Speaking in the Spirit of God

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

This Scripture passage has such great potential to comfort Christians. Yet the phrase “speaking in the Spirit of God” too often causes hesitation or even doubts. Let’s clarify what is meant in order to address the doubts.  

In this passage the Apostle Paul is writing to a number of Gentile converts from paganism, one of the most common religions in the city of Corinth. It is likely that these converts had ecstatic experiences in pagan worship. They certainly would have believed in spirits. How could these converts be confident the one true God was now with them, as opposed to the pagan gods? 

Paul reassures them in verse three. The “Spirit of God” is more often called the “Holy Spirit,” the third person of the Holy Trinity. Paul is reminding them that they have received the Holy Spirit. Certainly, this is what happened when they were baptized (Acts 2:38). Paul had already twice in this letter reassured the Corinthians Christians that the Holy Spirit dwells within them (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:16).

In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul provides further reassurance. It is only by the power of Holy Spirit that the Corinthians Christians can believe and confess “Jesus is Lord.” 

I find it fascinating that we have the opposite reason for doubts concerning the faith. A strong majority of Lutheran Christians of never had ecstatic experiences or engaged in emotionalism in worship. From time to time, I have ministered to brothers and sisters in Christ who are having doubts about their faith because they hadn’t had these “charismatic” experiences. 

I point to the same Bible passages that provided confidence to the Corinthian Christians in order to provide comfort for those having such doubts. We, also, received the Holy Spirit in baptism. This same Holy Spirit has dwelled within us ever since we were brought to faith in Jesus. We, also, believe and confess “Jesus is Lord” because of the same indwelling Holy Spirit. Our confidence rests not upon our experiences of faith, but on God’s promises to grant and sustain our faith.

(This devotion is from a series called “A Second Look,” written for the congregations of the Ohio District-LCMS.)

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