Calvary Road Baptist Church


First Corinthians 2.14

Over the last few months, I have observed, in conversations and in counseling, certain conclusions drawn by people about various spiritual matters. Some are conclusions held about God, while others are convictions held about morality and other spiritual matters. In each case, the individual purposely expressing or inadvertently revealing his conclusion or his conviction has been diametrically opposed to what is clearly set forth in God’s Word.

Recognize that there will always be someone who insists that the Bible is so vague that it is possible to make scripture say anything you want it to say. That is both truth and false. It is true that someone who is clever in his handling of the Bible can convince those who are unfamiliar with the Bible of almost anything. Look at what Joseph Smith did in the 1800s with a group that called themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He and his successors are perfect examples of what dishonest men can accomplish with a Bible and a group of people unfamiliar with its teachings. The result is Mormonism. The same is true with those of Roman Catholic persuasion. Place the Bible on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books so most of the people will be unfamiliar with its teachings and completely ignorant of the sound principles of interpretation, and you too can eliminate the second commandment’s prohibition against bowing down to and worshiping statues, you too can ignore the truth that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ without any requirement for works of righteousness, and you too can set up as an alternate object of faith in your false religious system the Virgin Mary, despite the fact that she identified herself as a sinner who needed the salvation only God could provide.[1] The Catholic Church is shot through with such unscriptural notions because Roman Catholics do now know what the Bible teaches. I could go on and on and on about the gullibility of people who are unfamiliar with the Bible and those who are unprincipled charlatans who would take advantage of them. Let me just say this: When the Word of God is rightly divided in accordance with principles of interpretation that are set forth in the Bible itself, the Bible cannot be made to teach whatever you want to whomever you please. What Peter wrote specifically about prophecies in Second Peter 1.20, “that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” is throughout God’s Word shown to be true of everything else taught in the Bible. Namely, the Bible is only properly interpreted when one phrase, verse, or passage is understood in light of everything else taught in the Bible.

Allow me to illustrate: those who seek to advance the homosexual agenda by intimidating people and misapplying scripture to crush opposition to same sex marriage are very active these days. They do this by intentionally misstating what the Bible teaches by dishonest and intentional misinterpretation. They will claim, for instance, that since Leviticus 18.22 reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination,” and decrees that soul shall be cut off, that those of us who believe the Bible want homosexuals put to death. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What enemies of the truth probably know but are too dishonest to admit is that the Law of Moses and the nation of Israel relate by means of a unique relationship of not only being a nation ruled by the Law of Moses, but also being a nation directly ruled by God Himself. The Law of Moses was virtually the constitution of that nation and governed every aspect of their daily life. Thus, there was nothing back then like what we understand today to be the separation of church and state, and the spiritual entity and the political entity in Israel at that time were one and the same. No legitimate Bible scholar disputes this. Folks, that was more than 2,500 years ago. I have been a Christian and a student of the Bible for thirty-eight years, and I can honestly say that I have never known, neither have I ever heard of, anyone who embraced the Bible as true who claimed the Bible taught that God’s will for today was for homosexuals to be put to death for their sexual sins. A long time ago and far away, that unique covenant nation of Israel was directed by God to maintain such a practice of punishment. However, it is a complete misinterpretation of the Bible to claim that such a practice is in any way taught in God’s Word for God’s people today.

Do you see how much trouble can be caused when dishonest people mishandle the Bible to influence those who are unfamiliar with the Bible, because they are susceptible by reason of not having read it or studied it? The Bible is too important to neglect, leaving it unopened on a shelf and unread. Speaking of God and about salvation, James 1.18 reads, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” In short, James tells his readers that God uses the Bible, here described as “the word of truth,” to impart spiritual life to sinners. Therefore, if anyone is going to experience God’s forgiveness and salvation from his sins by Jesus Christ, the Bible will figure very prominently. However, this is not a sermon that is primarily concerned with how the Bible is used when a sinner is saved. This sermon is primarily about you. I initially mentioned wrong conclusions about spiritual things. I then illustrated by reminding you of some things related to Mormonism and Roman Catholicism. Then I pointed out how gay rights advocates misuse the Bible to advance their agenda. The common thread running through all of those examples I mentioned to you is the great tendency of people to misunderstand spiritual things.

Two more examples before we arrive at my text for today: I know some people who attend church quite faithfully, but who are not Christians. There are precious people like this in every gospel-preaching congregation. They believe the Bible, accept the fact that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, and know that Jesus Christ, the virgin born Son of the living God, is the only Savior of sinful men’s souls. Yet they have never come to Christ. Why is this the case? My text will shed light on that question directly. There are also people who claim they believe the Bible, who seem to embrace the notion that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, and give voice to the notion that Jesus Christ, the virgin born Son of the living God, is the only Savior of sinful men’s souls. They, too, are dead in trespasses and sins. Yet they are different from the first group I mentioned, in that this second type of person for some reason feels competent to make judgments and to arrive at conclusions about how best to deal with his own desperate condition. The first group that I mentioned is greatly mistaken about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, and about how a sinner comes to life in Christ through simple and childlike faith. The second group I mentioned is greatly mistaken about their own depravity, about the sinfulness and damage to themselves brought on by their sins, and about sin distorting their perception and capacity to comprehend spiritual truth.

These things said, and warning you that the text I am taking you to may very well be offensive you, please turn in the Bible to First Corinthians 2.14. When you find that verse, stand and read along silently while I read aloud: “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.” This verse reveals why so many people are gullible to the lies of Joseph Smith and the false teachings of the cult of Mormonism. This verse reveals why so many people are gullible to the lies of Roman Catholicism down through the years. This verse also reveals why so many succumb to the lies of Islam, the lies of Buddhism, the lies of Hinduism, and the lies of socialism, communism, and the secular humanism that underlies those so-called political viewpoints. By the way, this verse also exposes the underlying flaw of those who think gay rights is a civil rights issue, who think one’s private practices are incidental to one’s morality so long as one’s judgment of others is suspended, since the only real and terrible sin in these people’s minds is the sin of judgmentalism. Never mind that agreeing with God’s estimation of the rightness or wrongness of any type of behavior is not in any way judgmental, but is just that; agreeing with God. It is not judgmental to think that stealing from someone with a job to pay someone without a job is wrong. It is not judgmental to think that a man having sex with a man, or a woman marrying a woman, is wrong. It is not judgmental to think that abortion is murder or to think that drunkenness is not the disease of alcoholism but is instead the sinful habit of drunkenness. As well, it is not judgmentalism just because someone happens to disagree with your sinful practices. It turns out that God has pronounced judgments on certain kinds of behavior that accurately reflect His holiness. Therefore, it is not being either harsh or judgmental for anyone who chooses to agree with God and who chooses not to agree with your appraisal of what is acceptable and proper conduct. That is my right as a human being.

Back to our text. As we look at First Corinthians 2.14, let us set aside considerations of masses of people, of Mormonism, of Islam, of Hinduism and secular human or gay rights. For a few minutes, let us focus our attention on a matter that is vastly more important to you as an individual, your understanding of spiritual issues that bear directly on your eternal and undying soul’s destiny. You have a body that will die, but you are an eternal soul that will exist forever somewhere. That is a spiritual matter that can only properly be dealt with in a spiritual way. If you do not address this spiritual matter in a spiritual way, you will go to Hell.

Our text explains both the what and the why of spiritual truth about your eternal and undying soul:


“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them

Four claims are here made by the Apostle Paul about you by inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

First, you are what is termed natural. A natural man is simply a human being in nature, unaffected and unchanged since birth. This is the Apostle Paul’s accurate description of someone who is unaffected by gospel truth, unconverted to the gospel’s Christ, and unredeemed from his sins. This is someone who is not a Christian. Being a natural man, this person relates to the world in which he lives by means of the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, tasting, and touching. He may suppose there is reality outside the realm of the five senses, that there is existence that cannot be seen, smelled, heard, tasted, or touched, but he spends virtually no time or attention on such things. He focuses his attention almost exclusively on what he can see and feel and grab hold of.

Next, you receive “not the things of the Spirit of God.” The things of the Spirit of God are spiritual in nature, spiritual truths, spiritual events, and spiritual realities. Because you cannot see such things, smell such things, hear such things, taste such things, and feel such things, you do not accept such things as being worthy of your attention. Perhaps you feel justified for not receiving the things of the Spirit of God, as I once felt. I was quite confident that I had science on my side and that only the unscientific person, the illogical person, or the irrational person would receive, acknowledge, or pay attention to spiritual things, so-called.

Third, the Apostle Paul establishes a motive for your attitude toward spiritual truth and the things of the Spirit of God. “For they are foolishness unto him.” The Greek word mwria is our word foolishness, revealing why you invest little time or consideration in spiritual things.[2] You think such things are nonsensical or silly, a waste of time. These are things, you think, that are a waste of time. You see, of course, that the range of consideration covered by this word foolishness is quite wide. Thus, some who are so described will pay no attention to spiritual matters without much thought given to their decision, while others will entertain strong feelings about such matters. Most will have opinions about spiritual issues that will lie between these two extremes. I remember working with a British engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company many years ago who was indignant about Christianity, maintaining, “Religions are the reasons for all wars.” Apparently, he did not think that such anti religious butchers as Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Tse-tung (who claimed the lives of a combined 100 million people during the 20th century) bore any responsibility for that century’s wars. In Romans 8.7, the Apostle Paul delves somewhat more deeply into a natural man’s motives for not receiving the things of the Spirit when he comments on the Law which He wrote: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Here we get a peek into the underlying issue that motivates a sinner to discount and pay no attention to spiritual things. Here we understand why someone can go ten years between church services, or a lifetime. There is actual opposition to God. It is not always felt. It is frequently not consciously perceived. However, it is there, nevertheless.

Fourth, the Apostle Paul writes, “neither can he know them.” This, my friend, is the double whammy. It is one thing to discount the importance of spiritual truth, to think of it as silly, inconsequential, and unimportant. This phrase shows that even if you did not think spiritual matters were foolish, you still would have no relation to spiritual truth. It is because in addition to choosing not to involve yourself in spiritual things, you as well cannot involve yourself in spiritual things. You are incapable. Why so? There are several reasons why you cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, be they spiritual truths or blessings. First, you are a sinner. A sinner is a spiritual criminal, guilty of crimes against God. Second, you are God’s enemy, just as the Apostle Paul admitted about himself before he was a Christian.[3] Third, you are spiritually dead in your trespasses and sins, as Paul reminded the Ephesians in his letter to them.[4] Each of these issues, and more I might add, are obstacles to you knowing the things of the Spirit of God. However, I am getting somewhat ahead of myself.


“. . . because they are spiritually discerned.”

Should it surprise you to be told that the reason you have no concept of spiritual truth or reality is because you are natural and not spiritual, because the Spirit of God is spiritual, because you think such things foolishness, and because you lack the capacity to deal with such things? The broad conclusion that explains why you do not receive the things of the Spirit of God is that such things are spiritually discerned. The word discerned translates a Greek word used in connection with judicial hearings, and has to do with conducting an examination and being discerning. One must be able to do this to deal with spiritual matters, and you lack the ability to do this.

Think about it for a moment before becoming irritated by what Paul writes. If you have no spiritual connection, no relationship with the Holy Spirit of God (because you ignore His Word, sin against Him, and reject the Savior He is committed to exalting), how can you expect to receive what comes only from Him? Here is where the title of my sermon is explained. I have titled my sermon “Not Qualified To Have An Opinion.” Is it not interesting that almost everyone has an opinion about spiritual things, about Christianity, about God, about Jesus Christ, about what is and what is not sinful, about what is right and wrong, about morality, about judgmentalism, and about how one goes about becoming a Christian, how one goes about obtaining the forgiveness of sins, and ending up in heaven someday rather than Hell?

The whole point to what Paul was writing by divine inspiration in First Corinthians 2.14 is that no one who is not a Christian is qualified to have an opinion about anything that is spiritual. Yet, everyone these days thinks he has a right to hold and to express an opinion about everything. God disagrees. If you are natural and not spiritual, having nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, think that such things are foolishness and unworthy of your devoted attention, and if you are incapable of understanding such things besides, you have no right to an opinion.

That means that those sinners who know they are sinners, accept God’s Word as being true, realize Jesus is the Savior of sinful men’s souls, but for whatever reason have not come to Christ, are wrong. They have reached what they think are logical conclusions about their lost condition, perhaps thinking Jesus will not save them, perhaps thinking they are too sinful to save, or perhaps thinking it is too late for them to be saved. According to this verse, whatever their opinion about that spiritual matter that hinders their response to the gospel . . . it is erroneous. As well, that person who thinks he has a handle on what steps need to be taken to become a Christian, and has surmised by his feelings of coldness and his lack of apparent concern that he is simply not ready to deal with spiritual issues, is also wrong. Please recognize that Paul is here informing the Corinthian congregation that whatever the lost people they know thought about spiritual matters was wrong. Whatever they thought.

Therefore, if you are not a Christian, you cannot possibly be clear about spiritual matters. It is simply out of your universe, and for you to grasp spiritual truth you would have to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit of God. However, you do not have a relationship with God’s Spirit, since you are in fact stated to be an enemy of God. Therefore, your situation is hopeless because you are quite helpless. You are unable to save yourself, or to comprehend spiritual truth. Is there then nothing you can do? There is something you can do. Turn to Acts 8.30, where we find a Christian named Philip running up to a chariot and asking an unsaved man who was reading from the Old Testament, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Do you understand what you are reading?

Acts 8.31 records his response: “And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” The man’s response and the man’s request showed his humility. I would suggest you take the same course of action. Recognize that God has a plan for the spiritually deaf and blind. His plan is to provide for the sinner a guide who will instruct him and point him to Jesus Christ. You are will not succeed in your plan to figure out how to become a Christian. The man in Acts chapter 8 was well educated, very wealthy, and had pursued the answers to his questions from Ethiopia to Jerusalem without success. However, his encounter with Philip resulted in his conversion. That is God’s plan for dealing with sinners to guide them to His Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

[1] Luke 1.47

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 392.

[3] Romans 5.10

[4] Ephesians 2.1

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