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1 Corinthians 12:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

No man speaking by the Spirit of God - It was granted on all hands that there could be no religion without Divine inspiration, because God alone, could make his will known to men: hence heathenism pretended to this inspiration; Judaism had it in the law and the prophets; and it was the very essence of the Christian religion. The heathen priests and priestesses pretended to receive, by inspiration from their god, the answers which they gave to their votaries. And as far as the people believed their pretensions, so far they were led by their teaching.

Both Judaism and heathenism were full of expectations of a future teacher and deliverer; and to this person, especially among the Jews, the Spirit in all the prophets gave witness. This was the Anointed One, the Messiah who was manifested in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; and him the Jews rejected, though he proved his Divine mission both by his doctrines and his miracles. But as he did not come as they fancied he would - as a mighty secular conqueror, they not only rejected but blasphemed him; and persons among them professing to be spiritual men, and under the influence of the Spirit of God, did so. But as the Holy Spirit, through all the law and the prophets gave Testimony to the Messiah, and as Jesus proved himself to be the Christ both by his miracles and doctrines, no man under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit could say to him anathema - thou art a deceiver, and a person worthy of death, etc., as the Jews did: therefore the Jews were no longer under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. This appears to be the meaning of the apostle in this place. No man speaking by the Spirit, etc.

And that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord - Nor can we demonstrate this person to be the Messiah and the Savior of men, but by the Holy Ghost, enabling us to speak with divers tongues, to work miracles; he attesting the truth of our doctrines to them that hear, by enlightening their minds, changing their hearts, and filling them with the peace and love of God.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore I give you to understand - I make known to you. The force of this expression is, “I give you this rule to distinguish,” or by which you may know what influences and operations are from God. The design of the passage is, to give them some simple general guide by which they could at once recognize the operations of the Spirit of God, and determine whether they who claimed to be under that operation were really so. That rule was, that all who were truly influenced by the Holy Spirit would be disposed to acknowledge and to know Jesus Christ; and where this disposition existed, it was of itself a clear demonstration that it was the operation of the Spirit of God. The same rule substantially is given by John 1 John 4:2, by which to test the nature of the spirit by which people profess to be influenced. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God,” compare also the note to Matthew 16:17.

That no man - No one οἰδεὶς oideisIt may refer to a man, or to demons, or to those who pretended to be under inspiration of any kind. And it may refer to the Jews who may have pretended to be under the influence of God‘s Spirit. and who yet anathematized and cursed the name of Jesus. Or it may be intended simply as a general rule; meaning that “if anyone,” whoever he might be, should blaspheme the name of Jesus, whatever were his pretensions, whether professing to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit among the Jews, or to be inspired among the Gentiles, it was full proof that he was an impostor. The argument is, that the Holy Spirit in all instances would do honor to Jesus Christ, and would prompt all who were under his influence to love and reverence his name.

Speaking by the Spirit of God - Under the influence of inspiration.

Calleth - Says, or would say; that is, no such one would use the language of anathema in regard to him.

Accursed - Margin, “Anathema” ( ἀνάθημα anathēma); see the Acts 23:14 note; Romans 9:3 note; compare 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9. The word is one of execration, or cursing; and means, that no one under the influence of the Holy Spirit could curse the name of Jesus, or denounce him as execrable and as an impostor. The effect of the influences of the Spirit would be in all instances to inspire reverence for his name and work. It is probable that the Jews were here principally intended, since there is a bitterness and severity in the language which accords with all their expressions of feeling toward Jesus of Nazareth. It is possible, also, and indeed probable, that the priests and priestesses of the pagan gods who pretended to be under the influence of inspiration might denounce the name of Jesus, because they would all be opposed to the purity of his religion.

And that no man can say … - That is, that it cannot occur, or even happen, that anyone will acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah who is not influenced by the Holy Spirit. The meaning is, not that no one has physical ability to say that Jesus is Lord unless aided by the Holy Spirit, since all people can say this; but that no one will be disposed heartily to say it; no one will acknowledge him as their Lord; it can never happen that anyone will confess him as the true Messiah who has not been brought to this state by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Is the Lord - Is the Messiah; or shall acknowledge him as their Lord.

But by the Holy Ghost - Unless he is influenced by the Holy Spirit. This is a very important verse, not only in regard to the particular subject under consideration in the time of Paul, but also in its practical bearing at present. We may learn from it:

(1) That it is a proof that any man is under the influence of the Holy Spirit who is heartily disposed to honor the name and work of Jesus Christ.

(2) those forms and modes of religion; those religious opinions and practices, will be most in accordance with the designs of the Spirit of God, which do most to honor the name and work of Jesus Christ.

(3) it is true that no man will ever cherish a proper regard for Jesus Christ, nor love his name and work, unless he is influenced by the Holy Spirit. No man loves the name and work of the Redeemer by following simply the inclinations of his own corrupt heart. In all instances of those who have been brought to a willingness to honor him, it has been by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

(4) if any man, in any way, is disposed to disparage the work of Christ, to speak lightly of his person or his name; or holds doctrines that infringe on the fulness of the truth respecting his divine nature, his purity, his atonement, it is proof that he is not under the influence of the Spirit of God. Just in proportion as he shall disparage that work or name, just in that proportion does he give evidence that he is not influenced by the Divine Spirit; but by proud reason, or by imagination, or by a heart that is not reconciled to God.

(5) all true religion is the production of the Holy Spirit. For religion consists essentially in a willingness to honor, and love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ; and where that exists, it is produced by the Holy Spirit.

(6) the influence of the Holy Spirit should be cherished. To grieve away that Spirit is to drive all proper knowledge of the Redeemer from the soul; to do this is to leave the heart to coldness, and darkness, and barrenness, and spiritual death.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Spiritual gifts were extraordinary powers bestowed in the first ages, to convince unbelievers, and to spread the gospel. Gifts and graces greatly differ. Both were freely given of God. But where grace is given, it is for the salvation of those who have it. Gifts are for the advantage and salvation of others; and there may be great gifts where there is no grace. The extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were chiefly exercised in the public assemblies, where the Corinthians seem to have made displays of them, wanting in the spirit of piety, and of Christian love. While heathens, they had not been influenced by the Spirit of Christ. No man can call Christ Lord, with believing dependence upon him, unless that faith is wrought by the Holy Ghost. No man could believe with his heart, or prove by a miracle, that Jesus was Christ, unless by the Holy Ghost. There are various gifts, and various offices to perform, but all proceed from one God, one Lord, one Spirit; that is, from the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the origin of all spiritual blessings. No man has them merely for himself. The more he profits others, the more will they turn to his own account. The gifts mentioned appear to mean exact understanding, and uttering the doctrines of the Christian religion; the knowledge of mysteries, and skill to give advice and counsel. Also the gift of healing the sick, the working of miracles, and to explain Scripture by a peculiar gift of the Spirit, and ability to speak and interpret languages. If we have any knowledge of the truth, or any power to make it known, we must give all the glory of God. The greater the gifts are, the more the possessor is exposed to temptations, and the larger is the measure of grace needed to keep him humble and spiritual; and he will meet with more painful experiences and humbling dispensations. We have little cause to glory in any gifts bestowed on us, or to despise those who have them not.
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 25.1

But God has set in the church different gifts. These are all precious in their place, and all are to act a part in the perfecting of the saints. 3SM 25.1

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Faith I Live By, 292.1

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.... The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7. FLB 292.1

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1090
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