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1 Corinthians 2:14
YLT

and the natural man doth not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for to him they are foolishness, and he is not able to know [them], because spiritually they are discerned;

ESV

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.

KJV

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.

NASB

But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

What are "the things of the Spirit of God" that the natural man does not receive? What are illustrative examples of these "things"?

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1 Cor 2:14 is one of the several places where the NT teaches that we must put aside the “psychical” (= "natural") mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.

That is, the purpose of conversions is to create in the sinner, the means to understand and accept spiritual truths and realities which are completely beyond the reach of the natural person. Barnes says this:

But the natural man - ψυχικὸς, δὲ ἄνθρωπος psuchikos de anthrōpos. The word "natural" here stands opposed evidently to "spiritual." It denotes those who are governed and influenced by the natural instincts; the animal passions and desires, in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit of God. It refers to unregenerate people; but it has also not merely the idea of their being unregenerate, but that of their being influenced by the animal passions or desires.

What Paul in the surrounding verses states can be neatly summarized as: "spiritual things are spiritually discerned". He expands on this point in the previous verses:

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

More specifically, the "things of the Spirit" as listed in the appendix below, include:

  • the gifts of the Spirit
  • the fruit of the Spirit
  • the knowledge of Jesus as revealed by Jesus
  • the knowledge of Spiritual things as revealed in the Bible.

APPENDIX - The Spiritual Things of the Holy Spirit

Jesus bequeathed the Gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4) to His church to impart a number of "spiritual things":

  1. To witness about Jesus (Acts 1:8) and so fulfil the Gospel Commission (Matt 28:19, 20) to win souls the Kingdom of God. More specifically, this was to be accomplished by the functions listed below.
  2. To build up the church with spiritual (supernatural) gifts and abilities, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, and to influence/teach others John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  3. To produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 & 23, see especially v24-26) and so to sanctify (make distinct) the church members.
  4. The above changed life is to be a distinguishing sign or seal of God’s ownership of our lives and a guarantee of better things to come (Eph 1:13, 4:30). See Seal of God.
  5. To provide specific guidance for the church (John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26 – see also Ecclesiology, namely
  • Convict of sin
  • Instruct in Righteous (= right doing)
  • Convict of judgement to come
  1. To strengthen the members in their daily walk to live the Christian ideals, Eph 3:16, 17, Heb 2:4, and maintain unity in the Christian community (Eph 4:3-6). The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact, the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.
  2. To teach the church more of the character and work of Jesus and thus, imitate Jesus, John 7:38, 39, 15:26, 16:12-15, Rom 8:4, 11, Eph 3:17, 18, 4:3-6, 1 Thess 1:6, 4:8, 1 Cor 2:14.
  3. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to write Scripture, and also explains Biblical spiritual truths to us. John 14:16, 17, 15:26, 1 Cor 2:6-16, Eph 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:15, 16, 1 Thess 1:5, Heb 9:8, 1 Peter 1:12, Ps 119:18.
  4. To intercede with God (Rom 8:26, 27) and thus, act as an advocate and helper (John 14:16, 26, 15;26, 16:7). [Note: in this respect, the Holy Spirit acts like Jesus (John 14:6) as an intercessor, Rom 8:34, Heb 7:25, and Advocate, 1 John 2:1.]
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For instance, Judas the Traitor, who was not spiritual, rebuked the spiritual woman who anointed the feet of the Lord with an expensive fragrance. Judas thought practically, as a fleshly man: "it would have been better to sell this fragrant oil for 300 deniarii and give to the needed, solving thus temporarily their economical hardships". However he did not see that everything, even charity itself, has as its aim the acquisition of the Lord Jesus Christ which is to start here in a historical life, but continue in the Age to come, eternally. The woman who anointed Him was spiritual and through Spirit she discerned the gravity of the moment that the Lord was to depart from them and not be any more approachable in a usual way, but in a more sublime and mystical way. She was spiritual, Judas was carnal and for him her expenditure was a stupidity.

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  • +1 for example. Mark 14:8, "she has anointed my body before for burial". But did she know that when she did it or perhaps only after? Do preachers know the effect of their words? Did the woman know why her pouring out was not just the expression of her love but also anointing for burial? The Holy Spirit knew but did the Holy Spirit communicate this to her?
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 16, 2023 at 9:15
  • ie communicate this to her after the event. As she heard Jesus' explanation, did the Spirit of God ratify His words in her heart?
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 16, 2023 at 10:59
  • @C.Stroud Thanks for the upvote! These are indeed great questions. I tend to think that since the Lord started to frequently speak about His imminent death or departure from them, it stood somehow in the air. Oct 16, 2023 at 19:19

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