Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 We believe so that we might understand

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Not everyone has the wisdom of God, and, in verses 14-16, Paul explains who has it and who does not. The main group who does not is identified by a two-word phrase in Greek that is translated by the NIV as “the person without the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14). Older translations sometimes say “the natural man” (KJV, NASB, and ESV has natural person). The NET Bible and HCSB forthrightly say “the unbeliever.” An unbeliever does not have the Spirit of God dwelling within (Rom. 8:9) and is thus a natural man. Since Paul is stressing the Holy Spirit throughout this section, the NIV has nailed the meaning here.

Paul says three things about the person without the Spirit: they do not accept the things that come from the Spirit; they consider such things foolishness.; they cannot understand such things without the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). This has profound implications for evangelism. We often think wrongly that unbelievers do not understand biblical truth and for that reason they do not believe. So, we try to clarify the biblical truth for them but make little progress. Ben Witherington describes the real problem:

The non-Christian, using his or her natural faculties, is not able to understand or judge spiritual matters (v. 14). They appear to be foolishness. This is a general principle, and probably Paul would say that the only way the non-believer understands enough to accept the gospel in the first place before receiving the Spirit is that the Spirit has already been working unnoticed.[1]

Perhaps a better approach would be to persuade those who need salvation to open their lives to seek God. In Athens, Paul said, “God did this [created the world] so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:23). Only those willing to seek the Lord will find him.

The only way for an unbeliever to grasp the truth God has revealed is to start with Christ crucified. When they commit themselves by faith to Jesus Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit and then can understand spiritual things previously beyond their grasp (“the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things,” 1 Cor. 2:15).

The person who does not have the Spirit cannot make accurate judgments about those who have the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:15). Gordon Fee says, “Those whose lives are invaded by the Spirit of God can discern all things, including those without the Spirit; but the inverse is not possible.”[2] The answer to the question in 1 Cor. 2:16 is that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of the Lord. Those who belong to Christ have the Spirit and really know Christ.[3] Garland explains that to have the mind of Christ requires putting to death selfish ambitions, humbling oneself, and giving oneself for others.[4]

Fee points out that 1 Cor. 2:14-16 has often been abused in the church by some who consider themselves to be so full of the Spirit as to be beyond correction or counsel from others. It has been hijacked by various deeper life or second blessing movements who regularly make a special revelation from the Spirit their final court of appeal.[5] Such actions miss the point and divert attention from the central message of Christ crucified.

Fee powerfully concludes: “The gift of the Spirit does not lead to special status among believers; rather, it leads to special status [in relation to] the world. But it should always do so in terms of the centrality of the message of our crucified/risen Savior.”[6]

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 128.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 118.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 101.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 102.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 120.

[6] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 120.

Exposition of Romans 5:11, Every Christian has reason to boast!

The Bible makes it plain that all humanity is created in the image of God. That fact explains a lot about humanity at its best and at its worst. By creation we can be both noble and tragic.

Is there more to the significance of being a Christian than that value which we have simply by being made in God’s image? Do we have a basis for becoming more in Christ than those who do not know Christ?

(ESV) Romans 5:11

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

In Romans 5:11 we encounter the very same verb (Greek kauchaomai) we found in 5:2-3, and once again ESV renders it with “rejoice” rather than the preferable meaning “boast.” The standard lexicon says that kauchaomai means “to take pride in something, boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.”[1] Unlike ESV, NIV, NET, NLT and HCSB — all of which say “rejoice” –Moo uses “boast” in his translation of kauchaomai in Rom. 5:2-3, and his translation of 5:11 is: “And not only this, but we also boast in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received this reconciliation.”[2]

Translators are probably influenced by Paul’s negative comments in Rom. 2:17-24 about the Jews boasting — wrongly — about their relationship to God on the sole basis that they possess the law. Curiously, all of the above-listed translations inconsistently render kauchaomai with “boast” in 2:17 when talking about the Jews; the only exception is NIV, which says “brag” (2:17). So, how does this verb become “rejoice” when speaking about Christians in Romans 5? Words do not always mean one thing because of context, but the justification for such changes must be considered.

Why am I beating this somewhat technical horse? Christian translators, commentators and theologians appear to be uncomfortable with pride because of the obvious dangers it presents (1 Cor. 4:6, 4:18, 5:2, 13:4; Col. 2:18; Rom. 4:2). Yet the New Testament contains a number of godly reasons for boasting or taking pride: works done for Christ (Gal. 6:4); the hope that we have because of Christ (Heb. 3:6); the faithfulness of other Christians (Phil. 2:16); Christ’s accomplishments through Paul (Phil. 1:26); and sacrifice in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 9:15).

The point is that Romans 5:11 says we may boast in God because of the reconciliation he has accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. Yes, of course, rejoicing is also appropriate for the same reason; but boasting and rejoicing are not the same thing.

Time to do a little bragging!

We need to take a moment to reflect candidly on the contemporary scene. How is it that Iranian protestors can ascend in the night to the roofs of Tehran to shout god is great yet American Christians would be mortified to do such a thing? Clearly, the context in Iran is not the same as here in America, and that seems to include their attitude toward the one they worship.

We have every reason as Christians to hold up our heads in pride for the incomparable God that we worship! If you understood me to say that we are nothing and he is everything, then I have failed to make myself clear. Instead, “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11b), so we may hold up our heads because he lives within us and has made us part of God’s own family. Jesus Christ is the basis for all godly pride in the life of a Christian; we are significant because he has made us significant.

So, in short, we should be proud of God and proud of what he has done in our lives!

1. What leads some Christians to be silent -- or sometimes almost apologetic -- about their faith in Jesus Christ and their pride in God? Do they realize it?

2. What do you think about the idea that Jesus Christ is the basis for godly pride as well as our personal significance?

Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b). To be proud of God and to boast about what God has done within those who have trusted in Christ magnifies God and so humbles us in the proper way.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] BDAG-3, kauchaomai, boast, q.v.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 297.

Almost “Alone in the Void”

Adam Frank, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Rochester, has done us a favor. His op-ed in the New York Times forces us to face the music about our future prospects of mastering interstellar travel. His conclusion is that There will be nowhere else to go for a very long time. As a man who grew up with an astronomy book in one hand, a science fiction book in the other and a telescope of my own making in the garage, I find that a very hard pill to swallow!

Yet, as a physics major with a graduate degree in engineering, I understand the scientific principles that lead to Frank’s pessimistic assessment. He speaks of our love for Star Trek and Star Wars, but he says, The truth is we propel ourselves into space using much the same physics as the Chinese played with when they discovered what we came to call gunpowder more than 1,400 years ago.

Frank calls on us to think about it:

No salvation from population pressure on the shores of alien worlds. No relief from the threats of biosphere degradation in the promise of new biospheres. No escape from our own destructive tendencies by spreading out among the stars like seedpods in the wind. For as many epochs in the future as there are epochs of human history in the past, we may simply have to make do, get by with what we have and, in the end, learn to get along.

In light of our shared history, what would you estimate to be the chances of our learning to get along? Not so good!

Ah, but we are not alone, in spite of Dr. Frank’s realistic estimates. God created our cosmos and ever lives as its master. He pierces the vast, lonely void in the person of Jesus Christ to offer us salvation from ourselves, our sin, and our cosmic isolation. He offers us a purpose, a destiny, and, yes, he even offers us the only viable opportunity we will ever have to see what he has made.

I suggest you put down the astronomy book and the science fiction book and pick up the Holy Bible, which contains God’s offer of a relationship that will span the ages and the awesome distances that chill our human hopes. Trust in Jesus Christ, who alone can fill your spiritual void and show you the wonders of all he has made.

Copyright  2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide.