No One Can Call Jesus “Lord” Except by the Holy Spirit

1Co 12:3 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.

There was deception going on in Corinth. False teachers exhibiting counterfeit spiritual gifts and teaching a false gospel. (How much of the New Testament was written just to expose and refute false prophets!!). Paul, in warning the believers there, makes this statement: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in (or by) the Holy Spirit.”

What does that mean? Surely anyone can mouth the words, “Jesus is Lord,” right? Apparently there is more to this confessing Jesus as Lord than just saying words. You see it in Romans as well:

Rom 10:9-11 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. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (11) For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Making the genuine confession that Jesus is Lord is an indispensable element in real saving faith. Paul couples it with the parallel “and believe in your heart” as the link that joins us to Christ and His righteousness.

So when Paul says that this confession of Jesus as Lord can only be made in or by the Holy Spirit, he means that it is a confession that proceeds from a truly regenerate heart accompanied by (if not actually an expression of) the faith that justifies us before God. Such a confession then entails many things:

  • A confession that Jesus is Yahweh (Lord)
  • A confession that Jesus is my King
  • A confession that Jesus’ Word is truth
  • A confession of love for the Lord Jesus
  • A confession of obedience to the King

And you see, therefore, why such a confession is impossible except by the Holy Spirit in the person.

Paul’s point is that no matter how showy or genuine someone’s gifts appear to be, they are not spiritual gifts given by the Lord unless they are operative in a person who confesses Jesus as Lord. And it is a given then that anyone who curses Jesus is certainly not being directed by the Holy Spirit. We must not be deceived.

It is remarkable just how far a person can go in their claim to belong to Christ and yet be a counterfeit. Listen to Paul once more:

1Co 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

See it? A person can appear to be remarkably gifted in the things of Christ. They can preach like an angel. They can show insight into God’s Word that is amazing. They can pray powerfully. They can even make huge sacrifices – to the point of martyrdom!

And yet…

What you will never find in the counterfeit is love. The genuine, real, love of Christ. Self love, yes. But not love for Christ nor love for His people. Their goal is self-promotion, power, control, and the lust to be worshiped-

Gal 4:17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.

You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16ff). Not so much by their words (though certainly we are to evaluate words as well), but by the produce that hangs on their branches. What you will never, ever find on such a tree is – love.

1Co 13:4-6 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.