The word spiritual in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (“spiritually discerned,” pneumatikōs anakrinetai) does not mean “religious” or “mystical” or “otherworldly.” It means originating by the Holy Spirit and having the quality of the Holy Spirit. We can see this in Romans 8:7–9 where the “natural person” of 1 Corinthians 2:14 is described as having a “mind that is set on the flesh,” with the same result, namely, hardness against God’s glorious supremacy, and an inability to welcome and please God:
The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But notice that the opposite of the “mind that is set on the flesh” is not a vague spirituality, but the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” The opposite of a natural person is not a religious, mystical person, but a person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is bringing about the miracle of spiritual discernment.
Preaching and Its Aims Are Possible Only by the Spirit
Therefore, the chief and ultimate aims of preaching are impossible apart from the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. Without his super-natural work, neither the preacher nor the people can see or savor the beauty and worth of God. But when the Spirit works this wonder, he raises the spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:5). He goes beyond what “ flesh and blood” can do and reveals the truth of Christ (Matthew 16:17). He removes our blindness to the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). He shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians. 4:6). He enlightens the eyes of the heart (Ephesians 1:18). He unveils our face, and reveals the beauty and worth of Jesus, and transforms the beholder: “This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In other words, without the sovereign, life-giving, blindness-removing, heart-illumining, glory-revealing work of God’s Spirit, preaching, as expository exultation, cannot achieve its aims—indeed it cannot exist. Preaching is worship seeking worship. And neither of these acts of worship is less than the miraculous seeing and savoring of the beauty of Christ, which the natural man regards as foolishness. He cannot see Christ for who he really is—supremely beautiful and valuable.Content taken from Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship by John Piper, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187. (www.Crossway.org)