Take your Bible now and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and I would like us to look again at the first part of chapter 12 as we continue in the beginning of our series on spiritual gifts.
We’re going through 1 Corinthians. We find ourselves in the twelfth chapter, considering this very vital area concerning spiritual gifts.
Now, as I said earlier in my prayer, Jesus made it clear that we who know God are salt and light in the world. The Scripture also calls us, through the apostle Paul’s terminology in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, ambassadors to the world.
First Peter chapter 2 calls us pilgrims in the world. Paul said to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is not here, but it’s in heaven. We are sojourners, as it is, in the world. So, we have been given to the world, to journey through the world, to be ambassadors for God, to be salt, to be light. There is a purpose for our individual existence as believers in the society in which we live. And that purpose is to turn men to God, to turn men to Christ. We are a witnessing community. We are a group of people placed in the world to draw the attention of the world to God.
Now, in Ephesians, perhaps the most thrilling concept of all, in identifying ourselves, comes together in the fourth chapter, in the thirteenth verse of Ephesians. It says this, “Till we call come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Now, that passage says that the design of the Church is to be brought into Christlikeness. Till we call come to the full stature of Christ. God has given apostle, prophets, evangelists, teaching pastors for the perfecting of the saints, or the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry, that the body might be built up in order that being built up it might come to a fullness of Christlikeness.
Now, that leads me to say not only are we to be salt and light and ambassadors and pilgrims and so forth in the world, but we are to be Christ in the world. And this is a very vital concept. The Church is to be Christ in the world. And that’s why I’ve chosen frequently to call the Church “body two.” The incarnation was “body one,” Christ in a human body. We are body two, Christ alive in the world in the Church.
This is a very vital reality, and it’s something we have to understand. The Lord Jesus wants to leave Himself in the world, even after He ascends. He wants us to be Christ in the world. He wants to reproduce in us His very essence, His very life, His very personality, His very character so that we manifest to the world Christ in as real a sense as Christ was manifest in a human form when He was walking in the world.
Now, how is it that God has designed us to be Christ in the world? How is it that we can literally represent Him? How is it that we can manifest His character to this world? First of all, the Bible says that He has planted within us the Spirit of Christ. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. But we have received the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, Paul says, “The life I live is not my own, but it is Christ living in me.” So, Christ, then, will reproduce Himself in the world by living in me as an individual believer.
Now, a step further than that, Christ not only indwells every individual believer, but He dwells the corporate church. Ephesians chapter 2 says that the entire Church is built together as a habitation for the Spirit of Christ. Christ exists not only in the individual life of a Christian, but in the corporate life of the community of believers known as the body of Christ. So, He produces His character in us, first of all, by dwelling in us.
Now, let’s see just specifically how this works together. Before we look at 1 Corinthians 12, go back to – a little further toward the end of your New Testament to the fourth chapter of Ephesians, and I want to just pull out a couple of very related thoughts here. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 7. Here is basically the simplest explanation of how Christ really reproduces Himself in the Church as it works out from His presence. His presence is there, but His character becomes manifest in this way: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
Now, Christ has given, by grace, certain gifts. They come from Him. They are divine enablements given to the believer. “Unto every one of us” – no Christian is excluded – “is given grace” – that is we can’t deserve it; we can’t earn it – “according to the measure” – that is it is measured out individually and uniquely for every Christian – “the gift of Christ. “ Christ then gives a gift, a spiritual endowment, a spiritual enablement to every believer, unique to that believer. He has given all of us gifts.
You say, “Why does it say gift singular if some of us have more than one?”
Because I think the plurality of our gifts can be expressed as our gift. My gift from God may be the gifts of preaching or teaching, of administration, all combined into the gift He gives me. Sometimes you have opened a package and gotten three things in one box. Well, that’s the same idea. But its design is to manifest His character. It is an aspect of His character that He gives.
Look at verse 8. “Wherefore it saith, ‘When He ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.’” Now, when Christ died on the cross, He gathered some spoils Some of the spoils, which would be the souls of the men and women that He won at the cross, He turned around and gave back to the Church as gifts.
Skip the parentheses of 9 and 10 and look at verse 11, and here are those gifts. He gave gifts, “And He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors.” Now, they are the gifted men given to the Church. Now listen to this. They are the gifted men given to the Church. Verse 7 says He has already given individual gifts to the believers. And it is the role of the gifted men to equip the gifted believers to use their gifts. That’s the purpose, and that’s what verse 12 says. The gifted men are - “For the maturing of the maturing of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”
Now, the Lord Jesus Christ has given every believer a gift, and that gift is known as spiritual gifts to us today, but that gift is for the purpose of manifesting Christ in the Church, and ultimately in the world. In order to allow us the fullest use of those gifts, and to bring them to maturity, and to maximum output, God has also given to the Church, verse 11, gifted men. And the gifted men equip the saints to use the gifts they have. And the result, verse 12, “the edifying of the body of Christ” – verse 13 – “till the Church together manifests the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Now, that’s a great concept, and it’s very basic in identifying the church. Gifted men equip the saints to use their gifts to build the body, that the body might manifest Christ, that we might literally be Christ.
Now, if the gifted men do not perfect the saints, or if the saints do not minister their gifts, the body will not be built. If the body is not built up, the body of Christ, then it does not manifest Christ.
And we’ve often said that one of the difficulties in the world today, in the Church, is the fact that the Church is so fractured, and Christians are so disobedient in the area of the gifts, and leaders are so failing in perfecting the saints, that the whole body of Christ is crippled and distorted and confused, and the world cannot see truly the manifestation of Jesus Christ.
All of the gifts are given to the Church, to the ultimate end that the Church is built up into the fullness of the stature of Christ so that individually and corporately, we represent Christ.
Now, I want to go a step further, because it’s important that you understand this. All of the spiritual gifts – and there are many of them listed in the New Testament; we’ll be studying them in detail next week – but all of those gifts, in their fullest sense, are complete in Christ.
For example, we’ll have the gift of prophesy or the gift of preaching. Did Christ preach? Yes. Was He the best? Of course. You have the gift of teaching. Did Christ teach? Yes. Was He the best teacher? Yes. You have the gift of showing mercy. Did Christ show mercy? Yes. Magnanimously did He show mercy, like no other person that ever lived did He show mercy.
You have the gifts of ruling, and helps, and giving, and faith. And every one of those has its perfect example in Jesus Christ, who gave like nobody ever gave, who rules like nobody ever ruled, who had faith in the Father like nobody has ever displayed. In other words, the spiritual gifts – remember this now – the spiritual gifts are characteristics of Christ that will be manifest through the body corporate as they were manifest through the body incarnate. That’s the purpose of spiritual gifts. They are the characteristics of Christ poured back through.
You say, “What about the miraculous gifts?”
Christ had miraculous ability as confirmation of His identity. And those were given in the early years of the Church, again to confirm the message. And so, all of the gifts find their perfection in Christ. And the reason God gave them to the Church, when He gave the Church the Spirit of Christ, was in order to remanifest Christ in the world.
Now, when we preach or teach or show mercy or help or lead or give or have faith, or whatever of those gifts we exercise, we find that that is a supernatural activity, endowed and enabled by the Spirit of God, which manifests an attribute of Christ to the building of the body. Thus, Christ becomes real I the world as the body grows up.
So, we see, then, these are not random things, but the gifts specifically find their source in God; their channel in the Spirit; and their pattern, their example, their completeness in the person of Jesus Christ. Now, they are essential then, because they are the things that will manifest Christ, the things that will build the Church.
Now, the amazing thing about the Corinthian Church, and we’ll move to discuss them for a minute now, the amazing thing about the Corinthian church was they had all the gifts. All of them. They – the first chapter, verse 7 says, “You come behind in no gift. You lack nothing.” They had been endowed with all spiritual gifts. They were fully equipped for maturing; they were fully equipped for ministering; they were fully equipped to be Christlike. But instead, there was absolute chaos. There was a failure on the part of the gifted men to do the job they were supposed to do in maturing the saints. There was a failure on the part of the saints to minister the gifts they had been given. Instead, they were being counterfeited; they were being exploited; they were being neglected; they were being abused; they were being confused. And the result was the terrible chaos that appears in chapter 12 to 14 in the Corinthian church relative to spiritual gifts.
Now, Paul writes chapters 12 to 14 to deal with the urgent need for proper understanding of the gifts, proper ministry of the gifts as spiritual endowments from God Himself. So, it’s a very, very important section, and it’s important for us as it was for the Corinthians.
Now, let’s just look back a little bit, back to chapter 12, 1 Corinthians. Let’s look back and remember something that we learned last week and something that we’ve had reviewed all the way in our study in 1 Corinthians, and that is that the Corinthian church was basically carnal, basically chaotic – that is there was little or zero order going on there. They were beset by every conceivable trial and every conceivable turmoil and every conceivable sin was manifesting itself.
They had managed to pervert the life of the church in every way possible. And they had included spiritual gifts. As we saw last week, their society was drowning in the sea of the mystery religions. They were characterized by two words - ecstasy and enthusiasm - which spoke of the non-rational, ecstatic, orgiastic, kind of trance-like activity that occurred as the highest level supposedly of religious experience.
As a result of this, hysterical extremism and delusions regarding the true gifts had infiltrated the church at Corinth, and they were now confused. Their public worship had turned into a disaster, an exercise in selfishness, gluttony, drunkenness, ecstatic, orgiastic frenzies as Satan was busy counterfeiting the gifts and carnal people were left in confusion as to what was real and what was not. They had exalted the ecstatic, and they had come to the perversion of the gift of languages, particularly, into ecstatic speech, and this became their major abuse.
As a result of all of this, some had written to Paul and said, “Would you help us straighten this mess out?” And so, he writes chapters 12 to 14 in response to the fearful marriage of the frenzy of the mystery religions and the truth of the grace gifts of the Spirit of God that had come off in Corinthian assembly.
Now, as we said last time, in chapter 12 he lays out basic theology. In chapter 13 he talks about love, the context in which all gifts operate. In chapter 14 he directly deals with abuses.
Look at your outline there, and let’s remind ourselves of what we’re discussing. Three features are identified in Paul’s basic presentation of the gifts. One, the importance; two, the source; and three, the kinds of gifts.
Now, last time we just looked at verse 1. We are going to get a little further than that today, but I’m, again, not in any hurry, because it’s very important that we have some very solid foundation, and then things will begin to fly a little faster as we go.
Number one, we discussed the importance of spiritual gifs. Verse 1, “Now concerning spirituals, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” He uses the word “spirituals.” This is the first descriptive term for the ministries of Christ given to the Church, and it speaks of their source. Whatever the ministries are that God has given the Church, they are called spirituals.
Now, what does it mean? Pneuma is the Holy Spirit. Any time you see an I-K ending on a Greek word, it means controlled by or characterized by. Whatever these things are, they are controlled by and characterized by the Holy Spirit.
So, he says, “I want to talk to you concerning enablements or endowments that the Holy Spirit has given you as characteristic of Himself, the Spirit of Christ. And we’re going to see other terms as we go. So, the first term is five different terms to describe spiritual gifts in this one section. Term one explains the fact that they are characterized and controlled by the Holy Spirit, whatever they are. And we don’t really have a definitive term yet. Spirituals is just talking about their basic source.
So, he says, “Regarding these things, I do not want you to be ignorant. And that is something that is very, very important. It is essential to the church that we have no ignorance at this point.”
Now, let’s go to verse 2 and pick it up where we left off. “Ye know that ye were pagans” – or heathen – “carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore, I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” And we’ll stop there.
Now, these two verses, for the most part, in the study that I’ve done, I find treated rather lightly. And the effort of most people is just to go right on by them and hurry to get to verse 4 and talk about spiritual gifts. But these become tremendously critical in understanding what was going on in the Corinth church. And that becomes critical in understanding how we deal with it.
Look first at verse 2. “Ye now that ye were heathen.” The word “Gentile,” in its technical sense, means non-Jews. In its non-technical sense, it means non-Christians. It can mean Gentile, or it can be translated heathen. And a heathen is anybody who does not know God. So, it is in a non-Christian sense that the word Gentile is used here, not in a non-Jewish sense. For a comparison, you might notice 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 5 uses it in the same way.
So, he says, “You were pagan. Now, let me characterize your paganism” - watch this – “carried away unto these dumb idols even as ye were led.” Now, you have a picture there of a victim of somebody in a system of religion who has little or no choice about what is going on there. He is being led; he is being carried away – those two terms – to dumb idols. He is strictly a victim.
The word “carried away” is a verb used frequently in the Bible to speak of leading a prisoner or a condemned person away to prison. You can check it in Mark 14:44 and Mark 15, verse 16 and find that that is its use in both of those occasions.
So, the verb then pictures somebody who is caught, shackled, and dragged away to a dumb idol. He has little choice – in fact, he has no choice. This is not something he chose, not something he selected; something that has fallen upon him.
The heathen then, now mark this, are pictured not as intelligent, choosing freely, following what their mind has concluded, but they are helpless victims who know no better than to be led away by constraint to a dumb deity.
Now, I don’t think all people realize this. I’ve talked to a lot of people. I think of one person in particular who’s managed to weave his way through my life for the last 15 years. And this particular individual has always said to me, “I would become a Christian, but I do not want to give up my freedom. I do not want to be restricted to having to do certain things. Because now I can choose whatever I want.”
And I’m reminded of many Scriptures, all of which I’ve shared with him, but of this one particularly, “You are nothing but a pagan, carried away to a dumb deity, being led by the nose; you are a victim. You are not free. You are a prisoner.”
And Paul says, in Romans 6, “You are a slave to sin.” Now, this is a picture of the heathen, the ungodly man. He is led away to worship a non-God. He is led away to worship a no-deity. And believe me, everybody worships somewhere. You don’t choose whether or not you’re going to worship; you just choose what. In the case of the Corinthian people, they had been led away to their idolatry, gods who were dumb idols. He calls them dumb. That is dumb in the sense that they couldn’t speak; they couldn’t answer; they couldn’t respond; they couldn’t give any direction; they couldn’t give any revelation; they can’t say anything authoritative; they can’t say anything in response; they utter nothing.
But that’s the plight of the religious man. The religious man without Christ, the religious man who doesn’t know the true God is led away to a dumb deity, and he never knows the true freedom and the true dignity of a son of God.
Now, this is a biblical theme that occurs again, and again, and again; that is that unregenerate people are hopelessly being led away to stupid deities and those who cannot utter, those who cannot speak.
In 1 Corinthians 10:19, it says, “What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, the things which the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, to a no-god.” To a no-god – no hyphen god.
In Galatians chapter 4, in verse 8, “Nevertheless, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no-gods.” Ephesians chapter 4, verse 17, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as Gentiles, in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Again, darkness, blindness, alienation, dumbness – this characterizes the worship of an unregenerate individual, and this goes on and on and on through the Scripture. A very common theme.
I think, too, of Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in evil and envy, hateful, and hating on another.” We were deceived. We were foolish, characterizing the unregenerate, characterizing the ungodly person.
First Peter chapter 4, verse 3, “The time past of our life, a minute may suffice us to have wrought the will of the heathen, when we walked in lasciviousness, lust, excess of wine, wild parties, carousing, abominable idolatries,” etcetera.
So, all of that just to say this, “There is a tragic portrayal in the Scripture of an unregenerate man. He is being led as a victim into evil, and he’s led to dumb deities that can’t respond, that can’t reply no matter how religious a man he might be. That’s the plight of pagans around the world who do not worship the true God.
Now you say, “Well, what is the connection, John, with this and spiritual gifts? After all, verse 1 is talking about spirituals, and then – bang – he gets to discussing the heathen.”
The connection comes in the last phrase in verse 2, “even as ye were led” – agō. Here is a verb that implies being led away. It is a passive. They are victims. The use of this verb is, in a sense, in this passage, has about it an irresistible leading.
In 2 Timothy 3:6, the same Greek verb appears again, “For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captivity silly women laden with sins, led away with various lusts.” It implies a leading away into sinfulness there in 2 Timothy, and I think that’s the implication here. “You were victims. You were led away by demons to worship false gods. And the result was you got yourselves in a pagan religion, and you got yourselves in the ecstatic religion that is particularly indulged in, in your society.”
Paul says to the Corinthians then, and I’ll paraphrase verse 2, “You used to worship the way the pagans do, led away by demons to ecstasies and enthusiasms that characterized the mystery religions.” That’s what he’s saying: you have brought those old patterns now into the church and are letting the demons invade your worship. You used to do a certain kind of worship. It was a worship of being led away into ecstasy. It was a victim-type worship. You went there, and those demons got you and led you away. They carried you away. You gave up your will, as it were, to them.
And he’s saying, “That’s the way you used to do.” Verse 2 says, “You were this way, and now you’ve dragged it into the church.” They were unable to distinguish between the usual and the unusual, between the demonic and the divine. Everything was going on in their worship, and they couldn’t distinguish what was God, what was Satan. There was intrusion; there was corruption; there was chaos. They literally mistook the work of Satan for the work of the Spirit.
So, Paul is saying this – now listen – “The truly spiritual” - the truly spiritual, pneumatikos – “is not marked by being carried away. It is not marked by being led away. That is precisely the characteristic of your former kind of religion.” Now, you get the point? “You used to have a led-away religion. You don’t anymore. You used to have a religion where you went there, and the demons just carried you away as a victim into ecstatic, orgiastic kind of activity. That was a former religion, and now you’ve dragged your fanatical type of religion into the church and created chaos.”
Listen again, The truly spiritual is not marked by being swept away into trances, and ecstasies, and emotional frenzies. And I’ll draw it down to say this: seizure, being out of control is never the Christian’s use of his gift.
When somebody say, “Well, my brother, I was slain in the Spirit,” I say, “You may have been slain, but it is not in the Spirit.” Don’t you buy that for a minute. They’re not slain in the Spirit.
You say, “How are they slain?”
Well, I suppose in many cases, that’s the thing to do, so you do it. There’s a guy standing there, waiting to catch you, and you want to be a part of it. In other cases, maybe it’s a – it’s a hypnotic thing. In other cases, maybe it’s a demonic thing. Who knows what it is. But the Spirit of God does not operate the gifts of the Spirit when people are out of control. Now mark that. That’s his point in verse 2.
And chapter 14, verse 15, for support. “What is it then?” Chapter 14, verse 15, we’ll get into this later, of course, but I want to give it you – “I will pray with the Spirit” – yes – “and I will pray with the” – what? – “the understanding also. I will sing with the Spirit” – yes – “and I will sing with the understanding also.”
I recently heard a long-play record album where there was singing in the Spirit. It’s been recorded. And it’s just gibberish. And I kept thinking, “It’s fine to sing under the power of the Spirit as long as you sing with the understanding also.” Look at verse 33, “For God is not the author of confusion.” Look at verse 40, “Let all things be done” – what? indecently and out of order? No – “decently and in order.” The Spirit of God does not operate the gifts of God when you are out of control, when you are under sort of supernatural seizure.
When someone goes out of control, a trance, or faints, or is supposedly slain in the Spirit, or speaks ecstatic languages, or goes into frenzied behavior, that is never of God. Never. They are reflecting a pagan style of religion that corrupted the Corinthians assembly and continues to do the same. All – listen to this – all spiritual gifts function in full control and consciousness of the user. So, Paul refers to the heathen ecstasies, and just to show you how bizarre it had become, and how bold the demons had become when they knew they could get away with it in the church, look at verse 3; this is incredible, “Wherefore, I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.”
Now, here Paul shows us the first principle that the genuine spiritual gift will be determined by. In light of the confusion, and in light of the failure to distinguish the Holy Spirit’s activity from heathen demonic leading, Paul gives a basic test, and it’s a positive and negative.
Let’s look at negative first. This is very, very amazing to me. Here’s the negative part of the test: no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calls Jesus accursed. Now listen to me. Do you know what they were doing in the Corinthian assembly? Listen to this; some folks were standing up, in the Corinthian assembly, supposedly manifesting he gifts of the Spirit, and cursing Jesus. That’s what they were doing.
You say, “How do you know that?”
Because that’s the thing Paul’s dealing with. As I read through the commentaries, in the last two weeks, and just to be sure, I think I read about 20 different commentaries on this particular passage. I found none of them that disagreed with the view that actually in the Corinthian assembly, somebody was doing this. And maybe more than one person, and maybe more than one occasion. It literally says, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is ANATHEMA.”
Now, I don’t know how it hits you, folks, but to me it’s beyond belief. If somebody stood up in Grace Church and said, “I have the gift of prophesy, and I would like to speak; Jesus is accursed,” what would you think? Would you think it was of the Holy Spirit? I wouldn’t either. I mean I wouldn’t have to think about it. I know it isn’t of the Holy Spirit. But the Corinthians didn’t know that. Why? Because they had made the judgment – listen – of the value of the gift on the basis of the experience rather than the content. Do you understand?
You see, if it was far out, and ecstatic, and supernatural, and obviously beyond a human, they figured it’s got to be the Holy Spirit; after all, it’s in the church, and it’s happened here. And here somebody had gone so far as to literally curse Jesus, and the people could not determine that it was not, in fact, of the Holy Spirit. Beyond belief and doubly unbelievable after their training under the apostle Paul.
Such a thing actually occurred. Someone led away by demons, here they’re going, and everybody’s up. And this is the way it would go: everybody doing something at the same time, somebody singing, somebody speaking ecstatic speech, somebody giving a prophesy, somebody shouting out a word of wisdom, and a word of this, and that, and everything going on. And somebody in the middle of it all, “Jesus is ANATHEMA!”
“Oh, there’s the Holy Spirit, bless you brother.”
See? No ability to distinguish.
You say, “How in heaven’s name could they ever believe that was of the Holy Spirit?”
Well, let me give you a little background; I’ll tell you how. First of all, it must have been a professing Christian that did it, or they never would have believed it was the Holy Spirit. Right? So, it must have been a professing Christian. They knew that the Holy Spirit only dwelled in Christians. So, if they assumed that it was the Holy Spirit, they must have assumed this person to be or persons to be Christians.
So, here you have a Christian, at least in their eyes, somebody they think is a Christian. That’ll give you a little idea of how good their judgment was. They assumed this person to be a Christian. Now, you and I would assume different, wouldn’t we? Here’s a non-Christian, but they didn’t have enough sense to understand the difference or to be at least open to it, and they figured if he had the experience, he must be a Christian; it must be the Holy Spirit. So, it must have been a professing Christian.
Secondly, it definitely was a carryover from the frenzy that is described in verse 2. That’s his connection here. When a person was beside himself with ecstasy, you know what they said in Corinth? “It is the Holy Spirit.”
You know what Paul says? “It is not the Holy Spirit.” Paul says, “Just because this happens in the church doesn’t make it of the Spirit.” But those demons had such free rein there, that they were actually publically saying, “Jesus is ANATHEMA,” and getting away with it. That’s how bad off this assembly was. Boy, Satan was really operating there.
Listen, don’t you believe that just because it happens in the church, is of the Spirit. Satan spends a lot of his time in the Church. And just because someone is in the church, someone is under control by outside forces, don’t necessarily assume it’s God. It could be demons.
So, the state of emotion and ecstasy laid behind the cursing of Jesus. And in that gluttonous, selfish, drunken, pagan-oriented worship, ecstasies broke out, and some wild characters began saying, “Jesus is ANATHEMA.” And others thought it was the Holy Spirit. Incredible.
Now, take it a step further. It was perhaps a Jewish professing Christian. Because the word “ANATHEMA” is a Jewish word, and it means devoted to destruction. It’s a common Jewish word. In fact, it is the strongest Jewish word for condemnation. It would be similar to our saying, “Jesus be damned.” That’s the strongest term the Jew had, devoted to destruction.
You say, “Well, why would they say that about Jesus?”
Well, it was no doubt something that the Jews said frequently, because of Deuteronomy 21:23, which said, “Cursed is he that” – what? – “hangeth on a tree.” And much of the Jewish criticism of Christianity might have been, “How could you claim that that man was the Messiah when he was hanged on a tree. Cursed is such a one.” So, it may have been a rather common statement, “Jesus is accursed. We don’t accept a crucified Messiah. He’s accursed.”
So, perhaps it was not uncommon for them to pronounce curses on Jesus. It was certainly not uncommon for the apostle Paul, who tried to chase Christians down. Read Acts 26:11 and make them curse Jesus. That’s what he tried to do to them. So, here was a Jewish person who had picked up the curse and was cursing Jesus, but this one was one professing to be a Christian, doing it in the Church, so it was accepted as the Holy Spirit.
You say, “But, John, how in the world could this be? Who would reason this way?”
Let me give you the best explanation that I know, and I don’t know any other. There are about 15 explanations, and I’ll just give you what I think is the best one. I don’t know why they were letting them get away with it, or how they had come to that point, but this is the best one as I can see it. Already in the Corinthian assembly, there was a creeping heresy. And it is the same creeping heresy that was all over the New Testament era.
Now, listen to me. It is the heresy that denies the deity of Jesus Christ and denies his sufficiency to save. Haven’t we seen it? We saw it in our study of 1 John. We saw it – we see it right now in our study of Colossians. It’s all over the place. It became, later on, by the second century, what is known as Gnosticism. This is kind of incipient Gnosticism, or the basic formation of it. And it was apparently growing in the Corinthian assembly, a non-loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Notice what it says; it doesn’t say “Christ is accursed,” but “Jesus.” Perhaps what they were doing was buying this heresy that separated the true Christ from the human Jesus. See? This was the Gnostic’s view, that the Christ Spirit dwelled up in space and kind of ruled the world and did the whole thing, and then when Jesus the man, who was not the Christ, when he was baptized, the Christ Spirit descended upon Him. And just prior to His death, the Christ Spirit left so that Jesus died as a cursed criminal. So that the dying Christ was just a man. The dying Jesus was nobody. And that’s why, you see, when Jesus rose from the dead, the Corinthians didn’t understand it. He had to write the whole fifteenth chapter to explain the resurrection. Remember? “If Christ be not risen, then our hope is in vain,” and so forth. The reason was very likely they were beginning to accept the fact that the Christ Spirit and the human Jesus were separate. And so, they were cursing the human Jesus while supposedly acknowledging the glorified and divine Christ.
Now, let me take you a step further; this is really important. Look at 1 Corinthians 16:22, and here I think is something that really supports it. Now listen; “If any man love not” – and the King James says, and there is some discussion about whether the King James or the other manuscripts are – vary, but it says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be” – what? – ANATHEMA” You might say, “Curse Jesus,” I say, “If you don’t acknowledge Him, curse you,” Paul says.
And what do you mean, Paul? Well, if it’s in this verse, “Lord Jesus Christ,” then you have to believe that the whole thing comes together. He is Lord Jesus Christ, one and the same. Now, if the other manuscripts are right, and verse 22 only says, “Lord,” then you go to verse 23 which says, “Lord Jesus,” and you go to verse 24 which says, “Christ Jesus,” and you have it all together anyway.
Paul is saying, “Look, you will be cursed unless you accept the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the fullness of his deal. If you say, “Well, I accept the Christ, but deny the Jesus,” curse you. If you say, “I accept Jesus, but deny Christ,” curse you. If you say, “I accept Jesus, but deny His lordship,” curse you. If I accept the lordship but deny the man Jesus, curse you. The Lord Jesus Christ, all one and the same incarnate God. Do you see the point?
And here, what had happened is this creeping idea had come in, distinguishing the historical Jesus and the Christ as some floating Spirit to deny the incarnation. See? You know what this does? Now listen to me; if you’ve got the Christ leaving Jesus before the cross, then what is the significance of His death? It hasn’t any. And what is the significance of His resurrection? It hasn’t any. And that’s why he writes chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians and tells them, “If Christ be not risen, then” – what? – “then your faith is in vain.” You can’t just have a Jesus; you’ve got to have Christ.
You see, they were hung up on the resurrection if they believed this, because if you’ve got a human Jesus, then you’re going to have trouble getting Him out of the grave. And if He doesn’t rise, then we’re all hopeless. See? By believing this, you see, you destroy the cross, and you destroy the resurrection, as well as the deity of Christ.
Now, I believe this is what was creeping in. Look at the 11th chapter of 2 Corinthians. This is just a few months later. 2 Corinthians 11 – look at it – verse 3, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his craftiness, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Do you see? He says, “I’m afraid for you because there’s a corrupting process going on in relation to your understanding of Christ. For if he that comes preaches another” – what? – “Jesus – if somebody comes to you and preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached; or if ye receive another spirit, which you have not received; or another Gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.” And we could explain all that that means.
But he’s just saying, “Look, avoid falling into a trap of believing in another Jesus. Don’t let anybody corrupt your mind from the simplicity that is in the true Christ.” What is simplicity? It’s a single thing, the single identity of the true Christ. That’s the meaning of the word “simplicity.” A simple thing is something that can’t be – what? – divided. The simple thing about Christ, the indivisible Christ.
So, Paul is acknowledging, I think, in 1 Corinthians – and that’s the best explanation that I can come through with, and it – I’m the only one that has defined it in those – that breadth of terminology. So, I would like to find some folks who would
agree with me in that area. And there are some who kind of play around with the edges of this argument. But I think if we studied it even further, it would become more developed that this is, in fact, the best explanation for how they could wind up cursing Jesus. And that’s what they had done.
Now, they were then separating the historical Jesus from the Christ, the Spirit. And he says, “That has been tolerated so that somebody saying ‘Jesus is accursed’ can be accepted in your community as having a gift from the Holy Spirit by which that thing was said.” Incredible. So, the doctrinal test is the first test of a gift. Anybody ministers a gift, I don’t care what that gift is, the first test, “What do they say about Jesus? What do they say about Christ?” Anybody who says Jesus is accursed is not speaking of the Holy Spirit.
Now, folks, listen to me. The first test of the operation of any gift is its connection with the authoritative, revealed, Word of God. The reason they were out of line was because what they said did not agree with – what? – Scripture. When somebody comes along and says, “I have a word from the Holy Spirit,” if it agrees with Scripture, it isn’t necessary, and if it doesn’t, it isn’t right.
Now, let’s go to the positive, in verse 3. I was going to get through verse 11, can you believe that? Verse 3 – yes, you can believe that. Verse 3. And the other side – here’s the positive test – that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit. This is the positive. When somebody comes into your midst and with all of his faculties, and with all of his mind, and with all of his heart, and with all of his being saying, “Jesus is Lord,” you know that’s of the Holy Spirit.
Now, it isn’t simply the words, it’s the commitment. No man can say – and the word “say” here doesn’t just mean to parrot. A skeptic can say, “Jesus is Lord.” You can pay a guy $10.00 and say, “Would you say ‘Jesus is Lord’?”
“Jesus is Lord.”
“Here’s your $10.00.”
That isn’t the point. It’s not quite that simplistic. No man can truly say, no man can truly confess, no man can truly acknowledge Jesus is the Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. When that deep conviction of genuine understanding about who He is comes forth, it is of the Spirit.
When somebody curses Jesus, that’s sufficient evidence that they’re not of the Spirit. When somebody confesses Jesus, that’s sufficient evidence they are.
Now, I want you to notice something, verse 3, “That no man can say that Jesus is the Lord” – oh, that’s important. Lord is kurios. It is the regular means in the New Testament for translating the Tetragrammaton. That’s the Old Testament name for God, Yahweh. The regular New Testament term for translating the Old Testament name of God is kurios The confession is that Jesus is God. You see? When somebody confesses that Jesus, the Man – he’s using the human term – that Jesus the human is in fact God, that there is no separation, there is no Gnostic division there, that is of the Holy Spirit. And that leads me again to believe that what they were doing was separating the human Jesus from the divine Christ.
So, the Spirit-prompted confession is distinguished from the counterfeit by the acknowledgement that Jesus the Man is in fact God. Now, test one, in anybody’s gift, in anybody’s use of that gift, is an accurate doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit always leads men to ascribe deity, lordship, and all sufficiency to Christ. And that’s the test you have to begin with. There are going to be many more tests on these gifts that we’re going to see, but that’s the start.
Now, let me say this in closing: spiritual gifts are important, people. I mean they are very important. You know how I know they’re important? I know they’re important because verse 1 says you shouldn’t be – what? – ignorant. And if God feels that way, they’re important. But I’ll tell you another way I know they’re important. I can’t believe how busy Satan is counterfeiting them. And if they are that much of a problem to him, then they must be important.
My dad always used to say, “You know, people don’t counterfeit what isn’t valuable.” You don’t ever hear about counterfeit brown paper. And nobody counterfeits sticks. People counterfeit money; people counterfeit diamonds. People counterfeit what’s valuable, because that’s the only – that’s the only point in it. And if Satan is as busy as he is today counterfeiting spiritual gifts, then let me tell you something, people, they must really be important. You understand that? And if they are important for the life of the church, in order that we might be built up to be like Jesus Christ, then we better get it on and find out how we can use ours, don’t you think?
When I was in Chicago this week, meeting with those thousand plus pastors, I was very much aware that pastors are a part of a great team of men God has given the Church. Gifted men. And we have a tremendous high calling. And it’s a sobering thing. We talked about a lot of things together. But the thing that keeps coming back into your mind is the fact that God has given you a tremendous responsibility. And it is my responsibility to teach you, that you might come to maturity; to love you, that you might have a context in which to hear my teaching and believe it; to set an example for you, that you might have a pattern. That’s my responsibility.
And your responsibility in response is to see those gifts developing as the Spirit of God wants to use you in the ministry. I see pastors, for example, who haven’t got the first idea about what it is to teach the Word of God, who don’t understand what it is to mature the saints, who have never discipled anybody in their entire life. And so, they can’t function as they should. And the people can’t respond as they should, and the body can’t be built up. And so, when Satan comes rolling into town, with his bandwagon of counterfeit gifts, off they all go. And pretty soon you’ve got chaos.
It behooves us as a people and as a pastor to be sure that we’re committed to teach the Word of God, and you to learn the Word of God, and submit to the Word of God, and obey the Word of God, and know the difference between the true and the false in order that the body of Christ might be built for His glory. Amen?
Father, thank You for our fellowship this morning. And thank You for giving us another clear word in regard to understanding Your truth. Help us, Lord, as we go through this study, as we pour our hearts into Your truth, to be able to extract out of it life-changing principles, things that shall change the way we think, and thus the way we act.
Minister to our minds that we might have renewed minds, transformed minds to understand what You’re saying, to be able to judge, and to be able to discern, and to be able to see the true and the counterfeit, not only for our sake and the sake of our church fellowship, but for the sake of other believers who need so much to have that same wisdom. Give us Your wisdom, we pray in Your name, amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.