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 article is # 2 in a series on the Trinity)
No small thing happens when we confess, “Jesus is Lord.” First we must realize that to speak this confession, a powerful miracle must occur. We are unable to make this confession because we are spiritually dead; a dead person can do nothing. We who are dead in trespasses and sins must be brought to life. This is accomplished uniquely by the “Lord and giver of life” (the Holy Spirit).
Sunday’s Epistle informs us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. In the same sentence Paul also wrote that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” Several theologians have noted that a good way to grasp the little Greek word for “in” is to translate it as “in connection with”. Thus Paul is not describing some sort of spiritual ecstasy when he says in the Holy Spirit or in the Spirit, but he is explaining that only if we are connected with the Holy Spirit (in connection with the Spirit) can we properly speak of Jesus. Out of the mouth proceeds that which is in the heart, and the Spirit must be connected to our hearts to enable confession that Jesus is Lord. Saint Paul explains this confession of Jesus in writing to the Romans: …because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved [10:9,10]. Our text informs us that only in connection with the Spirit can we confess Jesus is Lord.
Scripture informs us that the Holy Spirit has one “vehicle”: The Word of God. He only comes to us through the Word. Thus when God’s Word spoke the world into existence, simultaneously the Spirit of God was brooding over the face of the waters. The angel Gabriel must speak to the Virgin Mary so that—as Luther would remark—the baby is conceived in her womb by the Spirit through her ears. So too if we are to receive new life to be able to confess Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit must come to us through the Word. When Mary came with Jesus in utero and spoke to Elizabeth, John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb leapt with the joy of faith; God’s Word and thus the Spirit of God had come to him. As Baptism is the washing of water with the Word, appropriately the Holy Spirit comes—yes even to infants—and our hearts are made new so we too can confess Jesus is Lord.
In a single brief phrase, the Apostle Paul presents to us the Holy Trinity: no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in [connection with] the Holy Spirit. Recall that in the preceding phrase the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of God. God is here a reference to God the Father; the Holy Spirit is of God the Father. The preposition “of” can be understood several ways, and a good way to understand it in this case is “who comes from”. For example when we hear Jesus called Jesus of Nazareth, we realize this is Jesus who comes from Nazareth. Appropriately we confess in the Nicene Creed that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is the Spirit of God for He comes (proceeds) from the Father and the Son.
As we are connected to the Holy Spirit we are enabled to confess that Jesus is Lord. In Philippians 2 Saint Paul uses the same terminology: …every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father [10,11]. As Paul is here referencing Isaiah 45:22,23, it is clear that he is setting forth the confession that Jesus is the Lord God! God said in these verses of Isaiah, Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Why is this so important? Because the man who died in our place can only be the Savior if He is God. The logic of man and the religions of the world vehemently cry out against this confession that Jesus is Lord (God). Yet this is precisely the miracle of our great confession. Praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the man who died and rose for us is God in the flesh; Jesus is Lord!