What is the context of 1 Corinthians 12:3?   If a Christian confesses Jesus is Lord before baptism, when we do not have the Holy Spirit yet, then there appears to be a contradiction here.  What are your thoughts? 1 Corinthians 12:3 NIV “Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”


The context of 1 Corinthians 12:3 is that Paul is dealing with the kinds of things that were happening in the worship service in Corinth. I assume that you are aware that for whatever reason, the Corinthian Christians were really focused on miraculous spiritual gifts, to the point that the worship service had gotten a bit out of control, and people were judging the spirituality of people by the possession of miraculous gifts, rather than true spirituality, which Paul says is measured by love, not by performance of miracles (1 Cor 13).

In 1 Cor 12:3 he is dealing specifically with some of the problems which had arisen in the worship services. Many were standing up, claiming to have an inspired word or a tongue. He is stating something rather obvious, which is that if someone says something, either in a “prophecy” or a tongue such as Jesus is cursed, then obviously, you can discount that this is from the Holy Spirit. But, if, in prophecy or in a tongue, they say that Jesus is Lord, then that is a sign that they speak by the Holy Spirit. I think it would be an overinterpretation to claim that simply saying Jesus is Lord guarantees, absolutely, 100% that the speaker is speaking for God, but he is instead making the distinction between those who say something we know is true, from those who say things we know are not true.

In the context, he is talking about people IN the church, not about how outsiders are saved or how they become part of the church (although he does address that question in 1 Cor 12:12-13). He is not saying that, literally, it is impossible to say the words “Jesus is Lord” before we are baptized. This would make no sense at all. He is talking about things said which are claimed by the speaker to be given by miraculous influence of the Holy Spirit, such as a tongue or a prophetic statement. So, this passage does not have application to how one is saved and what one must do before he or she is saved.

I hope this helps.


John Oakes

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