These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:13–14—NKJV)

A friend worth having in the time of need is one who has gained wisdom for living, and values you enough to share it. There are many types of wisdom just as there are many types of leadership. One can be academically wise but practically challenged. One can be politically wise but disastrous in his family relationships. One can be a wise leader of men but fail to wisely lead his own life. One can be worldly wise but never know the Creator of the world.

Wisdom among men is discovered with the tools that God gives us from birth. The five senses of touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell serve as the tools that babies use to interact with and learn about their world. We all start from this very basic level of sense. As a child matures, he gathers information from his interactions, processing the lessons he learns, and he begins to develop some “horse sense.” This is an “animalistic” level of learning that develops into habits and preferences, just as a pet in your house may display. But humans are not supposed to stop at that level of sense. Out of horse sense develops “native sense,” where native intelligence begins to come to the fore. Then, as the child interacts with his family and learns relationships and morals from his family dynamic, he should begin to take on the qualities of “common sense.”

Common sense is wisdom that is held in common with a body of people, often displayed in decision making, general affability and capability to settle disputes amicably. Common sense is what takes a person into adulthood and allows him to get along, be a good citizen, and succeed in life. Common sense comes in handy when applying intellectual sense to real life. For most men earthbound wisdom ends right there. Most men never get to the wisdom the Bible declares is “spiritual” sense, the capstone of sense available to humans.

Because man is created in God’s image, he has an immaterial part most often described as “spirit.” All men have a capacity for spiritualism and can be very religious. Our text distinguishes between earthbound spiritualism and “enlivened” spiritual sense. The Holy Spirit quickens the human spirit and “illumines” the spiritual sense of every believer. The believer “receives” the Spirit who is from God (verse 12). The text states that the Holy Spirit teaches the believer in “comparing spiritual things with spiritual (spiritual word with spiritual truth). In other words, the Holy Spirit sensitizes the believer to spiritual verities and values by equipping him to make spiritual judgments (compare—“to judge with, to join together, to combine, compound, cross reference and discover complementary items, as with a person adept at matching colors”). The Holy Spirit communicates spiritual things with spiritual people. Only saved individuals are truly spiritual people, by God’s definition, not mine; He alone is qualified to make this declaration.

Without being born again, a man is left with only earthbound resources. Verse 14 clearly states that he is naturally predisposed to reject (will not receive; literally, “not will or wish, will not welcome, will refuse to accept”) the ministrations of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. The verse further states that the Spirit’s work is spiritually discerned (a word meaning to examine, to sift, to understand and to scrutinize).

This distinction between unsaved and saved individuals is no excuse for the saved to rest on their laurels and simple assume they have a fast track to all spiritual wisdom in this life. The Spirit labors to instill spiritual wisdom within your heart in comparing spiritual with spiritual. He uses the revealed Word of God as His physical tool revealing His wisdom, thus speaking into your heart. It is the Bible that He uses to convict, prompt, instruct, equip, nourish, comfort, instill peace, direct, and furnish every believer (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

As with earthly common sense gleaned from community, spiritual sense is augmented by the Christian community. If you want your spiritual sense sharpened, then exercise it (Hebrews 5:14), desire it (1 Kings 3:9), nourish it (Philippians 4:6–8), extend it (John 15:12–17), and guard it with making good choices in close friends (1 Corinthians 15:33–34). Don’t take leave of your spiritual senses! Trust and obey.