1 Corinthians 12:1-3
Paul was Saul, the persecutor. As Saul the crusader, he stood tall while those who had hurled stones at Stephen laid their clothes at his feet. He petitioned the high priests for permission to raid prayer gatherings. He imprisoned those who followed The Way—as in Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).
Yet, here is the same man, the converted Paul, saying that God’s Spirit is manifest only in confessing Jesus, not cursing him. This seems obvious to twenty-first-century Christians who have only known Jesus as the bedrock of our faith. We don’t know Jesus as the radical rabbi whose death rent the curtain of the holy of holies in two.
Allegiance to Jesus as Yahweh is not obvious, then or now. It is not inevitable that a Gentile, much less a Jewish person, would conclude that an itinerant revival preacher nailed to a sinner’s cross was the Messiah. They found plenty of reasons to curse an upstart prophet who spoke of revolution, then chose to suffer and die rather than flex. For those abused under Roman rule, a disruptor of daily religious life and a Savior for the afterlife seemed to be hardly any comfort at all.
To answer the Corinthians’ questions about the Holy Spirit, Paul reminds them that their history is as checkered as his own. They’d been led astray by mute idols; they’d grown up involved in a city renowned for its twelve temples. Now they are being led by a talking God who animates their lives like wind in trees.
Saul cursed Jesus with as much conviction as Paul confessed Jesus. I bet he credited God’s Spirit in both seasons of his life. If I were a first-century Corinthian, I might prefer a mute idol to a preacher talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Do you know the Jesus others would curse? How does their view change your confession?
God, prevent us from being so sure that your Spirit is in our corner. Give us a view of Jesus that changes everything. Amen.