Worldly wisdom has its appeal, which is why Christians perennially struggle not to live by it. We are tempted to prize talent over character, to be pragmatic rather than principled, to use our connections to assert ourselves in the church, to view our gifts as more necessary and better than others’ gifts.
Twenty-first-century believers are not the first to succumb to worldly wisdom from time to time. Indeed, until Jesus returns, the worldly way of doing things will remain enticing because the presence of sin remains until we are glorified (Rom. 7:7–25). Our only hope is to be changed by the Holy Spirit so that we begin to reject worldly wisdom and embrace the wisdom of God, displayed preeminently in the cross. This is the wisdom that engages in service instead of sinful self-advancement, lives by spiritual principles instead of mere pragmatics, and that does not prize our own gifts and callings above others. This is the humble way of Christ crucified, who came not to exploit His advantages at the expense of others but to serve (Phil. 2:5–11).
Paul has commended this wisdom to the Corinthians—and to us as well—noting that it comes only by the Spirit to those whom the Spirit regenerates (1 Cor. 1:10–2:13). In today’s passage, Paul brings this part of his argument to a conclusion by stressing that the “natural person,” with his worldly wisdom, is unable to discern this truth (2:14). It is not that the natural man is intellectually incapable of recognizing the content of spiritual wisdom as the Apostle has described it. The problem, instead, is moral. Hard hearts cannot believe that the wisdom of God is the right way or that Christ, in His apparent weakness on the cross, is the Almighty Savior. Only the person renewed by the spirit—the “spiritual person”—can believe this.
On the other hand, the “spiritual person,” because of the work of the Spirit, can judge, discern, or believe all these truths. This spiritual person is understood or judged by no one, that is, not by the “natural person” (v. 15). Paul does not mean that Christians cannot rightly be evaluated by others or that we are accountable to no one outside ourselves. He is saying that the unregenerate do not know what to make of believers. They will think us foolish and will not accept that our beliefs and lives formed by the Spirit are good and proper. That should not worry us, for by the Spirit we have the mind of Christ (v. 16). We know and believe His thoughts given to us in His Word and confirmed in us by the Holy Spirit.