1 Corinthians 12:1-3 ~ 20140824 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/24 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Belief and the Spirit Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140824_1cor12_1-3.mp3
1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.
1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 12, Paul signals with the words 'now concerning', that he is moving on to address another topic that the Corinthians had asked him about in a letter. Back in chapter 7, he said:
There he addressed abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he said 'now concerning virgins'; in 8:1 'now concerning things offered to idols'; here in 12:1 'now concerning the spirituals'; in16:1 'now concerning the collection for the saints'; and in 16:12 'now concerning Apollos'. These are issues about which the church had written asking specific questions, to which the Apostle responds. Paul moves back and forth in this letter between issues that they had raised by the Corinthians in their letter to him, and reports which had come to him from others. We do not know exactly what the questions were, but we have the benefit of Apostolic teaching on the issues.
The Spiritual Ones
To understand what the question was, we have to look at what Paul wrote to answer their question. He introduces this section with a somewhat ambiguous phrase 'now concerning the spirituals' [τῶν πνευματικῶν]. This adjective built on the noun [πνεῦμα] 'spirit' could mean 'the spiritual things' or it could mean 'the spiritual people'. And in the context it is used both ways. In verse 4 he mentions [χαρισμάτων], the usual word for spiritual gifts, literally 'grace-gifts', built on the word [χάρις] 'grace'. In verse 3 he refers twice to what is spoken 'in the Spirit'. In verse 7 he talks about the various manifestations of the Spirit that are given. In 14:1, he exhorts them to be zealous for the [πνευματικά], especially to prophesy. So 'the spiritual things' or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, grace-gifts, fits the context. But in 14:37, where he is concluding this section on [πνευματικῶν], he refers to anyone who thinks he is spiritual, clearly referring to a spiritual person. Back at the end of chapter 2 he contrasts the natural person with the spiritual person, and in 3:1, he laments that he cannot address the Corinthians as spiritual, but as fleshly, mere infants in Christ.
We know that pride and self-seeking were major issues in Corinth, a desire to impress others and be thought well of, to seek to advance one's own status and standing in the community. There were divisions between rich and poor, wise and foolish, strong and weak, There was a severe vacuum of love, a lack of care and concern for the good of the other that repeatedly surfaces in Paul's instructions to this church.
In these chapters, Paul addresses the diversity of the gifts given by the one Spirit, the mutual need of the different members for one another, the worthlessness of all the gifts without love, the essential purpose of the gifts to build up the church, and the priority of gifts that build up the church over gifts that build up the individual.
So we could re-create the Corinthian questions something like this: What is the measure of true spirituality? Some thought they were spiritual because they manifested more obviously supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues. They may have looked down on those who did not have such outwardly supernatural gifts as if they had not attained the same height of spirituality. Those without the showy gifts began to feel second rate and useless, unimportant appendages who did not have anything to offer, who simply didn't belong. Those who didn't possess these showy gifts may have even questioned the validity of those supposedly supernatural manifestations of the Spirit that were flaunted by some in their congregation. What about those so-called gifts? How are they to be used? Who are the truly spiritual ones?
Outline and Structure
Paul speaks to these issues with skill and pastoral wisdom. He addresses them as brothers, a term of affection, and he lays some theological groundwork before he confronts the abuses and improprieties in the way they treat one another. This is very similar to how he addressed the issue of idolatry back in chapters 8-10. He began in chapter 8 by clarifying the underlying theology that was foundational to the issue. Then in what seems at first glance to be a digression to another topic in chapter 9, he illustrates the principle of foregoing ones own rights out of service to others for their good. Then in chapter 10, he comes back to the issue with some very clear and direct commands that he expects them to understand and obey.
Here in chapters 12-14, Paul's tactic is similar. In chapter 12, he lays some theological groundwork for the issue. In chapter 13, the love chapter, which many see as an out of place insertion in the middle of a discussion on spiritual gifts, he holds up the fruit of the Spirit as more essential to the Christian life than any particular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Then in chapter 14, he comes back to the issue of spiritual gifts with some very direct commands on how we should conduct ourselves and treat one another relating to spiritual gifts in the church of God.
Let's look at this introductory section together:
Paul appeals to their desire for knowledge. He does not want them to be uninformed. He says 'I want you to understand'. And he refers to their previous life of ignorance in idolatry. You recall, when you were pagans, before you heard the gospel and believed, you were led astray to unspeaking idols.
Idolatry was a significant part of life before Christ, and continued to be a struggle in first century Corinth, as is evidenced by chapters 8-10. Idolatry is centering one's life around anything or anyone other than God. Sports or leisure or power or status or wealth or things or recreation or relationships, anything other than God that becomes the focal point of life is an idol. And idols cannot deliver on what they promise. Money cannot buy happiness. Things break. Experiences leave us longing for more. Relationships cannot bear up under the weight of expectations and ultimately disappoint.
The prophets of the Old Testament have much to say about the idiocy of idolatry.
The foolishness of idolatry is glaring. Our Creator God invites us to find our satisfaction in him alone, and we turn from him and go searching for pleasure under every rock and tree and hole in the ground. Romans describes the rebellious sinful idolatry of all humankind this way:
We all tend toward idolatry in our hearts. Our desires lead us astray. We trade in the glory of knowing the immortal God for fleeting glimpses of his reflection in his creation.
However we were led, we were all led astray.
Jesus is Lord
Therefore, in relation to your question of what is spiritual, I do not want you to be uninformed; I want you to understand. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”. Jesus spoke of the Spirit's coming in John 15 and 16.
The Spirit of God will always bear witness about Jesus and bring glory to Jesus. No one who is spiritual would ever speak evil about Jesus. This would be unthinkable for any follower of Jesus to say.
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Notice that the apostle uses the language of inability. No one is able, no one can.
When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said:
Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. The confession of the identity of Jesus as God is not of human origin. The recognition of Jesus for who he is is a supernatural revelation from the Father through his Holy Spirit.
This was clearly Paul's own experience, as he was 'still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord' (Acts 9:1) when Jesus interrupted him on the road to Damascus.
Paul pointed this direction earlier in this letter when he:
He goes on to say that the rulers of this age did not understand the gospel,
The good news of what God has prepared for those who love him, the gospel of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory for us and for our salvation, these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
We have received the Spirit of God so that we might understand the God's gracious good news. Without God's Spirit we could not understand the gospel. This is what he goes on to say in the next verses.
The natural person, the person who has not experienced the work of the Holy Spirit supernaturally revealing that Jesus Christ crucified is good news for us, this person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He rejects the gospel because it is foolishness to him. He thinks it stupid. He is not able to understand the gospel, because the good news is spiritually discerned. The spiritual person who understands is only spiritual because the Holy Spirit is at work in him revealing Christ and the beauty of the gospel to him.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points to the blindness of unbelievers.
They are blind and cannot see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. Only a sovereign omnipotent God can overcome this spiritual blindness and create light in the midst of darkness.
God is the one who gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He shines in our hearts and opens our blind eyes so that we can see the truth and beauty of the gospel.
Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 12 that:
Of course this does not mean that no unbeliever can mouth those words. Mockers can mouth the words. Hypocrites can mouth the words. Pretenders can mouth the words 'Jesus is Lord'. Jesus himself warned of this.
It is possible to call Jesus Lord out of a heart of unbelief in him, seeking to do things for him to earn his favor, refusing to depend on him alone for what he has done for us. Amazingly, in this passage, those who were not known by Jesus are not only calling Jesus Lord, but they are manifesting some of the same spiritual gifts that the Corinthians thought marked them out as spiritual. Even these apparently spiritual acts could be bad fruit from an unbelieving root.
It is not merely vocalizing the syllables, as if they were some kind of magical incantation, that has any effect. Romans 10:9 says:
This confession that Jesus is Lord is evidence of a Spirit wrought transformation of my hard heart. When I say 'Jesus is Lord', I am owning him as the one to whom I pledge my allegiance, the one to whom I owe all my devotion, the one to whom I will ultimately answer. He is the one under whose authority I now gladly bow. He is my Lord, he is my King, my only Master, and I would have it no other way. I have been given new affections, new desires, desires to obey and submit to Jesus, affections for Jesus, longings to please him, hunger to worship him, eagerness to gather with his people, to walk with him, to know him. I cannot genuinely celebrate the Lordship of Jesus without the transforming life creating work of the Spirit. Belief, the basic confession of Jesus as Lord, is evidence of the Holy Spirit's regenerating work in my heart.
Do you see what Paul has done here? The Corinthians are asking about grace-gifts and wanting to know who are the truly spiritual ones. He has leveled the playing field. There are no more spiritual or less spiritual believers. Every believer is spiritual, because belief is the work of the Holy Spirit. No spiritually blind spiritually dead person can truly say 'Jesus is Lord'. The Holy Spirit creates life in a dead heart and opens blind eyes so that a sinner can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and believe in him. This saving faith, believing in Jesus as Lord, is evidence of Holy Spirit transformation, evidence of true spirituality.