14The 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. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.   ESV

I understand Paul's reasoning about 'things of the Spirit of God' being 'folly' to the unspiritual, but not how this is connected with the issue of 'personal' judgement (rather than discernment). What specifically does the word 'judge' (or 'appraise' - Greek ἀνακρίνει, ἀνακρίνεται) mean in this context and how does the concept of the spiritual man being 'judged by no one' connect to the acceptance or otherwise of 'the things of the Spirit of God'

6 Answers 6


The first thing I notice is that Paul clarifies himself in the final verse, which is a quote from Isaiah 40:12-14 (NJPS):

Who measured the waters with the hollow of His hand,
And gauged the skies with a span,
And meted earth’s dust with a measure,
And weighed the mountains with a scale
And the hills with a balance?

Who has plumbed the mind of the Lord,
What man could tell Him His plan?

Whom did He consult, and who taught Him,
Guided Him in the way of right?
Who guided Him in knowledge
And showed Him the path of wisdom?

Second, the word anakrino <350>, pointed out in the question, can mean:

1) examine or judge
1a) to investigate, examine, enquire into, scrutinise, sift, question
1a1) specifically in a forensic sense of a judge to hold an investigation
1a2) to interrogate, examine the accused or witnesses
1b) to judge of, estimate, determine (the excellence or defects of any person or thing

So it could be translated "examine", which doesn't carry the same connotation that "judge" does. In fact, the Isaiah reference (both the quick quote and the broad context of the quotation) makes quite clear that Paul is not talking about spiritual people being in judgement over others (which is sense 1b above). Rather, the spiritual person has greater insight into the world around us, yet is not understood by people who lack "the mind of Christ" as Paul says at the end of verse 16.

Paul goes into much more detail in chapter 15. In particular:

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.—1st Corinthians 15:42-49 (ESV)

Paul makes clear in other places (1st Corinthians 13:12, Romans 7:21-25, etc.), that we don't yet have resurrection bodies, but we do have God's Spirit in the meantime. So for now, the spiritual person can see things that the natural person (who has a natural soul) doesn't understand. In fact, the natural person can't even understand the spiritual person at all.

The NET Bible supports that reading:

The one who is spiritual discerns1 all things, yet he himself is understood2 by no one.

The notes are:

1 tn Or “evaluates.”
2 tn Or “is evaluated” (i.e., “is subject to evaluation”); Grk “he himself is discerned,” that is, the person without the Spirit does not understand the person with the Spirit, particularly in relation to the life of faith.

  • So "but is himself to be judged by no one" is taken to mean "but is himself understood by no one unspiritual."? Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 20:17
  • @Jack: I double checked with the NET translation notes, which are usually helpful, and yes: that's almost word for word how the notes explain the phrase. I think Paul takes for granted that everyone (spiritual or not) may be understood by God Himself, if that's what your question is about. Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 21:27
  • FYI, I asked a related question on the same text that you may be interested in.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 0:34

What is the logic in 1 Cor 2:15 when Paul says “the spiritual person…is himself to be judged by no one”

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (ESV)

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. 15 The spiritual person judges (examines) all things, but is himself to be judged by no one." 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ."

The word in bold "examines" inserted in the verse by me.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NRSV)

14 "Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny."

The contrast of the spiritual person with the unspiritual person.

Paul is contrasting the natural/unspiritual person with the spiritual person, he says that the natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God for they are foolishness to him. The natural man has no spiritual side to his life and simply follows the desires of his flesh-for physical and material things.

Paul continues and says, the unspiritual person is not able to understand the things of the spirit," because they are spiritually discerned/examined," and continues to say that the spiritual person examines everything, but is himself to be judged by no one.

This means that the spiritual person understands the things God has revealed to us in the Scriptures,he values spiritual stuff and is guided by God's spirit,and has the mind of Christ. (verse 16) He also sees the wrong course that the unspiritual person is following .

But the spiritual man "is himself to be judged by no one," this is because the spiritual man harmonizes the course of his life according to the scriptures, which the unspiritual person cannot understand. God is the only judge of the spiritual man.

Romans 14:4, 10-11 (ESV)

4 "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”


Maybe this translation and interpretation could help.

1 Cor. 2:15 - But the spiritual man discerns all things, but he himself is discerned by no one.

A spiritual man is one who denies his soul and does not live by his soul but allows his spirit, that is, his regenerated spirit, which is occupied and energized by the Spirit of God, to dominate his entire being. Furthermore, he lives by such a spirit, moving and acting according to it (Rom. 8:4). Such a spiritual person is able to discern the things of the Spirit of God because his constitutional capacity for spiritual perception is able to manifest its function. (Recovery Bible, with footnote)


James 2 vs 12 says, " so speak ye and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." What is this law of liberty? He explains in verses 8 -11, that this law is the WORD of God in summary the commandments of GOD. hence, since in Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 2, we are told that the natural man (the person not yet repented and baptized and who lives according to instincts and not the word of God) cannot discern or understand the things of God and they are but foolishness to him(1 Corinthians 2 vs 14),how then can he judge a spiritually-led person? Everything the spiritual man does will appear as foolishness to him. On the other hand, the spiritually -led Christian should be able to judge his fellow saints and non-Christians as well, as he knows the law of God and his judgements(not condemnatory but restoratory) will be of God.(1 Corinthians 6 vs 1- 6) tells us that as Saints understands the law of GOD and live it, making their lives an acceptable example of how JEHOVAH said it should be (romans 12 vs 1-2); as such,they are called and accounted by HIM as effective judges now on this earth and in heaven, when the saints will judge the heavenly beings (angel)that had disobeyed the law of GOD.

hope this helps.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please try to give answers that contain good respected references.
    – user25930
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 8:30

The Principle through which one judges - i.e. tells good from evil, better from worse, virtuous from vicious, truth from lie - is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit; thus, a Spirit-guided man can judge non-Spirit guided, that is to say, natural man, who is devoid of the Principle through which to judge.

Can wind be afraid of the sea's turbulence, when the wind is the principle of the turbulence? Can water be afraid of being drenched, when water is the principle of drenching anything? The same applies here: to give an analogy: a Spirit-guided student knows that plagiarism is wrong per se, a priori, and incomparably more hazardous for soul than getting a bad grade, but natural students would rather think that albeit plagiarism is not ok, still a greater evil is to get a bad grade. But the natural students cannot judge the Spiritual student, but rather vice versa.


There is at issue only the matter of judgement. Jn.3:19- If you are not with you are against. Rom 8:9 The spirit of the accuser engages the battlefield at large by the very JUDGEMENT in which God decree to be JUDGED by no one.

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    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 8:24

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