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, so that we may know the depths graciously given to us by God,13 of which depths we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual depths with spiritual words.14 But a natural man does not accept the depths of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually examined.15 But he who is spiritual examines all things, yet he himself is examined by no one.16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will direct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 LSB

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 LSB “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,17 so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Notice that Paul says, “combining spiritual depths with spiritual words.” 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 LSB “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;15 For the heart of this people has become dull,And with their ears they scarcely hear,And they have closed their eyes,Lest they would see with their eyes,Hear with their ears,And understand with their heart and return,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 MacArthur Study Bible and ESV Study 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.

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