1 Corinthians 2:14

By John Gill

The Cause of God and Truth, Part II, Chapter IV, Section V.

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. - 1 Cor. ii. 14.

THE natural man is not barely the sensual man, who is abandoned and given up wholly to his carnal lust and pleasures; since he is not the only person who is ignorant of spiritual things; which sense of the phrase the Arminians were formerly fond of, though they have now quitted it; but rather the man of reason, who is merely psychikos has nothing but a soul, or bare reason in him, destitute of the grace of God; which is the ease of every man in a natural state. Now this man, whilst he is such, and by the mere light of nature, cannot know the things of the Spirit of God. The utmost knowledge he can have of the doctrines of the Gospel, here intended, is merely notional and speculative, not spiritual and experimental. The reason is, because they are spiritually discerned, that is, tried and judged in a spiritual way. Nor can he receive them, so as to love and approve of them; because they are foolishness unto him, absurd and ridiculous. Wherefore, a divine operation of grace upon his understanding affections, and will, is absolutely necessary, in order to his spiritual knowledge, affectionate reception of, and hearty subjection to, the Gospel of Christ; and without this he will never understand it spiritually, nor receive and embrace it cordially. But to this are excepted,

1. That "the natural man here is not barely the unregenerate man; but the wise man, and disputer of the world, who will admit of nothing but what he can see proved by reason and so receives not things revealed by the Spirit." I reply, admitting this sense of the phrase, it follows, that if an unregenerate wise man, one of the greatest abilities, and most refined parts, in whom reason is sublimated, and wound up to its highest pitch it can well be, in unsanctified nature, cannot know and receive spiritual things; then an unregenerate foolish man, or one of meaner abilities, and of a lower rank and size, can never, as such, understand and embrace them. The apostle has pitched upon an instance which must necessarily conclude all men that are unregenerate, in a state of ignorance of spiritual things, and in an incapacity of knowing them, without the special illuminating grace of the Spirit.

2. That "the apostle speaks not of the inability of a Heathen to understand the meaning of any revelation discovered unto him: for how, then, it is asked, is it discovered to him? but of the necessity of a supernatural revelation, that the hidden wisdom of God might be made known to the world." In answer, a Heathen, whether a philosopher, or a man of a more ordinary size, may be capable of understanding the literal, grammatical meaning of a revelation made to him, even of the external revelation God has made to the world; as that the import of it is, among other things, that Jesus is the Messiah, was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again, and thereby procured salvation for men; and yet have no spiritual sense and apprehension of these shines, any relish for them, gust of them, or faith in them; all which he will remain a stranger to, unless accompanied with a special, internal revelation, and application of them to him by the Spirit of God. The necessity of which, and not of an external, supernatural revelation, the apostle here demonstrates; for the latter, the natural man, whether among Jews or Greeks, had; otherwise, it could not with any propriety be said, that he receiveth not, or rejects these things, and accounts them foolishness; which were in consequence of an external, supernatural revelation made in the ministry of the apostles, who preached Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling­block, and to the Greeks foolishness; it being with respect to them unattended with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.