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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

14. 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.

14. Animalis autem homo non comprehendit quae sunt Spiritus Dei. Sunt enim illi stultitia; nec potest intelligere, quia spiritualiter diiudicantur.

15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet himself is judged of no man.

15. Spiritualis autem diiudicat omnia, ipsc vero a neminc (vel, nullo) diiudicatur.

16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

16. Quis enim cognovit mentem Domini, qui adjuvet ipsum? nos autem mentem Christi habemus.

14. But the animal man. By the animal man he does not mean (as is commonly thought) the man that is given up to gross lusts, or, as they say, to his own sensuality, but any man that is endowed with nothing more than the faculties of nature. This appears from the corresponding term, for he draws a comparison between the animal man and the spiritual As the latter denotes the man whose understanding is regulated by the illumination of the Spirit of God, there can be no doubt that the former denotes the man that is left in a purely natural condition, as they speak. For the soul belongs to nature, but the Spirit is of supernatural communication.

He returns to what he had previously touched upon, for his object is to remove a stumblingblock which might stand in the way of the weak -- that there were so many that despised the gospel. He shows that we ought to make no account of a contempt of such a nature as proceeds from ignorance, and that it ought, consequently, to be no hindrance in the way of our going forward in the race of faith, unless perhaps we choose to shut our eyes upon the brightness of the sun, because it is not seen by the blind. It would, however, argue great ingratitude in any individual, when God bestows upon him a special favor, to reject it, on the ground of its not being common to all, whereas, on the contrary, its very rareness ought to enhance its value.

For they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them. |The doctrine of the gospel,| says he, |is insipid in the view of all that are wise merely in the view of man. But whence comes this? It is from their own blindness. In what respect, then, does this detract from the majesty of the gospel?| In short, while ignorant persons depreciate the gospel, because they measure its value by the estimation in which it is held by men, Paul derives an argument from this for extolling more highly its dignity. For he teaches that the reason why it is contemned is that it is unknown, and that the reason why it is unknown is that it is too profound and sublime to be apprehended by the understanding of man. What a superior wisdom this is, which so far transcends all human understanding, that man cannot have so much as a taste of it! While, however, 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. Hence the more insufferable the ignorance of those who imagine that the gospel is offered to mankind in common in such a way that all indiscriminately are free to embrace salvation by faith.

15. But the spiritual man judgeth all things. Having stripped of all authority man's carnal judgment, he now teaches, that the spiritual alone are fit judges as to this matter, inasmuch as God is known only by his Spirit, and it is his peculiar province to distinguish between his own things and those of others, to approve of what is his own, and to make void all things else. The meaning, then, is this: |Away with all the discernment of the flesh as to this matter! It is the spiritual man alone that has such a firm and solid acquaintance with the mysteries of God, as to distinguish without fail between truth and falsehood -- between the doctrine of God and the contrivances of man, so as not to fall into mistake. He, on the other hand, is judged by no man, because the assurance of faith is not subject to men, as though they could make it totter at their nod, it being superior even to angels themselves.| Observe, that this prerogative is not ascribed to the man as an individual, but to the word of God, which the spiritual follow in judging, and which is truly dictated to them by God with true discernment. Where that is afforded, a man's persuasion is placed beyond the range of human judgment. Observe, farther, the word rendered judged: by which the Apostle intimates, that we are not merely enlightened by the Lord to perceive the truth, but are also endowed with a spirit of discrimination, so as not to hang in doubt between truth and falsehood, but are able to determine what we ought to shun and what to follow.

But here it may be asked, who is the spiritual man, and where we may find one that is endowed with so much light as to be prepared to judge of all things, feeling as we do, that we are at all times encompassed with much ignorance, and are in danger of erring: nay more, even those who come nearest to perfection from time to time fall and bruise themselves. The answer is easy: Paul does not extend this faculty to everything, so as to represent all that are renewed by the Spirit of God as exempt from every kind of error, but simply designs to teach, that the wisdom of the flesh is of no avail for judging of the doctrine of piety, and that this right of judgment and authority belong exclusively to the Spirit of God. In so far, therefore, as any one is regenerated, and according to the measure of grace conferred upon him, does he judge with accuracy and certainty, and no farther.

He himself is judged by no man. I have already explained on what ground he says that the spiritual man is not subject to the judgment of any man -- because the truth of faith, which depends on God alone, and is grounded on his word, does not stand or fall according to the pleasure of men. What he says afterwards, that

the spirit of one Prophet is subject to the other Prophets, (1 Corinthians 14:32,)

is not at all inconsistent with this statement. For what is the design of that subjection, but that each of the Prophets listens to the others, and does not despise or reject their revelations, in order that what is discovered to be the truth of God, may at length remain firm, and be received by all? Here, however, he places the science of faith, which has been received from God, above the height of heaven and earth, in order that it may not be estimated by the judgment of men. At the same time, hup ' oudenos may be taken in the neuter gender as meaning -- by nothing, understanding it as referring to a thing, and not to a man. In this way the contrast will be more complete, as intimating that the spiritual man, in so far as he is endowed with the Spirit of God, judgeth all things, but is judged by nothing, because he is not subject to any human wisdom or reason. In this way, too, Paul would exempt the consciences of the pious from all decrees, laws, and censures of men.

16. For who hath known? It is probable that Paul had an eye to what we read in the 40th chapter of Isaiah. The Prophet there asks,

Who hath been God's counselor? Who hath weighed his Spirit, (Isaiah 40:13,)

or hath aided him both in the creation of the world and in his other works? and, in fine, who hath comprehended the reason of his works? Now, in like manner Paul, by this interrogation, designs to teach, that his secret counsel which is contained in the gospel is far removed from the understanding of men. This then is a confirmation of the preceding statement.

But we have the mind of Christ. It is uncertain whether he speaks of believers universally, or of ministers exclusively. Either of these meanings will suit sufficiently well with the context, though I prefer to view it as referring more particularly to himself and other faithful ministers. He says, then, that the servants of the Lord are taught by the paramount authority of the Spirit, what is farthest removed from the judgment of the flesh, that they may speak fearlessly as from the mouth of the Lord, -- which gift flows out afterwards by degrees to the whole Church.

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