does not accept. They will not accept it. And Paul gives us the reason the natural man does not accept the message of the cross; 'for', or because, they are foolishness to him. This is what he has been saying all along. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1:18). To the person without God's Spirit, the cross makes no sense, and who believes something that makes no sense? Only a fool believes something that is silly or absurd, so the natural person not only refuses to believe, but concludes that those who do believe are fools. Paul will address this conclusion in a moment.
The Natural Person Not Able to Understand (2:14b)
But first he goes on. He adds 'and he is not able to understand'. The person without the Spirit of God is not able to understand the gospel. This flows logically out of what he said back in verse 12; “We have received ...the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God”. Without God's Spirit we are unable to understand the cross. Many people react against this, because it doesn't sound fair to us. If a person is not able to believe the gospel and so they are perishing, (which is what this text says) then how can God hold them accountable for something that is outside their ability? That seems unreasonable. It will help if we can see that there are different kinds of inability. There is what we could call neutral inability, and what we could call guilty inability. An illustration might help us understand. I am not able to fly. I cannot fly because I was not designed to be able to fly. I don't have wings. If God demanded that I fly, which is contrary to the way he designed me, then this would be unreasonable. It is not my fault that I don't have wings. Now let me describe a different kind of inability, guilty inability. A drunk driver was unable to keep his car under control. He swerved into an oncoming vehicle and killed everyone in that car. He was incapable of keeping his car under control, (that is why he should not have been behind the wheel); his inability was entirely his own fault, and we would all agree that he should be held accountable for his inability. That is guilty inability. This is the kind of inability that the bible declares that all of us have. We 'by our unrighteousness suppress the truth... we did not honor God as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in our thinking and and our foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, we became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images... we exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator... we did not see fit to acknowledge God' (Rom.1:18-28). We, 'who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds' (Col.1:21). We 'were dead (totally incapable of responding to the gospel) in our trespasses and sins, in which we once walked' (Eph.2:1-2). We, who were created to worship God, became drunk with our own self-centeredness. We were given wings, we were designed to know God and enjoy fellowship with God, but we bent those wings to an evil purpose, and we are guilty for our resulting inability to fly. The natural person is not able to understand the good news, because it is spiritually appraised. Only when we receive the Spirit of God can we perceive the cross as God's power and God's wisdom for our salvation.
The Spiritual One Judges All (2:15)
The spiritual person, one who has received the Spirit of God, judges all things, but he is himself to be judged by no one. The same word that is translated 'judge' twice in verse 15 is translated 'discern' at the end of verse 14. This word shows up in Luke and Acts in the context of a trial to examine the evidence. It means to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, to examine with a view to either approve or condemn. The things of the Spirit are spiritually judged; the person with the Spirit judges all, but is himself judged by none. The person without the Spirit is not equipped to rightly evaluate the gospel. The person with the Spirit is able to rightly evaluate all. Paul, someone who has the Spirit, condemns the rulers of this age for their guilty ignorance and unbelief. But when someone who does not have the Spirit concludes that a believer in Jesus is a fool, his evaluation is not valid, because he is not qualified to pass judgment on spiritual issues.
This verse has often been ripped out of context and abused to mean something it was never intended to mean. Spiritually arrogant people who think they have attained to greater spirituality than the rest of us quote this verse to show that the spiritual insight they have attained is revealed to them by the Spirit and we don't understand it because we are not spiritual enough. If you agree with them, they consider you 'spiritual'; if you disagree, you are not. If you try to evaluate or critique their insight, they might appeal to verse 15 and claim that they are exempt from being judged by anyone. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that this is a gross distortion of what this passage was intended to mean.
In many places we are encouraged to humble ourselves, to submit to one another, in love to gently rebuke one another and hold one another accountable, to test every truth claim and reject anything that does not align with scripture, to contend earnestly for the gospel, to be teachable, to receive correction and learn from it. Often we will even find ourselves rebuked and challenged and convicted by unbelievers.
Isaiah 40:13 (2:16a)
Paul supports his assertions that the person without the Spirit will not receive and can not understand the gospel with a quotation from Isaiah 40:13.
Only the Spirit searches the depths of God; only the Spirit of God comprehends the thoughts of God. Isaiah 40 is a passage that declares the incomparable unfathomable greatness of our God.
The assumed answer to all the rhetorical questions in Isaiah 40 is 'no one'. No one is like God. No one compares to him. His understanding in unsearchable. That makes Paul's concluding statement in 1 Corinthians all the more shocking. He answers Isaiah's rhetorical question this way:
The Mind of Christ (2:16b)
Who has understood the mind of the Lord? The Spirit searches the depths of God. We have received the Spirit that we might understand the things freely given us by God. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God. We preach Christ crucified. We have the mind of Christ. All believers who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. This is not a privilege for the elite few. This is the common possession of all believers. What is the mind of Christ? Philippians 2 spells it out.
We who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. What is the mind of Christ? It is not divisive privileged elite secret wisdom. It is not merely an understanding of the cross. It is being shaped by the cross. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. God from all eternity emptied himself, humiliated himself, became man, was executed as a common criminal, putting our interests above his own, demonstrated the epitome of love, totally devoid of selfish ambition or conceit.
If we have the Spirit of God, if we have understood the mind of the Lord, if we have the mind of Christ, then we will be characterized by a deep sense of humility. We will live in humble prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God. Selfish ambition, pride, conceit must die. Self-centeredness must die. We will be others centered, characterized by a humble willingness to lay our own ambitions down for the good of others. We will be characterized by love; a rugged relentless self-sacrificial pursuit of the good of others. We will live for others, and we will lay down our lives for others. Our lives, our hearts, our attitudes, our actions will begin to be shaped by the cross. We have the mind of Christ!