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NATURAL MEN DO NOT WANT THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, June 26, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).


I received a letter from a preacher who read my book, Preaching to a Dying Nation. He disagreed with what I said about the need for gospel preaching, rather than so many "expository" sermons. By "expository" sermons he means a running commentary on several verses of Scripture, which is so common in the churches today - a few comments on a long passage of Scripture, reading a verse, making a few comments, then reading the next verse, saying a few comments, then going to the next verse, and so on, through a long passage of Scripture. This is called "expository" preaching. It is generally believed that this kind of preaching somehow "feeds the sheep."

This is the commonly held view today. But I don't agree with it at all for three reasons. First, virtually all the great sermons in times of revival, before about 1875, were based on one or two verses of Scripture or, often, on only part of one verse. That doesn't mean they weren't expository sermons. It only shows that they were expositions of shorter passages of Scripture than is common today. C. H. Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, usually gave an exposition of only one or two verses, or part of a verse. In the First and Second Great Awakenings virtually all sermons were like Spurgeon's. Second, I fail to see why gospel preaching like that of Spurgeon doesn't "feed the sheep." I usually read one or two of Spurgeon's sermons every month. They certainly feed me! And yet Spurgeon's sermons were commonly evangelistic sermons, based on a very short portion of Scripture, one or two verses. Third, most of the people in the average Sunday morning church service are lost people. The vast majority are lost today. In my books I have showed that this was the view of many leading preachers, including Bob Jones, Sr., A. W. Tozer, W. A. Criswell, and many other leading preachers of the twentieth century. They all said that more than half of those who regularly attend Sunday morning services in the churches are lost people, including Sunday School teachers, deacons, and, sadly, even preachers themselves. If Bob Jones, Sr., A. W. Tozer and W. A. Criswell were anywhere near right (as I think they were) then gospel preaching on Sunday morning and evening is a crying need of this hour! And I should point out that Bob Jones, Sr., A. W. Tozer and W. A. Criswell, themselves, usually preached sermons from a very short text in their Sunday sermons. But, sadly, their method has largely been given up and exchanged for long verse-by-verse expositions to "feed the sheep." The problem lies in the fact that they are actually trying to "feed" goats, not sheep! The churches are full of lost people in this time of dark apostasy!

But unconverted people naturally dislike sharp gospel preaching. They dislike it because their nature is against Christ and the gospel. Which brings us back to our text,

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

I will ask three questions about our text, and answer them from Scripture.

I. First, who a natural man is.

Why, they are those who have never been born again! They are still in a natural state. The Scofield note on our text is partially correct. It correctly describes a natural man when it says,

"Natural," i.e. the Adamic man, unrenewed through the new birth (John 3:3, 5); (The Scofield Study Bible, note on I Corinthians 2:14).

A man or woman remains a "natural man" until he or she truly experiences the new birth. Jesus said,

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again"
      (John 3:7).

People remain "natural men" until they are born again, literally "born from above," as Dr. John R. Rice often pointed out. The new birth does not come because a person makes a human decision of some sort. The new birth comes from above, from God. As John the Baptist put it,

"A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27).

Now, may I ask you, have you been born again, born from above, by the work of God alone, without any human work by you? If you cannot honestly say that God in Christ saved you without any work or "decision" from you, then you are the natural man spoken of in this verse, even if you are a Sunday School student, a church teacher, a deacon, or even a pastor. Jesus said,

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again"
      (John 3:7).

Until you have really experienced birth from above, you are still the natural man of which our text so clearly speaks, for

"A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27).

And if you have never been given the new birth from Heaven above, you are still the natural man of which our text speaks, and

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

You will go right on in your church attendance, with no appetite for gospel preaching because you are a natural man, and the preaching of the gospel seems like just a foolish waste of time to you. You would rather not hear gospel preaching. It seems like a foolish waste of time to you. You see no value in going on and on preaching this vital subject of the gospel, because you are, as yet, not born from above. You are, as yet, merely a natural man, an unconverted person, with no appetite for the spiritual things of the gospel. So the text describes you very well. You want verse-by-verse studies instead of old-time gospel preaching, like Spurgeon gave, because you are still a natural man, and Spurgeon's method of continually preaching the gospel has no appeal to you.

II. Second, what a natural man does not receive.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:14).

What are "the things of the Spirit of God" that a natural man does not receive? The passage makes it quite clear what this refers to. Look at chapter one, verse eighteen. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God"
      (I Corinthians 1:18).

You may be seated.

This verse makes it clear that the natural man does not receive the preaching of the cross. It seems foolish to a natural man to hear about the cross. Hasn't that been your experience? If you are already saved, can't you go back and remember how you used to "tune out" when a preacher began to explain the cross? I remember when I did that. I remember thinking, "Now he's coming to the end of the sermon. Now he will tell people that Christ died for their sins, and the sermon is coming to an end." So I would think about what I was going to do after the sermon was over. My mind wandered during "the preaching of the cross." It just didn't seem to have anything to do with me personally. I thought I knew about it already, so I "tuned out" the preaching of the cross.

Don't you do the same thing if you are unconverted, and in a "natural" condition? Don't you do the same thing I did before I was born again? If you are honest with yourself I think you will agree that your mind turns off during the preaching of the cross. When I am speaking about a current event you listen carefully. For instance, if I talk about Terri Schiavo dying from thirst because the court ordered that she receive no water, you listen carefully. If I speak about the horrors of the American Abortion Holocaust, your ears are ready to hear about it. If I talk about Bible prophecy, you are very interested to hear what the Bible predicts for the future. If I speak about Satan and demons, your curiosity is aroused. If I speak about Hell, you are morbidly fascinated. If I speak on loneliness and fellowship in the local church you are interested to hear more. I speak on those subjects, but I use them as a springboard to come into the crucifixion of Christ. But when I begin to speak about the cross, your interest fades. I lose your attention. Isn't that true? Of course it is! You know it's true! Why is that? Well, I Corinthians 1:18 gives the answer.

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (I Corinthians 1:18).

Now look at the second half of verse twenty-one, starting with the words, "It pleased God," and going through verse twenty-three. Let us stand and read those verses aloud.

"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness"
      (I Corinthians 1:21-23).

You may be seated. Things haven't changed since the Apostle wrote that. Some "natural" people want to see a "sign," a miracle of some sort. Other "natural" people want to have "wisdom" of one sort or another taught to them. "But," the Apostle says, "we preach Christ crucified." Paul said he preached on the crucifixion of Christ even though

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him" (I Corinthians 2:14).

So, the things that a natural, unsaved person does not receive are (1) the preaching of the cross, and (2) preaching Christ crucified. Did that stop Paul from preaching on the crucifixion of Christ? Not at all. It led him to intensify his preaching on this all-important subject. Look at chapter two, verse two. Read it aloud.

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

That doesn't mean he never spoke about anything else - but it does mean that the crucifixion of Christ was his central message, the main, all-important, thing that he constantly spoke about in his preaching. Paul came into the subject of the crucifixion from all angles. He spoke about it from the standpoint of propitiation. He spoke about it from the standpoint of substitution. He spoke about it from the standpoint of justification. He spoke about it from the standpoint of imputation. He spoke about it from the standpoint of cleansing. He spoke about it from the standpoint of sanctification and redemption. We know this from his other writings and from the record of his preaching in the Book of Acts. He lists some of these things in this passage, in I Corinthians 1:30-31. I have listed seven distinct ways that Paul preached "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). I am sure you can think of several other ways he came into this all-important doctrine in his preaching.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him" (I Corinthians 2:14).

All of those great subjects concerning Christ's crucifixion seem like mere foolishness to a natural man, not important, not gripping to the mind. But the Apostle Paul continued right on, centering his preaching on the crucifixion.

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

III. Third, how a natural man can receive these things.

I have showed you that a "natural man" is a person who is unsaved, unconverted. I have showed you that the "things of the Spirit of God" are things concerning the crucifixion of Christ. Now I will take a few moments to show you how a natural man can receive these things concerning "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). Let us read our text again. It's I Corinthians 2:14. Please read it aloud as we stand.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

You may be seated.

"Neither can he know them." That doesn't mean that you can't learn the facts about the crucifixion. Of course you can learn the facts! I knew the "plan of salvation" backwards and forwards long before I was converted. Spurgeon was the son of a pastor, and lived for a time as a boy with his grandfather, who was also a pastor. He learned about the great truths of the crucifixion from childhood. He learned these doctrines by heart. And yet he said, "I was as ignorant of them as a Hottentot." What did he mean? Well, look at the text again. Notice that it does not say, "Neither can he learn them." Oh, no! It says, "neither can he know them"! It is one thing to learn about the doctrines of the crucifixion of our Lord. It is a completely different thing to know them! The text says,

"Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

You see, it takes the Spirit of God to make the doctrines of Christ's crucifixion a vital, living reality to you. That's precisely what the Apostle is talking about. You will see that in verses ten through twelve of this chapter. I will just lift out several phrases. He says,

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit"
      (I Corinthians 2:10).

He says,

"Now we have receivedthe Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God"
      (I Corinthians 2:12).

He says,

"we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (I Corinthians 2:13).

Do you see it? A natural man can only "know" the great truths of Christ's crucifixion through the operation of the Holy Spirit. He can only discern these things, and "know" them personally, by the work of God's Spirit.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

You can know salvation through Christ's atonement only by the operation of the Holy Spirit,

"because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit"
      (I Corinthians 2:10).

The usual way that the Holy Spirit operates is by bringing you under conviction of sin and leaving you there until you want to escape from your guilt. Finding no other escape, the Holy Spirit draws you to "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). For Christ's crucifixion is the only hope for any natural man. You have no hope whatever without Christ's crucifixion - because there is no other way for you to escape from the guilt of your sin.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:
I Corinthians 1:18-23; 2:12-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"In the Cross of Christ I Glory" (by Sir John Bowring, 1792-1872).


THE OUTLINE OF

NATURAL MEN DO NOT WANT THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

I.   Who a natural man is, John 3:3, 7, 27.

II.  What a natural man does not receive, I Corinthians 2:14a; 1:18;
I Corinthians 1:21-23; 2:2.

III. How a natural man can receive these things, I Corinthians 2:14b;
I Corinthians 2:10, 12, 13.