Chapter 10: The Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians
by William M. Banks, Scotland
The subject of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians is confined to three main areas. These are firstly in chapter 2, then chapter 12 and finally in chapters 3 and 6 where both the assembly and the believer’s body are referred to as the temple of God and as the temple of the Holy Spirit respectively.
The subject of chapter 2 is the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel as contrasted with the wisdom of man. In chapter 12 the subject is that of spiritual gifts and their exercise in the local assembly and demonstrated in the picture of the body. It includes an important and indeed vital doctrinal reference to the baptism in the Spirit which must be understood if the excesses being seen in many charismatic circles are to be avoided. The references to the Holy Spirit in relation to the "temple" in both chapters 3 and 6, which together are taken as the third main reference in the book, emphasise unequivocally the necessity for purity and sanctity both collectively and individually.
The subject will be treated in these three main divisions and in the order found in the epistle.
Godet suggests that in the early chapters of the epistle to the Corinthians the apostle is at pains to emphasise the inconsistency of divisions with the gospel believed and preached (in chapters 1 and 2) and with the ministry we undertake in chapters 3 and 41.
The gospel is not a display of earthly or human wisdom as Paul indicates in 1.17: "For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." However, it very much has as its subject true wisdom, viz. the wisdom of God. "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of the world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God" 1Cor.2.6,7.
The subject is then expanded as follows:
The gospel is not related to human wisdom,
The gospel has its subject true wisdom viz. the wisdom of God:
The first reference to the Holy Spirit is in the section dealing with the methods adopted, 2.1-5, in the dissemination of the message. This section can be taken as one of the two main sections of the chapter:
Each of these is considered in turn.
The Gospel is not the Wisdom of Man – vv.1-5
In vv1-5 the gospel is seen not to be the wisdom of man in four aspects.
The Message which is Taught – vv.1-2
The author of the message is God Himself; it is "the testimony of (or from) God". It has as its subject "Jesus Christ and Him crucified". Thus we had no say in its origin and have no right to meddle with the subject. The crucifixion is of course the least attractive side to human wisdom. The message is simple and basic – we have no right to import our own thinking as to the material to include – the author of the message knows what is best!
The Man who Teaches – v.3
The man is consistent with the character of the message. He does not come with an air of assured success and bold confidence. The gravity of the message is clearly emphasised. He comes "in weakness and in fear and in much trembling". Perhaps if this was more evident in the preachers of today the results would be more in line with those of the apostle’s. Perhaps his experiences at Thessalonica and Berea, Acts 17.1-5, were still fresh in his mind but the necessity for seriousness in the preacher should not be missed.
The Methods which are Adopted – vv.1, 4
These are indicated both negatively and positively. He came not with "excellency of speech" i.e. using eloquence and polish to psychologically impress and seek a response. Not that the apostle was not capable of eloquence but he would not use it adversely to induce decisions. He came not with "wisdom" using philosophic depth and the science of learning to impress. He came not with "enticing words of man’s wisdom" v.4, using persuasion and pressure. There was no drama.
On the other hand there are four words which indicate the positive method which the apostle used. We would do well to avoid the negative and accentuate the positive. These words are "declaring" v.1, "speech" and "preaching" v.4, and "demonstration" v.5. The idea behind declaring is that of proclaiming publicly or announcing. It is a testimony rendered to a fact. The testimony was simple and straightforward – the declaration of the person of "Jesus Christ" v.2.
The second word is "speech". This is our well-known word "logos" and "signifies discourse, referring to the manner of his setting forth the gospel."2
The term "preaching" v.3, indicates the proclamation of the message. The two terms "speech" and "preaching" taken together indicate the "what" and the "how" of the message. In the one case what it contains, and in the other the method by which it is communicated. It is essential that the preacher of the gospel takes account of both. He must have content – including the doctrinal basis of his message and it must be communicated with earnestness and vigour and with an awareness of the importance of the Person Who is its subject. There must be no trickery with mere gratification of itching ear or satisfying curiosity. He will "speak as the oracles of God … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ" 1Pet. 4.10,11.
The final word brings us to the nub of our subject. It is to be "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" v.4. The word translated "demonstration" is used only here in the New Testament. It has the idea of making manifest, a proof, a showing forth. It is something that carries conviction by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The speaker is thus aware of a power behind the message.
"The question is raised as to whether the construction is subjective, signifying ‘the demonstration which comes of the Spirit and of power’, or objective, ‘the demonstration which manifests the work of the Spirit and power’. The former is almost certainly the meaning. In 1 Thess.1.5 the opposite order is used, where the apostle tells his readers that the gospel he, and his fellow missionaries preached came to them not "in word only", i.e. not merely as a statement of fact, "but also in power and in the Holy Ghost". There, as here, the definite article is absent in the original. But this does not justify the idea that the reference is to the human spirit. The absence of the article serves to stress the character of the power (i.e., the Holy Spirit’s power in operation). Cp. Rom.15.19."3
The Purpose to be Achieved – v.5
The apostle is desirous that those who exercise "faith" do so on a solid foundation – "not … in the wisdom of men but in the power of God". The former would be but transient and passing without real conviction – the latter would ensure a solid foundation that would stand firm in days of testing. The message, the man and the method adopted will all have a corresponding effect on the person who has exercised the faith. Clever arguments, excellent debating skills and human wisdom will never be a sure foundation for faith. It requires a demonstration of the Spirit of God if souls are to be on a sure foundation and established and made to "stand".
Present day preachers should take the above to heart and ensure that the message preached has a solid foundation so that souls are not drifting into a decision based on methods which have no foundation in the Word of God. "Hence the gospel is not a wisdom but a power … not a philosophy but a salvation."4
The Gospel is the Wisdom of God – vv.6-16
The apostle now turns his attention to true wisdom viz. the "wisdom of God". The paragraph is introduced with "howbeit". It is an adversative. There is something more to be said! He has indicated the paucity of human wisdom. He has demonstrated it from personal experience – "I … I … I … I" vv.1,2,3. Howbeit while the gospel is not a wisdom, it does contain wisdom; in fact it is "the wisdom of God" v.7.
He will demonstrate this, not now from personal experience only but by reference to his apostolic colleagues as well. "We speak wisdom"!
In this section the subject is introduced in the opening words of v.6: "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect", and thereafter the phrase is expanded to show what that wisdom is, to indicate its source and finally to indicate the conditions necessary in the communicatee to appreciate its true value.
The Definition and Nature of True Wisdom – vv.6-9
The apostle has indicated that the message can only really be appreciated by the "perfect". This word while indicating spiritual maturity perhaps means a little more in the context. The word was used in the New Testament times of those who were "initiated" into the mysteries. Since the apostle is going to refer to "a mystery" in v.7 it is likely that this idea was in his mind. Those who have exercised the true "faith" of v.5 are among those to whom the mysteries have been revealed. The apostle thus begins by indicating the recipients; the people to whom the true wisdom has been made known.
He then indicates its source both negatively and positively. It is not "the wisdom of this world [age], nor of the princes of this world." Their vaunted wisdom comes to "nought"! The source of true wisdom is God Himself. The nature of that wisdom is indicated as being a mystery – the usual word for mystery in the New Testament (musterion). This, of course, is not something mysterious or difficult to understand – it is simply a truth hitherto hid but now revealed … "kept secret since the world began, But now … made manifest" Rom.16.25-26. The ordaining (or predetermining) – the same word as "predestinate" of Rom.8.29,30 – took place before the ages, with a view to "our glory". This was the purpose of God in His wisdom – the salvation of those who exercise the "faith" of v.5 – even the bringing of them to glory.
The believer is more informed than the "princes of this world". Bruce5 defines them as "the rulers of this age" and says "Paul is thinking … of the power in the spiritual realm by which the human authorities were impelled on their chosen course. [Had they known the consequences] they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory thus ensuring their own doom. Compare Col.2.15 where the passion of Christ is portrayed as His victorious struggle against aggressive ‘principalities and powers’." There is an interesting contrast between "the princes of this world" and "the Lord of glory". The latter title indicates not only the supremacy but the deity of the Lord. However, the wonders of this coming glory are sublime and inaccessible to man (without the revelation of the Spirit of God) either using eye, ear or heart v.9.
The Revelation of the Truth through the Spirit – vv.10-13
This is where the activity of the Holy Spirit comes in. What a glorious "But"! What is hidden to the rulers of this age and those who follow them has been disclosed "unto us by His Spirit". There are thus two details in these verses: The Revelation of God – vv.10-11; The Reception by the initiated - vv.12-13.
The revelation has been made through His Spirit. The reason the Spirit can thus reveal them is because He searches "all things, yea, the deep things of God". The idea behind searching is that of detailed research (not to acquire knowledge – He knows, v.11) leading to a favourable conclusion in revelation. The future has been revealed to us by the penetrating power of the Spirit of God giving the light to those whom He indwells. He searches the "deep things of God": the counsels and purposes, wisdom and mysteries with a view to their communication in the inspired Scriptures.
In v.11 there is an interesting contrast between the "things of a man" and "the things of God" and between "the Spirit of man" and "the Spirit of God". The revelation of Divine truth can only be made by One Who discerns accurately the things of God.
The reception of truth is on the same basis as its revelation, namely by the operation of the Holy Spirit. There is a contrast in v.12 between "the spirit of the world" and "the Spirit which is of God". The latter has been given as a "gift" which we have received at conversion. Having received the gift of the Spirit we ought to "know the things that are freely given to us of God". We have been really blessed now and will be in an infinitely greater measure in the future. To ponder the realities should be part of our spiritual exercise.
The reception of v.12 leads to the teaching of v.13. There was no change as to the content, thus the inclusion of the word "also"; there was Divine power in the communication, "in the words … which the Holy Ghost teacheth"; there was an awareness that spiritual conditions were necessary both in the teacher and in the hearer, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual".
The Discernment Necessary to Appreciate Spiritual Truth – vv.14-16
The natural man i.e. the "soulish" man (the unregenerate man) finds the things of the Spirit of God foolish. He cannot receive them. He lacks the wherewithal to appreciate the spiritual – he cannot begin to know them – they are spiritually discerned.
On the other hand the spiritual man – the man dominated by and subject to the leading of the Spirit is able to discern them (the word "judgeth" in v.15 is the same as the word translated "discerned" in v.14). However, he himself is discerned by no-one i.e. by no-one who has not the Spirit of God and therefore in this context the natural man.
The chapter concludes by indicating that the mind of the Lord can only be known by the spiritually minded. So with the apostle who has the mind of the Spirit the natural man cannot begin to discern the true motives behind his activity and ministry.
Thus in this chapter there are several references to the activity of the Holy Spirit. These can be summarised as:
The first of these leads to power in the preaching of the gospel, the second leads to illumination in the prospect for the believer and the third leads to knowledge in the presentation of the inspired Word.
Twice in this epistle there is reference to the Holy Spirit in relation to the temple. In the first of these in 3.16 the apostle is addressing the assembly as a whole and indicating that collectively they are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in them. In 6.19 Paul is addressing them individually: "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
The Context of Chapter 3
In chapter 3 the apostle is addressing the subject of the sphere of Christian ministry. He is indicating that their contentious spirit (1.12; 3.4) is inconsistent with the ministry they undertake. To do this he is "showing the house to the house" Ezek.43.10, in a threefold metaphor. The first is that of a field or tillage. "Ye are God’s husbandry" v.9, requiring fruitfulness to God resulting in reward – "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" v.8b. Servants should not therefore be compared to each other since one servant will not receive a reward for the work of another and it is God alone who puts a value on the work v.9a.
The second metaphor is that of a building - "ye are God’s building" v.9b – requiring faithfulness to Christ emanating from an appreciation of individual responsibility – "let every man take heed how he buildeth". Those who lay the foundation only make a start to the work; others have to build the superstructure. Hence he emphasises; don’t give founding members the status of party leaders. Each must bear the responsibility for the furtherance of the work.
The final metaphor is that of the temple of God. Here fidelity to the Person of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling presence is emphasised with the corresponding requirement for reverence. The point at issue here is the possibility not now of building badly but of doing violence to what is already built. If a party spirit is permitted then the possibility of "the natural man" 2.14, intruding into the sphere of God’s assembly increases. There is then the possibility of God’s temple being defiled 3.17, cf. Ps.79.1. This defiling of course would be totally inconsistent with the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. It would be altogether at odds with the assertion of the apostle: "that ye are the [a] temple of God" or rather "God’s temple".
"The omission of the article imparts stress to the character of the local assembly as described by the metaphor. The word is naos, a sanctuary; in regard to the temple in Jerusalem it denoted the inner sanctuary, the holiest of all, in contrast to the entire edifice, the hieron (see 9.13), and corresponded to the inner part of the Tabernacle, where the ark with the mercy-seat was situated. In the figurative applications naos is always used, whether of the whole church, Eph. 2.21, or of a local church, as here, and 2 Cor.6.16, or of the believer’s body, see at 6.19; it is used throughout the Revelation.
The word might well have been rendered "sanctuary", as in the R.V. margin. An assembly, as thus depicted, is a company set apart to God, a place of worship, a community to be characterised by holiness and by the manifestation of His glory as seen in the life and testimony of those who constitute it, and by the beauty of the character of Christ. The divided state of the assembly at Corinth was the negation of all this."6
6 Vine, W. E. "The Collected writings of W. E. Vine Vol. 2", G.T.P., 1985.
The fact that the temple is holy is emphatically asserted in v.17 – "for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." The word for holy is hagios. This word "primarily signifies separated, and hence, in Scripture, in its moral and spiritual significance, it means separated from sin and consecrated to God. There is strong emphasis upon the pronoun "ye". The "which" is regarded by some as referring to "holy"; while this is possible the italicised addition "temple" seems to be right. Those who teach the Word of God should tremble lest even unintentionally they injure the structure they are seeking to erect."7
The Context of Chapter 6
There are two sections to chapter 6 – vv.1-11 and vv.12-20 - with a six fold appeal: "Know ye not" vv.2,3,9 in the first section and vv.15,16,19 in the second. The subject of the first section is that of the inconsistency and incongruity of the believer taking another believer to law. Do you not know that:
Are you: "Unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" v.2b. The stark realities are brought to bear with convincing power and legal argument!
The subject of the second section is that of the believer’s body and the requirement for sanctity in view of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The reference to the body occurs 8 times, twice in vv.13,18 and then in vv.15,16,19,20. "Do you not know", says the apostle with seeming incredulity:
The former two are outside our detailed scope but emphasise in the first case the intimate link between Christ the Head in heaven and the members of His Church. The link is mystical, indissoluble and eternal. The body is the vehicle through which service for Christ is undertaken. It would be wholly inappropriate to take ("take away" R.V.) the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot.
The second reference goes further – in stark contrast to the "one flesh" relationship of marriage which implies an emotional as well as physical union and the "one spirit" relationship with the Lord, joining to a harlot is a "one body" relationship rising no higher than gratification of base lust which is altogether a distortion of the Divine ideal and a negation of all that is spiritual.8
8 Banks, W. M. and Wilson, T. Eds. "What God hath Joined", Chapter 5, G.T.P., 2005.
The final appeal which Paul makes in this connection in v.19 is indicating the dignity and sanctity of the believer’s body – "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost". The word for temple is again naos as used in chapter 3 indicating a sanctuary or shrine. The idea of worship and honour are thus linked not only with the local assembly but with the believer’s body. The apostle adds three additional factors.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit – "which is in you"
This is an indication of what happened at the believer’s conversion but which remains an abiding fact, Rom.8.9. In Eph.1.13 the apostle states: "in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." The idea is that "upon believing" this sealing took place and the Holy Sprit thereafter indwells the believer.
The Gift of the Spirit – "which ye have of God"
This indicates that the reception of the Spirit by the believer is the direct result of Divine impartation. God gives the gift of the Spirit.
The Responsibility Resulting from the Gift – "ye are not your own"
There is a corresponding responsibility to behave in keeping with what has gone before. We belong to another and therefore have no right to behave as if we were our own, cf v.18. The net result is that the price paid, v.20, should result in recognition of the need to glorify God in the body which is God’s and is indwelt by the Spirit of God.
The last reference to the Holy Spirit is found in chapter 12 of our book. It is in the section dealing with "spirituals" 12.1, and in particular with spiritual gifts. It is in that general section of the epistle where Paul is dealing with the Corinthian correspondence – "whereof ye wrote unto me" 7.1. Here he is dealing with spirituals and their ministry – "Now concerning" 12.1. Compare in this connection other aspects of the correspondence, 7.1; 8.1 and 16.1.
The subject of spirituals is taken up in chapters 12 to 14 where the apostle considers in:
Chapter 12 can be looked at in three sections:
Only the first of these sections is considered here.
The Domain of Spiritual Gifts – vv.1-3
In this section the domain of the operation of the gift is seen to be "in the Spirit". The proposition "by" used twice in the A.V. in v.3 is the Greek "en". It includes the atmosphere in which the true Lordship of Christ is acknowledged. The work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ – "He shall glorify Me" Jn.16.14. All truth must be tested in its relation to the Person of Christ. He is the touchstone. The confession that Jesus is Lord is seen here as an exclamation based on a way of life and the result of a considered process. It confirms the affirmation made by Peter on the day of Pentecost: "that God hath made that same Jesus … both Lord and Christ" Acts 2.36. His title should be given to Him!
The Diversity of Spiritual Gifts – vv.4-6
The diversity of gifts in particular is given within a section dealing with the diversity of spiritual ministry in general. In these verses the Trinity is seen to be the true source of all spiritual exercise.
The Spirit of God is thus seen as the distributor of spiritual gifts. The threefold repetition of both "diversity" and "same" indicates the uniting of spiritual forces in diversity. This idea is expanded in the balance of the chapter from v.12.
The gifts are "gifts of grace" – an ability freely bestowed. It is not human ability but undoubtedly given consistent with it. The gifts are given by the Spirit to every believer. The purpose of the gifts which are thus freely communicated by God is for promoting the spiritual development and growth of the body of Christ. It is anticipated that they will be used, v.5, under the Lordship of Christ for the outworking of the Divine purpose, v.6. It is interesting that the reference to the "same Spirit" is repeated in vv.8,9 (twice) and 11.
The Design of Spiritual Gifts - v.7
There can be no doubt as to the overall purpose in the distribution of the gifts. The one aim and object is the profit of the whole company. There should be a manifestation of the indwelling and power of the Spirit. Gifts are not given for personal advancement or ostentation. It has been said that the common principle which produces them should lead to the common end which unites them, viz. the spiritual and mutual benefit of the company as a whole.
The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts – vv.8-11
There is emphasis on the fact that each one ("every man" v.11) receives a gift – "to one … to another". It is likely that the gifts are given at the moment the individual is saved. For the body to function properly each member must be making their proper contribution. It is thus incumbent on every believer to ascertain what their gift is and to use it for the glory of God and for the benefit of the body of Christ both locally and generally.
The nine gifts thus given are detailed in vv.8-10. They appear to be in three mini lists of two, five and two divided by the word "heteros" translated "another" and meaning "another of a different kind" as distinct from "allos" meaning "another of the same kind." Heteros appears as the first "another" of v.9 and as the fourth "another" of v.10.
This means that the list is divided as follows:
It is likely that all of the gifts mentioned here were temporary in nature, given before the completion of the canon of Scripture and used for an authenticating purpose in the early church.
The recipient had no part in determining the gift given; the selfsame Spirit divides "to every man severally as He wills" v.11.
The final reference to the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians is in this verse. It is of vital doctrinal importance and of course not unrelated to what has gone before. It establishes the sphere of operation of the gifts discussed in vv.1-11 and indicates the power with which they can be implemented for the benefit of the Church which is the Body of Christ as a whole and also in its expression locally.
There are seven references to the "Baptism in the Spirit" in the New Testament. There are five prophetic references in Matt.3.11; Mk.1.8; Lk.3.16; Jn.1.33 and Acts 1.5. There is one historical reference in Acts 11.16 and finally one doctrinal reference - here in 1 Cor.12.13.
There are four things which are true of every baptism:
The latter three are indicated in v.13. The persons to be baptised are "we all"; thus including Paul with the Corinthians. The element in which the baptism is to take place is ‘one Spirit’. The word "by" in v.13 is the Greek "en" meaning "in", and is uniformly used in all the references to the baptism in the Spirit in the New Testament. The purpose for which the baptism is to take place is given as "into one body". The purpose is thus the formation of a body. The reference is to "the formation of the Church as the body of Christ on the day of Pentecost"9 as detailed in Acts chapter 2. 1 Corinthians 12.13 is in fact in the past tense and should read: "for in one Spirit were we all baptised into one body" (see R.V.).
While "the baptiser" is not specifically mentioned in 1 Corinthians it is made abundantly clear in the historical references. For example John the Baptist, in Mk.1.8, referring to the "One mightier than I" says, "He shall baptise you with [in] the Holy Ghost".
Mr E. W. Rogers said that there are four things true of this baptism:
The baptism in the Spirit has resulted in the formation of the body of Christ. At conversion every believer comes into the value of what was formed at Pentecost and becomes a member of that body. There is no thought of a "second blessing" nor of a special seeking after this baptism – it is final and complete and involves our incorporation into a body indicating a position of blessing. The body is thus made – "one body" v.13, with no national distinction: "whether we be Jews or Gentiles" and no social distinction: "whether we be bond or free". Having "been all made to drink into one Spirit" every believer saturated with new forces can then go on to serve the body of which he is a member.
The balance of chapter 12 shows how this can be done both for the body as a whole and the local company in particular as the apostle emphasises in v.27, "ye are … body of Christ and members in particular".
The Holy Spirit has thus been seen in three relations in the first epistle to the Corinthians – the gospel, the temple, and the ministry. In each case the personal responsibility of the believer has been emphasised. The gospel should be preached in the demonstration of the power of the Spirit. The assembly and the believer’s body should exemplify the sanctity and dignity of being indwelled by the Spirit. Every believer should appreciate the need to exercise the Spirit-given gift, by the power of that same Spirit, in the Body of which he is a member and for the overall benefit and profit of the Lord’s people.