In this series so far, we’ve covered the following passages that directly relate to TULIP: Ephesians 1:3-6 (U), I Thessalonians 5:23-24(P), Jude 1:24 (P), John 10:26-30 (U, I, P), I Peter 1:4-5 (P), Acts 13:48 (U, I), John 6:44-45 (T, U, I, P), and Romans 3:9-12 (T). Here we continue with another passage.
I Corinthians 2:14 – “The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”” – Paul (NET Bible)
Some translations use “natural man” instead of “unbeliever” here. The significance of this text in relation to the Doctrines of Grace is that this passage shows us the way man’s depravity prevents them from understanding spiritual things and the way the fall has prevented humans from thinking objectively and accurately about spiritual things, apart from divine intervention. This text leads us to the conclusion that it would be impossible for natural man to make “the right spiritual choice” apart from the intervention of the Spirit of God. It relates very directly to the T in TULIP.
Historical Comments On It
- “Paul here tacitly imputes it to the pride of the flesh, that mankind dare to condemn as foolish what they do not comprehend, he at the same time shows how great is the weakness or rather bluntness of the human understanding, when he declares it to be incapable of spiritual apprehension. For he teaches, that it is not owing simply to the obstinacy of the human will, but to the impotency, also, of the understanding, that man does not attain to the things of the Spirit. Had he said that men are not willing to be wise, that indeed would have been true, but he states farther that they are not able. Hence we infer, that faith is not in one’s own power, but is divinely conferred. Because they are spiritually discerned That is, the Spirit of God, from whom the doctrine of the gospel comes, is its only true interpreter, to open it up to us. Hence in judging of it, men’s minds must of necessity be in blindness until they are enlightened by the Spirit of God. Hence infer, that all mankind are by nature destitute of the Spirit of God: otherwise the argument would be inconclusive. It is from the Spirit of God, it is true, that we have that feeble spark of reason which we all enjoy; but at present we are speaking of that special discovery of heavenly wisdom which God vouchsafes to his sons alone.” – John Calvin (1509-1564)
- “Men unsanctified receive not the things of God. The understanding, through the corruption of nature by the fall, and through the confirmation of this disorder by customary sin, is utterly unapt to receive the rays of divine light; it is prejudiced against them. ” – Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
- “his understanding, which is shut unto them, must be opened by a divine power” – John Gill (1697 -1771)
- “He lays the axe at the root of the trees, and doing so, he perceives only two classes of men—the natural and the spiritual. Under the term “natural,” the apostle includes all those persons who are not partakers of the Spirit of God; it matters not how excellent, how estimable, how intelligent, how instructed they may be. If the Spirit of God hath not given to them a new and higher nature than they ever possessed by their creature birth, he puts them all down at once in the list of natural men. They are what they are by nature….These things which are so important, that you should neglect everything else to attend to them, are by you thought folly; these eternal realities, compared with which the world’s highest interests are but as unsubstantial shadows, you pass by as being idle dreams and doubtless they are dreams to you, because you, still being in your natural estate, do not, cannot, will not, receive the things of the Spirit of God…..So is it with the natural man. He lacks the organs, he has no ear of faith, no eye of faith, and he cannot therefore receive the things of God; they are foolishness to him.But more than this—not only does he lack taste and lack organs, but he actually lacks the nature which could appreciate these things.” -Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
- “But by total depravity, or total incapability, we also mean that man cannot change his fundamental preference for sin and self……Read this chapter very carefully and you will find that the apostles entire case is that the natural person, this person who is in the condition of the flesh, not only cannot change his nature, but also has no understanding or appreciation of spiritual truth.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1991)
- “One of the clearest passages teaching the inability of natural man to understand the things of God is I Corinthians 1 and 2…The reason that brilliant minds do not accept Christianity is that all minds are blind, unless they are regenerated…[quotes passage]…In other words, without the Holy Spirit one is not able to understand the things of God.” – Edwin H. Palmer (?-?)
- “There is a fundamental incapacity in the natural man. He does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (willful rejection), for they are foolishness to him. Why are they foolishness? Because he is not a spiritual man. He cannot (not ‘does not’ or ‘normally chooses not to’) understand them. This is another phrase of inability….This is not to say that there are not unregenerate, unsaved men who understand the outlines of Christian theology….What it does mean is that there is no unregenerate man who spiritually accepts, understands, and knows the things of God. They exist on a level he cannot access, the spiritual level, and he is spiritually dead.” – James White (1962-Present)