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FOOLISHNESS TO THE NATURAL MAN!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 22, 2009

“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).


In verses 14 and 15 the Apostle Paul gives two classes of men – natural and spiritual. He divides all mankind into these two groups. He gives only two kinds of people – natural and spiritual. If the Spirit of God has not given them a new nature different from that which they had from birth, he lists them as natural men. He teaches that natural men can never receive the truths of the Gospel unless they are transformed by the Spirit of God into spiritual men (cf. C. H. Spurgeon, “Natural or Spiritual?”, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1986 reprint, volume VII, pp. 473-480).

The word “natural” is translated from the Greek word “psuchikos,” which means “sensual,” of the senses (Strong). It refers to man in an unconverted state. Man in this state is described in Jude 19 as “sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 19). The man must be converted, becoming “a new creature,” to be delivered from his natural state (II Corinthians 5:17). Coming into our text, we see three facts that prove this is true.

I. First, a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. 

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14).

The word “natural” is translated from the Greek word “psuchikos,” which means “sensual,” of the senses (Strong). This refers to man in an unconverted, natural state. He lives by his senses. He has no contact with God.

Adam sinned against God, and thus brought ruin and guilt to all of his descendants. The whole human race was plunged into sin by Adam, and our “natural” state of sin was inherited from him.

“By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners”
       (Romans 5:19).

That was how you became a “natural” man who receives “not the things of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14). By the sin of Adam, as Richard Wurmbrand said,

The human mind has gone mad, and you attain reality only when you pass beyond reason (Wurmbrand, If Prison Walls Could Speak, Living Sacrifice Book Company, 2000 edition, page 63). 

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14).

We can tell this is true by simply looking at people around us every day. The natural man on the street does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. This does not merely refer to drunkards and whoremongers, but also to the most intelligent, refined and religious men. All of them are alike. They will not and cannot receive or accept the things of the Spirit of God.

The Word of God tells us that our sin-nature came from Adam at the dawn of history. 

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners"
      (Romans 5:19).

The whole human race sinned in Adam, and every human being on earth inherited Adam's sin-nature.  That is how all mankind came into a natural state. 

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14).

Look around and you will see hundreds of natural men who violently oppose the things of the Spirit of God. They may even be church members, yet they oppose what God says in Scripture. When I was attending a liberal seminary I was astonished to find Baptist professors who violently opposed the most basic teachings of the Scriptures. In those days I didn’t fully realize the reason for their attacks against the “things of the Spirit of God.” I did not fully understand then that their opposition to the basic truths of the Bible came from the fact that they were only “natural” men, men who were never converted. The Bible says,

“The carnal [unconverted] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”
      (Romans 8:7).

Man in his natural state has a mind that is enmity against God, filled with “personal animosity, hatred, dislike and opposition against God” (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, p. 506; comment on Romans 8:7).

But a far greater number of natural men do not openly and violently oppose the things of the Spirit of God. Oh, no, they secretly despise them and reject them. If you are honest with yourself you may one day see that this is true of you. By God’s grace you may some day see that your natural mind is opposed to God in every day experience.

Is it not true that you have no real enjoyment in reading the Bible? Isn’t it true that you only read the Bible out of duty? Isn’t it true that you receive nothing of spiritual value when you read the Word of God? And isn’t this a strong proof that you are still a

“natural man [that] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

The same could be said of prayer. Do you ever come close to God in prayer? Do you enjoy praying? Be honest with yourself. And if you do not enjoy praying, and if you never come close to God in prayer, is not this another proof that you are still a

“natural man [that] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

And when you come to church on Sunday, are you eager to hear what God will say to you through the preaching of His Word? Or do you look down at the floor, or off into space, not receiving or enjoying the sermons at all? And, if this is true of you, is not this yet another strong proof that you are still a

“natural man [that] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

And if you come to the inquiry room after the service, are you very interested to hear what our deacon Dr. Cagan has to say to you? Do you lean forward and listen intently to his instructions concerning your conversion? Or do you turn off your mind, not receiving what he says, and quickly forgetting what he says when you go? And, if that is true of you, is not this yet another proof that you are still in a natural state, a

“natural man [that] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

If you were not in a natural condition, you would eagerly devour the sermons, listening as though your very life depended on it, wouldn’t you? If you were not still in a natural state you would eagerly listen to Dr. Cagan in the inquiry room and take very seriously what he says to you, wouldn’t you? And some of you are even worse than that. Some of you have sunk to an even greater level of unbelief – proved by the fact that you don’t even go to the inquiry room at the end of the sermon, though I encourage you to do so. We do not force anyone to go. We simply give an opportunity to do so. But does not your lack of interest in going to the inquiry room show that you are in a dangerous state? Does this not show that you are a

“natural man [that] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

But I must go to the next point.

II. Second, a natural man thinks that the things of God are foolish.

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

The Greek word translated “foolishness” means “silly, stupid,” or unimportant (W. E. Vine). You may say, “That doesn’t include me.” Are you sure it doesn’t? I am not so sure!

Isn’t it true that you have heard many sermons on the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross, dying to pay for your sins? And isn’t it equally true that you have not dealt with this in a serious way? Isn’t it true that you put it out of your mind after each service? Isn’t it true that you forget all about Christ’s crucifixion until the next service? And, if that is true, isn’t it a strong proof that you really think the Crucifixion of Christ in your place is a silly and unimportant doctrine? Oh, I know you are too refined and respectable to say that out loud. But is not your lack of attention to the Gospel actually proof that you are described in I Corinthians 1:18?

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

In that verse, the same Greek word is used – "foolishness," not really important, foolish to think about it very much. Now, if you are honest, isn’t that in fact true of you – that the preaching of the cross is, in fact, foolishness to you – not worth giving much thought to – not worth thinking about for more than a moment or two during a sermon – not valuable enough to grip your mind and heart when you are alone? And if that is true of you, is not this proof enough that you are still in a natural state, unable and unwilling to receive

“the things of the Spirit of God”? (I Corinthians 2:14).

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

But I must go one step farther, to the third point.

III. Third, a natural man must be converted.

This is strongly implied by the end of our text,

“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).

“Neither can he know them.” Oh, he can repeat the facts of the Gospel. But he cannot “know” the truth of them in his own soul. He can say the words, “Christ died in my place.” But he cannot get a hold of Christ. He cannot enter into Christ, in a living way. He can hear the words of Evangeline Booth, but they sound strange and absurd to him when she says,

The wounds of Christ are open,
   Sinner, they were made for thee;
The wounds of Christ are open,
   There for refuge flee.
("The Wounds of Christ" by Evangeline Booth, 1865-1950).

“Neither can he know them”!

Oh, the horror of hearing the Gospel time and again, but never knowing Christ! Oh, the terror that will at last grip your mind if you sink down in death knowing only the words, but not knowing Jesus Himself! Oh, may God open your heart as He opened the heart of Lydia!

“Whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14).

Oh, may the Spirit of God open your heart that you may receive the Gospel, come to Jesus, and be washed clean from sin by His precious Blood!

The wounds of Christ are open,
   There for refuge flee!

I plead with you to be moved from the mere words of the Gospel to a place where Christ grips your heart, and you actually come to Him for salvation, and are joined to Him by a "mystical union."  As the Westminster Catechism says, 

The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God's grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband (The Westminster Larger Catechism, answer to question 66).

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

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Corinthians 1:18-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Wounds of Christ” (by Evangeline Booth, 1865-1950).


THE OUTLINE OF

FOOLISHNESS TO THE NATURAL MAN!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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).

(Jude 19; II Corinthians 5:17)

I.   First, a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God,             I Corinthians 2:14a; Romans 5:12, 19; 8:7.

II.  Second, a natural man thinks that the things of God are foolish,                  I Corinthians 2:14b; 1:18.

III. Third, a natural man must be converted, I Corinthians 2:14c;
Acts 16:14.