Summary: Foundational teaching re:Spiritual Gifts
As part of his project for the 1997 Greater Idaho Falls Science fair, freshman Nathan Zohner urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical "dihydrogen monoxide." Many were shocked to learn there was no regulation of it, despite the following known hazards:
1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting;
2. It is a major component in acid rain;
3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state;
4. It is known to cause thousands of deaths per year when accidentally inhaled;
5. It is a major contributor to the erosion of valuable topsoil;
6. It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.
Given those facts, would you be willing to sign the petition? I probably would. Of the fifty people Nathan asked to sign, 43 said yes, 6 were undecided, and only one knew that “dihydrogen monoxide” is just the chemical name for water.
I suppose a lot of those 50 people had learned once upon a time that “dihydrogen monoxide” was water. But for all practical purposes, they were ignorant of that fact.
My dictionary defines ignorant as “knowing little or nothing; A person who has not had much chance to learn may be ignorant but not stupid.”
The folks in the Corinthian church were ignorant about the working of the Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t because they hadn’t had any experience of the Holy Spirit’s working among them. If you had gone to church in Corinth, you would have seen all kinds of supernatural gifts being displayed:
The interpretation of tongues
People receiving revelations from God
It would seem like the Corinthians knew plenty about the Holy Spirit. But Paul tells them, “I want you to know the truth about (spiritual gifts)”
He literally says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant, I don’t want you to be misled about spiritual things”
He doesn’t actually use the word “gifts” here, though most versions include it. I believe Paul, in the first three verses, is speaking about more than just spiritual gifts, but about the most important aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Even though they have had powerful experiences, they don’t have a biblical understanding of the spiritual gifts
And if they don’t have a biblical understanding of the spiritual gifts, then they don’t have a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit Himself.
“It’s all fine and good to have spiritual experiences, but you need to understand them in the light of God’s revealed truth.”
If you don’t, you might be led astray by your experiences.
The believers in Corinth had come out of an utterly pagan background. Paul reminds them how they’d followed pagan deities, “idols which could not speak.”
Now they were serving a living God who could – and did, (AND DOES!) speak.
But if they were ignorant of the Holy Spirit, they might be misled by those who would pretend to speak by His power. It is still the case in many churches that if someone comes who has had experiences of spiritual power, people assume he or she must know more truth about spiritual things than we do.
So Paul tells them something critically important to anyone who wants to know whether the Holy Spirit is at work or not.
Verse 3 says, “I want you to know that no one who is led by God’s Spirit can say ‘A curse on Jesus!’ and no one can confess "Jesus is Lord," without being guided by the Holy Spirit.”
I don’t think this verse is saying that no one can utter the words “Jesus is Lord,” unless they are a true believer. But back then, “Jesus is Lord,” was not a bumper sticker slogan. They were ruled by the Romans, who wanted their subjects to worship Caesar above all other gods. You could worship all the idols you wanted, but Caesar was Lord – above all gods.
So if someone said “Jesus is Lord,” it was clear they meant, “I will not say, as I am compelled by law to say, ‘Caesar is Lord,’ because Jesus is my ultimate King, not Caesar.”
That was the very reason many Christians were put to death. SO when Paul says, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit,” he means, no one can be a true follower of Christ except by the Holy Spirit.
And if someone does NOT accept Jesus’ lordship, they are NOT being led by God’s Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s main job isn’t to give gifts. The Holy Spirit’s main job is to lead us to faith in Jesus
And once we have made an initial commitment to Christ, he leads us in our growth in Christ. It is only after he has established the Holy Spirit’s primary function in leading us to Christ, that Paul begins to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.