1 Corinthians 12:3
To evangelize is one of the great purposes of the church. The Lord Jesus has sent us out on his mission. What is this mission? Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 HCSB). Since we are to make disciples or learners of Christ, our mission is to turn people from the pursuit of sinful desires to become fully committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends and families; in fact, this should be our great joy and desire. However, this message is unwanted and disliked by those who need to hear it. Rebellion against God and his ways, refusal to love God, and rejection of God as God, what the Bible means by sin, is deeply rooted in the ideas, attitudes, and desires of people who do not follow Christ.
It should be very clear to us, not only from the Bible but also from our evangelism experiences, that the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for anyone to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). Since we are considering the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it is very appropriate to consider his work in salvation at this point. A correct understanding of the work of the Spirit of God is essential for evangelism and growth of the people of God. It is also important for us to grasp where the Spirit has brought us from, in order that we may understand what we now are in Jesus Christ.
The answers to three questions will help us see the need for the Spirit’s work in salvation. In this article, we will think about the first question. Let us begin with, “What is the difference between religious ritual and spiritual reality?”
Consider the context of verse three. From 7:1 through 16:4, the apostle Paul is answering a number of questions that the Corinthian church had asked him, questions about marriage, Christian liberty, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the body, and collections for God’s people in need. The Corinthians were very excited about the subject of spiritual gifts, but they were also very confused, which is clear from the length of this section (chapters 12-14)! From my experience, it is hard to tell what subject will get professing Christians revved up the most. Is it prophecy, predestination or spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues?
Highlighting the Corinthian problem:
- They had a problem regarding a proper focus on Christ. This contributed to their fascination with things like spiritual gifts rather than Christ.
- They had a problem with realizing and appreciating their unity in Christ. They pursued the individual rather than the community.
- The Corinthians had a problem about spiritual discernment. They had trouble with testing every teaching or statement by the Scriptures, assuming that if someone manifested some kind of spiritual experience that it must have come form the Spirit of God. That is the reason for Paul’s statement in 12:3.
The Corinthian believers needed to learn that error is to be rejected, regardless of how spiritual it might seem. This is the issue of show versus substance. Also, truth only comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in a human heart. When the Spirit is at work, he glorifies Christ and produces the confession that Jesus is Lord (cf. Romans 10:9-10). Christ is both God and Ruler of the person who truly makes this confession. This is where spiritual reality is, not in loudness about personal experiences of spiritual gifts. The Spirit produces passion to follow Christ, not to glory in spiritual gifts that one claims to possess.
The Corinthians sound a lot like contemporary Christians, but that is not how we should be! A proper grasp of the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation will help us toward spiritual maturity.
Grace and peace, David