Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
I CORINTHIANS 12.-There are several things in this chapter interesting and important to be understood, but not apparent on the surface. To discern them, it is necessary to have distinctly in view the people to whom the epistle was written, and the time and circumstances under which it was addressed to them. If we were to read it from a modern point of view-that is, as if Paul were discussing principles applicable to modern circumstances, we should make many mistakes. Paul is discoursing on a situation of things existing in his own day, and having no parallel in our experience. The situation is very simply described. A number of people in Corinth, brought up in a mixed state of philosophy and idolatry, had believed the testimony of Paul on the occasion of his visit to the city, concerning the resurrection of Christ, and the benefits offered to those who should believe and obey the risen Master. Their belief was based upon the signs and wonders by which Paul's word was accompanied. God gave testimony to the word of His grace in signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2 : 4), so that their faith" stood not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2 : 5). After they believed, the Holy Spirit was given to them also, by the laying on of the apostles' hands, so that they also were able to speak with tongues, work miracles, prophesy, speak the words of wisdom and knowledge, etc. Paul stayed with them a good while, even " a year and six months" (Acts 18 : I I), for Christ had told him that he had much people in the city (verse 10). After Paul left them, various questions began to arise among them as to duty in this and that, in the new position in which the truth had placed them. Some held one opinion and some another upon the various matters that arose. There were also sectaries among them-men who did not rise to the breadth and greatness of the unity that was in Christ, but conceived petty partialities for certain leaders and teachers. Some said, " I am of Paul," as against others who boasted to the disparagement of Paul, that they were of Peter; while others again made Apollos the watchword, and others, Christ. The existence of such a state of division in a community blessed with the gifts of the Spirit will appear inexplicable to those who have not realized that those gifts did not override the judgment and temperamental peculiarities. of the possessors; hut were restricted to the particular function appertaining to them. A speaker of tongues was the same individual in the manifestation of character as if he had not received a supernatural knowledge of the languages. A worker of
" Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led" (I Cor. 12: 2). This allusion to their antecedents prepares the way for the attitude he is about to take as their teacher, and also lays a basis for the argument he is about to advance. As much as to say, "Ye know that apart from what I brought to you, ye were idolaters, without hope, wirhout inheritance in Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise. ThC' gifts that ye have, were acquired by you in connection with the Gospel. Therefore, the Gospel is the standard by which the questions in agitation must be decided. 'Wherefore, I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed'" (verse 3).
Now, how came Paul to have to make this apparently superfluous declaration? Obviously, because there were some among the Corinthians calling Jesus accursed, who professed to speak by the Spirit. How couldsuch a thing be? This is only to be understood in view of the surroundings and extraction of the Corinthians. The Grecians have been termed the philosophers of the world. The Corinthians lived in one of the principal cities of the Greeks, and at one of the principal seats of philosophy. It was very natural, therefore, that philosophy should crop up in their midst as a perverter of the phenomena connected with the Spirit. Indeed, in the case of another Greek ecclesia-s-that at Colosse, he expressly says, " Beware
The next statement of Paul J understand also to apply to the cavils of the same objector: "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit." The necessity for making that statement might arise in this way. In dealing with the man calling Jesus accursed while claiming to speak hy the Spirit, the spiritual men of the ecclesia might point out to him that but for the Spirit coming into their midst by Paul, they never would have known about Christ at all. In answer to which, the caviller might contend that the knowledge of Christ was as much a thing of natural cognition as any other matter of history. He would say that although they knew it first by Paul, that was a mere accident; Paul happened to be first on the ground: but that if he hadn't come, they would have heard of so stirring an historical incident in some other way. This would give rise to the point met by Paul's declaration, " Can a man know that Jesus is the Lord without the instrumentality of the Spirit?" The truthfulness of Paul's answer is apparent in many ways. To see or hear of the power of Christ was not to be made to know that he was the Messiah, the Lord. The Pharisees saw him, but did not believe. His appearance conveyed no intimation of the fact. As the prophet had predicted, " He had no form nor comeliness; and when they saw him, there was nothing in him that they should desire him." His Messiahship requires to be testified by the Spirit and confirmed by the Spirit. It was not to be known apart from this. Hence when Peter confessed that he was the Christ, Jesus said, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." How? Not by the Spirit filling Peter and mechanically convincing him as it were (for the" Holy Spirit was not yet given" in that sense-John i : 39); but by the testimony the Father gave to Jesus on two notable occasions in the presence of Peter, and on one of them before a multitude. At his baptism and transfiguration, "A voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son; hear ye him." No man could know apart from the Spirit that Jesus was the Lord. When men heard the apostles afterwards, as the Corinthians heard Paul, they heard the Spirit, for the Spirit was in them, as Jesus had promised. The co-operating works of the Spirit in healing, raising the dead, speaking with tongues, were evidences of the testimony being the Spirit's testimony; but apart from that testimony, no man would say that Jesus is the Lord. As a matter of human knowledge, it was unattainable; and therefore the philosophic caviller was sporting'himself with his own deceivings in contending as many do in our own day, with Renan at their head, that the Lord Jesus was a mere phenomenal manifestation of moral power, to be recognized and understood on natural principles. But Paul's words in our day are greatly wrested from their meaning. They are made to teach that no man can say that Jesus is Lord unless he is personally and supernaturally illuminated by the Holy Spirit. This is a self-evident absurdity. We all here present confess that Jesus is the Lord; and we do it heartily, with joyful and grateful emphasis, yet we deny that we are subjectively illuminated in the way contended for in orthodox circles. We are only illuminated in this way, that the Spirit uttering its voice in the earth 1,800 years ago, and causing its words to be recorded,
has furnished us with evidence that convinces our understandings that
Jesus is the Lord: and apart from the means it instituted to this end, we
never would have known the fact, and therefore could never have stated it.
Tn this sense, still, no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy
Spirit, but this is a very different sense from the orthodox sense which requires
that God shall inspire us before we can know His truth, although He
has sent us inspired preachers for the very purpose of causing us to know
that faith might come by hearing their word. Furthermore, the people who
claim to be thus inspired, it is easy to show, do not confess the truth revealed
by the Spirit concerning the Lordship ofJesus in many important elements.
We must take care, while steering clear of the atheistical philosophy of
ancient and modern times, not to run into mistakes in the opposite direction,
which are only a little less ruinous. Paul's remarks on the unity in diversity of the gifts of the Spirit may also be understood as a reply to the same class of objectors, while furnishing information useful to those not in that position. When the official brethren of the ecclesia claimed, in the controversies that arose, to speak with authority in the name of the Spirit amongst them, the caviller of the class in question, of whom so many specimens are to be found in modern times, might well be supposed to say, " You talk of the Spirit; and you point to the various
Put it under a microscope, or test it with chemics, and you can discern no difference in the constitution of the nerve-fibre of the ear, eye, nose, tongue, or skin. And the vital energy developed from the blood by the secerning vessels, and supplied to these various functions, is exactly the same.; different manifestations, but the same spirit." Go wider still. Range the