Studies in First Corinthians
Lesson 8: “Reactions to Wisdom”
I Corinthians 2:14 -16
There is much disagreement today within Christianity as to the true nature of spirituality. Some say that it is a matter of a complicated program of rules and regulations about what truly spiritual Christians do and do not do. Someone somewhere along the way has humorously summarized these kinds of things as “we don’t smoke and we don’t chew and we don’t go with girls that do. Others list “the filthy five” or the “dirty dozen” things that hinder spirituality. Still others say that it comes after one has successfully eliminated sin from his or her life. And others say it begins with some kind of “revolutionary experience, often tied in with the baptism of the Holy Spirit that immediately brings about deep spirituality.
So what is the truth? In the passage before us today we have some very helpful information to consider in that regard. Up to this point in his letter Paul has been talking about the importance of doing away with dependence on human eloquence and depending instead on “the power of divine wisdom.” He concluded the section at which we looked in our last lesson by talking in verse 13 about how that wisdom is communicated – by the Spirit of God Himself!
For purposes of outline we called that section “the presence of divine wisdom” So in the passages at which we look today he is going to talk about how to understand that message – who the participants in divine wisdom are in verses 14 through 16 are (and actually going on into chapter 3.)
In chapter 2 verse 14 through chapter 3 verse 4 Paul divides all humanity into four classes, based on their capacity for understanding spiritual truth. And by looking at these 4 classes we will be able to see the basic nature of spirituality. We will look at the first two in this study and the next two in the next.
In our last study we talked about the fact that humans are “tri-partite” beings: spirit, soul and body. The function of the body needs little or no explanation. In short, the body is what enables the spirit and soul to carry out their functions. The word “soul” is also a translation of the Greek word pseuchke (soo-kay).
It is the word from which we get our English word “psychology.” It is the soul that gives humans extrasensory perception – to be able to understand the intangible aspects of life and living.
The second part of the make-up of man is the spirit. This is the part of the human make-up that distinguishes humans from the animals (and by the way, humans are not animals; they are distinct creatures, not in any way related to the origin of humans) God gave animals “instincts” and a certain amount of memory. But He created man as the crown of His creation. He made man in His own image and likeness and gave him dominion over all of his creation including the animals. The spirit is what gives humans the ability to reason and think and to have fellowship with God, as we shall see presently. This same word is translated “sensual’ in Jude 1:19, (referring to false teachers)
These are sensual persons, who cause divisions. Not having the Spirit.
In our generation this word has taken on a sexual connotation. But at the time it was translated it referred to someone who was dominated by their senses for their satisfaction and gratification. And it explains why they are this way – especially the phrase “not having the spirit.”
The first category of spirituality that Paul gives us, then, is the natural man, who is described in verse 14.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Then the third category of spirituality is the human spirit. This is the “channel” through which the Holy Spirit operates. So taken together these three parts comprise the human being. The natural man of verse 14 is an unbeliever and therefore he can only understand things at the soulish (psychological) level. And verse 14 specifies two things that are true of him. First, he does not “receive” the things of the Spirit of God – in fact “they are foolishness to him. However, because he has a human spirit, the Spirit of God can communicate spiritual truth to him. And that communication of spiritual truth should be the major aim of every Christian and every church.
But there is a second kind of man in these verses, and that is the “new man.” In verses 15 and 16
But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one (16) For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The real characteristics of this person are sometimes misunderstood. We often think of him as the newly saved high school or college student or businessman who is witnessing and rejoicing and taking in every Bible study he can get to – sometimes referred to as being “on fire for the Lord.” But although all of those things are true and wonderful to see, they are not all that is involved in being a “spiritual” person. Remember that in verse 14 we said that the “natural” man (or more technically, the “soulish” man) was the man who was dominated by the soul: Well, in the same way, the “spiritual’ man is the man who is dominated by the Spirit of God. And notice the characteristics of this man: Verse 15 says that he can “judge all things.” The word “judge” is a translation of a word which literally means “to discern.” So this man can “discern” or “understand” all things. And the verses above this in the chapter help us to understand what “things” Paul is talking about. In verse 9 we read that the human mind cannot comprehend the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. – but verse 10 says that the spiritual man does comprehend them. Verse 12 says that we have received the Spirit of God “that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.” And verse 11 and 14 speak of the “things” of the Spirit of God. Taken together, then, the spiritual man is the man who can understand the things of God because he has the Spirit of God within him.
But there is another distinction about the “spiritual man” that also needs to be understood. In chapter 3, verse 1, Paul makes a distinction between “spiritual” people and “babes in Christ.”
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
A “babe in Christ” is just what the term implies – a “baby” Christian. But even a “baby”
Christian can understand the things of God because he has the Spirit of God. So what is a “spiritual man”? Hebrews 5:12 through 14 puts it together for us:
(12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) for everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (14) But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Do you see the pattern of growth demonstrated in these passages? True Spirituality is not just a matter of attending the latest week-long seminar or the newest book about “victory” or “breaking through,” good as some of those may be. The first mark of spiritual maturity is time as brought out in verse 12; The second mark is knowledge of the Word of God. (what Paul calls “the oracles of God.”) the word “oracles” has to do with “basic principles” or “long held beliefs.” Many Christian activities add to Christian fellowship, but they don’t directly lead to spiritual maturity. The only things specifically designed to lead to spiritual maturity is knowledge of the word of God. This is why Bible teaching should be a major feature of church services.
So the first mark of spiritual maturity is time, the second is the word, but not just knowing about the word, but use of the word and its application to every day living. This speaks of repeated obedience to the word of God. And it brings about the ability to discern the difference between good and evil in the spiritual life. Thus the mature Christian is one who can make his own decisions about life based on the word of God. And this is the goal that every Christian ought to be shooting for, and that every church should have as a goal.
The purpose of these studies is to move you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know Him it is our prayer that the studies will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” If you are already a believer in Christ we hope that the studies will help you to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”