Confessions on Total Depravity, Part 6: First Corinthians Two

To you, my Truth, I confess;

I confess and will not hold back.

All men are sinners;

Transgressors every last one.

All have sinned lacking your glory;

Your splendor fails from men.

Yet, you have revealed to us;

You have shown to the sons of men;

That if we believe your Gospel;

The good news of your kingdom;

We can be forgiven our iniquities;

Washed will be all our impurities.

Then, they can be called righteous;

Filled with the righteousness of your Son.

And they can partake of your glory;

Share in your gracious splendor.

To you, Oh Savior, I commit;

I commit this praise to your feet.

Oh Father, take these fledgling words and make them fly. Take the meditations of my mind and sanctify them. For they say that man without regeneration cannot understand the Gospel. Nor can he believe it or even endure it. They point to your word, saying, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14, LEB). Since you have said this, it must be true. But what does it mean? And does it refer to your Gospel?

“The Gospel is in view,” they say, “because Paul said earlier, ‘I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor 2:2, LEB).” But here they do err, not reading your word with attention. For, Paul said, “And I, when I came to you,[1] brothers, did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor 2:1, LEB). This, oh God of history, sets his statement concerning his proclamation within a certain period. And this is the period of their infancy as he added later, “I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food” (1 Cor 3:1-2, NRSV). He proclaimed the Gospel, yes, to those who were infants.

But could they understand the Gospel and believe even in their unsaved state? Yes! For you said through Paul, “God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21, NRSV). They heard the foolishness of the Gospel and believed it. Then, they were saved. So, salvations follows belief. And in the period of their infancy, they could believe such a foolish Gospel.

What, then, does it mean that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit”? Is he not still talking about the Gospel? In your wisdom, oh Lord, you guided Paul to say this: “But[2] among the mature we do speak wisdom” (1 Cor 2:6). He was talking about the Gospel (1 Cor 2:1-5), but now he speaks of “God’s wisdom, secret and hidden. . . things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:7-10, NRSV). This secret wisdom he can only speak to “the mature” because infants cannot handle the depth. Therefore, it is this deeper wisdom that is inaccessible to humanity, oh Lord. You have decreed this wisdom “before the ages for our glory,” a wisdom not “of this age or of the rulers of this age” (1 Cor 2:6-7, NRSV). It is this deeper wisdom which “none of the rulers of this age understood” (1 Cor 2:8, NRSV). And neither could he give this wisdom to the Corinthians, for they still had not matured.[3]

Oh Lord, grant maturity to me! Help me know the deep things of your word! I believe Jesus Christ and him crucified! I have and will put divisions behind me so that I may be a mature man before you! Shield not your wisdom from my eyes! And reveal to me the secret things of your Spirit!

[1] The use of this participle is  best interpreted as time. “2061. Time.—The time denoted by the participle is only relative to that of the governing verb, and is to be inferred from the context. Each participial form in itself expresses only stage of action (1850).” (Herbert W. Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, 1920).

[2] I take this as an adversative δε because he speaks of the “mature” as opposed to the infants (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-2). See DBL Greek 1254.3.

[3] The author of Hebrews makes the same argument as Paul does. He said, “Therefore, leaving behind the elementary message about Christ, let us move on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about baptisms and laying on of hands, and resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” (Heb 6:1-2, LEB). Thus, the Gospel is understandable even to unbelievers. It doesn’t follow the wisdom of this world, which makes is laughable to most. But it does not follow that a person cannot come to understand it and believe it. What they cannot understand is the deeper things of Scripture. If one does not believe the basics, how will he advance to new levels? If a person does not master the rudiments of a language, how can he ever speak it? And if a person does not believe the simple Gospel, how will he understand God’s grand narrative?

Anecdotally, I have heard plenty of confessing unbelievers perfectly present the Gospel of Grace and articulate it fluently. But they do not believe it. The Gospel is understandable by everyone. But it must be believed to be effective.  

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