ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει [τὰ] πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ᾽ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται.
But the one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one.
-1 Cor 2:15 NET
Unfortunately, this verse has been ripped out of its context to justify the most appalling arrogance. Some people think of themselves as especially spiritual and discerning Christians and judge that this verse authorizes them, the elite of the elect, to make well-nigh infallible judgments across a broad range of matters. Moreover, they insist, they are so spiritual that others do not have the right to judge them. After all, does not the apostle say that the “spiritual man” is “not subject to any man’s judgment”?This simply will not do. In the context, the “spiritual man” is the person with the Holy Spirit, over against “the man without the Spirit.” The “spiritual man,” in short, is the Christian, not a member of an elite coterie of Christians. . . . “[A]ll things” covers the range of moral and spiritual experience from the rawest paganism to what it means to be a Christian. The Christian has lived in both worlds and can speak of both from experience, from observation, and from a genuine grasp of the Word of God. But the person without the Spirit cannot properly assess what goes on in the spiritual realm–any more than a person who is color-blind is qualified to make nice distinctions in the dramatic hues of a sunset or a rainbow, any more than a person born deaf is qualified to comment on the harmony of Beethoven’s Fifth or on the voice and technique of Pavarotti.
It is important to think through the implications of this verse. Christians in contemporary Western society are constantly being told that they are ignorant, narrow, and incapable of understanding the real world. Paul says the opposite: Christians are as capable as other sinners of understanding the complex and interwoven nature of sin, of grasping the ways in which “wannabe” autonomous human beings reason, and of explaining what the world looks like to modern pagans in our post-modern world. But because they have received the Spirit of God, they are also capable of saying something wise and true about the way the world appears to God. . . . And all this makes them much more comprehensive in outlook than their pagan peers. The really narrow perspective is maintained by the sinner who has never tasted grace, by the fallen human being who has never enjoyed transforming insight, afforded by the Holy Spirit, into God’s wise purposes.
From this perspective, it is idiotic–that is not too strong a word–to extol the world’s perspective and secretly lust after its limited vision. That is what the Corinthians were apparently doing; that is what we are in danger of doing every time we adopt our world’s shibboleths, dote on its heroes, admire its transient stars, seek its admiration, and play to its applause.
–D. A. Carson, “The Cross and the Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16,” in The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 58-60.