Until a sinner is born again or regenerated he cannot understand the things of God. Here Paul describes that type of man as the "natural man" in contrast to the man who has been quickened by the Holy Spirit:
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor.2:14).
It is not until the sinner is regenerated by the Spirit of God that he can understand the things of God:
"For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor.2:11-12).
Please notice Paul's words in regard to "receiving the spirit which is of God that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Paul connects the receiving of the Spirit with being able to understand the things of God.
Some sincere Christians teach that the sinner is regenerated by receiving the Spirit "before" he believes. But Paul makes it plain that the "receiving of the Spirit" happens when the sinner believes. He asked the believers at Galatia the following rhetorical question:
"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal.3:2).
Of course the answer to Paul's question is that the unregenerate man receives the Spirit "by the hearing of faith," and not before. And this matches the words of the Lord Jesus here:
"It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (Jn.6:63).
According to Him the words which He spoke were "spirit" and "life." Paul also describes the gospel as coming in the Holy Spirit: "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (1 Thess.1:5).
Those who believed the Lord Jesus' words passed from spiritual death unto spirital life, as witnessed by His words here:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (Jn.5:24).
The Scriptures declare in no uncertain words that it is the word of God that comes in the Holy Spirit that regenerate men who are dead in sin. This bringing back to life does not happen prior to the hearing of faith.
In His grace,