Vol.XI No.VII Pg.4
September 1974

The Natural Man

Robert F. Turner

The "natural man" of 1 Cor. 2:14 is the man who refuses to accept anything as true which he cannot prove with human resources. Put another way, he will not accept the word of inspiration accounting it true because of its source. He "cannot" know spiritual things — not because the human mind is incapable of believing truth made available through inspiration —but because he refuses to walk by faith — he insist on accepting only that which his human experiences will approve. To him truth is subjective.

Look at the context! In 1 Cor. 1:17 Paul says he preaches "not with wisdom of words, least the cross should be made of no effect". Then follows a series of statements which contrast what men count great -- worldly wisdom, philosophy, pomp and worldly glory -- with the debasing servitude of Christ to mankind, by his death on the cross. v. 28 says God chose this course that "no flesh should glory in his presence." God is not a pawn of mans research — He cannot be "found" in our laboratories — God must come to us. But how does He come to us? Paul says (1 Cor. 2:) he declared the testimony of God. Pauls preaching was not with mans wisdom, "but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith (emph. mine, rt) should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" vs. 4-5). God is presented to man in the inspired message, delivered and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. God is accepted or received to the extent that man relies upon the revelation, rather than upon human wisdom for his information. "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17).

The same mental facilities and capacities are used to accept revealed information, as are used to accept the conclusions of human research. In both cases the "natural" (i.e., the inherent) capacities of man are applied. This "natural" man is preached to, hears, and obeys Gods truth. The gospel God gave, is suited to the man God made. But the "natural man" of 1 Cor. 2:14 is the "foolish" man of chapter one. He is the man who, being preached to, will accept and believe only that which his (or human) experiences approve.

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard" (2:9-f)..." But God hath revealed them unto us." The "us" and "we" of these verses are distinct from those to whom "we" preach, (compare Ch. 1). The reference is to inspired men to whom God delivered truth. These men speak "not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;" and there were two classes of hearers: (1) those who received it as the word of God (1 Th. 2:13) and whose faith, therefore, stood in the power of God; and (2) those who measured the message by human standards, found it "foolish," and rejected it. The later is the "natural man" here the "we" and "us" are identified as apostles and prophets in Eph. 3:2-6.

Those who make "spiritually discerned" a mystical confirmation of truth via an "inner themselves as the "spiritual" ones, they accept a type of reasoning by which they brand light" or "feeling" actually make man the final standard. In their misguided zeal to picture themselves the "natural man" of 1 Cor. 2:14.