Biblical Truth Can Only Be Discerned Spiritually

Grace For The Journey


7Aug  Jesus asked an important question, and then offered an interesting answer in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.”  In this verse, Jesus tells His would-be followers, “You cannot hear My word.”  These would-be disciples cannot understand His word, which is truth, because of a very significant reason – they belong to a different father and another world (John 8:23, 44).

No matter how much truth Jesus may speak,

They simply will not understand.


Because biblical truth

Can only be discerned spiritually.

Human wisdom and Bible wisdom

are on two different planes of existence.

This verse tells us that when Jesus spoke, the men “heard” truth but could not “understand” it.  To them, the truth doesn’t make sense and leads to wrong conclusions.  They can do no less because they belong to the father of lies, to the realm of untruth.

Thus . . .

In order to understand truth,

One must first be in the truth.

Jesus alludes to this fact in John 18:37, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, a few of the disciples confessed a splinter of the truth . . .

  • Illumination to recognize the identify of Jesus (Luke 24:31; Acts 9:18);
  • Their eyes were opened to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45);
  • Their eyes were opened to turn from Satan to God (Acts 26:18).
  • The opposite is also true, where eyes or minds were “darkened” so they could not understand (Romans 11:8-10).

But it is not until after the cross and outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples finally received the ability to understand.  People can hear, see and even parrot the truth all day without ever understanding it.  As Jesus taught, it is not until individuals receive the ability through the Holy Spirit to understand the truth that they can learn it and live it.  There are many examples where the disciples’ minds and eyes were opened so they could recognize truth.  Some examples include:

Without being given the condition to understand, we remain on the dark plane of untruth.

So . . .

How can one be persuaded of biblical truth

If it is unknowable through human understanding?

Much research deals with this knowledge paradox.  One such study outlines what is now called “the Kruger-Dunning effect.”  Basically, it states that the knowledge necessary to produce correct judgment is the same knowledge necessary to recognize correct judgment.  In this realm of thinking, if one happens to be incompetent in a certain field for lack of knowledge – like English grammar, for example – it is that same lack of knowledge that impedes one from realizing he is incompetent in English grammar.  So . . .

If your grammar is bad,

You won’t know it,

Because you are bad at grammar!

In other words,

You need to know

What you don’t know

In order to know

If you are right.

What an insurmountable paradox!

Philosophers and scientists have dealt with this question of discovering that which is unknown for millennia.

How is it possible to seek what we are unaware of?

How can we recognize what we don’t know?

I believe the Bible helps us come to the solution of this problem.  The Bible teaches that sin has broken man’s relationship God and has caused man to not be able know God or come to understand the spiritual truth needed to come to God and to relate to Him.  The following passages show us what sin has done to each of us:

Isaiah 42:6-7, “I the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sin in darkness from the prison house.”

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Romans 1:21, “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful., but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ephesians 4:17-18, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

Colossians 1:26-27, “The mystery (something that cannot be discovered or known by self-effort, but must be disclosed by God) which has been hidden from ages and rom generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.  To them God will to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Romans 11:7, “What then?  Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.  Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.’”

The most thorough passage that deals with this truth is in 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, where the Bible says, “But God has revealed them (the things of God) to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because the are spiritually discerned.”

Paul is trying to show the believers in Corinth where true wisdom comes from, and how people learn about the things of God.  Paul is talking about how all people learn spiritual things.  And how is that?  People learn spiritual things through their spirit.  Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned.

This is why Paul goes on to say, he could not teach the Corinthians very much when he was with them previously.  When he was there, they were operating out of their flesh, and so he could only provide them with elementary, simple (“milk”) teaching, not solid food for the mature (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).  And though they now believe they are super-spiritual, Paul says they are still carnal, for they exhibit all the signs of operating through the flesh.

When Paul says that the “soulish” man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, he is simply saying that the soul (mind, emotions, and will) of a person, by itself, with only imagination, memory, reason, and emotions to guide it, cannot grasp spiritual truth.  Spiritual truth is learned through the spirit.  Spiritual truth is not learned through the soul, nor through the flesh, but only through the spirit.  Romans 7 teaches that the unregenerate person is spiritually dead, which means their spirit is separated from God and thus, they cannot properly receive spiritual truth from God until they receive a new Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.

So, in 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul is simply saying that spiritual truth is not a product of reason, imagination, or emotions.  Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned.  Paul is inviting the believers at Corinth to not seek to learn about God by their reason and emotions alone, but through the Spirit of God which was in them.

The Bible teaches that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. “  To understand this profound statement, we must examine the key words within it.

First, who is the “natural man?”  The Apostle Paul sets up a great contrast throughout the chapter – a great divide between the natural and the spiritual, between that which is of this world and is opposed to God, and that which is of God’s Word, and of faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks, on the one hand, of “human wisdom” (verse 4) – “the wisdom of men” (verse 5) – “the wisdom of this age” (verse 6) – “the things of man” (verse 11) – “the spirit of the world” (verse 12) – “man’s wisdom” (verse 13).  He speaks, on the other hand, of “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (verse 4) – “the power of God” (verse 5) – “the wisdom of God” and “hidden wisdom” (verse 7) – “the deep things of God” (verse 10) – “wisdom which the Holy Spirit teaches” (verse 13) – “things that are spiritually discerned” (verse 14) – “the mind of Christ” (verse 15).

The “natural man” is not a Christian – a man who has accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is man controlled by the wisdom of other fallen men, the wisdom of this age, the things of man, and the spirit of this world.

Secondly, what is meant by the word “receive” in verse 14“the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God?”  The word “receive” means “to welcome, to take hold of, to grasp, and thus to accept as true.”  The unbeliever does not welcome the Word of God.  He rejects it, denies it, and disputes it.  He does not grasp God’s Word, he misunderstands and misconstrues it.  Therefore, he does not accept it as infallible and authoritative truth that by its very nature demands his submission.

Thirdly, we are told that the natural, unsaved man views God’s Word as “foolishness.”  The word translated “foolishness” in verse 14 is the Greek word from which we get the English word “not in the right mind, foolish, dull, sluggish.”  To the unbelieving mind, to the humanistic mind, the Bible doesn’t make sense and is foolishness.

Fourthly, we are told that the natural man cannot “know” the things of the Spirit of God. The words in the Greek mean that “the natural man lacks even the capability to understand these things”

Fifthly, we are told in verse 14 why this is true: “because they are spiritually discerned.”   The Greek is, literally, “because by the aid of the Spirit they are learned, through the process of teaching and careful study in the Spirit.”

What is the sum of all of this?  First Corinthians 2:14 tells us two important things about man in relation to Scripture.

First, no one can truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God unless he is already a Christian.  That may sound like a paradox, but it is not.

The understanding of the fact

That the Bible is truly the Word of God

Does not come first.

New life comes first.

The Holy Spirit comes first.

He regenerates the individual.

He indwells the individual.

God makes you a Christian first.

Then He gives you spiritual eyes and ears

To be able to learn and understand

And opens up the truths of the Bible for you.

To put it the opposite way: If you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you cannot possibly have come to the point where you truly believe and understand that the Bible is the Word of God.  The non-Christian may say that he believes the Bible is the Word of God, but the fact is that the non-Christian does not even know what it means to say that the Bible is the Word of God.

Secondly, no one can truly understand and properly interpret the Word of God unless he is a Christian.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”  But here is the contrast, verse 14: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them.”

He is utterly incapable of knowing them.  Why? “Because they are spiritually discerned” – they are learned by the aid of the Spirit, through the process of careful study.  The natural man does not have the indwelling Spirit of God.  As Jesus said to the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders, “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:47).

The non-Christian utterly lacks the power to properly understand and interpret God’s Word, because he does not have the power of spiritual perception that comes only from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Unless the Author of the Book has regenerated you,

Unless He is dwelling in you,

It is impossible for you to understand the Bible

And handle the Bible properly.

What can we make of all this? First, do not underestimate the power of the Gospel. Remember that, before we came to Christ, we all lived on the some level, living in darkness and unable to come to the truth.  Yet, a concerned Christian challenged our untruth and planted the seed of truth in us.  And one day, by the grace of God, that tiny seed of truth burst forth in power and faith and overcame our untruth!  Remember . . .

The Gospel overpowers all untruth

(Romans 1:16).

Second, proclaim boldly the Gospel in the fields of untruth.  The culture in Jesus’ day reviled the truth, and many in our postmodern culture can’t handle it either.  Still, our mission remains, and we must bravely follow in our Lord’s pattern (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:1).  We belong to God and speak His truth, not our own ideas.  We represent Christ and His Kingdom, not our personal relativism or agenda.  Let us, then, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, boldly proclaim the truth of the Word with love, compassion and courage.

Lastly, do not fear the mission.  Fear is one of the reasons Christians refrain from proclaiming truth.  We get apprehensive about being called foolish and weak, or put on the defensive and challenged to “prove” something to those who cannot understand it.

It truly is a hopeless cause

Because the Gospel

Cannot be explained,

Only announced.

We do not need to make excuses

For the truth to those

Who cannot grasp it yet.

The Gospel may appear weak

Because, at the present time,

It is an offer of grace that can be rejected.

But again, do not confuse

Gentleness and grace

With weakness;

The Gospel is the power of God

And the only way anyone

Has to escape untruth.

No matter how hopeless

It may feel

To preach the truth

In our world of untruth,

Preach on!

In the end, truth will prevail.

What About You?

Dear reader, in which position are you?  Are you still a natural man who needs to bow the knee to the Word of God by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit?  Do you need to be redeemed from your sins through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ?  If that is your position, I urge you to contact me.  I will be glad to explain to you how you can be saved, how you can become capable of understanding the riches of God’s Word.

On the other hand, can you say that you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation from sin, and increasing in your understanding of the Scriptures by careful study, aided by the Holy Spirit? That is an evidence of your salvation.  To you God’s Word says . . .

In Colossians 1:3, 9-14, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you … that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

In Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience [literally, the perseverance] and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

And In Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.