Q. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “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.” Could you help me to understand this in greater depth? I gather from this verse that unbelievers (those not born again) who do not have the guidance of the holy spirit reject the word of God or simply don’t understand it. Following this trend of thought, is it only believers who can understand the word of God? How then do unbelievers become believers if they cannot understand the things or word of God?
A. I have heard a number of believers bear witness to the fact that they never understood the Bible until after they were saved. I myself had the same experience. Therefore I believe Paul was in fact saying that it’s impossible for an unbeliever to understand the word of God. He said the person without the spirit cannot understand things that come from the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned.
The fact is, most people don’t become believers because they understand God’s word. They understand God’s Word because they have become believers. In Romans 8:29-30 Paul explained the process.
Long before the first man was created, God looked down through time and “saw” everyone who would choose to accept the pardon Jesus purchased for us at the cross. At that time He reserved a place for us in Heaven. At the appropriate time in our life He called us to make the decision He had already “seen” us make. When we responded, as He knew we would, He applied the pardon to our sins and saved us.
At that moment God gave us two things; the first was the gift of faith to believe we were saved (Ephesians 2:8) and the second was His Spirit, who He put in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:21-22). Having received these two things, we could finally understand His word, and what had been confusing to us became clear. This clarity caused the seed of faith He had given us to sprout and grow, yielding a deeper and more abiding faith.