Community Group Study Guide — What it Means to be Spiritual
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Whether you realize it or not, you’re dependent on the Spirit of God to really understand God and his ways. Paul shows us this by comparing two different people in our passage today: the spiritual and the natural person. The main difference between them is that one has submitted to the wisdom of God and has received the Holy Spirit and the other does not accept the things of God and is walking according to their own independent wisdom. For the Corinthians, this comes as a gentle rebuke to walk in Christ instead of the world. Paul will tell them that they are “spirit-filled” but he is correcting them for walking in worldly wisdom with their pride, celebrity culture and division (see 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:11,19). Let’s explore some of the many benefits we have as followers of Christ from the Spirit of God.
First, God’s wisdom can be received regardless of your worldly station (verse 6-9)
According to Paul, some of the smartest people in the world are actually quite foolish. We have already looked at how the Greeks thought the idea of a crucified messiah was foolish and the Jews thought it was a stumbling block (1:18-25). Paul now turns our attention to the rulers of this world and the wisdom of this age and how it is temporary. Herod and Pilate were probably smart guys; they’d have to be to make it through all the political hurdles of the Roman world. Likewise, the high priest Caiaphas had a lot of knowledge about the word of God and the world and yet he looked at God incarnate in the face and did not recognize him. The “rulers of this age” missed the wisdom of God in Christ and their understanding of how the world works is “doomed to pass away.” Quite often the spirit and the wisdom of this age is contrary to God and will not last. Paul contrast how worldly wisdom will pass away with the wisdom of God which is deeper and older than our current age (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). This wisdom from God does not come from our senses like what we see, hear or imagine, but from God. If these rulers and the wise really saw Jesus for who he was they would not have crucified him, but to them he was just a poor, rabble rouser causing problems; and yet for those in Christ he is the author of life.
Second, the Spirit reveals to us the things of God (verse 10-13)
We do not need to find enlightenment or ascend to God in order to understand God; rather he has condescended or come down to us… this is grace. Read 1 Corinthians 2:10 and rejoice at the words “God has revealed”. God did not have to reveal anything to us, but in his loving kindness he sent his Son and then sent the Spirit to dwell in our hearts through faith. Why? So that we can know God. The Spirit acts as a two way connector with God, searching the depths of God and revealing to us those depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). This is why Paul can say with confidence that the Spirit is groaning and praying for us in our weakness because the Spirit knows our hearts and intercedes for us according to God’s will (Romans 8:26-27). Paul goes further using the example of how no one can really and truly read your mind, sure some people can get close to predicting what you’re thinking, but only the spirit of that person knows the mind of that person. The same is true for God, the Spirit has been given to the people of God so that they can understand and know the ways of God (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). Are you following how marvelous this is? One can have a truckload of worldly knowledge, and that can be a benefit to that individual in many ways; we should want our civil engineers, doctors and teachers to have a lot of knowledge in their professions! Yet, when it comes to the things of God we are inherently dependent on God to reveal himself to us and to help us know his ways. So yes, dive deep into bible study and theology, but also dive deep into prayer and dependence on the Spirit to reveal more to you about who God is, how he has worked salvation and what he is calling you to do in obedience to his ways.
Finally, the spiritual person has discernment, and this is from the Spirit (verse 14-16)
There is a big difference between those who are “natural” and those who are “spiritual” and that is the presence of the Spirit of God. People who do not follow Jesus are greatly limited in their ability to know about God. This may sound harsh, but just like you cannot really understand what it is like to go through a challenging circumstance unless you’ve actually gone through it, so too is it impossible for someone to understand the gospel and this upside down wisdom of God unless they have the Spirit. Paul’s already covered many things that seem foolish to the world like a crucified messiah, salvation by God’s grace alone, God’s choosing of the weak, foolish and the nobodies to be his people and the unity of the church around Christ rather than any other human thing that unites people (1 Corinthians 1 and 2). All of this is upside down to the way of the world. Paul is not claiming that the spiritual person understands everything in the world, that would make every believer a genius. Rather Paul’s focus is that the spiritual person has a level of discernment that is unavailable to the natural person. 1 Corinthians 2:15 tells us the spiritual person judges all things and is judged by no one and that word for judge and the word for discern in 1 Corinthians 2:14 are the same word in the Greek. What Paul is getting at here is the idea of evaluating or examining. If you’re in Christ and have the Spirit you can see what God is doing in a greater way than someone who does not have the Spirit. Which is why we can say that God uses the weak, foolish and things that are nothing for his glory. It is why we can look at the cross as the power of God and why we can be united in Christ as saints together even though we are all very different from one another (1 Corinthians 1:2). If you are in Christ, the Spirit is teaching you and helping you to understand God and his ways and that is a blessing that is worth more than you can possibly imagine.
To summarize this section, one can be the least in the kingdom of God and yet wiser than the world because of the Spirit’s presence in them, helping them to know the things of God. This should lead us away from pride or looking down on those outside a relationship with God, and towards humility and thanksgiving for God revealing himself to us.
Main idea: The Spirit of God helps us to know the things of God. The natural person, who does not follow Jesus, may have a lot of intellectual knowledge, but they will always think that what God has done in Christ and in the church is foolish apart from God showing them who he is and leading them to a relational knowledge of him.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-13
What does Paul mean when he says that the wisdom of this age and the rulers of this age are doomed to pass away? What example does he give in the text? Does this principle apply to different time periods including our own modern day?
Look at 1 Corinthians 2:10. How does this verse show us God’s grace and love? Have you had times where God has felt unknowable? What usually produced that feeling in you and what steps can you or should you take in those times?
Based on verses 6-13, what benefit does the Spirit provide the believer?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
What is the main difference between someone who is “spiritual” and someone who is “natural”? What kind of attitude should this produce in followers of Christ?
How does this passage speak to the particular need for the Corinthian church? Look at the previous context and themes for examples. What applications can be made today?