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Radical Depravity in 1 Corinthians

Man, in his unnatural, unregenerate state, will not receive the gospel because he cannot understand it.


The unregenerate man will not receive the spiritual truths of the gospel because he cannot understand them. He has no spiritual capacity by which to appraise the genuineness and value of the gospel when it is made known to him:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. —1 Corinthians 2:14

Paul identified the unregenerate man as a natural man. In other words, he possesses natural life but is devoid of the supernatural life of God. A natural man is one who has experienced only a natural birth; thus, his life is bound to his sinful flesh. He cannot understand spiritual truths because they are foolish (moros, moronic) to him. When he hears the gospel, he is like a deaf critic of Bach or a blind critic of Raphael. He cannot see the truth of the gospel or hear so that it makes sense. imgJohn Calvin writes, “It is from the Spirit of God, it is true, that we have that feeble spark of reason which we all enjoy; but at present we are speaking of that special discovery of heavenly wisdom which God vouchsafes to his sons alone. Hence the more insufferable the ignorance of those who imagine that the gospel is offered to mankind in common in such a way that all indiscriminately are free to embrace salvation by faith.” In short, unregenerate man simply cannot comprehend the spiritual wisdom of God.

—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 384.

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Posted  in: 1 Corinthians · Foundations of Grace · John Calvin · Steve Lawson
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