Calvinism · Doctrinal · Interpretation

Calvin’s Concerns – Comment Response 7 – 1 Corinthians 2:14

As mentioned in the introduction, I have been been discussing the differences between Calvinism and Provisionalism with a fellow blogger. One particular response grabbed my attention and I am trying to understand his position, by referring to his proof texts and logic.

This is the second portion of his response (in red), along with the corresponding verses he referred to. I shall seek to comment on the verses and find his argument within the verses he has provided.

Original Comment

Scripture says God is sovereign in his decision to whom he will have mercy which is in accordance with Romans 9:16 and other scripture Romans 9:15,18 The natural man doesn’t come and can’t come 1 Corinthians 2:14 John 6:44 John 6:65 He doesn’t have the ability because he lacks spiritual discernment because he doesn’t have the spirit.

My friend continues with his verse list, intending (I believe) to supply a volume of verses with seemingly obvious messages that support his teaching of Calvinism.

The next verse we are to consider is a verse that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, and when considered in the larger context, may not have the intended effect my friend assumes. But lets read the verse before we go any further.

1 Corinthians 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.

Lets consider the larger context. Paul speaks of wisdom in the beginning of this chapter to the most carnal and foolish saints of all his church plants.

1 Corinthians 2:6

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.

Who would consider the church Paul is addressing to be mature? Is that something anyone reading may argue, that the Corinthian church, or even the bulk of individuals in the church were mature? Could Paul be implying the following message to his childish church?

Yet among the mature (but not you guys!) we do impart wisdom.

1 Corinthians 2:7

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

When did you impart this secret and hidden wisdom Paul? Did you preach this secret and hidden wisdom as part of the gospel message to those lost Corinthians? It seems in the beginning of chapter 2, Paul writes he proclaimed the testimony of God without lofty speech or wisdom, but with only one message – Jesus Christ crucified.

In other words, he preached the gospel to these Corinthians at the start. He did not disciple them. He preached to them! Discipling was to come later!

1 Corinthians 2:10

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

God reveals the deeper wisdom through the Spirit, and as believers in the Messiah, the Corinthians had no excuse to ignore the deeper things as they sought to follow after God as dear children. God’s spirit, who lives in the believer, is willing (and able) to communicate this wisdom if the believer is open and willing. Alas, it appears the Corinthians may not have been willing. Alas, they may be acting like a natural man – Yes, it appears a believer may act as a natural/carnal man.

1 Corinthians 3:1

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

Brothers are addressed as babes in Christ. Not mature. Not ready for the deep things of God.

So where does this lead us to.

Paul is saying that the things of God in verse 14 is a discipleship issue, not a salvation issue. The Corinthians were believers, and yet not mature. The context of chapter 2 is of wisdom for the mature. The natural man, whom the Corinthians are acting like, cannot understand the deep mysteries of God This is the Corinthians responsibility – that is to receive the wisdom of God in their following Christ.

For the natural unregenerate man, the responsibility is not understanding the deep things of God, or the hidden wisdom of God. It is to repent and believe the gospel. In so doing, the the lost man finds life in the Son.

Let’s get things ordered in a chronological manner, for our God is a God of order.

This I believe is the context of the passage.

But even with this overview, my friend may argue that I am being too general, missing the point or provide some other reason to argue. Fair enough. But what of it? Does the verse, on it’s own teach of the inability of the lost to decide for Christ? Let’s see.

My friend speaks often of the natural man not accepting the things of God because he is dead in sins. Ooops I mixed two verses there – I’m sorry. Let’s try this again

The natural man doesn’t accept the things of God because they are foolishness. The natural man hears the message, makes a judgement on the message and does not accept it. Does the verse say that he cannot accept it? Not yet at least. It seems the natural man’s inability isn’t described so much as his poor decision making skills.

But Carl, the very next clause in the verse states that he is not able to understand the things of the spirit. Is that because he is dead in sins (Oops – did it again!) I mean because he is not spiritual. Yes. of course!

So where does this passage teach that the natural man always refuses to believe the gospel? Yes, he decides (intellectually) against the message, and yes, he cannot understand the spiritual things of God. This seems clear. What is still unclear is where this verse states that the lost can not repent and believe the gospel.

If only Paul had added, “and he can not believe the gospel from the heart and he can not voice his confession unless God first regenerates him”

Let’s try the passage the way I think my friend understands it, (with the italicized portions added to hopefully supply clarity on my friends behalf).

The natural person does not accept the gospel the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand the gospel them because they are spiritually discerned, and he cannot believe the gospel from the heart and he can not voice his confession unless God first regenerates him.

OK so where does this lead us now.

Paul is speaking to a carnal immature church, believers that had not progressed, true saints according to the opening verses of the letter. Yet he delves into speaking of a wisdom that is for the mature, and that the natural man doesn’t accept or understand.

But that simply makes sense. The sinner needs to believe in order to have the spirit of God in their life, in order to seek out and accept the deep things, the wisdom of God intended for the mature.

When I became a believer at approx. 9:30 pm on Feb 19 1981, I repented of my sins and trusted the Lord Jesus for my salvation.

  • Did I (as a natural man) accept the things of the Spirit of God, that wisdom that is imparted to the mature (vs 6), the secret and hidden wisdom of God (vs 7)?
    • Of course not. I needed the gospel of Jesus, the milk of the word that gives life to those who believe. The wisdom that is imparted to the mature is for the mature. I was a baby! (Kinda like them darn Corinthians!)
  • Was I (as a natural man) able to understand the wisdom that is imparted to the mature (vs 6), the secret and hidden wisdom of God (vs 7)?
    • Obviously not, but I was alive once I believed! For the next four decades I sought to understand the wisdom for the mature, the secret and hidden wisdom of God, through study of the scriptures, hearing God’s direction and learning from other believers!
    • I just don’t see the sinners passage into life to be dependent on knowing the secret and hidden wisdom God intends for the mature.

So, I am not convinced this passage supplies a solid argument for the inability of the sinner to decide to believe. But, my friend supplies a plentitude of verses that I will continue to look through. We will see!

I do hope you will continue with me as I seek to understand the verses he supplies and if the verses he supplied support his argument of fatalism/determinism which he speaks of.

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.