(1 Corinthians 12:1-3)
Many years ago while my father was still alive he said to me that we need to take note of the “little” words in the Bible. It is often the small words that we can pass over at a glance that convey a depth of meaning we would miss otherwise.
I have repeated this same good advice to others on many occasions, and in this short section of scripture there is a case in point worth looking at to illustrate this point.
It is often in the small, insignificant words that we get the full and true meaning of the text. The particular verse in this section I am referring to is verse 3, which says,
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)
The In Word
Look at this verse carefully and in particular the use of the word “in.” In particular consider the use of the word “in” as it is being applied to the object of the verse, which is the Holy Spirit.
In both uses of the word with respect to the Holy Spirit, Paul speaks about being “in” the Holy Spirit. He does not say “by” the Holy Spirit or “through” the Holy Spirit, but “in” the Holy Spirit.
This struck me as an interesting use of this word and so I felt the need to review the word in the Greek from which it is translated.
The word that has been translated here is the Greek word “en” and it does literally translate as “in.” What is more interesting in the translation is that this word in Greek is a “primary preposition denoting position in place, time or state.”
So the word accurately describes the place, time or state of a person when they might be making the statements about Christ. To paraphrase this, a person cannot say Jesus is Lord unless they are in the place, time or state of being “in” the Holy Spirit, and likewise a person who is in that place, time or state can never say that Jesus is accursed.
This is important. When we consider the tests for the spirit of antichrist that may dwell within people, we know that the antichrist spirits cannot confess that Jesus came in the flesh. We are given this test in the first epistle of John.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. – (1 John 4:2-3)
So those who confess Jesus is Lord are “in” the Holy Spirit but those who do not are “in” the spirit of antichrist.
In The Holy Spirit
But what does it mean to be “in” the Holy Spirit? This is also important especially in relation to the next section which looks at the gifts of the spirit, because it is only those who are “in” the Holy Spirit who receive the gifts of God.
So how do we get “in” the Holy Spirit to be able to receive the spiritual gifts of God. Jesus gives us a clue when He spoke to Nicodemus in John chapter three.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – (John 3:5-8)
If we are to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus tells us we must be “born again.” The Greek words translated here are more accurately rendered as “born from above” that is, born of God. And as we see in this section, to be born again is to be born of water and born of the spirit.
But how are we born again or born from above of both water and spirit? These are not physical births, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, but rather are spiritual rebirths. They rest upon faith and they rest upon the grace of God. We are able to be reborn because God in His grace gave us the way to be reborn into His kingdom, which He achieved in Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ died and was resurrected so that we could live. We enter into His death and resurrection through water baptism where we die with Him as we go down into the baptismal waters and then are resurrected with Him as new creations “in” Christ Jesus. We have this “new creation” status through faith in the working of God as we take on the death and the resurrected life of Christ. This is the first step; to be born again of water.
But the second step Jesus explained to Nicodemus was the need to be born again of the Spirit. And it is in this step that we begin to see what it means to be FULLY “in” the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to His disciples while He was with them that the Holy Spirit was “with” them and that he would be “in” them.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – (John 14:15-17)
So when did the Holy Spirit go from being “with” them to being “in” the disciples?
This occurred on the day of Pentecost when we see the disciples first receive the Holy Spirit, who descended on the disciples in the form of flames and with the sound of rushing winds. What occurred next is that the disciples broke forth speaking in tongues. This was one of the signs of having received the Holy Spirit and it is important to note with respect to the words of Jesus to Nicodemus.
Note what Jesus said to Nicodemus regarding how you would know those who are “born again of the Spirit.” He said in John 3:8,
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Just as we know the wind is blowing even when we are inside by hearing the sound of the wind, so too you will know those who are born again of the Holy Spirit and thus are “in” the Spirit by hearing the “sound of the spirit.” The sound of the spirit was evident when the disciples first received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and again when the Gentiles first received the Holy Spirit in the house of Cornelius through Peter, and once again when the disciples at Ephesus received the Holy Spirit after the laying on of hands by Paul. Note both of these examples.
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. – (Acts 10:44-48)
1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. – (Acts 19:1-6)
When a person is “born again” of the Spirit you will hear the sound of the spirit, as Jesus declared. In each of these cases shown above, when these different groups of disciples received the Holy Spirit, they also spoke with new tongues, which was the auditory “sound of the spirit.”
And apart from everything else, it is evidence that the Holy Spirit was no longer “with” them, but now it was “in” them, and by extension they were now also “in” the Holy Spirit. Tongues are a sign of the spirit and those who are fully “in” the spirit have received the Holy Spirit just as all the disciples in the examples above had done, and spoken in tongues as proof.
And all of this hinges on that little word “in” that could be so easily overlooked. All of the rest of the gifts of the spirit can only be received by those who are likewise “in” the spirit and it would be useful to remember this as we move into the next sections.
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