Only By the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians

Only By the Holy Spirit

November 20th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM

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 Ghost.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 12:3

11-20-55     7:30 p.m.



Well, at least we have come to a place in the Bible which is one of the high, high, high peaks of all inspired writing.  We’re in the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter; and when Paul begins, "Now concerning spiritual gifts" [1 Corinthians 12:1], the twelfth, the thirteenth, and the fourteenth chapters will be concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the fifteenth chapter will be the climactic chapter of the resurrection of the dead.  And whether I can make it mean thus to anybody else or not, I can tell you truly that as I look forward and am preparing these messages, they are so full and meaningful to my own soul. 

Now the sermon tonight is kind of an introductory sermon because what Paul says here is an introductory word concerning the gifts – the miraculous gifts – of the Holy Spirit.  And next Sunday morning at ten-fifty o’clock and next Sunday evening at seven-thirty o’clock the messages will concern this twelfth chapter and this thing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Now his introductory word is this in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians:  


Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would want you to know: 

Ye were Gentiles, carried away to dumb idols . . .  

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. 

[1 Corinthians 12:1-3]


Then he begins his discussion there of the diversities of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 


Now, the message tonight is his introductory sentence: "Wherefore I want you to know, first of all, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God saith Iēsous anathema, and that no man can say Iēsous kurios but by the Holy Spirit" [1 Corinthians 12:3].  And in the Greek, those two words are very much antithetical:  Iēsous anathema, "Jesus accursed," Iēsous kurios, "Jesus is Lord."  And Paul says here, "No man can say Iēsous kurios but by the Holy Spirit" [1 Corinthians 12:3]. 

Now, what he means is this as he starts off this chapter concerning the gifts of the Spirit.  What he says is this: that the key token – the philosopher’s stone, the criterion by which you can judge a man’s witness in God when he says he’s speaking the utterances of the Spirit of the Lord, the key token is this – the man that is speaking by the power of the Spirit of God will always acknowledge and exalt the lordship of Jesus Christ.  If he is an instrument for the utterance of the Spirit of God that will always be central in his message. Is he exalting Christ? 

Now, you can use that today before I go on with this message.  When the choir sings, do they exalt Christ in that song?  Do they?  When a man preaches, does he exalt Christ in his sermon?  In the ministry of a church, is it turned toward that great and holy purpose of lifting up the Lord Jesus?  In all of our work and life, in our deeds and in our testimony, do we say, "Jesus is Lord; He is King; He’s Christ"?  Now, Paul says, that’s the key by which you can judge the utterances of these who say they are speaking by the Spirit of God. 

Now, the great theme of the Bible is that – that Jesus is Lord.  Kurios Iēsous, Jesus is Lord; Kurious Iēsous, Jesus is Lord.  He’s the Lord of all heaven and earth. Matthew 28:18:  "All authority is given unto Me," He said, "in [heaven] and in earth."  He is the Lord of all creation.  John 1:3:  "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made." He is the Lord of all the peoples of all time.  Philippians 2:9-11:  


Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, 

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven, those in earth, those under the earth, 

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 


And He is the Lord of the living and of the dead. Romans 14:8-9:   


Therefore whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 

For to this end did Christ die and was he raised again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 


He is the Lord.  He’s the Lord of – He’s triumphant over Satan, and He’s the Lord of the living and of the dead.  He’s the Lord of heaven and of hell.  He’s the Lord of this and that – of this world and the world to come.  In Revelation 1:18:  "I am He that was dead, and behold I am alive, and I live for evermore.  And I have the keys of death and of hell." 

And He is the Lord of the church.  Colossians 1:18:  "He is the head of the body, which is the church . . . that in all things He might have the preeminence."  Paul says that the key to the utterance of the Spirit is this: that it always exalts the Lord Jesus Christ that He is Lord. 

Now in the text: "I want you to know," he says, "that no man speaking by the Spirit saith Iēsous anathema, and that no man can say Iēsous kurios but by the Holy Ghost" [1 Corinthians 12:3].  Now, I can see that in days of terrible persecution, no one could magnify Jesus Christ as Lord but by the Holy Ghost, but by the power of God.  I can see that in days of bitter persecution. 

Just, for example, way back yonder in the life of the primitive church when it was just being launched into this world – way back yonder – there was a poor, simple, humble girl who was brought before the elders of the synagogue.  And she stands there, and witnesses around denounce her as being suspected of being a follower of the Nazarene.  And so that poor, humble girl stands there in the presence of the rulers of the synagogue, and their test is very short and very simple.  They look at her and they say, "You say, ‘Jesus is Absalom;’ you say, ‘Jesus is anathema;’ you say, ‘Jesus is accursed.’"  Then they wait for her reply. 

The poor girl quails before their dark, threatening gestures.  To say "Jesus, Lord," means to be stoned to death.  Somehow courage comes to her soul.  Her lips blanch, but they don’t frame those accursed words.  And she breaks the silence with a devout and holy cry: "Iēsous, Iēsous, Iēsous kurios." "Jesus is Lord" by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And she’s taken out and stoned to death. 

In the days of the promulgation of the church in the Roman Empire, soon the thing was changed to "Kurios Iēsous or kurios Kaisar?"  Will you say "Caesar is Lord" because emperor worship became universal and his images were in every temple and everywhere?  And it was a sign of patriotism and of devotion to the gods to bow down and worship at the shrine of the holy emperor.  So they made the test: "Kurios Kaisar or kurios Iēsous?"  And Paul says, "You can’t say kurios Iēsous but by the power of the Holy Spirit" [1 Corinthians 12:3].  

Polycarp was the old, aged pastor of the church at Smyrna, and they hailed him before the Roman authorities and gave him the choice: "Do you say kurios Iēsous or do you say kurios Kaisar?"  And Polycarp replied, "Eighty and seven years have I served Him.  Eighty and seven years.  Eighty and seven years have I served Him, and shall I deny Him now, He who hath done me no wrong?"  And they fed Polycarp to the lions. 


I saw the martyr at the stake, 

The flames could not his courage shake, 

Nor death his soul appall; 

I asked him whence his strength was giv’n; 

He looked triumphantly to Heav’n, 

And answered, "Christ is all." 

[from "Christ is All," by W. A. Williams, 1873] 


Kurios Iēsous: Jesus is Lord.

In our own lifetime, Martin Niemöller stood before the judges that were appointed by the Nazi Führer, Hitler himself, and he was tried there by a Nazi-appointed court.  And when they had him stand up to deny his allegiance to Christ, he ended that noble defense with this sentence: "Jesus is my Führer" – "Jesus is my leader."  And they sent him for the years to the concentration camp. 

Here in our own blessed church, there came Henry Lin to visit us, the president of our Baptist college in Shanghai.  Henry Lin: a magnificent-looking Chinese man, wealthy, in the Chinese Nationalist government, and when the Communists took it over, he went back home.  Against the entreaties of his friends everywhere, he went back home saying, "I must stand by my people, by my Christian friends.  I’m going back."  And he went back; and for these years, he’s been languishing in a Communist dungeon and is there tonight if he’s still alive. 

Paul says the only way that kind of a life can be lived is by the power of the Holy Spirit.  "No man can say Iēsous kurios but by the Holy Ghost" [1 Corinthians 12:3]. 

Now, may I speak of us who live in this city and who belong to this church and who walk in these streets?  Isn’t that a strange thing for Paul to write that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost?  Why, there are a thousand on every side that flippantly say those words.  They don’t mean them.  Faith to them is a casual function of life just to be slipped in anywhere.  They trippingly, lightsomely, almost mockingly, repeat it. 

But Paul says you can’t say it except by the power of the Holy Ghost, and evidently, he means something else.  Evidently, Paul is not talking about a glib, meaningless series of words and sentences.  Evidently, the Apostle is talking about a deep, fundamental faith that goes down into the experience of the soul and changes the course of the life.  Evidently he’s talking about the same thing that he meant when Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, Simon, flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 16:17]. 

This thing, this faith that Paul is talking about – "No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" [1 Corinthians 12:3] – evidently, that’s something that enters a man’s soul and goes way down into the experience of his life.  This is a faith that changes. 

Now, may I delineate that faith in just a moment?  What is that faith that Paul is speaking of here when he says, "You can’t say that Jesus is my Lord but by the power and unction of the Holy Ghost?" [1 Corinthians 12:3]  What kind of a faith is it? 

All right.  If I could delineate, this is it.  It’s the ability of a man, given him of God, to see the invisible back of the visible, to see the idea back of the tangible thing itself.  Here are bricks and mortar and stone and rock and house and matter and earth, and I can see that.  But God gives a man also the ability to see that beyond this visible and beyond this tangible are great spiritual realities, and, finally, those spiritual realities reach up and up until finally they are identified with God.  And that’s the first step in it. 

Now the second step is this:  when we are able, by the power of God, to realize that beyond this visible world there is an invisible reality – there is a power, there is a principality, there is a creative workmanship back of all that I see in this world.  Now the second step is when we come to identify that invisible power with the person of Jesus Christ. 

Do you notice the word that he uses here? "And that no man can say that Christ is the Lord?"  No, that’s an office – Christ. That "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord" [1 Corinthians 12:3].  That’s the historical person of the Nazarene [Matthew 2:23]: born of a virgin [Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7], raised in Nazareth [Luke 2:39-40, 2:51-52, 4:16], went about doing good [Matthew 9:35; John 20:30-31; Acts 10:38], preaching the gospel [Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14-15], was crucified under Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:16-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:20-25; John 19:12-16], was buried [1 Corinthians 15:3], and the third day, He rose again from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:4]. That’s the historical Jesus. 

By the ableness of the Spirit of God we identify the great invisible back of this visible world.  We identify it with the historical person of Jesus: "By Him were all things made that are made, and without Him was not anything made that was made" [John 1:3].  We identify the great God back of this world and back of us in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the historical Jesus. 

Then the third part of that faith is the last step of it.  In a world so big and so complex, and in a destiny so uncertain and so long and so far and so eternal, we sense our own inadequacy.  We look upon our own insufficiency, and with a yieldedness and a longing for spiritual contact with the great Maker who loved us and gave Himself for us, we bow humbly in His presence.  With a sense of need in our souls, of lack in ourselves, of inadequacy and insufficiency, we bow down and say, "Lord Jesus, I’m coming to Thee with my case, my life, my soul, my death, my destiny, my forever, Lord.  I’m not able myself. I bring it to Thee" [Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 5:1-11, 23:32-43].  That’s what it means when he says to say Jesus is Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:3]. 

Now, may I speak for just a moment of that thing "by the power of the Holy Ghost"?  Paul says you can’t have that faith by yourself.  It has to come from God [Romans 10:17, 12:3].  You cannot achieve it yourself.  You can read and read and read, but you never read that.  You can grasp and grasp and grasp, but you never grasp that.  You can study and study and think and think, but that thing is not done by the ingeniousness of a man, by the ingenuity of a man’s mind.  He cannot arrive at those great spiritual intuitions by himself.  They must come from God.  They are the gift of God. 

No man can have that faith.  No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost [1 Corinthians 12:3].  It takes two to do it: you and God.  You can’t do it yourself.  Without God, you’re nothing; you’re helpless [John 15:5].  Without the power to run a machine, the machine doesn’t run.  It’s got to have the electricity and the dynamo of the gasoline in the motor or the power in the jet, and without the power, the engine doesn’t work.  The chisel cannot carve a statue without God’s hand, without the artist’s hand.  There has to be a hand that guides a chisel. 

Even Christ Himself was not the whole Christ.  He was not the whole life without God in Him.  He could do nothing of Himself He said [John 5:19, 30].  He was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  So with us.  We are cripples.  We have a half-life – just a piece of a life – until God comes in us.  We’re not ourselves truly.  We do not reach our highest destiny in ourselves and by ourselves, but we reach our highest destiny by the indwelling power and Spirit of the living God.  But when a man takes God with him – when he opens his heart to God – he becomes a full man.  He becomes a complete man [Colossians 2:9-10].  By the power of the Holy Ghost does he say that "Jesus is Lord" [1 Corinthians 12:3] and there floods upon him all of those rich benedictions that come from the gracious and merciful hands of "our Father who are in heaven" [Matthew 6:9].  

Here is a man who is accused by Satan [Job 1:9-11, 2:3-5; Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:10], but he says, "Jesus is my Lord," and he’s forgiven [Romans 10:9-10]. 

Here is a man who is sorely tried, but he cries, "Jesus, Jesus, Lord," and he has great, great bravery and great courage [Acts 7:1-60]. 

Here is a man that faces duty, and he cries, "Jesus is Lord," and he’s firm and determinate in his avowal [Romans 1:14-15; Acts 20:22-24, 21:10-14]. 

Here is a man who has been called upon for great sufferings, but he says, "Jesus, Jesus.  Lord, Lord," and he has patience in his suffering [2 Corinthians 1:3-11, 12:7-9]. 

Here is a man who lacks, he lacks direction.  He’s bewildered, and he cries, saying, "Jesus, Jesus, Lord," and he has life and direction for the way [James 1:5-8]. 

We are complete in Him, and without Him, we’re cripples.  We’re just half men.  We’re just half souls.  We never come to our destiny apart from God [Colossians 1:16-17; Revelation 4:11].  Then somebody says, "Ah, Pastor, that I might have that faith, that I might have that gift, that I might have that way from God.  Oh, that I could, that I could say that Jesus is Lord by the power of the Holy Ghost.  How do I do it?  Do I buy it?  Do I buy it? " 

No, you don’t buy it because it’s free.  You don’t buy things that are given to you.  It is free.  It is the free gift of God [Romans 6:23, 8:32; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:17].  All of God’s real gifts are the most possibly universal [Matthew 5:45].  God doesn’t charge us for these things that are the finest things in life.  A beautiful, lavish summer day: He gives it to the poorest comer.  A sweet, perfect day in June – it’s had by anybody [Acts 14:17].  It’s just ours.  The beautiful sunset: God does that for nothing [Psalm 74:16].  The glorious stars that shine – He puts them in the sky without price [Genesis 1:16-18; Isaiah 40:26].  The rainbow overarching and the beautiful clouds and the showers that fall [Genesis 9:8-17]: God sends them for nothing.  They’re the gift of God.  All of these marvelous things that enrich and bless and sustain our lives, God gives them to us [1 Timothy 4:1-5; James 1:17].  And, most of all, our salvation: "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" [Ephesians 2:8].  Not that a man could work for it, lest he say: "See what I did?  See what I bought?  I achieved this."  No.  God gave it to you [Ephesians 2:9].  It’s the gift of God.

How does a man say "Jesus is Lord?"  By the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:3].  And how by Him?  Because God gives Him to us without measure [John 3:34; Ephesians 1:13].  He is ours for the asking – this fullness, this overabundant, abounding life that we have in the name and in the power of the lordship of Jesus [John 10:10, 15:1-11].  That’s His message. 

And that’s our appeal to your heart tonight.  Is there in your heart, is there in your soul, a seeking after God?  "Preacher, I believe.  I believe that back of the thing that I see is the great invisible.  I believe that.  There’s more to it than just what my hands can handle.  I believe that back of it are those great invisibles, and, Preacher, I believe that that invisible that lies back of all that I see, I believe it’s God.  And by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, I am ready and willing tonight to acknowledge that God in Jesus Christ of Nazareth who died for our sins, according to the Word [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], was buried and rose again, and is at the right hand of God according to the Scriptures [Colossians 3:1].  And in my heart and in my soul, not finding an adequacy and a sufficiency in myself, I am bringing myself in faith to Jesus.  I believe He can heal.  I believe He can give strength.  I believe He will guide, and I’ll take Him tonight as my Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is the gift of God." 

Would you do that tonight?  Into that aisle and down here to the front and by my side, "Here I am, Pastor.  Tonight, this night, I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and I’ll do it now.  I’ll make it now." 

And others: "Pastor, we’re coming into the church to work with you, to pray with you, to attend these services, to lift up your hands.  We’re asking God to bless our lives in this city, in the heart of it, in this downtown church.  Here’s my family," or, "Here’s just – I’m coming."  As God shall say the word and make the appeal, as He lays it upon your heart, would you come?  Would you do it now while we stand and while we sing?