He declareth that his preaching, 1 though it bring not excellency of speech, or of 4 human wisdom: yet consisteth in the 4, 5 power of God: and so far excelleth 6 the wisdom of the world, and 9 human sense, as that 14 the natural man cannot understand it.
ND I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
Douay Rheims Version
His preaching was not in loftiness of words, but in spirit and power. And the wisdom he taught was not to be understood by the worldly wise or sensual man, but only by the spiritual man.
ND I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.
He proceeds to exalt the spiritual wisdom of Christ above all natural and animal wisdom. Therefore he says:—
i. That he knew and preached nothing but Christ crucified; and that not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
ii. Nevertheless in ver. 5 he says that he speaks wisdom among them that are perfect, wisdom hidden from the world, which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, but which the Spirit of God alone has revealed.
iii. He shows in ver. 14 that the natural man does not perceive the things which are of God, but the spiritual man perceives and judges all things.
Ver. 1.—And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom. The Apostle here descends from the general to the particular. In other words: I said in the preceding chapter that God in preaching the Gospel willed not to use the wisdom of the wise in this world, but rejected it and scorned it, but willed by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; and therefore He chose not many noble or wise to spread the Gospel, but the low-born and untaught Apostles. From this I infer and say “And I” i.e., and so I as one of the number of the Apostles, who, according to the election and will of God, did not use eloquence and worldly wisdom, was unwilling to use those means, and I came to you not in excellency but in simplicity of speech and wisdom.
Ver. 2.—For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Mark the word determined: it is as if he said, I did not think of, I did not value any knowledge save that which is of Jesus crucified, our Saviour, and, therefore, I so bore myself among you, as if I knew nothing of human wisdom, although I have much acquaintance with it, for on other occasions I can quote the Greek poets; but with you I kept it back, that like the others I might merely preach with all simplicity Christ crucified. Not that I did not preach the other mysteries of the faith, but I especially taught you and impressed on you that we must glory in the Cross of Christ only, and hope from it for our righteousness and salvation, and, as Anselm says, must imitate the cross and crucify our vices. For in Christ crucified it is easy to see, besides other things, that Christ chose and embraced these three, viz., utmost pain, the greatest poverty or nakedness, and the lowest depths of shame. Christ by His pains crucified and taught us to crucify the lust of the flesh; by His poverty He crucified the lust of the eyes or avarice; and by His shame He crucified the pride of life. These are the three heads of the world’s sin, and the sources of all sins. (See 1 S. John ii. 16, and what was said about the Cross in c. i. 23).
Ver. 3.—And I was with you in weakness: that is, in anxieties, tribulation, and persecution; and in fear and much trembling, because of the hostility of the persecuting Jews and Gentiles. S. Chrysostom and Anselm remark that the Apostle in his Second Epistle (xi. 30 and xii. 5, 9, 10), and elsewhere, gives the name of weakness to the anxiety he suffered from dangers, plots, exile, daily terrors, calumnies, and hatreds. And also, that Paul suffered great anxieties and persecutions at Corinth, is evident in that he needed to be strengthened against them by Christ in a vision (Acts xviii. 9). Moreover, shortly afterwards the Jews there stirred up a tumult against Paul, and dragged him to the judgment–seat of Gallio, the deputy of Achaia, and publicly beat Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, before him.
Ver. 4.—And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Speech (λόγος) denotes his private and familiar conversation as contrasted with his public preaching. S. Thomas and the Glossa distinguished the two words in this way; so does Seneca, who, in Ep. 38, says: “Conversation, because it makes an impression on the mind by little and little, is of immense force. Speeches prepared and delivered to a large assembly have more vehemence but less familiarity.” S. Paul’s conversation, then, as well as his preaching, was not with enticing words (i.e., apt to persuade) of man’s wisdom. In such the orators and philosophers at Corinth surpassed Paul. Paul, however, had to make the Corinthians believe a new philosophy by a new mode of speech and action, and in this he excelled all orators and philosophers, viz., in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. So Sulpicius testifies that S. Martin once said that “the kingdom is not founded on eloquence but on faith.” S, Augustine, too, in his Sermon 1, about those coming to grace, says: “We do not try to persuade you with thundering words and flowery phrases, nor by any rhetorical skill, nor by eloquence darkened by set speeches such as the world uses, but we preach Christ crucified.” And in lib. ii. c. ii., against Felicianus, he says: “I will never rely on wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ be shorn of its power; but I am content to rely on the authority of the Scriptures, and I am more anxious to obey simplicity than presumption.”
This, then, was the demonstration of the Apostles, viz., to show (1.) burning zeal and a spirit giving forth wisdom and revealing secrets, not human but Divine, so that the hearers might perceive plainly that the Holy Spirit was speaking by their mouth; (2.) great powers, that is prodigies and miracles. Therefore Origen (lib. i. contra Celsum) says: “Our mode of teaching has its own proper demonstration, which is more Divine than that of the Greeks, and which is called by the Apostle, ‘the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.’ The Spirit lends faith to those things which are said about Christ in the Prophets; and the power is seen in the miracles which we believe to have been wrought.” Origen here understands the work of the Spirit somewhat differently, but his explanation is not so much to the point as the one given above. For, as Œcumenius says, “The demonstration which comes by works and signs is surer than that which depends on words.” This was the Apostolical mode of preaching, and a far more effectual way than that which modern preachers put before themselves for imitation. Their style was not adorned, clouded over, and tainted with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. So will Apostolic men go forth, and their words, like fiery arrows, will pierce men’s hearts, and like hammers break in pieces the rocks. Listen to S. Jerome (Ep. ii. to Nepotianus): “Let not the applause of the congregation be aroused by your teaching in church, but their groanings. Let the tears of the hearers be the proofs of your success.” This spirit, as well as the fruit of preaching, must be obtained by prayer to God. Hence Origen (contra Celsum, lib. vi.), in quoting these same words of the Apostle, says “What else is the meaning of these words but that it is not enough that what we say is true and fit to stir the hearts of men? the teacher must have a certain power given him from above, and his words require the energy of Divine grace, as David says, ‘The Lord shall give the word to those that preach with much power’” (Ps. lxvii. Vulg.).
Ver. 5.—That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Our preaching is to be of the kind just mentioned, so that your faith, i.e., your conversion to the faith of Christ, may not be attributed to human wisdom and eloquence but to the power and working of God. Your faith must be based on God’s wisdom not on man’s. (Anselm and others.)
Ver. 6.—Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect. This wisdom that he speaks among the perfect, that is, the faithful, is Christian wisdom, and is concerned with the Cross of Christ, with grace, salvation, and the eternal glory won for us by Christ. And although the “faithful” are simple, yet in the things which belong to salvation they are wiser than Aristotle or any other philosopher. So S. Chrysostom and Anselm. Moreover, those who have not only been born again by baptism, but also confirmed by the Sacrament of Confirmation, have obtained the Christian perfection, and are perfectly made Christians. For this reason S. Dionysius and others call the Sacrament of Confirmation “the perfecting,” and they call those confirmed “the perfected.” Irenæus implies the same (lib. v. c. 6), when he says: “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, that is, those who have received the Holy Spirit, and by that Spirit speak all tongues just as S. Paul did.”
Secondly and more simply, wisdom here denotes the more hidden and deeper mysteries of the faith, such as the Resurrection, Anti-Christ, Reprobation, Predestination; or a more profound and thorough explanation of the things of faith, such as the mode, counsel, and end of the Incarnation, Passion, and Redemption of Christ; for so S. Paul explains wisdom in the verses immediately following. He does not speak and discourse of this wisdom to beginners, but to those who have advanced and are perfected. Hence in ver. 15, he calls the perfect “spiritual,” and contrasts them with the natural man, with children and carnal men. He is here impressing on them that, though he may seem to have no human wisdom, yet he has Divine; that although he has given to them, as to children, milk, that is, simple and easy teaching (iii. 2), yet amongst the perfect he speaks of hidden and Divine wisdom.
The Apostle by these words defends his authority over the Corinthians, who, after hearing Apollos, an eloquent and learned speaker, seemed to hold S. Paul in little esteem, as a speaker without eloquence or skill.
Yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world. Anselm, Ambrose, Cajetan, and others understand the devils by the princes of this world, inasmuch as they have their power over the air, the ungodly, and the children of this world. And they prove from here that the devil, before the Passion of Christ, although he knew that Christ was God, yet did not know that by His death his own empire was to be destroyed, and men redeemed (ver. 8). This is true, but it is truer still when understood of men.
Secondly, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm, Tertullian (contra Marcion, lib. iii. c. 6), Origen (Cant. Nom. 2) understand by the princes of this world the leaders who excel their fellows in wisdom, wealth, or power. And therefore S. Paul adds, that come to nought, i.e., are done away with, pass by, disappear. These, too, crucified Christ (ver. 8). Such were Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, and other princes of the Jews and Gentiles.
Ver. 7.—But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. (1.) This is a Hebraism for “the wisdom of the mystery.” that great secret of the Divine counsel, about the Incarnation of the Word, and the redemption of man by Christ, which cannot be attained to by man by any effort of reason—no, nor yet by the angels, as is clear from Eph. v. 4, 5. Hence, in 1 Tim. iii. 16, this wisdom of the mystery is called the great mystery of godliness. So Theophylact, Ambrose, Œcumenius, commenting on this verse, and Jerome and Leo Castrius on Isa. lxiv; also S. Leo. (2.) We may understand this wisdom to be concerned with the greatness of the glory of the Blessed, for this was the end of the Incarnation and suffering of the Word.
Secondly, it is simpler to connect the words “in a mystery” with “we speak” rather than with “wisdom.” Then the meaning is, we speak secretly and to a few, viz., those who are perfect, the spiritual, of this deeper and more hidden wisdom. Hence Ephrem and Tertullian render the passage: “We speak of the wisdom of God in secret.” Hence also S. Dionysius and others have written books on mystic theology.
Ver. 8.—Which none of the princes of this world knew. The pronoun is better referred to glory than to wisdom, and the sense is: if this wisdom, or rather this glory and its being predestined in Christ, had been known by Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, and the other princes of the world, they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory, viz., Christ, by whose merits this eternal glory was predestined and prepared for us from eternity. Gabriel Vasquez comments well on this passage (lib. i. disp. 2, c. 3). The Apostle tacitly implies that none other of the princes of this world knew this glory and wisdom of Christ. For, à fortiori, the Jews were wiser than the Gentiles, especially in Divine things; if, therefore, they did not know it, much more were the others ignorant of it.
Ver. 9.—But, as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. After “but” there is an ecthlipsis, and we must supply, “this wisdom and the glory which was its end were hidden from them,” as it is written, &c. He then quotes Isaiah lxiv. 4.
1. Isaiah, in the passage quoted, is speaking of the Incarnation of Christ and of this present life. And hence Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theophylact, Œcumenius take this verse of the miracles of Christ, and of the wisdom, virtues, and grace which Christ by living here on earth has imparted to us.
2. It is more agreeable to the context to say that Isaiah seems to fly away in admiration from the Incarnation and manhood of Christ to the celestial glory, which is the fruit and end of the Incarnation of Christ; for such flights and sudden changes are common with the Prophets, because of the sublime and ample light if prophecy which they enjoyed.
This appears from the words used; as, e.g., “Him that waiteth for him,” and “Thou meetest him that worketh righteousness.” He is speaking then of the fruit of the works of the just, viz., the eternal life which we wait for; for the fruit of the Incarnation and faith does not meet them that work righteousness, but those that are sitting in darkness and sin. So says S. Jerome (in Isa. lxiv.), S. Dionysius (De Cælest. Hierarch. 12), and Vasquez, in the passage above quoted. Hence S. Bernard (Serm. 4 on the Vigil of the Nativity) says: “Eye hath not seen that unapproachable light, ear hath not heard that incomprehensible peace . . . And why is it that it has not ascended into the heart of man? Surely because it is a spring and cannot ascend. For we know that the nature of springs is to seek the rivers in the valleys, and to shun the tops of the mountains; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”
S. Augustine, in his “Meditations,” ch. 22 et seqq., and “Soliloquies,” ch. 35 and 36, discourses most beautifully about the greatness of this bliss. The author too of the book on “The Spirit and the Soul” (which is found in vol. iii. ch. 36 of S. Augustine’s works), very appropriately says on this passage of the Apostle: “As the outward man is affected by temporal things through his five senses, so the inward man, in the life of bliss, is affected by the five ineffable attributes of God through his ineffable love for Him. For when he shall love his God, He will know him as a certain light, a voice, a sweet odour, a food, and an inward embrace. For there shines the light which no place can contain; there sounds the music which no time steals away; there is the sweet odour which no wind can scatter; there is the food which is eaten and yet undiminished; there clings to us the good which knows no satiety; there is God seen without intermission, known without error, loved without disgust, and praised without wearying.”
These words of the Apostle were once the occasion of the conversion of S. Adrian, and made him a martyr. He was a soldier and in the flower of his age, viz., twenty eight yeas old, and when he beheld the constancy of the Christian martyrs in the tortures they had to endure for the faith of Christ, he asked them what they expected in return for such sufferings, what enabled them to overcome such tortures. They replied, “We hope for those good things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” By these words Adrian was touched and converted, and he hastened to get himself enrolled in the list of martyrs, and eagerly bore a cruel death at Nicomedia, with his wife Natalia looking on and encouraging him. This was A.D. 306, under Diocletian.
3. The meaning of this passage will be complete if you combine the two interpretations given above thus: Those good things which Thou, God, through Christ, hast prepared for them that wait for Thee, surpass all our senses, experience, natural understanding, and all human desire, not only in this life in the case of those who have already caught some sounds of Thee, but also chiefly and most properly in the future glory. There will God, who is Himself all that good is, give Himself to the blessed, and will be as all in all, as Anselm says. For by these words of Isaiah, the Apostle proves what he has said, viz., that the wisdom as well as the glory of Christ was secret and hidden, as we saw above.
Neither have entered into the heart of man. Has not come into the mind of man: no man can by nature think of or understand them. The heart with the Hebrews stands for the mind. For what the heart is to the body—its chief and noblest part, the source and principle of life—that is the mind to the soul. Moreover, the heart supplies the brain with its vigour, and so is a kind of handmaid to the imagination and consequently the understanding. Hence Aristotle, though against Galen and all other physicians, placed the apprehension of external objects not in the brain but in the heart. He distinguished the vital organs of man by their functions on these verses:
“The heart gives wisdom, the lung speech, and anger comes from the bile,
The spleen is the cause of laughter, and live comes from the liver.”
Where Isaiah has “them that wait for Thee,” S. Paul has “them that love Thee.” The sense is the same, for love is one cause of expectation.
Ver. 10.—But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. S. Paul here anticipates an objection. It might be said, “If eye hath not seen, neither have entered into the heart of man, the wisdom and the glory that Christ has prepared for His friends, how is it that you boast yourself of its possession?” Paul replies that he knows them not by sight, sensation, or by the understanding, but by the inspiration and revelation of God. Hence, Clement of Alexandria (Pædag. lib. i. c. 6) interprets the phrase, “ear hath not heard,” by adding, “except that ear which was taken up into the third heaven,” viz., Paul’s, who heard with the ear in Paradise mystic words which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Paul means, then, that God has revealed these things to us His Apostles and Prophets filled with His Spirit, in order that we may teach you and others. It appears from this that not only is our longing for bliss and glory supernatural, but that our knowledge of them is also, whether that knowledge be of them in their essence, or merely the obscure and fragmentary knowledge of the Apostles and of all others who are still “in the way.” Consequently there is not naturally in man any perfect and effectual desire, or appetite, for this bliss.
The Spirit searcheth all things, the deep things of God. That is, penetrates into and perceives everything. For when men want to learn something of which they are ignorant, they are wont to search and inquire about it. But God, without any such searching, knows everything at a glance, and as it were by a single application of His mind. (S. Thomas, Theodoret, Theophylact.)
The deep things of God are all the most secret and inward counsels of God. Amongst them the chiefest is this mystery of man’s glory and redemption by Christ. All these the Holy Spirit penetrates into and clearly views, because He is of one essence and knowledge with God, and therefore He so “searches the deep things of God,” that nothing in God remains unknown t Him. His knowledge and sight equal their object, and He knows God as he can be known; i.e., the Holy Spirit, because He is God, comprehends God and His Divinity as completely as He comprehends Himself. (Molina part i. qu. 14, a. 3, Theodoret, S. Thomas.) From this passage Ambrose and other Fathers prove the Godhead of the Holy Ghost against the Macedonians. To sum up S. Paul’s meaning: The Holy Spirit has revealed to us these mysteries and secrets of God: He knows all the secrets of God, and therefore He searches and clearly views the deep things of God.
Ver. 11.—What man knoweth the things of a man? Those in the inner recesses if his being, which are buried in his heart and mind, as, e.g., his thoughts, resolutions, and intentions, and the foundation of the character itself.
Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit knows them as well as Himself. For the Holy Spirit is internal to God, just as the spirit of a man is internal to him; and as the spirit of a man is a sharer of his humanity, so the Spirit of God is a partaker of Godhead, and of the Divine omni-science and power. “The things of God” are those which are hidden in the mind of God—the thoughts, counsels and determinations of the Divine Will.
After “knoweth no man, but the Spirit” must be understood, “and He to whom the Spirit has willed to reveal them, as to me and the other Apostles,” as was said in ver. 10.
“No man, but the Spirit” foes not exclude the Son. For since He is he Word, he knows the deep things of God. For in Divine things, when as exclusive or exceptive word is applied to one Person in respect of the Divine attributes, it does not exclude the other Divine Persons, but only all other essences from the Divine, i.e., it only excludes those whose nature differs from that of God. The meaning then is: No one knows the secret things of God, save the Spirit of God, and they who have the dame nature with the Spirit, the same intellectual and cognitive powers, viz., the Father and the Son. These alone know the deep things of God.
Ver. 12.—Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is of God. He contrasts the spirit of the world with the Spirit which is of God, claims the latter for himself and the Apostles, and assigns the other to the wise men of this world. The spirit of the world, therefore, is that which id infused by the world, by worldly and carnal wisdom, which aspires after worldly, earthly, and carnal goods, and makes men worldly and carnal. In the other hand the Spirit of God is that which is infused by God and Divine Wisdom, which makes us pursue heavenly and Divine goods, and makes men spiritual and heavenly. Therefore the Apostle adds—
That we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. On this passage the heretics found their peculiar belief that each Christian knows for a certainty that he ought by heavenly faith to believe that he has through Christ had given to him by God the forgiveness of his sins, with grace and righteousness, and as Calvin says, that he has been chosen to eternal glory. But this is not faith, but a foolish and false presumption, not to say blindness; because we do not certainly know that we have been duly disposed for righteousness, and whether we surely believe, and as we ought; nor is it anywhere said or revealed in Holy Scripture that I believe as I ought to do, or that I am righteous or one of the elect. The best answer to them is the sense of the passage, which is this: The Holy Spirit shows and reveals to us what and how great are the gifts given to us, the Apostles, by God, and to others who love God—so great indeed that eye has not seen them, nor have they entered into the heart of man; for the Apostle looks back to ver. 9.
I say, then, that the Apostle is speaking in general terms of the gifts which were given to the Apostles and the Church, and of those gifts alone. He says in effect: “We received this Spirit that we, i.e., the Apostles, might know with what gifts and good things in general Christ has enriched us, i.e., His Church, viz., with what grace of the Spirit, what redemption, what virtues, and especially with how great glory;” for these were the things alluded to in ver. 9; and these things are, as he says in ver. 11, in God, i.e., by the free-will and predestination of God. “We know, too, through the Holy Spirit the Revelation, that these things have been given by God to the Church; for we speak of and teach these things as part of the faith. But that I am possessed of them, or a sharer in them, is not a matter of faith, but of conjecture: it is not to be publicly preached, but secretly hoped for.”
Again, the word know may be taken in a twofold sense: (1.) Objectively; (2.) Subjectively.
1. Objectively, the Apostle knew, and all the faithful knew, from the prophecies, miracles, and from other signs from God, that He had promised to His congregation (i.e., His Church, which had been called together by the Apostles, and was afterwards to be called together), and that, according to His promises, He had given His grace, and lastly a sure hope of eternal life. But all this was to His Church in common, not to this or that individual in it; for we cannot know in a particular case whether this one or that us faithful. In this sense the word know is the same as believe. For we believe that the Catholic Church is holy, and that in her there is forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. God, therefore, has only revealed that His Church is holy, but not that I am holy. For although he has revealed and has promised to all in the Church, who rightly believe and repent, forgiveness of sins and righteousness, yet He has not revealed that I believe truly repent; and therefore He has not revealed that my sins are forgiven, and that I am justified.
2. The word know may be taken subjectively: we Apostles know by experience what wisdom and grace God has given us; and in this way the word know is the same as experience. For no one of the Apostles believed by faith from above that he had wisdom and grace; but he experienced the acts and effects of grace in himself so vehemently frequently, clearly, and surely, that he felt morally certain that he had true wisdom, and it behoved them to teach others the same, and wholly to long to bring the world to Christ. Although, then, the Apostles knew by experience that they had been justified and sanctified, still the rest of the faithful did not know it, nor do they know it now. They can only hope so, and conjecture it from the signs of an upright and good life. Yet neither the Apostles, nor they, believe it on the testimony of infused faith; for experience of every kind merely generates human faith, not Divine: that springs from and depends on the revelation of God alone.
Ver. 13.—Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. I.e., not in words taught by Cicero, Demosthenes, or Aristotle, such as human wisdom teaches, but in words inspired by the Holy Ghost.
Comparing spiritual things with spiritual. In other words, we teach this spiritual wisdom from the Scriptures and other spiritual writings, and do not base it on philosophical, rhetorical, or earthly reasons, ideas, or speeches, as S. Chrysostom says. Œcumenius says: “If we are asked whether Christ rose on the third day, we bring forward testimony and proofs from Jonah. If we are asked whether the Lord was born of a Virgin, we compare His mother in her virginity to Anna and Elizabeth in their sterility, and thence rove it.” The Apostle here gives à priori the cause and reason why, at God’s command, he refrained from using eloquence and human wisdom in his preaching. The reason is that Divine and human wisdom so widely differ. Since, then, speech should be fitted to the subject—matter, it was evidently right that that speech, by which Divine wisdom was published, should be adapted to it, and should differ from the words of human wisdom—that is to say, that it should be simple, grave, efficacious, and Divine, as proceeding from the Holy Spirit, who would reject all rhetorical ornamentation. In this matter we are bidden to learn, forbidden to use ornament. For as words of human wisdom carry with them the wisdom and the spirit of the speaker, so do the words of the Holy Spirit bring into the soul the wisdom of God, and of his Spirit speaking by the Apostles.
Ver. 14.—The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Natural or animal is here applied to one who is concerned with this life only, and thinks after the way of this life, who follows the objects of his sensations and the thoughts of his heart. Such were the Apostles before they received the Holy Spirit, and such were the Corinthians at this time, as they sought after eloquence. Now, too, there are many of the faithful, not bad men, who do not seek after higher things.
The word animal here comes from “anima,” and has a threefold application. (1.) It is applied to one who grows, takes nourishment, and needs food, as all animals do. So Adam, though created in grace, is called animal [natural] (1 Cor. xv. 45, 46). (2.) Secondly, to one who follows his nature, i.e., his lusts and desires. So the Jews are called animal or natural, as not having the Spirit. (3.) To one who follows after knowledge that is not spiritual and sublime, but open and easy to the mind and senses. This is the meaning here. Bernard, or whoever is the author of the treatise on the solitary life, says, a little after the beginning of it: “The natural state is a mode of life subservient to the senses of the body, viz., when the soul, as though going outside herself, pursues, by means of the bodily senses, the pleasure she finds in the bodies she loves, feeds on the enjoyment they give, and nourishes her own sensual disposition; or when, as though returning to herself, on finding that she is unable to bring to the place where her incorporeal nature is the bodies to which she has joined herself by the powerful bonds of love and habit, she brings with her images of them, and holds friendly conversation with them. And when she has accustomed herself to them, she thinks that there is nothing save what she left behind her without, or herself brought within. Thenceforward, as long as she remains here, she finds her pleasure in living according to the pleasures of the body; but when she is prevented from enjoying them, she has no thought but such as are images of bodily things.”
So he is called spiritual who lives in the Spirit:
1. As a spirit not needing food, so Christ lived after His resurrection (1 Cor. xv.45).
2. As following the inspiration, direction, and movements of the Spirit.
3. As drinking in the heavenly teaching of the Spirit. Such a one is called spiritual by S. Chrysostom, S. Thomas, and others. S. Bernard, in the place just quoted, writes: “The state of beginners may be called natural, of those who are advancing rational, of those who are perfect spiritual. For they are natural who by themselves are neither led by reason nor drawn by affection, and yet are influenced by authority, or touched by doctrine, or provoked by example to approve, and strive to imitate the good. They are rational who through the judgment of reason have some knowledge and desire of good, but have not yet any love of it. They are perfect who are led by the Spirit, who are illuminated by the Holy Spirit more fully, and derive their name of ‘the spiritual’ from this. And since they know the taste of the good, and are led by their love for it, they are called the wise, or those who know.” Then in comparing these three, and forming of them steps, and a ladder of virtues, he goes on to say: “The first state has to do with the body, the second with the soul, the third finds no rest but in God. The beginning of good in conversion is perfect obedience, its advancement is the subjection of the body, its perfection is to have turned through continued good actions custom into love. The beginning of the rational is to understand those things which are put before it in the teaching of faith, its advancement is marked by the providing of those things which are enjoined, its perfection is seen in the judgment of the reason becoming the live of the heart. The perfection of the rational is the beginning of the spiritual; its advancement consists in seeing the glory of God with unveiled face; its perfection is to be changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Because they are spiritually discerned, i.e., according to the rules given by the Holy Spirit and the canons of faith. Some read, he is spiritually discerned, which would mean that he is invited, by being examined, to spiritual and heavenly wisdom. When he is being instructed in spiritual matters, or when spiritual things are put before the natural man, and when the natural man is questioned about spiritual things, he cannot understand them.
Ver. 15.—But he that is spiritual judgeth all things. He is called spiritual, as we have seen, who follows faith and wisdom and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, who has the Holy Spirit as the ruler of his soul. So Chrysostom, Anselm, S. Thomas.
Judgeth all things. 1. Hence Calvin and the Anabaptists make the private and fanatical spirit of each spiritual man, i.e., each one of the faithful, the arbiter of controversies of faith, and the interpreter of Scripture; but wrongly, for all Christians are not spiritual, but only the perfect, as was said at ver. 14.
2. Others cannot know whether a man has this spirit, whether he is spiritual, nay, whether he is even faithful. Therefore this private and secret spirit cannot be the public judge of all things; but this is the province of Councils and the Pope. For it is known that these are spiritual, that they are governed by the Holy See, who appointed them teachers, and by them governs and teaches the Church.
3. The Fathers were spiritual to a high degree, and yet they sometimes erred.
4. It is evident that the simple need the pastors and teachers whom God has placed in the Church to teach others (Eph. iv. 11).
I answer, then, that this passage means that the spiritual man judges things in general, spiritual things, Divine and heavenly things, natural, earthly, and easy things; while the natural man judges natural things only. This is that there may be a distribution proportioned to classes of individuals, and not to individuals of different classes. So we say, “I live on every kind of food,” i.e., on any kind.
In the second place, to “judge all things” is to examine, confute, and sift questions, according to the rules of the faith, and of the Divine wisdom which the spiritual man has. Of course this is in questions in which he has been sufficiently instructed from above, as, e.g., in clear and ascertained matters of faith he judges everything according to the articles of the faith. But if any new question in faith or morals should arise, and it is obscure or doubtful, wisdom itself dictated to the spiritual man, who in this question is not yet spiritual, or sufficiently taught by the Spirit, to have recourse to his superiors, as the same Spirit teaches him, to the doctors, to his mother, the Roman Church, that she may decide and define this question for him. For she, according to the teaching of the Apostle, is plainly spiritual, and judges all things by the direction and assistance of the Spirit. For Christ promised this to Peter, and in him to his successors (S. Matt. xviii. 18; S. Luke xxii. 32). They, then, are highly spiritual, and they judge all things, It is different with those beneath them, who, though they be spiritual, yet should often seek the judgment of their superiors. Otherwise he who is spiritual would never have to obey the decision of his father, or his teacher or his bishop. In so far, then, as the spiritual man follows the leading of the Spirit, either teaching him directly, or sending him to the doctors of the Church, he cannot err. In the same way S. John says that he that is born of God cannot sin (1 S. John iii. 9); i.e., so far as he that is born of God abides in Him. So S. Thomas, Ambrose, Anselm, Theophylact, Chrysostom. S. Paul’s meaning, then, is that the spiritual man judges well about the hidden mysteries of the faith, and about things in general, and if he doubts, he knows what to do, whom he ought to consult, so as to receive instruction. So Aristotle (Ethics iii. 4) says. “A good man rightly judges in all cases, and the virtuous man is the rule and measure of all human things,” i.e., says S. Thomas, because he has a will ordered judgment and good desires, obedient to law and reason, Still, in difficult cases he ought to consult those who are wiser and more skilled in the law.
Yet he himself is judged of no man, i.e., is confuted or condemned by to one, in so far as he judges spiritually, as S. Chrysostom says. For if otherwise, he is reproved as S. Peter was by S. Paul (Gal. ii. 11). On the other hand the natural man is spiritually examined and judged by the spiritual, even though he does not know it or understand it. For in this passage the whole endeavour of the Apostle is to exclude human and worldly wisdom by spiritual, and to contrast the spiritual with the natural, and to put it first, since the Corinthians did the opposite and therefore put Apollos before Paul. He implies, therefore, that the Corinthians are natural, because they sought after “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” such as they admired in the eloquence of Apollos; and he says that they cannot judge about spiritual things, and the spiritual wisdom of Paul, but that he and men like him ought to judge both spiritual and natural wisdom. This and nothing else is what the Apostle is aiming at.
Ver. 16.—Who hath known the mind of the Lord? Since the spiritual man has been taught by God and follows His rules, so far as he is such, he can be judged by no one; for one who should judge him ought to be wiser or greater than the Spirit of God, so as to be able to penetrate and measure that Spirit. But who can do this? So Chrysostom. Nevertheless, the spiritual man often can be and ought to be judged, because he is not known to be spiritual in a given matter. Hence, in cxiv. 29, he says, “Let the others speak two or three, and let the others judge.” Moreover, many boast themselves to be spiritual who are merely natural, as, e.g., the Anabaptists. But S. Paul was confessedly spiritual, hence he adds, We have the mind of Christ—the wisdom of Christ which is spiritual and Divine, not natural and human. Our wisdom is not that of Plato or Pythagoras, but of Christ, who has infused His truths into our minds. So Chrysostom.