Christians and Wisdom: Part 5 of 6 (series: Lessons on 1 Co.)
by John Lowe
comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, and each of its 66 books is important if we are to understand the program of God from beginning to end. The best way to understand the Bible is to compare scripture to scripture. We should never take scripture out of its environment to use to prove a denominational or religious point. We should never add to it what we think and we should never take away from it to make it say what we want it to say. We should rightly divide the word of Truth according to how the Holy Spirit teaches us.
How does the Holy Spirit teach us? It is worth repeating. He compares “spiritual things with spiritual.” He reminds us of what He has taught us, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26 (KJV), relates that truth to something new, and then leads us into new truth and new applications of old truth. What a joy it is to hold the Bible and let the Spirit reveal God’s truth. The problem is, many Christians are too busy for this quiet meditation. They are missing out on being enriched.
Now this verse confuses some people, but personally, I don’t see the problem, because I believe they are saying basically the same thing:
• Canon Cook explains it: “Matching spiritual things with spiritual words.”
• Conybeare and Howson said: “Explaining spiritual things to spiritual men.”
• Adam Clark has this explanation, “This is commonly understood to mean, comparing the spiritual things under the Old Testament with the spiritual things under the New: but this does not appear to be the apostle's meaning. The word συγκρινοντες, which we translate comparing, rather signifies conferring, discussing, or explaining; and the word πνευματικοις should be rendered to spiritual men, and not be referred to spiritual things. The passage, therefore, should be thus translated: Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons. And this is the sense the following verse absolutely requires.”
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But the natural man
The natural (unregenerate) man rejects anything that has to do with the Spirit of God—first, because he doesn’t have the capacity to understand it; and in the second place, the things of God are distasteful and unattractive to the natural man because his nature craves the things of the world.
It is utterly impossible for any man to understand anything about the spiritual things of God until he has been born again. To be born again all the person has to know is that Christ died for sinners, and then he must believe from the heart that God raised him from the dead: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9; KJV). To openly confess Christ in those days of persecution was a trial of faith of the severest kind. Note particularly that there is no promise made here to a person who conceals his faith.
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:
Paul is making a comparison between the saved person (called “spiritual” because he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit) and the unsaved person (called “natural” because he does not have the Spirit within). In 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Paul will introduce a third kind of person called, the “carnal man.” He is the immature Christian, the one who lives on the childhood level because he will not feed on the Word and grow.
At one time every Christian was “natural” knowing only the things of nature. When we trusted the Savior, the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts and moved us into the plain of “spiritual”—able to live on a higher level in the realm of the Spirit. Then we had to grow! The unsaved man cannot receive the things of the Spirit because he does not believe in them and cannot understand them. But as the Christian receives the things of the Spirit day by day, he grows and matures.
for they are foolishness unto him;
The natural man looks upon the things of God as if they are absurd, and unreasonable; they do not agree with his taste, he dislikes and rejects them as being dull and distasteful; he regards them as belonging to a crazy brain, and he makes them the subject of joking and ridicule. I have recently observed with my own eyes an example of how natural men hate the things of God, and you may have seen it too, if you watched the Democratic National Convention (September 2012). The platform committee removed all mention of God from the party platform. When they realized that the Republicans could use this against them, they asked the members to approve an amendment to added God back to the platform. The membership voted to keep God out, but the chairman passed it anyway. The point is the majority of Democrats were angry because God was put back in and that it was done in spite of their objections. Did those who voted “no” hate God; you can be the judge!
neither can he know them:
One of the characteristics of maturity is discernment—the ability to penetrate beneath the surface of life and see things as they really are. Unsaved people walk by sight, and really see nothing. They are spiritually blind, unless their sight is acted upon by a divine power that places a superior spiritual light into it. At the very best, he can only know the facts and grammatical sense of them, or only theoretically, and speculatively; not experimentally, spiritually, and savingly. The next clause tells why he can’t know them.
because they are spiritually discerned;
They are spiritually blind because the things of God are discerned through the Holy Spirit. Therefore those who don’t have the Spirit cannot discern them. The maturing Christian grows in his spiritual discernment to understand more and more (with the Spirits help) of the mind and will of God. The Corinthians lacked this discernment; they were spiritually ignorant. They were so wrapped up in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit that they were neglecting the basic ministries of the Spirit; they were also neglecting the Father and the Son.
This is a very important verse; therefore it would be wise for us to summarize what the apostle is telling the Corinthians and everyone that reads it. The unregenerate man cannot get to know the things of God from a study of the Word simply for argumentative purposes. Unregenerate man cannot discern the things of God. In spite of all the searching and studying he may do, his spirit will not allow the soul to form an opinion of God that will cause the natural man to seek God. Before the unregenerate spirit will seek God, he must hear the Word of God with an open mind and an open heart and allow the Holy Spirit to convict him of sin and draw him to God.
In John 6.44 Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44; KJV). It is impossible for the unregenerate man to form an opinion in regard to spiritual things without the divinely inspired spiritual faculties that only the Holy Ghost can give in response to faith or as a result of faith. The perception of natural man does not and cannot extend beyond the region of the intellect, and we will never come to know God through intellect. We know God through the heart, not through the mind.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
But he that is spiritual
Meaning not any particular individual person; but all men who have been born of the Spirit, literally, "the spiritual (man)." He possesses a divine nature, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the dominating force in his life. Consequently, because the dominating force in his life is spiritual, his spiritual faculty enables him to investigate all things in their relative proportion—that is, those things divinely revealed as a person studies the Word, and yields to the Spirit.
judgeth all things,
Here in this place “judgeth all things” means "discerneth all things"; but we should not think that it is referring to all the things in nature, or all things which fall within the scope of human knowledge; there are many things you and I may know nothing about. For example: I do not understand how an airplane that weighs a hundred thousand pounds can fly. And I can’t explain WIFI, even though I am on my computer most of every day. But, I do know something about the things that the world calls foolish; the Spirit of God, and the Gospel. I know that there is salvation in Christ alone, pardon by his blood, and justification by his righteousness. I know these things because I have experienced them personally. The spiritual man (I am one, and I hope you are too) can distinguish truth from error, and the voice of Christ from the voice of a stranger; and he knows when the Gospel is preached, and when it is not, because he judges by the Word of God and his own experience. This does not mean that every spiritual man has the same degree of spiritual knowledge and judgment; on the contrary, everyone discerns and judges according to the measure of the gift that Christ has given him.