We provide for the media empire: Most of us are obsessed with information. In a way, the love of media represents our endless search to find meaning. The news gives us something to obsess over, talk about, and pretend that we can do something about. We look to fill the gap in our beings with information, when only God can fulfill it. In our search to be informed, we’re uninformed. This disconnect is rooted in not just our lack of understanding of self, but also the Spirit. Paul makes a similar point when discussing spiritual gifts.
It is by the Holy Spirit’s work that we
can declare “Jesus is Lord.” This point is so undersold that I hadn’t thought
about it for years until rereading this passage about a week ago. It’s often remarked in Christian
circles, “Jesus does the saving” or “God does the work,” but how often do we
acknowledge that the very confession that “Jesus is Lord” requires the Holy
The Spirit is usually only welcomed to the after party of the confessing: “He will come,” we say. But in a true confession, He is already there.
When Paul says that “Jesus is Lord,” he may mean two things simultaneously. If he is using the Greek word Kurios, “Lord,” like the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), then he means “Jesus is Yahweh (God’s holy name).” He is declaring that Jesus is the God of Israel. If Paul is using kurios as “master” or “ruler” (another way the Greek word is used), then he is declaring that “Jesus is master” and thus the one that people owe allegiance to. It seems likely that Paul means both ideas, since the first presupposes the idea of the second and the second would hint at the meaning of the first. But whatever the precise meaning, it’s a powerful thought: The Holy Spirit is not only the reason for confessing Jesus as ruler and/or God, but instead the Spirit is required.
This is the framework for how Paul understands spiritual gifts. He makes the point that the Corinthian believers were at one point led by mute idols (astray), and will now be led by the Spirit through the works of spiritual gifts. Prior to coming to Christ they were led, but they will now be led the right way. We’re all curious what the “right” way looks like; this is especially the case when it comes to discerning true spiritual gifts. Paul discredits this notion: “no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ ” That’s his defining factor: the thing he uses to make sense of the real Spirit versus evil spirits. If someone opposes Jesus, they’re not from God. It’s that simple.
Paul may have said this to fight Jewish mystics or pagan priests since both performed signs and wonders to prove their validity as God’s or the gods’ representatives. Paul’s framework for spiritual gifts requires a confession that Jesus is Lord, and as such, a submission to His reign.
It seems that we need similar guidance. But our idols today are not mute but vocal. They speak loudly through the boxes in our living rooms. We stare at them in amazement, believing that somehow the information provided will satisfy. Paul cries out against this; he claims the work of the Spirit, in spiritual gifts, as a better way. He declares that the Spirit’s work will be clearly defined—and defy the work of evil.
What idols do you need to tear down? And what walls have you built against the Spirit’s authentic work in you?
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