R. Buckminster Fuller was an American architect, philosopher, inventor, and creator of the Geodesic Dome, a highly efficient structure with design principles that have since been incorporated into many aspects of modern architecture. (1) Fuller is also widely known as the originator of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve,” a theory that was expressed in his book Critical Path.
Fuller observed that the rate at which human knowledge doubled had steadily increased to the point where it could no longer be measured in terms of centuries or decades (as was the case prior to the year 1900). Instead, this rate could now be measured in terms of years. In light of this, one does not need to be a futurist, philosopher, or mathematician to realize that such a curve predicts that human knowledge will eventually double at a daily rate in the not too distant future.
Unfortunately, Fuller’s theory is known as the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” and not the “Wisdom Doubling Curve,” for the reality is that the more we know (and the faster we know it) does not necessarily mean that human society will advance or improve to a similar degree. This reality was lamented by King Solomon in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes when he said, “For in much [human] wisdom there is much displeasure and exasperation; increasing knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18 AMP).
Although Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived according to 1 Kings 3:11-12, he found that knowledge alone failed to infuse life with real meaning- and the futility associated with the pursuit of knowledge without regard to humanity’s Creator reflects the Apostle Paul’s message from 1 Corinthians chapter one: “For God’s wisdom ordained that the world, using its own wisdom, would not come to know him. Therefore God decided to use the “nonsense” of what we proclaim as his means of saving those who come to trust in it” (1 Corinthians 1:21 CJB).
As one commentator points out…
“…the cross of Christ is a judgment on the wisdom of man. What do the smart, powerful people of the world do with Jesus of Nazareth? Well, the answer is they crucify him, don’t they? They reject him; they deny him; they put him to death if they possibly can. That is what they did in the 1st century and that is what they still do today. Why? Because they think he is crazy? No, even today, 2,000 years later, nobody thinks Jesus was crazy. Well, why do they resist him? The answer, of course, is not because they think he is crazy, but because they are afraid he is right.” (2)
(1) Geodesic dome, Architecture Encyclopædia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/technology/geodesic-dome
(2) Ray Stedman, God’s Wisdom 1 Corinthians 2:1-10 Copyright © 2010 by Ray Stedman Ministries http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/1-corinthians/gods-wisdom
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Following Paul’s arrival in the city of Corinth, “…he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (1) and 1 Corinthians 2:2 provides us with the content of his message: “…Jesus Christ and his death on the cross” (ERV). So Paul did not arrive in Corinth with the eloquent speech of a great orator. Instead, he presented the essential message of Christianity in a basic manner.
Although Paul was certainly capable of holding his own in an academic debate (as evidenced by his interaction with the philosophers of his day), he resolved to limit his emphasis in Corinth to the message of Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for human sin. This humble message was also reflected in Paul’s physical approach as well…
“I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).
The only known description of Paul’s physical appearance is found in a 2nd century apocryphal document that tells us that he was a man of little stature, thin haired upon the head, bow-legged, strongly built, with eyebrows joining and a nose that was somewhat hooked. (2) If this description is accurate (and considering the additional elements of weakness, fear, and trembling in his approach), it could hardly be said that Paul maintained an imposing presence that served to intimidate the Corinthians into a decision to accept Christ.
In reality, this served to benefit Paul for as he said in his second Biblical letter to the Corinthian church, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV).
Although Paul will later go on to issue some strongly-worded directives to the church at Corinth, he conspicuously avoided an attitude of arrogance right from the beginning- and that helped open up a greater opportunity for the Corinthians to see Jesus’ work on their behalf.
(1) Acts 18:4
(2) The Acts of Paul and Thecla https://archive.org/stream/jstor-3136819/3136819#page/n0/mode/2up (pg. 186)
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2-5 ESV).
In his efforts to bring the message of Gospel to the first-century world, the Scriptures tell us that the Apostle Paul traveled to ancient towns of Philippi (where he was beaten [Acts 16:12-23]), Thessalonica (where he left town under the cover of darkness [Acts 17:1-10]), and Berea, where a group of agitators stirred up the local populace against him (Acts 17:10-14).
The challenges that Paul faced during these missionary journeys were so great that he went on to make a rather startling admission in his second Biblical letter to the Corinthians…
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death…” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9a NIV).
This passage tells us that there was a time when the circumstances and situations of life had become so difficult for Paul that he “…despaired even of life.” In other words, there was a time in Paul’s life when he actually felt like he wanted to die. Perhaps this may account (at least in part) for the fact that Paul originally approached the people of Corinth “…in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (NIV).
In this, Paul presented himself as an object lesson of his message to the Corinthians. You see, no reasonable person would have accepted the message of God’s salvation through Christ as a result of Paul’s physical appearance. Nor would they have accepted such a message on the basis of his skill as a great orator. If the people of Corinth were going to come to Christ through Paul’s ministry, it would only be due to the fact that God Himself had initiated it.
As one commentator observes, “(Paul) is not bold, defiant, self-assured, as an earthly warrior pushing up to an assault. On the contrary, he is much cast down, conscious of weakness, full of fear. To the outward sight, there is every thing against him. But while the flesh trembles, the spirit has courage to go on, being trustful in God.” (1)
(1) A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures John Peter Lange, pg.53
“…neither the delivery nor the content of my message relied on compelling words of ‘wisdom’ but on a demonstration of the power of the Spirit, so that your trust might not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 CJB).
One commentator contrasts the difference between Paul’s approach to the people of Corinth and the great orators of his day…
“The heroes of the Greek culture were the philosophers who spent all their time debating philosophies (see Act_17:16-21) and displaying their expertise in eloquent use of language. ‘The speaking was the thing’ with them—not the reality of what was being said. William Barclay says: ‘The Greeks sought wisdom. Originally the Greek word sophist meant a wise man in the good sense; but it came to mean a man with a clever mind and cunning tongue, a mental acrobat, a man… with glittering and persuasive rhetoric…'” (1)
But in another shockingly transparent admission to the Corinthian believers, Paul spoke about what life was like for him as he brought the message of the Gospel to others…
“…I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again and again.
Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day. I have traveled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles.
I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the constant worry of how the churches are getting along: Who makes a mistake and I do not feel his sadness? Who falls without my longing to help him? Who is spiritually hurt without my fury rising against the one who hurt him?” (2 Corinthians 11:23-29 TLB).
No reasonable person would have endured these difficulties simply for the privilege of demonstrating his or her rhetorical ability- and that is what helped separate Paul (as well as those who have been truly called of God today) from those who only sought to display their knowledge and speaking ability.
(1) Paul T. Butler, Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In First Corinthians Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company
“I didn’t speak my message with persuasive intellectual arguments. I spoke my message with a show of spiritual power so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 GW).
The Apostle Paul’s experience with the citizens of Corinth provides us with an important consideration today.
You see, Paul could have chosen from among any number of communication strategies in seeking to bring the Gospel to Corinth. For instance, Paul could have assumed the role of a salesperson touting the benefit of his or her product. He might have made an emotional appeal that was designed to provoke a favorable response. Or perhaps Paul might have chosen to engage in a thunderous preaching style that was certain to command the attention of his audience. Instead, Paul did none of these things; he simply relied on the “…convincing proof of the power of God’s Spirit” (GNB) in speaking to others about Jesus.
In taking this approach, we can say that Paul steadfastly refused to manipulate, pressure, or otherwise take advantage of others through his preaching. He preferred instead to allow God to work in the hearts and minds of his listeners in communicating through“…words taught by the Spirit” (NIV) as he will later go on to say in verse thirteen.
Paul’s motivation for this approach can be found in verse five: “I did this so that your faith would be in God’s power, not in human wisdom” (ERV). In other words, Paul did not want the faith of these Corinthian believers to be established on the foundation of a clever argument, philosophical principle, or anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Its often been said that a person who has been argued into a profession of belief in Christ can just as easily be argued out of it as well. However, this passage does necessarily imply that its wrong to engage in a defense of Christianity with those who may hold other points of view. It simply means that Paul did not design his content or his delivery to impress his listeners with his eloquence or wisdom. (1)
As Paul himself would later go on to say to these same Corinthian Christians…
“The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Phillips).
(1) The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes). Copyright 2012 by Dr. Thomas L. Constable. All Rights Reserved. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf (2:4) pg. 30
“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6).
The remaining verses of 1 Corinthians chapter two will serve as a study in contrasts as Paul the Apostle will focus upon three important areas…
- The type of wisdom that is valued by the world as opposed to the kind of wisdom that originates with God (verses six to eight).
- The differences between the Spirit of God and the spirit of this world (verses nine to thirteen).
- The characteristics of a spiritual and non-spiritual person (verses fourteen to sixteen).
Its likely that these were the types of subjects that Paul discussed among those who were mature in Christ. Unfortunately, that group of people did not necessarily include those who belonged to the church in Corinth as Paul will later go on to say in 1 Corinthians chapter three. This is reminiscent of a situation that the writer of the Biblical book of Hebrews encountered as well…
“You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others, but instead you have dropped back to the place where you need someone to teach you all over again the very first principles in God’s Word…” (Hebrews 5:12a TLB).
These brief passages serve to remind us that a Christian who lacks familiarity with the Scriptures is someone who becomes a target for spiritual deception. For instance, a Christian who fails to read God’s Word regularly may fall prey to an alternative belief system that carries an element of truth but is actually opposed to genuine Biblical doctrine.
A Christian who doesn’t really know what the Bible teaches might be vulnerable to a spiritual leader who holds a self-serving agenda behind a veneer of spirituality. He or she may become an object of mockery for those who take pleasure in removing Biblical passages from their context and then challenging believers to explain them. Or such people may never truly overcome the problems of life because they don’t know what the Bible says about handling such difficulties when they come.
While much has changed since the time when the letter of 1 Corinthians was originally written, the importance of maturity in Christ has not. There is a “wisdom” that characterizes this present age but it is a type of wisdom that is “doomed to pass away” (ESV) -and a person who knows the Scriptures is someone who will in a position to recognize the difference.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
When used in the Scriptures, a “mystery” isn’t something that you might find in a detective novel or at a crime scene. Instead, the Biblical idea of a mystery refers to a spiritual truth that was previously hidden but has now been (or will be) revealed. This is something that helps separate genuine Christianity from other beliefs that claim that salvation is only available to those who have access to hidden spiritual knowledge or information.
In the formative years of the early church, this type of spiritual philosophy was held by a group known as the Gnostics, a loose collection of individuals who taught that salvation could only be attained through the acquisition of special knowledge or insight. The word “gnosis” means “to know” and Gnosticism taught that a transcendent spiritual being provided “secret knowledge” that helped enable the chosen to escape the evil of this current world order.
In contrast to such beliefs, Paul did not shield the truths of Christianity from others in order to share them only with a select few; on the contrary, the only limiting factor for Paul seems to have been the spiritual maturity of his audience (1 Corinthians 2:6).
We might also consider Paul’s testimony before the Roman governor Festus (as recorded within the Biblical book of Acts) to help illustrate his position regarding spiritual truth…
“God has been helping me to this day so that I can stand and testify to important and unimportant people. I tell them only what the prophets and Moses said would happen. They said that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to come back to life and would spread light to Jewish and non-Jewish people.
As Paul was defending himself in this way, Festus shouted, ‘Paul, you’re crazy! Too much education is driving you crazy!’ Paul replied, ‘I’m not crazy, Your Excellency Festus. What I’m saying is true and sane. I can easily speak to a king who knows about these things. I’m sure that none of these things has escaped his attention. None of this was done secretly'” (Acts 26:22-26 GW). (1)
Unlike those who claimed that spiritual truth was only available to a select group of spiritual insiders, Paul openly declared the truth about God’s plan of salvation though Christ, a truth that was previously obscure but now had been made known.
(1) See also Jesus’ statement in John 18:20
“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
A well-known old proverb tells us that “experience is the best teacher.” However, there is another old proverb that provides us with a clarification that we might wish to consider first: “How do you avoid making mistakes? By experience. How do you gain experience? By making mistakes.”
While experience can certainly be a good teacher, the Old Testament book of Proverbs offers us a far better path to true wisdom: “How does a man become wise? The first step is to trust and reverence the Lord! Only fools refuse to be taught” (Proverbs 1:7 TLB). This portion of Scripture also helps explain an apparent discrepancy found here in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.
You see, some might object to this passage by saying, “If God’s plan of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection was secret and hidden, then how can we hold the ‘rulers of this age’ accountable for not knowing it?” Well, the answer is that true wisdom always remains hidden from those who fail to recognize their responsibility to trust and reverence the Lord.
For instance, God did not detail His plan of salvation through Christ within the Old Testament Scriptures although there were certainly many allusions to it. (1) Thus it remained something of a mystery, even to the prophets of old. (2) But anyone who took these Scriptures seriously might have been able to recognize Jesus as God’s Savior by way of the information that God had already disclosed. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that there were a number of people who did just that: “And all the multitudes were amazed and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?'” (Matthew 12:23).
Therefore we can say that if this plan remained secret and hidden from those who crucified Jesus then it may have been due to the fact that those same people chose to reject, ignore, or disregard the Biblical information that God had already provided concerning it. Thus, Jesus’ statement from the Gospel of Mark was regrettably fitting…
“…Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:24-25 NLT).
“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’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV).
To illustrate the message behind this section of his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul turned to a portion of Scripture found in the Biblical book of the prophet Isaiah…
“For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).
As one commentator points out regarding Paul’s use of this passage, “Properly speaking, this is not a strict quotation from the Scriptures. Paul is paraphrasing Isaiah 64:4 to remind us that God’s wisdom and plan is past our finding out on our own. ‘As it is written is not, in this case, the form of quotation, but is rather equivalent to saying, ‘To use the language of Scripture’ (Hodge).” (1)
This reference builds on a thought that Paul established earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching… to save those who believed…” (AMPC). In this sense, the idea is that God’s purposes are beyond the ability of our natural senses to understand or even imagine.
While it is possible to perceive the reality of a Creator through sense perception (see Romans 1:19-20), finite human beings naturally lack the ability to comprehend the future that God has prepared for those who love Him. Yet, Paul tells us that God has revealed these things to us by His Spirit. As mentioned earlier, this helps set Christianity apart from those spiritual beliefs that claim to impart spiritual knowledge to only a relative few.
As Jesus once said, the world at large cannot accept the Spirit of Truth because because it doesn’t see Him or know Him (John 14:17). However, God’s people possess the ability to perceive the things that God has revealed because His Spirit is available to make those things known to us. As Jesus promised His disciples in John 16:13, “….when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…”
(1) Guzik, Dave 1 Corinthians 2 – Real Wisdom from God https://enduringword.com/commentary/1-corinthians-2/
“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthains 2:11).
The word “spirit” is one that possesses a wide variety of meanings depending on the context in which it is used. For example, this word might refer to something like enthusiasm, fortitude, or ambition. It might refer to a supernatural apparition, or a ghost of the type seen in Charles Dicken’s famous work, A Christmas Carol. It might even refer to alcohol or some other type of flammable liquid.
When used in a Biblical sense however, the word “spirit” finds it’s origin in the Old Testament Hebrew word “ruach” and the New Testament Greek word “pneuma.” In fact, the word “pneuma” can still be found today as the basis of the word “pneumatic” when used in relation to a tire, an air tool, or a gas.
This word is used to express the idea of a breeze (or gust) of wind, an air current, or the act of breathing. The idea is that -like an air current- the spirit is invisible and immaterial. For instance, the human spirit is the immaterial part of every human being that is eternal and continues to exist following the death of our physical bodies. Once that act of separation takes place, “…your spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7-8 NCV).
It also appears from the Scriptures that there is an interaction between the human mind and the human spirit for as 1 Corinthians 2:11 tells us, “…what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” (AMP). For instance, we may feel as if we know what another person is thinking or feeling but the truth is known only to God and (perhaps) (1) the other person involved.
In like manner, we may think we know what God is thinking but we could never really know those things unless God elected to share them with us by His Spirit. As God Himself said through the pen of the prophet Isaiah, “…My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Therefore, we should humbly and thankfully receive those truths that God has graciously made known to us, things that we could not have even imagined unless He had chosen to make them known.
(1) “Perhaps” is true in the sense that some may refuse to see or accept the truth about themselves. On the other hand, God knows the truth about us even if we refuse to accept it for ourselves.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
We often speak of “the world” in terms of the natural realm of plants, tree, rocks, flowers, and so forth. But when the Apostle Paul speaks of “the spirit of the world” in this passage, he is not using this term in an environmental sense- instead, he is using it to represent those attitudes, values, and belief systems that reject the God of the Scriptures.
In this context, the idea of “the world” is used in much the same sense that Jesus used it when He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 5:18 NIV). The New Testament epistle of 1 John also sheds some additional light on this concept when it tells us…
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
One Biblical version identifies “the spirit of the world” as the “pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things.” (1) Unfortunately, this attitude often serves to characterize the lives of those who have little interest in their Creator and ultimately serves as the foundation for their choices and decisions in life even if they are not fully aware of it. As one theologian has observed, “No one operates without a theory of life, a system of values. We may not be able to articulate ours; but in our minds, we have a theory about what is good and what is not, what is valuable and what isn’t, and we act accordingly.” (2)
So those who reject “the Spirit who is from God” make corresponding value choices whether they realize it or not- and those choices lead to real consequences. Sometimes those consequences are immediate and sometimes they may not be fully realized for quite some time. We’ll continue to look at this contrast between the spirit of the world and “the Spirit who is from God” next.
(1) 1 John 2:16 Amplified Bible
(2) Dr. R.C. Sproul
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
The “the spirit of the world” as mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 2:12 is variously described by commentators in the following manner…
- “The spirit of human wisdom as alienated from God—the attitude of the sinful nature” (1)
- “The secular, materialistic thinking of unregenerated people. The Germans had a word for it, the Zeitgeist, which means ‘the spirit of the times,’ or ‘the intellectual and moral tendencies of an age or epoch.'” (2)
- “Human society organized and functioning without God… Today we would call it ‘atheistic humanism.'” (3)
In his New Testament epistle to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul provides us with some important insight on the differing characteristics of those who follow the spirit of the world and those who follow the Spirit who is from God…
“Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.
And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God’s law, and in fact they cannot obey it. Those who obey their human nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8 GNT).
We often use the word “carnality” to represent the human nature that is described for us here within Romans 8:5-8. This term is sometimes associated with a non-spiritual person who is primarily occupied with his or her own wants, needs, and/or desires. It may also be used to describe someone who claims to be a Christian but fails to represent Jesus accurately in his or her choices and/or behavior.
In contrast, the Spirit who is from God helps us to understand the things that God has has freely given us. God has graciously extended His unmerited favor towards us in Christ and if the Spirit of God dwells within us, this knowledge associated with our Creator -His existence, His character, His purpose, His love, and His intent for our lives- is freely available to us as the Spirit illuminates the Scriptures on our behalf. We’ll talk more about this instructive ministry of the Holy Spirit next.
(1) Zondervan New International Version Study Bible note on 1 Corinthians 2:12 pg. 1778
(2) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1co&chapter=002>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
(3) Dr. Bob Utley, 1 Corinthians 2 [2:12] http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL06/VOL06A_02.html
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
In addition to this passage from 1 Corinthians 2:13, Jesus also spoke of the instructive ministry of the Holy Spirit as recorded within the Gospel of John: “…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NIV).
The original language of the New Testament identifies the Holy Spirit as the “parakletos,” a word that captures the idea of one who is a counselor, ally, helper, advocate, strengthener, advisor, and supporter. The Holy Spirit is also described as being with us and within us through Christ, for as Jesus also said within the Gospel of John, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
In this manner, the Holy Spirit serves as our instructor in the things of God. This is especially true when it comes to a proper understanding of the Scriptures. For instance, the Apostle Paul made use of “…words given to us by the Spirit” (BBE) in communicating spiritual truths and Jesus made these promises to His disciples…
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26 NIV).
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27 NIV).
Jesus’ message to His disciples in these verses foretold the future communication of His life and teachings in the form of the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His disciples in accurately reporting His teachings.
In light of these things, it is important to prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s continued guidance in understanding and applying God’s Word in our lives lest the Apostle Peter’s warning concerning Paul’s New Testament writings be true of us as well…
“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16 ESV).
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
A person who approaches the Bible as little more than a subject for academic study may never truly grasp the truth contained within it. On the other hand, those who read the Scriptures with a genuine desire to learn will undoubtedly discover that God is willing to help us discern “the things of the Spirit of God.”
But is it possible for an unspiritual person (or the “natural man“) to come to salvation in Christ simply by reading the Scriptures? The answer to that question is undoubtedly yes. One source provides us with a helpful clarification in this regard: “The natural person can, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only because the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding. Paul did not mean that an unbeliever is incapable of understanding Scripture. However an unbeliever rejects and does not accept all that God wants him or her to have.” (1)
You see, faith is the critical element in this equation and it is impossible to truly understand the Word of God without it. Even if that measure of faith begins with little more than an interest in knowing what the future holds or a desire to identify a few practical insights from Jesus’ teachings, God is gracious and patient in meeting us wherever our spiritual journey begins. In the words of Matthew 12:20, such a person is sure to find that “He will not put out even the weakest flame” (ERV).
We might also appropriate Jesus’ promise from Matthew 7:7-8 in considering the proper application of this passage from 1 Corinthians:“‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.'”
On the other hand, a person who approaches the Bible as nothing more than another book in the sea of human literature is unlikely to receive anything of eternal value from reading it. In this respect, such people characterize “ the natural man” spoken of here in 1 Corinthians 2:14- and as one Biblical version renders that passage…
“…the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters]” (AMP).
(1) Constable, Thomas. DD. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:4”. “Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable”. “www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-corinthians-2.html“. 2012.
“But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
It has been jokingly remarked that it is possible to put ten human beings in a room and emerge with fifteen different opinions. A similar observation was registered by Israel’s King Solomon in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes when he said, “…my son, be warned: there is no end of opinions ready to be expressed. Studying them can go on forever and become very exhausting!” (Ecclesiastes 12:12 TLB).
What was true of Solomon is certainly true of us today as well. In fact, we might say that Solomon’s observation is even more accurate today. With the advent of 21st century media technology, there is a seemingly endless array of groups and individuals who are seeking to express their point of view and influence our opinions.
In addition to the views expressed by various commentators, there is the continuous pressure exerted by advertisers who relentlessly seek to shape our opinion in favor of one (or more) of their products. Then there are those friends, family members, business associates, casual acquaintances, and others who are quick to render their judgments by way of a post, text, tweet, or “like” at a moment’s notice.
Today’s age of media engagement makes it important to remember the admonition of 1 Corinthians 2:15: “We who have the Spirit are able to make judgments about all these things. But anyone without the Spirit is not able to make proper judgments about us” (ERV). While its important to carefully evaluate the advice of those who love us and have our best interests in mind, we should also remember that others may not always understand (or approve of) our pursuit of God’s direction for our lives.
For example, there may be non-spiritual family members, friends, or colleagues who fail to understand why anyone might seek to live a God-honoring life. There may be others who hold strong opinions concerning the way in which we should invest our lives, some of which may be offered with the best of intentions and some of which may not.
Much like the person who attempts to measure temperature with a ruler or weight with a timepiece, a non-spiritual person often utilizes the wrong standard to measure a follower of Jesus- and as once source observes, “Like a deaf critic of Bach or a blind critic of Raphael is the unregenerate critic of God’s Word.” (1)
(1) Bible Knowledge Commentary, note on 1 Corinthians 2:14, pg. 510