on 1-corinthians 2 :14
But the natural man - Ψυχικος, The animal man - the man who is in a mere state of nature, and lives under the influence of his animal passions; for the word ψυχη, which we often translate soul, means the lower and sensitive part of man, in opposition to νους, the understanding or rational part. The Latins use anima to signify these lower passions; and animus to signify the higher. The person in question is not only one who either has had no spiritual teaching, or has not profited by it; but one who lives for the present world, having no respect to spiritual or eternal things. This ψυχικος, or animal man, is opposed to the πνευματικος, or spiritual man: and, as this latter is one who is under the influence of the Spirit of God, so the former is one who is without that influence.
The apostle did speak of those high and sublime spiritual things to these animal men; but he explained them to those which were spiritual. He uses this word in this sense, 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 9:11; and particularly in 1 Corinthians 2:15 of the present chapter: He that is spiritual judgeth all things.
But the natural man - The apostle appears to give this - as a reason why he explained those deep spiritual things to spiritual men; because the animal man - the man who is in a state of nature, without the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God, receiveth not the things of the Spirit - neither apprehends nor comprehends them: he has no relish for them; he considers it the highest wisdom to live for this world. Therefore these spiritual things are foolishness to him; for while he is in his animal state he cannot see their excellency, because they are spiritually discerned, and he has no spiritual mind.
on 1-corinthians 2 :14
But the natural man - ψυχικὸς, δὲ ἄνθρωπος psuchikos de anthrōpos. The word "natural" here stands opposed evidently to "spiritual." It denotes those who are governed and influenced by the natural instincts; the animal passions and desires, in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit of God. It refers to unregenerate people; but it has also not merely the idea of their being unregenerate, but that of their being influenced by the animal passions or desires. See the note on 1 Corinthians 15:44. The word "sensual" would correctly express the idea. The word is used by the Greek writers to denote that which man has in common with the brutes - to denote that they are under the influence of the senses, or the mere animal nature, in opposition to reason and conscience - Bretschneider. See 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Here it denotes that they are under the influence of the senses, or the animal nature, in opposition to being influenced by the Spirit of God. Macknight and Doddridge render it: "the animal man."
Whitby understands by it the man who rejects revelation, the man who is under the influence of carnal wisdom. The word occurs but six times in the New Testament; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46; James 3:15; Jde 1:19. In 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46, it is rendered "natural," and is applied to the body as it exists before death, in contradistinction from what shall exist after the resurrection - called a spiritual body. In James 3:15, it is applied to wisdom: "This wisdom - is earthly, sensual, devilish." In Jde 1:19, it is applied to sensual persons, or those who are governed by the senses in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit: "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." The word here evidently denotes those who are under the influence of the senses; who are governed by the passions and the animal appetites, and natural desires; and who are uninfluenced by the Spirit of God. And it may be observed that this was the case with the great mass of the pagan world, even including the philosophers.
Receiveth not - οὐ δέχεται ou dechetai, does not "embrace" or "comprehend" them. That is, he rejects them as folly; he does not perceive their beauty, or their wisdom; he despises them. He loves other things better. A man of intemperance does not receive or love the arguments for temperance; a man of licentiousness, the arguments for chastity; a liar, the arguments for truth. So a sensual or worldly man does not receive or love the arguments for religion.
The things of the Spirit of God - The doctrines which are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the things which pertain to his influence on the heart and life. The things of the Spirit of God here denote all the things which the Holy Spirit produces.
Neither can he know them - Neither can he understand or comprehend them. Perhaps, also, the word "know" here implies also the idea of "loving," or "approving" of them, as it often does in the Scripture. Thus, to know the Lord often means to love him, to have a full, practical acquaintance with him. When the apostle says that the animal or sensual man cannot know those things, he may have reference to one of two things. Either:
(1) That those doctrines were not discoverable by human wisdom, or by any skill which the natural man may have, but were to be learned only by revelation. This is the main drift of his argument, and this sense is given by Locke and Whitby. Or,
(2) He may mean that the sensual the unrenewed man cannot perceive their beauty and their force, even after they are revealed to man, unless the mind is enlightened and inclined by the Spirit of God. This is probably the sense of the passage.
This is the simple affirmation of a fact - that while the man remains sensual and carnal, he cannot perceive the beauty of those doctrines. And this is a simple and well known fact. It is a truth - universal and lamentable - that the sensual man, the worldly man, the proud, haughty, and self-confident man; the man under the influence of his animal appetites - licentious, false, ambitious, and vain - does not perceive any beauty in Christianity. So the intemperate man perceives no beauty in the arguments for temperance; the adulterer, no beauty in the arguments for chastity; the liar, no beauty in the arguments for truth. It is a simple fact, that while he is intemperate, or licentious, or false, he can perceive no beauty in these doctrines.
But this does not prove that he has no natural faculties for perceiving the force and beauty of these arguments; or that he might not apply his mind to their investigation, and be brought to embrace them; or that he might not abandon the love of intoxicating drinks, and sensuality, and falsehood, and be a man of temperance, purity, and truth. He has all the natural faculties which are requisite in the case; and all the inability is his "strong love" of intoxicating drinks, or impurity, or falsehood. So of the sensual sinner. While he thus remains in love with sin, he cannot perceive the beauty of the plan of salvation, or the excellency of the doctrines of religion. He needs just the love of these things, and the hatred of sin. He needs to cherish the influences of the Spirit; to receive what He has taught, and not to reject it through the love of sin; he needs to yield himself to their influences, and then their beauty will be seen.
The passage here proves that while a man is thus sensual, the things of the Spirit will appear to him to be folly; it proves nothing about his ability, or his natural faculty, to see the excellency of these things, and to turn from his sin. It is the affirmation of a simple fact everywhere discernible, that the natural man does not perceive the beauty of these things; that while he remains in that state he cannot; and that if he is ever brought to perceive their beauty, it will be by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such is his love of sin, that he never will be brought to see their beauty except by the agency of the Holy Spirit. "For wickedness perverts the judgment, and makes people err with respect to practical principles; so that no one can be wise and judicious who is not good." Aristotle, as quoted by Bloomfield.
They are spiritually discerned - That is, they are perceived by the aid of the Holy Spirit enlightening the mind and influencing the heart.
(The expression ψυχικὸς ἄνθρωπος psuchikos anthrōpos; has given rise to much controversy. Frequent attempts have been made to explain it, merely of the animal or sensual man. If this be the true sense, the doctrine of human depravity, in as far at least as this text may be supposed to bear upon it, is greatly invalidated. The apostle would seem to affirm only, that individuals, addicted to the gross indulgences of sense, are incapable of discerning and appreciating spiritual things. Thus, a large exception would be made in favor of all those who might be styled intellectual and moral persons, living above the inferior appetites, and directing their faculties to the candid investigation of truth. That the phrase, however, is to be explained of the natural or "unregenerate" man, whether distinguished for intellectual refinement, and external regard to morals, or degraded by animal indulgence, will appear evident from an examination of the passage.
The word in dispute comes from ψυχή psuchē, which though it primarily signify the breath or animal life, is by no means confined to that sense, but sometimes embraces the mind or soul "as distinguished both from man's body and from his πνεῦμα pneuma, or spirit, breathed into him immediately by God" - See Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon. The etymology of the word does not necessarily require us, then, to translate it "sensual." The context therefore alone must determine the matter. Now the "natural man" is there opposed to the spiritual man, the ψυχικὸς psuchikos to the πνευματικὸς pneumatikos, and if the latter be explained of "him who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit" - who is regenerate - the former must be explained of him who is not enlightened by that Spirit, who is still in a state of nature; and will thus embrace a class far more numerous than the merely sensual part of mankind.
Farther; the general scope of the passage demands this view. The Corinthians entertained an excessive fondness for human learning and wisdom. They loved philosophical disquisition and oratorical display, and may therefore have been impatient of the "enticing words" of Paul. To correct their mistaken taste, the apostle asserts and proves the utter insufficiency of human wisdom, either to discover spiritual things, or to appreciate them when discovered. He exclaims "where is the 'wise'? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 1:31. Now it would be strange indeed, if in bringing his argument to a conclusion, he should simply assert, that "sensual" people were incapable of spiritual discernment. So lame and impotent a conclusion is not to be attributed to the apostle. The disputed phrase, therefore, must be understood of all unregenerate persons, however free from gross sin, or eminent in intellectual attainment. Indeed it is the "proud wisdom" of the world, and not its sensuality, that the apostle? throughout has chiefly in view. Add to all this; that the simplicity of the gospel has "in reality" met with more bitter opposition and pointed scorn, from people of worldly wisdom, than from people of the sensual class. Of the former, is it especially true that they have counted the gospel "foolishness" and contemptuously rejected its message.
on 1-corinthians 2 :14
2:14 But the natural man - That is, every man who hath not the Spirit; who has no other way of obtaining knowledge, but by his senses and natural understanding. Receiveth not - Does not understand or conceive. The things of the Spirit - The things revealed by the Spirit of God, whether relating to his nature or his kingdom. For they are foolishness to him - He is so far from understanding, that he utterly despises, them Neither can he know them - As he has not the will, so neither has he the power. Because they are spiritually discerned - They can only be discerned by the aid of that Spirit, and by those spiritual senses, which he has not.