Two kinds of understanding

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:9, KJV)

Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of the will of God and spiritual understanding. What is spiritual understanding, and how is that different from natural understanding? This is one application of a proper knowledge of spirit and soul, which has been the subject of our live Bible studies for the past few months.

Spiritual understanding is understanding of the truths about God, things from the Spirit of God, or more loosely spiritual matters in general. This understanding is different from the understanding of the “natural man” which is called “fleshly wisdom” or “carnal mind”. What is the difference between the two?

A critical point I emphasized during our series on the human spirit is that the spirit and the soul do not function as two independent entities in us, side by side each other. It is not as though there are two “understandings” or “minds” in us: the understanding of the mind(soul) and another understanding or mind  of the spirit. This is an error I grew up  with within the charismatic circle, and it is a cause of tremendous confusion.

Natural understanding simply means the normal human mind without the influence of the Spirit of God. It is said to be “fleshly” because it is mere human. Everyone who reads the Bible, whether believer or not, will understand what is written in it literally and naturally. You do not need to be a Christian to understand the literal meaning of the Bible. Spiritual understanding, on the other hand, is not a distinct understanding but simply the same human understanding( the soul), which is under the influence of the Spirit to know spiritual truths. Paul explains what he calls “spiritual understanding” in Col. 1:9 by the same kind of prayer he prayed for the Ephesians in Eph 1:18: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling….(Ephesians 1:18, KJV). Spiritual understanding is when ” your or eyes”  or  understanding , that is,  the normal human understanding, is “enlightened”. This understanding is what Isaiah calls “quick understanding”( Isa. 11:3), meaning it is the Spirit of God that “quickens” or “imparts divine influence” on that person’s mind so that he or she does no longer understand based on what they see or hear but on the Spirit’s influence.

Natural understanding by itself can make a man or woman an expert Biblical scholar. However, it is spiritual understanding that connects you to God’s world. I heard someone who was struggling with pornography said to me that he was told to read the Bible   and so he has spent hours reading the bible and “nothing happened”. Yes, nothing will ever happen as long as our spiritual eyes are closed and we read the Bible with empty human understanding. I cannot recount the hundreds of God’s children who are caught up in this man’s predicament. They read the scripture and it is dead -nothing happens, no transformation, no power, no presence, no intimacy with the Lord, etc. Let Paul’s prayer in Eph. 1:15-18 be your cry, that the Lord will open the eyes of your understanding by the breath of His Spirit upon your mind so that you can see the things you are reading!


There is a lot packed into the devotional above. Did you catch the meaning of “spiritual understanding?”


There are two things you can do to allow God to quicken your understanding. The first is to do what I recommended above. Pray and ask God as in Eph. 1:15-18. The second is to feed on the Word of God, which is light itself  and when its entrance into your mind gives light!


Can you cry out to the Lord to open the eyes of your understanding? 

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