1 Corinth. 2: “Spiritual Discernment”


1. the ability to judge well.
“an astonishing lack of discernment”
2. (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

Above is the “Google” definition, but in it’s simplest form, discernment is the ability to choose between what it right and wrong, truth and error. When guided by God’s truth, discernment becomes the compass that helps us navigate the uncharted waters of life.

Navigating Uncharted Waters of Life

People every day discern, they may not call it that, but it doesn’t change the process everyone goes through in making decisions. For Christians, however, the distinction comes when we recognize the Holy Spirit’s work and effort through the decision making process. While many people in the world go out onto the “uncharted waters” of life, they often struggle to find their way because they don’t have the tools. No maps, no compass, sometimes they don’t even have a boat! As Christians, spiritually speaking, we’re gifted with all the tools we need, but unfortunately we can be found many times in life not utilizing them.

Our heavenly father not only supplies a map (the Bible) and a compass (the Holy Spirit), but he even gives us a Commander (Jesus Christ). You probably thought I was going to say, Jesus is the Captain, but the analogy wouldn’t have worked. Jesus doesn’t want to be the Captain of your ship, and do it all for you, instead, he wants to empower you to be the best Captain you can be of your own ship; knowing that you still have the responsibility of serving at the pleasure of the Commander. The only confusing part of this analogy is no matter where he is, every time the Captain uses the compass it simply keeps pointing to the Commander.

Spiritual Discernment

As we’ve already read, Paul from the beginning has been introducing the responsibility to every Christians to be led by Spiritual Discernment. Remember what we read from 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NLT) 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil. 

As Paul points out in his letter to the Corinthians, the main difference between the spiritual and non-spiritual is the ability to discern what the Spirit means.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT) 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

Paul understood that wisdom went a long way to the Corinthians, but to many in Corinth the gospel just sounded foolish to them. Paul’s purpose in writing this section of his letter was to point out to these babies Christians the reason why. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that non-Christians can’t fully grasp the concepts of God. It isn’t until the illumination of the Spirit that a person can understand and believe.

Spiritual Discernment through the Holy Spirit allows us to distinguish the proper use of scripture and even identify and expose false teachings. Spiritual Discernment also enables us to draw conclusions based on God’s perspective, and make wise decisions even during difficult situations. Verse 15-16 in the NRSV is a great conclusion to our reflection today. It’s so incredibly important as believers that we discern all things, and never forget that if we pay close attention to the work of the Holy Spirit, we too can have the mind of Christ. 

1 Corinthians 2:15 (NRSV) 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 

“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.