What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. (MSG)1 Corinthians 12:1-3
I have switched to the Message Version for our passage today. Because it is one of those versions which preserves the intent of the words in the first verse. The meaning is about spiritual things. Paul doesn’t start off straight away talking the gifts, although he may have them in mind. Rather he seems to deal with spiritual things in general at the beginning of the chapter. Among the idol worshippers were people who spoke in ecstatic ways with words that were said to be inspired. There were “spiritual things” that were said to happen among the idol worshippers. You are aware of that because it happens in this day and age. There are all kinds of claims that weird and strange things are inspired.
Paul seems to begin at the level in dealing with the spiritual. The Corinthians were a mixed group of people. There were Jewish believers among them but there were also those who had come out of idol worship and mystical religions. The ancient pagan priests deluded the people with the notion that oracles were uttered by the idols whom they worshipped, and thus they maintained the belief in their divinity. Paul reminds them that their idols never could have uttered the oracles which were ascribed to them, and consequently that they had been deluded. These idols could never have given them such spiritual privileges as they had now.
It is like Paul says to them “I give you this rule to distinguish,” or by which you may know what spiritual activity is from God and what is not. Some simple general guidelines by which they could at once recognize the work of the Spirit of God, and determine whether they who claimed to be under that influence really were. That rule was, that those who were truly influenced by the Holy Spirit would be disposed to acknowledge and to know Jesus Christ. Interesting isn’t it that it is the same rule given by John by which to test the nature of the spirit by which people profess to be influenced. 1 John 4:2 “This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.” This is a very important principle, not only in regard to the particular subject under consideration in the time of Paul, but also in its practical use to us in the present.
Justin Martyr observed to Trypho the Jew that there were Jews who called Jesus by such names as will hardly bear to be mentioned, “Jesus the perverse”, or “he that perverteth the law of God; and “Jesu – let his name and memory be blotted out”, “Jesu is a lie, and an abomination: they call him a strange God, and vanity” and “one that was hanged” which infers ‘is accursed’. Dr. Lightfoot thought this referred to the Jewish exorcists who went about pretending to do miracles by the Holy Ghost, and yet called Jesus “anathema”.
So all of this gave the Corinthians a means of discerning the spiritual matters they encountered day by day and dealing with them. Useful for us too.
If you STAND for nothing, you will FALL for anything!Brian Houston
If we are not seeking the Lord, the Devil is seeking us.Charles Spurgeon