My bible study teacher claims all the "we" passages in 1 Corinthians 2 refer to the apostles specifically, not to believers in general. The natural man is not a man without the Spirit, but a man without inspiration, and so includes all non apostle Christians. He further deduces that the work of the Holy Spirit does not continue to help us understand Scripture, but the Holy Spirit gave the Scripture and that is all. This further means that the unsaved man is completely able to understand Scripture with his natural mind, with no further help required by the Spirit.

How plausible is this interpretation? I have a few ideas but I am struggling with this, as I have never studied Greek.

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    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 16:49
  • @Jenny Taylor I started to write an answer to this, but was struggling with the ambiguities of the statement: "The natural man is not a man without the Spirit, but a man without inspiration, and so includes all non apostle Christians.". You need to identify the source of the "inspiration" the natural man is without. If the source is the Holy Spirit, then according to 1 Corinthian 2:14, the natural man will never know "the things of the Spirit"
    – enegue
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 7:30
  • I am quoting the teacher as best I can. He is saying that the apostles are the only ones inspired to write the holy scriptures, and so are the only ones who he would put into a category of NOT being natural men. He points to the fact that the context of 2 Corinthians is comparing human wisdom with the wisdom of the Spirit. My understanding previously has been that the natural man referred to an unsaved man, therefore a man who does not have the indwelling holy spirit, but he seems to have a point here regarding the context. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 12:52
  • So he makes the unsaved man able to understand the bible just as well as a Christian who is not an apostle. He can do it by the use of his intellect, as the work of the holy spirit in regard to scripture finished with the completion of the canon. Thus the spiritual man is an apostle, and the natural man is everyone else. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 12:54
  • Wow, this is really a convoluted paragraph. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


Paul is addressing two audiences that he serves:

  • the natural [only] man
  • the complete man (man with God's imparted breath/spirit)

He puts the Corinthians in category 1 when he first made his entrance:

1Co 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1Co 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 1Co 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 1Co 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

The apostle do not "speak wisdom" to natural men and if they do it is impenetrable to the natural men:

1Co 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 1Co 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 1Co 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew [grasped]: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The exclusivity of God's revelation of his wisdom to the apostles is said to have been written about here (which seems dubious):

Brenton Isa 64:4 From of old we have not heard, neither have our eyes seen a God beside thee, and thy works which thou wilt perform to them that wait for mercy. Isa 64:5 For these blessings shall happen to them that work righteousness, and they shall remember thy ways: behold, thou wast angry and we have sinned; therefore we have erred,

LXX Isa 64:4 (64:3) ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος οὐκ ἠκούσαμεν οὐδὲ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἡμῶν εἶδον θεὸν πλὴν σοῦ καὶ τὰ ἔργα σου, ἃ ποιήσεις τοῖς ὑπομένουσιν ἔλεον.

ISV Isa 64:4 Since ancient times no one has heard, and no ear has perceived, and no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isa 64:5 You come to the aid of those who gladly do what's right, To those who remember you in your ways. See, you were angry, and we sinned against them for a long time, but we will be saved.

1Co 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"—

Paul explains how the apostles received the revelation which he attributes to sharing a common breath/spirit with God:

1Co 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1Co 2:11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1Co 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

The breath is described as an intelligent organ of God which knows and communicates what God is thinking to the apostles.

And this gets to your question:

Paul says that the apostles impart wisdom to those who likewise have the breath/spirit (these are synonyms) "interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual" while limiting their preaching to the message that God designed to elicit faith in the lost.

In summary Paul says the apostles have been given God's wisdom but there is no point preaching the deep things of God to a natural man. The gospel is effectual among natural men, though.

1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1Co 2:15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 1Co 2:16 "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

  • To clarify, the gospel is specifically designed to be suitable to a natural man. However, the apostles speak (ie: write) other things that cannot be comprehended by those who don't have the spirit of God. The gospel is unsophisticated such that a child need not err therein. But there is also a hidden wisdom reserved for the believer. I think it would be good if the original question cited some of the teacher's teaching because the answer will only be as good as the question is clear.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 9:44

I don't think your teacher's first conclusion necessary supports his second. That is, I think they are separate questions.

"We" appears to refer to the apostle and his co-workers, as referenced by their receiving the Holy Spirit (v12) so as to preach and teach (v16), and Paul's reference in 3:9 ("For we are co-workers in God’s service").

I do not think the second conclusion seems consistent with this very passage as well as other verses in the Bible. Per v13:

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The apostles could only interpret these truths to all men because of the Holy Spirit descending on them. If your teacher's conclusion was true, would not that suggest the apostles could've interpreted and taught without the Holy Spirit?

John 14:26 also proposes an alternate viewpoint than what your teacher is offering:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

The Holy Spirit teaches and continues to help Christians learn from scripture, not leaving them to their own human devices.

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