In 1 Corinthians 2, God states that we are to compare spiritual things with spiritual. How can I apply this in my life today?

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 KJV

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    Sorry, but the edit I made here is important, because proper tags (such as the book tag, while some of the others didn't really seem relevant) matter, and at least in the question it should use the common form of "1 Corinthians".
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 14 at 1:16

The surrounding verses give the answer. Paul expressed disappointment that he could not delve with these Christians into the deeply spiritual things of God. Why not? He tells us:

"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (Ch. 3 vss 1-4)

Paul was doing there exactly what he admonished - he was comparing spiritual things with spiritual. He compared the spiritual grasp of those filled with, and led by, the Holy Spirit, with those spiritual babies who had not matured enough to start taking in the spiritual deep things of God.

In chapter 2 he had elaborated. He showed that only the Spirit of God knows the things of God. They had received that Spirit, and so they could speak what the Holy Spirit had taught them - the deep things of God. Then comes a crunch point, prior to exposing those particular Christians as being unspiritual:

"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. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." (Ch. 2 vss 14-16)

Paul was intending to shock them into realising their need to grow in spiritual understanding so that they would not be like carnal people who are spiritually dead. All who are not indwelt with the Holy Spirit are spiritually dead, and need to be born again of the Holy Spirit if they are to begin to receive that new mind, in Christ. Those Corinthian Christians had been born anew, spiritually, but if they did not progress from spiritual infancy, they would not understand the things of God and Christ. They must take in the word of God and grasp the whole doctrine of Christ as set forth by the apostles. Sadly, they were paying attention to individuals who they started following, instead of following only Jesus, the Word of God. That is to be carnal, not spiritual.

We see exactly the same today, with millions of people following after various men (occasionally women) who claim to be able to teach them, claiming that to listen to them is to listen to God or Christ or the Holy Spirit. Ah, but the Holy Spirit guides and leads into all truth, Jesus said, and that is why Paul reminded those ones

"God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (Ch. 2 vs 10)

Once a person is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, they should quickly move from spiritual baby-hood into being strong in Christ, knowing the mind of Christ as vs. 16 says. Only then will they be able to comprehend the deep things of God, because they will be spiritually-minded, and spiritually taught, by the Holy Spirit.


1 Corinthians 2:13 is rather difficult to translate, NIV:

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

συνκρίνοντες (synkrinontes)
Verb - Present Participle Active - Nominative Masculine Plural
Strong's 4793: From sun and krino; to judge of one thing in connection with another, i.e. Combine or collate.

spiritual truths
πνευματικὰ (pneumatika)
Adjective - Accusative Neuter Plural
Strong's 4152: Spiritual. From pneuma; non-carnal, i.e. ethereal, or a spirit, or supernatural, regenerate, religious.

in spiritual [words].
πνευματικοῖς (pneumatikois)
Adjective - Dative Neuter Plural
Strong's 4152: Spiritual. From pneuma; non-carnal, i.e. ethereal, or a spirit, or supernatural, regenerate, religious.

Pulpit explains:

Verse 13. - Comparing spiritual things with spiritual. The meaning of this clause is very uncertain. It has been rendered, "Blending spiritual things with spiritual" (Kling, Wordsworth), i.e. not adulterating them with carnal admixtures (2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Peter 2:22). "Interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men" (Bengel, Reichert, Stanley, margin of Revised Version; see Genesis 40:8; Daniel 5:12, LXX.). "Explaining spiritual things in spiritual words." This meaning the Greek will not bear, but Calvin and Beza get the same meaning by rendering it, "Adapting spiritual things to spiritual words." It is doubtful whether the Greek verb (sunkrinontes) can be rendered "comparing," which comes from the Vulgate, comparantes. Wickliffe has the version, "Maken a liknesse of spyritual things to goostli men, for a besteli man persuyved not through thingis." The commonest sense of the word in the LXX. is "interpreting" (Genesis 40:8, etc.), and the best rendering is, "Explaining spirituals to spiritual men." If it be supposed that the verb συγκρίνω acquired the sense of "comparing" in Hellenistic Greek (2 Corinthians 10:12; Wisd. 7:29 Wisd. 15:18), then the rendering of our Authorized Version may stand. 1 Corinthians 2:13

The verse is really open to interpretations.


What does it mean to compare spiritual things with spiritual?

We need to follow the written Word expressed by the spirit in the Bible rather than let antichrists teach us things contrary to that spiritual Word. As the apostle John wrote, after discussing antichristian liars:

1 John 2:27 NASB

27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him remains in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you remain in Him.

Jesus Christ, our Model Teacher, said: "I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me." [John 8:28] Jesus was a perfect man but humble to be taught by the then written Word of God, we as his followers have no reason to be too proud to take God's teachings in the Bible with the help of his spirit.

Nothing compares with his inspired “holy writings” in being “beneficial for teaching.” Be taught by means of it and then, in turn, teach others by means of it.

  • Amen, this inspires confidence. ...so that when He appears, we may have confidence ...at His coming. I John 2:28 Sep 13 at 23:02

1 Cor 2:13 should not divorced from its immediate context in V6-15 which could be analysed as follows:

  • V6-8 - Message of "wisdom" = "wisdom of God" which the rulers of this age do not understand, especially V9
  • V10-12 - The wisdom is revealed by the Spirit
  • V13 - And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words
  • V14, 15 - the natural man cannot grasp these things

BDAG defines the meaning in 1 Cor 2:13 and the use of the verb συγκρίνω (sugkrinó) as:

  1. to draw a conclusion by by comparing, compare
  2. to clarify on the basis of a compatible relationship, explain, interpret

Thus, Paul is saying that he uses spiritual language to express spiritual ideas that are beyond the reach of non-spiritual people. Note the Borean Literal Bible translation:

which also we speak, not in words taught of human wisdom, but in those taught of the Spirit, communicating spiritual things by spiritual means.


To gain an understanding of the phrase “...comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” in I Corinthians 2:13, we first notice there is a contrast in the first part of the passage.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but [words] which the Holy Ghost teacheth… I Corinthians 2:13

This contrast is also found in Galatians chapter 1.

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12

If we are to compare spiritual things with spiritual, we need to familiarize ourselves with the scriptures received by Paul and other holy men of God so that we can recognize words that come from God, the Holy Spirit.

In the previous verse, God reveals the benefit and purpose of comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

...that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. I Corinthians 2:12

Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we can be on talking terms with God and have the resources of heaven available to us for success in every situation.

He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. I John 2:6

Having familiarized ourselves with God's Words, we recognize the wisdom that is from above. It is easy to be entreated to us because we have become spiritually-minded. When God talks to us we are ready because we are comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:17

It is said that the greatest cargoes in life come in over quiet seas. As we continue to put the Word of God in our hearts, we have great tranquility on the inside and evidence the peace of God. When God speaks to us, we can recognize his still small voice and receive His abundant blessings.

  • PsalmEqupt: An excellent answer. +1 Sep 13 at 17:39
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    Posts belong to the community, and there's really no reason to rollback my edit. We don't have to fight over this one here, but please get used to people editing your posts. Remember, you edited Ozzie Ozzie's post!
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 14 at 1:15
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    You seem to think that the text says 'comparing scriptural things with scriptural things'. That is not what the text says.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16 at 13:20

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