Soulish Man and Spiritual Man; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB "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." There are three basic terms that need to be defined in this verse in order to understand its meaning. First of all we have to understand the meaning of "natural." What is the meaning of a natural man? Second, what is the meaning of the "Spirit of God"? And third, what is the meaning of "spiritually appraised"?
We have to remember to use Scripture to compare with Scripture in order to define terms. Don't just jump at things abstractly. Whenever we fond a word in Scripture it has to be defined in context from the Scripture. The word here that is translated "natural" is the Greek word PSUCHIKOS [yuxikoj] and it is found in one other passage in Scripture, Jude 19 where it should be translated "soulish" but the translators of the NASB have not been consistent. It is clear from that passage that the word's meaning is defined by the last phrase, "devoid of the spirit." PSUCHIKOS means, literally in the Greek, not having spirit. In the Greek they do not capitalize words like we do for a proper noun, and when we find the word PNEUMA [pneuma] we have to decide from the context whether that is lower case spirit or upper case Spirit, and the translators of the NASB have made an interpretive decision here and concluded that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Now that could possibly work in the context of Jude because it is talking about unbelievers, but what really makes the difference between unbelievers in all ages and believers is not the possession of the Holy Spirit but the human spirit at regeneration. When we compare Jude 19 with 1 Corinthians 2 and the principle that 1 Corinthians 2 is an explanation of an Old Testament passage, whatever is true about PSUCHIKOS here has to be true for people prior to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and we have the unique spiritual life of the church age where believers are indwelt and filled by God the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the believers were not indwelt and filled by the Holy Spirit, so for this statement to be true it has to apply to an Old Testament believer as well as a church age believer. Therefore it can't be upper case for Holy Spirit, it must be lower case for human spirit. It is talking about the difference between the unsaved and the saved. What makes that difference in all ages is regeneration.
So we go back and look at 1 Corinthians 2:12, "…we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God…" Spirit of the world there means the thinking of the world. The "spirit who is from God" is a unique phrase in this passage because it has the insertion of the preposition EK and it indicates a remarkable difference. It indicates something from the source of God and the word "spirit" should be lower case—something from the source of God is the human spirit. The result of that is "that we may know the things freely given to us by God." If that was upper case and referring to the Holy Spirit then that would mean that the Old Testament believer didn't have the tools to understand anything revealed in the Old Testament because the Old Testament believer did not have the Holy Spirit as his teacher. That didn't come until the church age. Jesus told the disciples in that when the Comforter had come He would reveal all things and guide them in all truth. They didn't have that in the Old Testament.
1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB "But a natural [soulish] man [unbeliever] 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." In context, because this is comparing an unbeliever with a believer, this "spiritually" here must have to do with the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit. We are talking about basic understanding here. The believer has the capacity first and foremost to understand spiritual truth because he is regenerated. We also have the Holy Spirit to communicate and teach is but that goes above and beyond what the believer in the Old Testament had.
There is a unique learning process that God gives every believer in order to understand truth, and we derive it from this passage. This has been called the grace learning spiral because it is based on grace. God gives this ability to every believer at the instant of salvation, it comes with the human spirit, and in the church age it is energized by the Holy Spirit. It is true for every believer, so your ability to learn the Word is not based upon your education, it is not based upon IQ, it is not based upon any other human factor, it is based upon this principle. This mechanic is true for every believer and we have to understand this. Even though you may find something difficult to understand today, that is okay. After you hear it ten or fifteen or twenty times it will become clear to you. This doesn't mean that every doctrine is instantly clear in its totality to you as soon as you hear it. We can understand advanced doctrine but we have to build the basics first and build upon that line upon line, precept upon precept.
1 Corinthians 2:15 NASB "But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one." Some people get into a trap here because they think that the "all things" refers to all things in life, every issue faced in life, that no matter how difficult the circumstances they are going to be able to understand what God's will is here. That is not what this is saying. Remember, going back to v. 9, that "all things" refers to what has been revealed in Scripture. So this verse says, "he who is spiritual," i.e. he who is regenerate, "appraises all things"—appraises the Scripture. The word translated "appraise" is the Greek word ANAKRINO [a)nakrinw], and it means to examine a witness, to interrogate, or to determine the meaning of something. So we could translate that, "He who is spiritual," i.e. the regenerate man instead of the unregenerate man, "is able to determine the meaning of Scripture." That fits the context. Then it goes on to say, "yet he [in contrast] is appraised [understood, or the meaning of himself] is not understood by any man." In other words, the unbeliever is not going to be able to understand the believer. The believer is always going to be an enigma at some level to the unbeliever. That is why the Scripture is so clear when it says that we are not to have fellowship [light] with darkness, for what fellowship has light with darkness. Believers and unbelievers are not to be unequally yoked, and that specifically has application in marriage—there is always be an area where the unbeliever cannot go to, they can't understand, and there is always going to be something missing in that marriage. It will eventually become a root of some difficulty, some problem, simply because the unbeliever does not understand the believer.
1 Corinthians 2:16 NASB "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ." This is a rhetorical question which asks, Who has really known God? Who among men has known the mind or the thinking of God? That, of course, goes back to the fact that it is the Holy Spirit, v. 10, that searches all things and the deep things of God. No man can instruct God. Then we have the last statement: "But we have the mind of Christ." That is a phenomenal statement. We believers have the mind of Christ, and the word translated "mind" is NOUS [nouj]. We have the thinking of Christ. We know what God's opinion, God's view of everything—divine viewpoint. The Scriptures present one clear, unified view from God of what he thinks about and His view on everything He has created. It is the principle that if the God of the Bible exists then the God of the Bible is the one who defines and determines what reality is, and He has informed us of the nature of that reality. 2 Peter 1:3 NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."
To the unbeliever this is an incredible claim that smacks of arrogance. Modern man says, Who are you to claim that you know what God thinks? Well we are not claiming that we know what God thinks, we are saying that the Bible tells us what God thinks. It is not the believer's opinion or viewpoint. The believer has to change his viewpoint over time in order to conform them to what the Word of God is. That is what the Christian life is all about; we are to conform our thinking to the Word of God. The believer is saying that God has revealed Himself to man and that understanding the thinking of God, God's viewpoint, is available to every human being. He has made it available to us and understandable to us through the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever can't understand it, v. 14, so how does the unbeliever even understand the gospel? We will come back and look at that question.