Sunday, February 25, 2024

Discrediting the Critics (1 Corinthians 2:13-16)

"… nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).

Paul makes a final defense of his preaching against those who would discredit him and his doctrines as foolish by emphasizing the source of his teaching. He says that “these things we also speak.… comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” or in other words, joining spiritual things to spiritual words, or, explaining the things of the Spirit in the words of the Spirit. Though the words Paul used did not impress the orators of Corinth and the philosophers of his day, they were the words taught to him by the Spirit.

Natural men, those who do not have the Spirit, cannot discern the excellency, the truth, the beauty of such spiritual teaching, of the proclamation of Christ crucified. “To know God is to discern His truth and excellence; to know the truth is to apprehend it as true and good,” Hodge wrote. “The wise are the good, that is, those who discern the truth and excellence of divine things. The fools are the wicked, those who are insensible to truth and goodness. What, therefore, the apostle here affirms of the natural or unrenewed man is, that he cannot discern the truth, excellence or beauty of divine things. He cannot do it. It is not simply that he does not do it; or that he will not do it, but he cannot.… That is because [the things of the Spirit] are discerned through the Spirit. Therefore those who have not the Spirit cannot discern them.” Once again, Paul is talking about those hidden mysteries of the Gospel, not of those things that all men can speculatively know and are responsible for knowing. The unrenewed man cannot know the way of salvation in Christ, the work upon the Cross, the excellency of divine wisdom, and the glory of God in man’s redemption. These things of the Spirit are foreign to the unrenewed mind.

Therefore, the unbeliever has no ground, no authority, on which to judge the believer and his doctrine. Paul’s critics judged his preaching as foolish, but in doing so they judged God Himself. To call Christian doctrine foolish is to call God foolish because Christians have the mind of Christ. “This teaches how firm a foundation the believer has for his faith,” Hodge wrote, “and how impossible it is for any one taught by the Spirit to give up his convictions to the authority of men.”

Do you ever turn red-faced when someone criticizes Christianity? Do you ever feel slightly embarrassed that unbelievers think your beliefs are irrational, extreme, or even irrelevant? What kind of attitude and answer did Paul have for such criticisms? In what ways do you need to follow the example set by Paul?