Summary: Loving concern and actions toward one another is the true mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Holy Spirit Series 2000
The Mark of the Spirit
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Complete this sentence for me: You know you have arrived spiritually when . . . . How would you finish that statement? Let me state it another way, The mark of a Spirit controlled or Spirit filled life is . . . . Or another way, the characteristic or activity about a person that most impresses God is . . . .
I know most of us are likely to resist questions like that. We don’t want to commit ourselves. But if you were to choose one answer . . . if you had to answer such a question, what would you say?
The truth is, despite our resistance, most of us have our own personal, private answers to questions like that. You should! If you can’t answer that question in some way, then you likely don’t have any sense of priorities about your faith and life. I am not interested in word games or fancy theories about spirituality. You can phrase the issue however you want and work out your own definitions. But what I am saying is that we all should and probably do have some idea about what God is looking for in our lives. What are you aiming for? What are you trying to build into your soul and spirit if not the thing you believe God is really looking for? I hope that matters to you. It should!
How might a person answer this question? There are a number of real possibilities. None are make believe. I have heard these in one form or another.
1. Some seem to suggest that I have arrived or become everything God wants me to be once I have completed a ceremony or ritual. Some mistakenly talk about baptism like that. Get baptized in the right way by the right person and your eternal fate is signed, sealed, and delivered. Let me make it crystal clear—baptism means absolutely nothing apart from a personal faith in Christ alone and a heart-felt turning from sin.
2. Others similarly point to answering an altar call, saying the sinners pray, or some other initiation act as the end of the Christian experience. All of this is important. But none of these items is the completion of the Christian faith. They are beginning points to a life of growth and maturing. Sadly, too many see the Christian experience as an event rather than a life.
3. Others argue for knowledge. If a person just reads the Bible enough and learns enough doctrinal truth, then you have arrived a spot of spiritual accomplishment. As important as Bible knowledge is, you are not necessarily spiritually mature even if you know the Bible forwards and backwards in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.
4. Another common suggestion is a special spiritual experience. You know you have arrived spiritually when you see a vision, receive special messages from God in dreams, hear voices of angels, suddenly can speak in some unknown language, or are overwhelmed with deep emotion and tears when you consider spiritual matters.
Are these the proof that you have arrived spiritually? If these are in a person’s life, is that evidence that he has been specially touched by the Holy Spirit? Does that make such person better or more spiritual than a person without such evidences? Is this what God is after in our lives?
I raise this question because it is precisely what stands behind our text. This is the third of five studies in 1 Corinthians 12-14. First, we over-viewed the book. Last week, we looked more closely at chapter 12 and the Corinthian mindset that created the problem Paul is addressing. It is important to remember that this is the context of this chapter. Read by itself this “love chapter” of the Bible is beautiful and meaningful in many ways. That’s why it is read at weddings and other times where Christian love is the topic of discussion. But this passage was not written for a wedding ceremony. Its context was very specific. To understand it aright, it must be read in that context.
Let’s review very briefly. This is one of a series of letters written to a congregation of new Christians, only three or four years in the faith, who struggling with a lot of spiritual and social problems. They were quarreling and fighting, struggling with some serious moral questions, and wondering about the basics of their new faith. Front and center in the church problems were a group of members (we don’t know how many) who were convinced that the Holy Spirit had blessed them in exceptional ways.
Apparently, some had received a “gift of languages” that enabled them to speak, pray, and sing in a language that they had never learned and which even they couldn’t always understand. Perhaps because so many of their pagan neighbors and some of them in their pre-Christian lives had placed great emphasis on ecstatic religious experiences that the pagans interpreted as the touch of the gods, those with this “gift of languages” viewed this as evidence that they were special in God’s eyes. In fact, they tended to consider themselves spiritually superior to their rank and file brothers and sisters in the church. It was only a short step from this view, the next.