Spiritual Knowledge—Comprehensible Only To Spiritual People?
December 28, 2003
Spiritual Knowledge—Comprehensible Only To Spiritual People?
Is it the case that only those visited by Jehovah’s holy spirit are capable of understanding the Bible? Narrowing the scope even more, is it the case that only those of the "anointed", who have the heavenly hope, can correctly parse anything found in God’s Holy Word? We shall examine the Bible for the answers to these vital questions.
Jesus and Paul on the Question at Hand
At Matthew 11:25, 26, Jesus suggests that there were spiritual insights only available to those in a good relationship with Jehovah. There we read: "At that time Jesus said in response: 'I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes. Yes, O Father, because to do thus came to be the way approved by you.'" Later, the apostle Paul writes something quite similar. He states: "Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing. But we speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory. This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know, for if they had known it they would not have impaled the glorious Lord. But just as it written: ‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’ For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now, we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God…But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually." (1 Corinthians 2:6–14).
If we take these statements to be true, then we are left with the conclusion that notwithstanding the technical expertise or clear thinking ability a person brings to a study of those things God holds secret, he will be floundering in his efforts to understand them correctly unless God consents.
Does This Apply to Everything Contained in the Bible?
Do the words of Jesus and Paul apply to everything contained in Bible? When an atheist reads "You must not steal" at Exodus 20:7, does he require an enlightened and privileged child of God to explain it? When an agnostic reads "He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city" at Proverbs 16:32, is he at a complete loss in following the message here without someone else to help him?
Let us see if the Bible addresses this question. At Matthew 19:16-23 we read: "Now, look! A certain one came up to him and said: 'Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?' He said to him: 'Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is that is good. If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.' He said to him: 'Which ones?' Jesus said: 'Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and You must love your neighbor as yourself.' The young man said to him: 'I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?' Jesus said to him: 'If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.' When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions. But Jesus said to his disciples: 'Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.'" This man did not consent to becoming a follower of Christ on the terms expressed by Christ but did that state disable him from understanding the Ten Commandments? Obviously, not.
Jesus often spoke in illustrations. On occasion he would take his disciples aside to tell them the meanings of the illustrations. Matthew 13:10, 11 is instructive here. We read: "So the disciples came up and said to him: 'Why is it you speak to them by the use of illustrations?' In reply he said: 'To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted.'"
But, it appears even when Jesus used illustrations, at times, his religious opposers were able to grasp some of the significant meaning. An example is found at Matthew 21:33–45: "Hear another illustration: There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and erected a tower, and let it out to cultivators, and traveled abroad. When the season of the fruits came around, he dispatched his slaves to the cultivators to get his fruits. However, the cultivators took his slaves, and one they beat up, another they killed, another they stoned. Again he dispatched other slaves, more than the first, but they did the same to these. Lastly he dispatched his son to them saying, 'They will respect my son.' On seeing the son the cultivators said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance!' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those cultivators? They said to him: 'Because they are evil, he will bring an evil destruction upon them and will let out the vineyard to other cultivators, who will render him the fruits when they become due.' Jesus said to them: 'Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone that the builders rejected is the one that has become the chief cornerstone. From Jehovah this has come to be, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? This is why I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits. Also, the person falling upon this stone will be shattered. As for anyone upon whom it falls, it will pulverize him.'" . . . "Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees had heard his illustrations, they took note that he was speaking of them."
Although they did not accept Jesus as the Promised Messiah, they were able to understand the intent and focus of this illustration of his.
Jesus himself indicated that his religious enemies did properly understand some of the written Word of Jehovah. To provide a case, at Matthew 23:23 Jesus said of them: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness. These things it was binding to do, yet not to disregard the other things." That meant that when the scribes and Pharisees read Leviticus 27:30, they understood it. There it says: "And every tenth part of the land, out of the seed of the land and the fruit of the tree, belongs to Jehovah. It is something holy to Jehovah."
Since we have provided scriptural evidence of non-spirit directed persons understanding parts of God’s Word, how are we to understand the words of Jesus and Paul quoted at the beginning of this discussion?
What Is Known and What Is Not Known
It may be worthwhile to return to Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 2 and zero in on verse 10, which reports: "For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." Evidently, comments in God’s holy word about lying, stealing, fornication, and deceit are not so deep so as to be incomprehensible to the common reader. The same is true for comments about the value of love, patience, longsuffering, kindness, and forgiveness. The common reader can comprehend these dictums, examples, etc. in the Bible whether or not he is a spiritual person. But, he would have difficulties with the "deep things of God." But what are those "deep things"?
At Romans 16:25, Paul relates that some of the prophecies in the
Hebrew Scriptures relating to the coming of the Messiah and his activities were
kept secret by God until He was ready for them to be understood. The account
reads: "Now to him who can make you firm in accord with the good news I declare
and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the
sacred secret which has been kept in silence for long-lasting times but has now
been made manifest and has been made known through prophetic scriptures
among all the nations in accord with the command of the everlasting God to
promote obedience by faith." This passage states unequivocally that those
prophecies were sealed to all—non spiritual AND spiritual persons alike until
God’s due time. All attempts to decipher them by any would be essentially
fruitless. Many of Daniel's "end time" prophecies fall into this category. The
inquiring prophet Daniel was told: "And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the
words and seal up the book, until the time of the end. Many will rove about, and
the true knowledge will become abundant…. And he went on to say: 'Go, Daniel,
because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end.'"
(Daniel 12:4, 9) Transparently, many Bible prophecies fall into the category of
the "deep things of God" and are only revealed to those whom God selects.