|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|The wisdom of God cannot be delivered by man; the wisdom of God cannot be discerned by man. The Christian must rely on the Holy Spirit with to help him discern the wisdom that comes from God.|
1 Corinthians 2
I want to take you back into a little bit more of the history and understanding of the city of Corinth. Now having been there, it has opened my eyes. As a matter of fact, the book has come alive to me. We must understand this. Corinth was a fascinating and a very unusual place. If you have read through, you realize that Paul says things and addresses things in 1 Corinthians that he does not address in any of his other epistles. None of them. To the Romans, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, none of them except in 1 Corinthians. How do you explain that? Why is it that he brings out certain things there that he does not in other places?
I think part of the reason is that we don’t understand the culture and the history of Corinth during that time. You do know that when you study Scripture, having an understanding of the culture and history is very imperative to understanding what the Word of God is saying. If that were not true, how could we ever let Abraham get away with having a concubine? How could we ever translate the 11th chapter of Daniel? Without the historical understanding of that, you would be totally lost. The culture and the history of a place helps us to better understand the author’s intent and what he is doing under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God.
Corinth was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, possibly the wealthiest at that time. What was the reason? Most of it was due to the location in which they were found. They were located on an isthmus. Now I understand what an isthmus is. It is a small piece of land that connects two large bodies of land. When Rome conquered Greece they split Greece into Asia Minor, Macedonia and Acaia. Acaia is the lower part of Greece. Athens is in Acaia. However, if you will look over to the left of Athens and down just a little bit on a map, you will see a peninsula sort of jutting out the very bottom part of Greece. And connecting that little peninsula to the upper and main body of Greece is a little isthmus about four miles long, maybe about four miles wide. That is about all it is. Corinth was located there.
Now, here is why it was such a strategic place. If you were a sailor and you were coming from Ephesus, which was over in modern day Turkey and you were coming and going to Rome, you would have to actually sail out and sail south, go underneath that peninsula, come up through some very horrendous seas in order to get up into Rome. As a matter of fact, sailors did not even want to go that way. So the Corinthians were ingenious. They came up with a plan. They said, “Hey, let us pull your boat across the land.” As a matter of fact, the road is called “The Pulled Through Road.” They pulled the boats across about four miles now of dry land. There is a canal there now and ships have tug boats to pull them through, but back then they did not have that. It was a road. They basically rolled those ships on stones and rocks across the land connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Seronic Sea, saving the sailors the pain of having to sail around the southern tip of Greece and also making a ton of money for themselves. It was very expensive to have that done, and they became very, very wealthy.
If you wanted to go to Athens and you were living down in that peninsula, you had to go through Corinth. Corinth was just a strategic city placed there and became very wealthy as a result of it.
Well, when wealth is not governed by the mind and the will of God and when it is among pagans, it is always associated with idolatry and immorality. You know, if you went to Corinth back in those days and you wanted to worship a false pagan god, you would have difficulty choosing which one you were going to worship. They had so many. But there were three main gods they worshiped. The temples are right there. We stood right in the city and saw these things. It is incredible when you see it. It just sort of makes the book come alive.
First of all was the worship of Apollo. Apollo was the god of light and knowledge and arts. He comes into play here in just a moment. Then they had the worship of Aphrodite; that was the goddess of love. There is a huge acropolis with a temple named after that god. An acropolis, as we described earlier, is a huge rock mountain that looms over the city of Corinth. It is beautiful really, the way the city sits at its base. On the top of that, they had the temple to Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love. There were 1,000 priestesses, they called themselves; women who were nothing more than temple prostitutes.
They also had public baths there. These women would come down to these public baths and that is where they would entertain the sailors coming through. On the bottom of their shoes they would write in their language, “Follow me,” and wherever they stepped that was not stone, the sailors saw the “follow me” and they followed them and things were not good. This was the worship. The sexual things that took place on top of that mountain are beyond anything we would ever want to discuss. As a matter of fact, today, they say that there was so much venereal disease in that area because of this promiscuity that there is in the museum at Corinth today, there is a room of things that they have found suggesting this, that they won’t even allow tourists to go into because it is so embarrassing and so humiliating. I say that to let you know the degradation of the area of Corinth. It was something that was normal everyday life.
Then there was the temple of Poseidon. Poseidon was the god of athletic strength, a man. In other words, that is where they would have the Isthmian Games. They were called Isthmian Games because of the isthmus there that Corinth was on, very much like the Olympic Games. They would have them every so many years. They would have it right by the temple of Poseidon, which was outside the city of Corinth. There was a big stadium there right beside it because they worshiped the physical abilities of man.
Now, here is something I ran into that I did not know and it helps us begin to understand why the apostle Paul has such concern that they are attaching themselves to men with a message. In every area of idolatry that was there, there was this mystical getting of knowledge from the spiritual world, now not the holy spiritual world, but the demonical spiritual world. They would go into trances. They have even found the base of the drug LSD that was used sometimes to quicken these trances that people would go into. Then they would speak in an unknown tongue or language, and they would have people around them who would say they could interpret that tongue. They would give a message to the people who would come and want that message.
There was a word in their culture that is not in ours that we need to understand. It was the word we get “ecstasy” from now. In their language, it was existemi. It comes from ek, out of, and histemi, which means to stand or put something. Together existemi meant to stand outside something. This was their mind set of that day. There were barriers, there were boundaries that man was not to cross. These entered into the spiritual domain and several people of their day would seek and venture to go beyond those boundaries. So they would worship this way. They would go into a trance.
This is important. The temple of Apollo was where most of this took place. It took place in all of them but this is where most of it took place and I will show you how significant that is in a moment. They would get into this trance. The people had to get to where their minds were totally out of gear, unintelligible; there was not a matter of intelligence and understanding here at all. They had to get into this mindset, this unintelligible type setting where their mind was totally vacant. Then they would begin to speak in this unknown tongue or unknown language. When this happened they were said to have now reached the pentacle of ecstasy. They had stepped outside the bounds. In their culture, once you had done this, you would tend to go beyond, there was no return. You would go beyond. As a matter of fact, the boundaries now had been lifted.
But not everybody had this experience, only certain ones. They were delving into the demonic world, and as they did this, they received messages and would become like gurus to the people. The people would say, “I have to attach myself to him because he has got something I don’t have. I have to follow him because he says something and he tells me things that I couldn’t get any other way.” This was the lifestyle and the norm of the pagan people there in Corinth.
The temple of Apollo sat in the center of the city, while Aphrodite was up on top of the Acropolis and Poseidon was outside the city. There was no way not to be affected by this. You couldn’t even go to the market, which sat on the other side up high, unless you were looking at it at all times. This was where this knowledge, this supernatural knowledge would come in. As a matter of fact, while we were there, they explained to me that Rome never did this, but the Greeks did. This is why it is so important to know this. They would go to these people called mediums, who would delve into the spirit world, to find out solutions to national problems.
The oracle of Delphi is a good illustration. There was a woman at Delphi who would sit cross-legged and get into this trance. She did not use drugs. I understand this was not used there. But she would go into a trance and speak in a language nobody had ever heard before. Some of her little followers would get around and say, “We know the answer to this.” They would come up with a message and they would actually take it and give it to the government leaders.
They had an enemy who was attacking them and they knew they were coming. So therefore, they sent officials up there to get a word of wisdom of what they should do. Well, she babbled some things and some of her interpreters said, “Here is what she said. She said that you will be saved by wood.” The people said, “What does that mean? I think it means for us to go back and build a wall around the acropolis. We will go up on top and they can’t get to us. That is what she means by wood. We will build a wall of protection from the enemy.” One of the younger ones said, “No, I don’t think that is right. I think she is saying we need to build boats and get on the boats and get out of here. That is what she is saying.” Well, the young ones built the boats and the old ones built the wall. The young ones were right. The enemies burned the walls and went right up and conquered them. But the ones who went out in the boats and sailed out to sea were saved.
So, they put credibility to this babbling and said, “You know, there really is a message here.” One story fed the next and the next fed the next and that was the lifestyle of the Greeks in that area of the world at that time.
If you can’t see the connection, I don’t know if you are listening. The apostle Paul is saying, “Why are you attaching yourselves to men who have a message? The pagans are doing the same thing and you know this. Don’t you ever attach yourself to a man.” Then he begins to show that the wisdom that Paul and Apollos and Cephas have did not come from the demonic world, it comes from the Spirit who is of God and is intelligent and reasonable. A man can understand and live in light of what he understands.
Now, if you will follow the term “we” from chapter 1 and chapter 2, I think you will understand the narrow context. Paul is speaking of the apostles, which is important, because he is justifying the message that he, Apollos and Cephas have preached. As a matter of fact, he is not through with this. He picks it up again in chapter 3. So he is still talking about that one context. In many of the things he says about “we,” even though he is referring to the apostles, it also refers to the whole body of Christ.
Look with me at the “we” phrases there. Look at 1:23: “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness.” Who is “we”? That is Paul, Apollos and Cephas. That is any of the apostles of that day.
Look at 2:6-7. He says, “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; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” The demonic spirits didn’t do this. God predestined this before the ages.
Verses 12 and 13 read, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 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.”
Let’s look at this for a second. The Corinthians had attached themselves to Paul, to Apollos, who was the second pastor of Corinth, and then to Cephas who was the unsung hero and leader of the whole church of Jesus Christ in that day. Paul is saying, “What are you doing? The message we are preaching didn’t come from some demonic experience. We don’t have something you don’t have. We have a message given to us by God the Holy Spirit, predestined before the foundations of the world, and if you will just listen to the message, let it lead you to Christ, you can receive Him and you will have everything we have. We don’t have anything you don’t have. We don’t have something you can’t understand.”
That, to me is his whole point. He is refuting this whole practice and is showing them that God’s wisdom cannot be dethroned by mere man. In other words, man can’t take credit for it and the demonic spirits surely can’t take credit for it. You can’t go to the oracles of Delphi and find a woman and come up with the wisdom of God. It only comes from the Holy Spirit of God. Secondly, it cannot be discovered by mere man. Man does not discover what God has hidden. It is a mystery, and God must reveal it to man.
That is where I want to pick up in verse 12. He says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” Again we see the contextual “we.” However, that is true for all believers. All of us have received the Spirit of God. He says, “received,” aorist active, which means willfully received. He says we have not willfully received the spirit of the world. We did not do that. The word for “not” means absolutely not in any way, shape or form.
The “spirit of the world” is key. The word for “world” there is the word that means the disposition, the mindset, the desires of this world without Christ. It is the spirit of the world that crucified Christ. It is the spirit of the world that looks at the gospel as foolishness. It is the spirit of the world that the people go into the temple of Apollo and they get all kinds of these demonic messages. We did not receive the spirit of the world, but we received the Spirit who is from God. We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God.
The word “from” there means more than just from. It is not as if He is sent from God, He is out of God. He is out of God Himself. The word is ek, out of, not apo, away from. We have received the very Spirit of God. God Himself lives in us. You don’t have to come to us because you also received the Spirit of God. You don’t have to go up to the mountain there. You don’t have to go to the temple of Apollo. You come to the Spirit of God who lives in you. What He has taught us He will teach you. He lives in us. No man has a corner on it.
The Holy Spirit of God has been willfully received into our lives. Why? “That we might know the things freely given to us by God.” The word “might know” there is eido. It means to know intuitively. Because of His Spirit living in us, we might intuitively perceive and understand the things that are freely given to us by God.
Look at what it says in verse 11 of chapter 2: “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.” The same word for “know” is there. It is like Paul is saying, “God’s Spirit knows so we can know because we have received God’s Spirit in our life.” Every person who is a believer, who has received Christ, has the Spirit of God living in him. The Spirit of God becomes our teacher, and all of us have access to the same information. It is the Word of God.
The phrase, “that we might know,” is present active subjunctive. There are conditions to it. But when we do know and surrender to what the Word of God says, the Spirit gives us full understanding and leads us into all truth. And so every believer has the Spirit of God, but particularly those who are preaching the message to them in the context of 1 Corinthians.
Paul goes on to say, “that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” I guarantee you that in the temples of Apollo and Aphrodite, you never learned anything about what those gods, false gods, had given to anybody but what they demanded out of others. But in our God, through the Holy Spirit’s power, we can know the things freely given to us by God. Paul is driving home a point. God’s wisdom cannot be dethroned by mere man. God’s wisdom cannot be discovered by mere man, and God’s wisdom cannot be delivered by mere man.
Look what he says in verse 1 of chapter 2. I want you to see that, because Paul says it very clearly. By the way, the apostle was who we got the Word of God from. They didn’t have this. We do. Where did it come from? From the apostles and the prophets. That is what Ephesians 2:20 says to us. But I want you to look back in verse 1 of chapter 2. He says, “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.” I didn’t color it up, I didn’t water it down. Verse 2 continues, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
Now having said that, drop down to verse 13. I think he is explaining some things now. He is referring to the things he just mentioned in verse 12. He says, “which things [What is he talking about? The things that are freely given to us by God mentioned in verse 12.] we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
Oh, there is so much in this thing. It never gets out of me like it gets in. The word for “words” here is important because it has everything to do with Corinth. The thing that Corinth was into was unintelligible words and messages, that which bypassed the human mind and reason and understanding. But that is not what God does. God never bypasses the human mind. God gives to us that which we can understand. It is enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, and we can act upon. It is not mystical. It is very clear as to where we are to be.
The word for “taught” means that which was imparted by the Holy Spirit of God: “which things we also speak, not in words [intelligent words] taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.” I think what we have here is one of the greatest proof-texts of verbal inspiration you can find anywhere of how God did not just inject the specific word to every person and made them use the same word, but how God had the wisdom and the intelligence and picked men like Peter and Paul and James and others and John. Each one of them had their own vocabulary. But God the Holy Spirit, having the thought, gave it to Paul and let Paul use his own vocabulary. God the Holy Spirit combining spiritual with spiritual put the two together and came out with the very thing God wanted to say and never at one time at the expense of Peter’s or Paul’s personality. It is a beautiful picture here of how we got the Word of God because these were the apostles speaking at that time.
It says again in verse 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.” Now, in all the translations I looked at, I like this one the best. It is very difficult. The Greek is not easy. The key word is sugkrino. The word comes from two Greek words sun, which means together, and krino, which means to judge. It means to join together, to compose and to combine. I like the word “compose.” That really struck a note in my mind. Oh man, the beauty of God here. He says, “I want my word to be known to man. I picked Paul, a Jewish man, and called him from his mother’s womb. I want a Jewish man who knows the law. But I want to teach him grace so I can use him.” God takes the spiritual teaching and teaches it to Paul and then even gives him the verbal inspiration of how to speak that word and communicate the very thoughts that God has. To me, this is the full picture of a composer putting it together and making the melody come out exactly the way He wants it to come out.
God used different men, but not one time is there a contradiction in scripture. Dwight L. Moody, right before he died, said, “When I first got saved I could find 1,000 contradictions in the Word of God. Now I am about dead and I can find only one and I am too hardheaded to let the Holy Spirit of God clear it up for me.” That is a good word. If you can find a contradiction in the Word of God, friend, you are a better man than anybody else. God used different men in 66 different books through different times and different places, different backgrounds, different vocabularies. Listen to the Greek of Peter and listen to the Greek of Paul. Yet God took His thought that He wanted, used man as His instrument and spoke through man the Word that was predestined before the foundation of the world.
None of these apostles spoke in their own power. They spoke only by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. This is why we now have the New Testament as it was written from the pages of their lives in that time by the Spirit of God. Paul is saying, “We are not like some of these mediums. We are not like some of these people who go out and get this babble that nobody can understand and then people say they understand and tell you what it means. No, what we have said to you is the reasonable, logical, understandable Word that God Himself has given to us and even given us the vocabulary with which to communicate it to each of you.”
The wisdom of God is so far different than the pagan wisdom of this world and the spirit of this world. It cannot be dethroned by mere man, cannot be discovered by mere man and cannot be delivered by mere man. But there is one more area that I want to concentrate on. It cannot be discerned by mere man.
Look at verse 14. He says, “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.” Now he is making a contrast here. He takes what he just said, that the Spirit of God gave us the thoughts, the vocabulary to speak those thoughts, combine spiritual things with spiritual things and then he compares that kind of man with the Spirit of God living in him to teach him and to help him understand the things of God. He compares that with the natural man who cannot do these things.
The natural man here is the word psuchikos. That is an interesting word. It is important because it is only used in that form four other times in Scripture. Now there is a lot of dissention here. Is the natural man of chapter 2 a saved man and he is just simply pointing out the fact that the natural part of us cannot discern the things of God but only the Spirit of God can? Or is the natural man a lost man? Well, let’s look and see what he says. I have my view on it. I believe he is a lost man and here is why.
First of all, Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians 15:44. Psuchikos is called the natural man, soulish man. I believe he is talking about a man devoid of the Spirit of God – period. That is what I believe. I would never force that on anybody. Following the context makes all the sense in the world. But in 1 Corinthians 15:44 it is not real clear as to exactly the difference, but I will show you in another place it is: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Notice the spiritual body is not first. It is the natural then the spiritual. He is talking about the death and resurrection of the body and how it is going to be raised a spiritual body. When it dies, you put a natural body in the ground and when it is raised, it is raised a spiritual body.
Look over in James 3:15, the only other two times this form of the word is used, and look what it says. “This wisdom,” he says, “is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, (which is the word there psuchikos) and demonic.” Not in too good a company.
Now look over in Jude 19. I would say 1:19 but there is only one chapter in Jude. In Jude 19 Jude uses it. I want to show you how he uses this word, then we will go back to our text. Only four times can I find that form of the word used outside of 1 Corinthians 2. Jude 19 reads, “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldlyminded.” He is talking about false teachers, but that is the word right there. I don’t know why they translated it “worldlyminded.” Then it says, “devoid of the Spirit.” Now, obviously not too good a company again.
Now let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 2:14. Let’s look at the strong things that he says about the natural man. There are two things that he says that I think makes a distinction here that it is a lost man. First of all, he says that the natural man will not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him.” Now, the word “not” means not in any way, shape or form. The word “accept” is the word dechomai, which means to eagerly receive something. It is a deponent verb in the present active sense. In other words, it is a lifestyle, a continuous thing. The soulish man without the Spirit of God does not in any way, shape or form receive with eagerness the things of the Spirit of God.
When the gospel is preached or taught, what does that do to him? Well, first of all, it clashes with his own perverted ideas and his own perverted thoughts. It condemns them and works to root them out. Therefore, he does not receive it. Why would he? It would change everything and he doesn’t want to be changed. Therefore, he does not receive it. They are foolishness to him.
We have seen this phrase before. Go back to 1:18. It is foolishness to him. You are talking about an individual here. It is foolishness not to his natural part, it is foolishness to him as a person. Verse 18 of 1 Corinthians 1 reads, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That is pretty clear. Verse 23 of chapter 1 says, “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness.” So the natural man thinks the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness. We have already seen before that these are lost people.
Secondly, he says the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit. He cannot accept them because he cannot understand them. Look at the verse. It says, “and he cannot understand them.” Why can’t he? He says, “because they are spiritually appraised.” The word for “can” really is dunamis. He has no ability within himself. The word “not” is not in any way, shape or form.
The word for “understand” is ginosko. He cannot sit down and study it and come up with an understanding of it. A lost man can come to church until he falls over in the floor and he cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. He cannot. Why? Because they are spiritually appraised. The word “appraised” is the word anakrino. Krino is to judge something with a standard. You have a standard by which you judge something. The lost man has no standard by which he can judge. Therefore, not only will he not accept them, his natural part cannot even understand them.
Why? It is because the Spirit of God does not live in him. Then Paul gives the comparison in verse 15. He says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things.” You know, this helps a little bit to understand the world. Have you ever wondered why sinners sin? Some people come to me and say, “I know a man who hates God. Man, listen to what he is doing,” as if they are surprised. Why would you be surprised when a sinner sins? That is all he can do. He does not accept the things of Spirit of God and he cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God, so what is he going to do but just be what he is. He is going to sin.
But in verse 15 we read, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things.” The word for “spiritual” is pneumatikos. It means pertaining to the spirit. It is those people who have the Spirit of God living in them who have been made new creatures in Christ by His Spirit coming to live in them, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, enjoying His influences, His grace, His gifts. These are the spiritual ones.
Is the natural man of chapter 2 just a particular side of a believer? Is Paul talking about someone not letting the Spirit of God show them these things? If you are not going to appraise the things by the Spirit of God, then you are going to be natural and you can’t accept the mature things that Paul has taught. The people who believe that compare it to chapter 3, which we haven’t gotten to yet, and the babe in Christ who can only receive milk and couldn’t receive meat. They ask, “Could that be that person?”
Well, there may be a case there. But I don’t see the context saying that at all. If you just stay in the context, that is not what he is saying. The word psuchikos is not even used in chapter 3. There it uses the word sarkikos, and that is different. Psuchikos seems to be the person who is devoid of the Spirit of God. Sarkikos seems to be a person who is fleshly minded but has the Spirit of God. There is a huge difference there; at least I see a huge difference. So that is where I stand on it in case anybody wonders where I am. If I am wrong, just pray for me. But that is just the way I see it. I am going to be honest with you.
“But he who is spiritual appraises all things.” You know, it is interesting to me that the one who appraises all things has a discernment. There is a grid through which he looks at things. He can understand the things of God because there is a grid through which he can see them.
Years ago, when some of the music changed a little bit, my children came to me and said, “Daddy, can we go to one of these concerts?” Well, the mistake that I had made was seeing the record jacket of one of them. They all came out in these leotard tights and had guitars and flashing lights and smoke bombs. I am thinking, “Boy, the apostle Paul could have really used that, you know, when he was on Mars Hill. That would have helped his message.” I am thinking, “I don’t like this stuff.”
One day I was praying about it and God just put on my heart, “Wait a minute, if you are teaching your kids the Word, they ought to have the ability to appraise all things by His Spirit.” So I backed off this legalistic kick that you can’t ever do anything like that. So I said, “Listen, I am going to let you go. Help yourself.” My son looked at me and said, “Well, are you sure?” I said, “Help yourself.” He said, “Well, man, alright.” But I said, “But the key is this, when you come back, you have to sit down and talk to me and tell me what was biblical and what wasn’t.” I knew my children and I knew they knew the Word.
It was so much fun. They came back and my son said, “Man, this was great. This was good.” I said, “What made it good?” “Listen to the message of it.” He would go through the message. He had written it down and he showed me the message of it. I said, “Did the method kill it?” He said, “No, sir, Daddy. It came through loud and clear.” I said, “Okay, what did you not like about it?” He said, “Those guys who started that thing.” He said, “Man, they were off the wall.” I said, “What do you mean they were off the wall? Their method?” “No, Daddy, they didn’t have a message.” He said, “You could take Jesus out of it and put it in Nashville and nobody would ever know the difference.”
Bingo! A spiritual man appraises all things by the Spirit of God. You see, that is the difference in the natural man and the spiritual man. The natural man doesn’t accept them and a natural man can’t even understand the things of the Spirit of God. But yet, we do have the ability to do that.
In verse 16 Paul says, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?” In other words, when you look out at all these human teachers and all these people who have this guru language and speak and they say they have got a message from God, who among those people could ever say that he could instruct God with anything? Instruct God. He couldn’t do that. Oh, the arrogance of people who do that. But then he turns right around and says, “But.” This is what also makes me think he is changing gear. That is a transitional word. “But we have the mind of Christ.” To me, again that makes a distinction between the natural man and the spiritual man, having the mind of Christ.
You say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You mean to tell me that I have the mind of Christ?” Yeah, but now hold it. Settle down. You are not God, and you are not Christ. But you have the ability to tap into His mind. How? Because the Spirit of God lives in you. Remember the “we”. “We have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God that we might know the things freely given to us from God.” Who is the Spirit of God? He is the one who probes the deep things of God. And if he probes the deep things of God, He is the teacher of God, the giver of the wisdom of God and we have Him living in us. We have the mind of Christ. Now we can appraise all things by His Word, taught by His Spirit.
Boy, what a difference in a natural man and a spiritual man. He said, “But we have the mind of Christ.” The word means the ability to understand the things of God. Look over in 6:19, in case you are wondering, how can we have this mind of Christ? I love this particular verse. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” I think Paul is trying to show them. “Guys, listen, we are teaching you a wisdom that came from God. It didn’t come from us. Don’t attach yourself to us. We didn’t go into the temple of Apollo and have all this stuff happen. We just got saved, and God put His Spirit in us and set us apart and called us and made us apostles. We came and preached to you, and you received Christ because of the message we got from Him and gave to you. When you received Christ, you got the same thing we have. We don’t have any more or less than what you have. You have the same ability to understand what we understand. Don’t attach yourself to us and to men. Attach yourself to the one who lives in you, whose Spirit will reveal to you and uncover to you the marvelous things of God.”
Well, God’s wisdom cannot be dethroned by mere man. God’s wisdom cannot be discovered by mere man. It cannot be delivered by mere man. And it cannot be discerned by mere man. No man and no spirit of this world can take credit for God’s wisdom. It is a product of the Spirit of God who only lives in the hearts and lives of believers, giving them and all of us the mind of Christ, the ability to judge everything, to appraise everything through the grid of His Word and His Wisdom. That is the spiritual man.
He is going to show us a babe in Christ in chapter 3. If you want to hold to the fact that a natural man is a believer just in his natural part, that is fine, but I don’t see that in the context at all. I see him drawing a distinct line right down through the middle of those who will not and cannot and those who have the mind of Christ. That also sets up chapter 3 because the Corinthians were not utilizing what they had and lived as if they were totally ignorant of all of this truth.
I have one of these little beepers I carry around with me. Mine has a little thing on the bottom that if you hit it wrong, the battery falls out. It is incredible how many people can’t get in touch with you when the battery has fallen out. People tell me, “I have called you and called you and called you and left a message.” I have been wearing it every day, but without the battery in it, I cannot receive the messages people are trying to give to me. When you put the battery in it, it is amazing how it works! But you have to have the right thing in it to make it go off.
You have to have the Spirit of God living in you, friend, or number one, you will not receive and you cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God because His wisdom is not something that you learn in a classroom. It is in the classroom of being on your knees in His Word before God with a surrendered heart. God will reveal to you. Yes, He will, just like He did to Peter or anybody else. I mean, there is no corner on this. But the key is, you don’t have to go to some preacher to get it. If you are a Christian, the Spirit of God lives in you, and you can go to the Word of God. He is your teacher. He gives you the wisdom you need to know.
Thank God there are preachers in the body of Christ. I have a job because of that. We come along side and encourage and equip. But we also must help you to stand on your own two feet, listening to God through His Word and walking with integrity towards God.
We have that battery in us. We have the Spirit of God living in us and we appraise all things by that grid that He gives to us. In the light of the context of Corinth, I believe it will perhaps become clearer and clearer why Paul is making this differentiation of attaching yourself to men.