The Natural Man, the visible Church, and telling the truth

by Mike Ratliff

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB) 

A pernicious lie currently permeating the visible Church in our time says that all who profess Christ are genuine believers. This lie conveniently overlooks that even our Lord’s chosen 12 contained one devil. Another closely associated and equally detrimental lie says that Christians must never judge. If taken together, these two lies create an environment of deceit in which professing Christians who prove their disingenuousness by their words, their actions, and their doctrines, which is their “fruit,” cannot be brought before the ecclesiastical court of their church brethren for discipline. In fact, in this environment, to even address the issue is to be classed as a judgmental hypocrite.

These lies come from the father of all lies, Satan himself, and are very effective in this environment of deceit in blinding professing Christians to the truth. In this state of blindness they cannot see that to tolerate sin in the Church, which is called to be Holy, for the sake of peace is actually direct disobedience against God. This disobedience is a form of idolatry my brethren and idolatry always results in spiritual blindness. (Romans 1) What idol? How about a local church or a denomination or career as a preacher or best selling author? I’m sure you can think of others.

The visible Church is made up of both the genuine and disingenuous. The genuine believers are the elect. They are regenerate. They are the true Church. The disingenuous believers are religious, but are still in their sins. They are still in their natural state of unregeneration.

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NASB) 

In this passage we have the contrast between the regenerate and the unregenerate. God is good my brethren because He gives us here how we can tell the difference. The natural person cannot understand the things of God. He or she sees the creation in 6 days, the preservation of the Word of God in it’s complete form over the ages, the Sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth of our Lord, His resurrection, Election, and even justification by faith alone with eyes of skepticism. They are told that these things are believed by faith, but they are convinced that their faith is of themselves so they fluctuate from belief to doubt constantly. You see, the things of God, whose ways are not the ways of natural man, can be discerned only by the regenerate. The unregenerate may indeed believe in God and be very religious, but their religion is based on what they have done and God will never accept anything done by anyone but Himself in the salvation of His people. (Ephesians 2:1-10).

What about the regenerate? How can we detect that a person is genuine?

15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NASB) 

18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law. Psalms 119:18 (NASB) 

The Holy Spirit provides the redeemed the capacity to discern divine truth while the unregenerate, the spiritually dead, are unable to comprehend. When clear exposition of scripture is presented to the unregenerate professing Christian by a preacher or teacher of the Word in order to show them why their “fruit” is bad their response is very telling to the regenerate believer because he or she is able to judge or discern that something isn’t right. When a genuine believer is rebuked by the Holy Spirit the response will be very different.

1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me. Psalms 51:1-3 (NASB) 

The regenerate believer is not perfect and can sin, but when the Holy Spirit breaks the heart repentance is not far behind. I have experienced first hand the wrath of apostates who have had the truth of their bad fruit brought into the light. It is a very ugly thing to witness professing believers use the ways of the world to “defend their honor” as they attempt to reverse everything by accusing the messenger of all sorts of evil instead of confessing their sins and repenting.

The accusing finger of “hypocrite” is often pointed at those who obey God by contending earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:3-4). That is never a pleasant experience, but we must never forget that the Natural Man is unable to come to terms in their spiritually dark minds with the true nature of the regenerate. The redeemed have been transformed into the children of God (1 John 3:2) and are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). They have the mind of Christ. What does this mean? Paul was quoting from Isaiah 40:13.

13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him? Isaiah 40:13 (NASB) 

What Paul and the Holy Spirit are telling us here is that God’s people are allowed, both by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, to know the thoughts of their Lord.

44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, Luke 24:44-45 (NASB) 

This is not some sort of crystal ball or clairvoyant thing. No, this is God working in our hearts and minds to conform us to Him. He gives us the mind of Christ so we can know the truth, preach the truth, and obey the truth. Therefore, what does this tell us about the difference between genuine believers and disingenuous believers? Is this difference always obvious? No, it isn’t because less mature Christians are very able to create some bad “fruit.” Look at David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. Look at Peter’s denial of Christ. So, believers can sin egregiously. The difference is that they can actually repent of their sins as God grants it, but the unregenerate can only struggle and strive and are unable of understanding the ways and means of God.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:13-23 (NASB) 

Do you see my brethren that the majority are not on the narrow and hard way that leads to life? No, the majority are on the easy way that leads to destruction. These are the ones who profess Christ, but are trusting in their own works. They are Christian on their own terms. They are enticed into this way of destruction by false prophets. Remember, this is a description of people who are IN the visible Church. These are not the atheists, muslims, buddhists, or pagans. No, these are people who believe they are Christians, but they don’t have the mind of Christ because they aren’t regenerate. Their fruit is bad and this is how we are to know them. Lastly, their judgment is not in our hands. Our role is to tell the truth, the Law and the Gospel, in the hope that some may hear it by the Holy Spirit then repent unto salvation.

Here is my study on Jesus’ command, “Judge Not!

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The Natural Man, the visible Church, and telling the truth

Comments are closed.