1Co 2:10b…For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God”
2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
2:14 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.
2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
2:16 For who hath know the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
10b. The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, 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 want 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 (St Thomas, Theodoret, Theophylact).
The deep things of God are 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 to 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, St Thomas). From this passage Ambrose and other Fathers prove the Godhead of the Holy Ghost against the Macedonians. To sum up St Paul’s meaning: the Holy Spirit has revealed to us these mysteries and secrets og God, and therefore He searches and clearly views the deep things of God.
11. What man knoweth the things of a man? Those in the inner recesses of 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 omniscience 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 vs 10.
“No man, but the Spirit” does not exclude the Son. For since He is the Word, He knows the deep things of God. For in Divine things, when an 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 man knows the secret things of God, save the Spirit of God, and they who have the same nature with the Spirit, the same intellectual and cognitive powers, viz., the Father and the Son. These alone know the deep things of God.
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 is infused by the world, by worldly and carnal wisdom, which aspires after worldly, earthly, and carnal goods, and makes men worldly and carnal. On 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 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 hath not seen them, nor have they entered into the heart of man; for the Apostle looks back to verse 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 verse 9; and these things are, as he says in verse 11, in God, i.e., by the free-will and predestination of God. “We know, too, through the Holy Spirit and 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 has promised to His congregation (i.e., His Church, which has been called together by the Apostles, and was afterwards to be called together) and that, according to His promises, He had given His Grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and other gifts of free gace, 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 is 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 and 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 grace from God. For the Apostles were filled with grace and 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 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.
13. Which things we also 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 the 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 St 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 prove it.” The Apostle here gives a 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 te words of human wisdom-that is to say, that is should be simple, grave, efficacious, and Divine, as proceeding from the Holy Spirit, who would reject all rhetorical ornamentation. In this manner we are bidden to learn, forbidden to use ornament. For as words of human wisdom carry with them the wisdom and spirit of the speaker, so do the words of the Holy Spirit bring into the soul the wisdom og God, and of His Spirit speaking by the Apostles.
14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Natural or animal is here applied to one who follows his senses and the unaided light of reason. He is 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 ad 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 heeds food, as all animals do. So Adam, though created in grace, is called animal [natural] (1 Cor 15:45-46). (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 y 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 ody; but when she is prevented from enjoying them, she has not thoughts but such a 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 15:45).
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 St Chrysostom, St Thomas, and others. St 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 “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 love 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.
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, and St 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; bur wrongly, for all Christians are not spiritual, but only the perfect, as was said at verse 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 Spirit, 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 4:11).
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, and condemns heresies and errors contrary to that faith. But if any new question in faith or morals should arise, and it is obscure or doubtful, wisdom itself dictates 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 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 (Mt 16:18; Lk 22:32). 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. Insofar, 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 St John says that he that is born of God cannot sin (1 Jn 3:9); i.e., so far as he that is born of God abides in Him. So St Thomas, Ambrose, Anselm, Theophylact, Chrysostom. St 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. Still, in difficult cases he ought to consult those who are wiser and more skilled in the matter.
Yet himself is judges by no man, i.e., is confuted or condemned by no one, in so far as he judges spiritually, as St Chrysostom says. For if otherwise, he is reproved as St Peter was by St Paul (Gal 2:11). 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 then he and men like him ought to judge both spiritual and natural wisdom. This and nothing else is what the Apostle is aiming at.
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 the 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 15:29 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 St 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. St Chrysostom