Understanding Spiritual Words (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

“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. 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 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.”

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 ESV

In this portion of First Corinthians, Paul explains the importance of using spiritual words to explain spiritual truths; this portion of Scripture highlights the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. The authority of Scripture is not as contested in the Church today as much as the sufficiency of Scripture. To believe in the sufficiency of Scripture is to believe that the Scripture is enough. That is a simple definition, and it is a biblical truth.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Notice that Paul is saying to combine spiritual ideas with appropriate expressions.1 This is completely opposed to the belief that we must explain the truth of the Bible in worldly terms. Paul continues by saying, the natural man does not accept the things of God. Many people today believe that Jesus spoke in parables so that people would understand His teaching. But the opposite is true.

Matthew 13:13-15 ESV “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’”

If we want to understand the Bible, we must approach it spiritually, not with natural thinking. We must be guided by the Holy Spirit, who is our teacher. We cannot read in twenty-first-century philosophy; we must approach the Scripture in its first-century context. Before we can apply the text in our lives, we must first understand what the text means.

We need to use dictionaries, commentaries, and sermons to help us understand what the text says. Many of these tools are available for free on apps and websites like Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible.

We are blessed to have our Bibles divided into chapters and verses, making studying much more manageable. As common as it may be to do a topical study, it is also necessary to look at books of the Bible as a whole. It is only when we study books of the Bible that we begin to get the whole picture. If you’ve never read through the entire Bible, I encourage you to do that first. You can find a plan easily on a Bible app or by searching the internet. There is also a book titled, Understanding the Bible in 30 Days by Max Anders that will give you an overview of the entire Bible. After that, I encourage you to study book by book through the New Testament. Dr. John MacArthur’s Study Guides are beneficial in that process.

The important thing is that you let the Bible tell you what the Bible means. We endanger ourselves spiritually when we psychologize the Scripture. We are not the focal point of the Bible; Jesus is. And it is when we see Jesus on every page, we can combine spiritual depths with the spiritual words we are reading.

Get a good study Bible; I recommend the NASB Study Bible and NLT New Spirit-Filled Life Bible. Pick a small book like James or Colossians, go verse by verse, and begin growing in your understanding. Bible study and reading is our life source as believers. The best way to start the process is to decide on a book, get a study guide, and go verse by verse, writing down your thoughts and questions and using a commentary along the way. Once you start, you won’t want to stop.


  1. ESV Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, #4793

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