1st Corinthians - Wayne Barber/Part 75 | John Ankerberg Show

1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 75

By: Dr. Wayne Barber
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By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
So, spiritual immaturity is characterized, first of all, by spiritual ignorance of spiritual matters. I mean, you know maybe one area or two areas, but you cannot highlight one or the other, you’ve got to see the balance. And only God can give you that balance as you are surrendered to Him. And then, secondly, the influence of a pagan past.

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1 Corinthians 12:3

The Signs of Spiritual Immaturity–Part 2

Several years ago I was up in Montana fishing on the Bitter Root River. It is sort of a vision I have of what heaven is going to be like: beautiful mountains, the water was cold and clear. And if you have ever been in cold, clear, trout waters, you know that what looks like it may be a foot deep may be ten feet deep. It is just amazing how it can distort the view.

I had on a pair of waders that came up to my armpits. One of the things you learn when you are entering into the water—we were fly fishing—as you enter into the water, you move real slow. You don’t take big strides. The bottom is going down underneath you, and there are rocks everywhere. The current is strong and you know the water gets very deep. I was able to make it across the river, and we fished most of the afternoon. We caught several trout.

It began to get dark, and I knew that to get back to where we stayed, I had to cross the river. So I started working my way to get across. At first I was very careful, slow, a small step at a time. But then I got in a hurry and I took a big step. Bad move! The current is moving fast. My foot got up under a rock. I got my foot hung up under that rock, and the current was so strong, I couldn’t pull it out. And in doing so, I got turned around and I mean, I went right into the water, face first.

The water was down in my waders. Oh, it was cold coming off those mountains from the spring meltdown of the snow. My fishing companions had to grab me and literally get me up on the bank so that I wouldn’t be swept away or drown in that real deep water there that I was trying to cross.

I learned something. I learned to go slow when you are in deep waters. First Corinthians 12 is deep, fast moving water, if you haven’t realized it by now. We are going to go slowly, a step at a time. I know some of you are saying, I wish he would hurry up! How long is it going to take? I don’t know. But we are going to ease in. Someday said a long time ago, “Yard by yard, life is way too hard, but inch by inch, life is a cinch.” So we are going to go inch by inch as we go through this verse.

We are only looking at verse 3 and the characteristics of spiritual immaturity in the church of Corinth. Now, in 1 Corinthians, we have seen already that a person not surrendered to Christ, not willing to live up under the truth that has already been revealed to him, is called an immature believer. We don’t have to go back and do that again. That is chapter 3. It must be understood, this is the situation at the church of Corinth. You will never study a church in scripture that is more immature, upside down and distorted in their spiritual views as you will the church of Corinth.

Paul addresses their immaturity again in chapter 12. Of course, they didn’t have chapters and verses. Somebody added that in. So, in the course of his letter, he comes back now and revisits their immaturity and the signs of their immaturity. In verse 1 he shows that the characteristic of spiritual immaturity is an ignorance of spiritual things, spiritual matters. In verse 2 we have the second point, the influence of a pagan past.

You might say, “I don’t see how anybody could be lured into that.” Are you kidding me? Let’s put it in the 20th century for just a second. Have you watched television lately? How about the Psychic Hotline? Oh, you know one thing hits me when I see that commercial pop up. I think about how many Christians actually dial that number. I’ll tell you who they are. They are the immature ones who can’t hear from God in His Word and will not surrender to His Spirit. They have got to go someplace else to find their answers, and it is sweeping this country.

How many Christians pick up the paper and look at your horoscope? I was some place not long ago and a Christian walked up and said, “Do you know what? You are a Leo.” I thought, a Leo? What is a Leo? Somebody said that was a lion. I never thought about being a Leo. Do you think that hasn’t captured immature Christians in the country today? I guarantee you it has. People want fast answers. People want anything that pleases their flesh and they are moved towards that. That is what pulls people.

Paul is saying there was something about that idolatry, specifically in Corinth, that lured you passively. You didn’t even realize what was happening. You were being swept right into it. And, of course, the people who went would come away just as confused, but having felt like they had gotten in touch with a pagan god. Paul reminds them of this and says “the influence of your pagan past has crept right back into the church.”

Evidently some people were speaking in that same, unintelligible gibberish that had caused many of them to think that the Holy Spirit of God had actually influenced it. So, spiritual immaturity is characterized, first of all, by spiritual ignorance of spiritual matters. I mean, you know maybe one area or two areas, but you cannot highlight one or the other, you’ve got to see the balance. And only God can give you that balance as you are surrendered to Him. And then, secondly, the influence of a pagan past.

Inexcusable speaking

Now we are going to look at verse 3 where it talks about the third characteristic of spiritual immaturity, and that is inexcusable speaking. Ignorance of spiritual matters; influenced by a pagan past; and inexcusable speaking. Now, if you are interested in a person’s maturity level, you listen to them when they speak as if they are influenced by the Holy Spirit of God. It is amazing. It was amazing in Corinth the garbage that was being said and done in the name of God, the Holy Spirit. They were attaching the two together. We need to learn a lesson from them: that not only what we say but the way we say it has every bearing on our maturity in Christ as to whether we are surrendered to Him. It must be examined because there are guidelines that we must go by.

Now these guidelines hopefully will help you. They helped me as I was studying this. Let’s just wade in carefully. Verse 3 says, “Therefore, I make known to you.” “Therefore” connects it. Any time you see “therefore,” always look to see what it is there for. Verse 1 and 2 tell us what it is there for. “Therefore, I make known to you, that no one [now watch the words here] speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” You begin to see immediately the area that he is going to approach.

Paul changes the word for “know.” He says, “Therefore, I make known to you,” present tense. “I am doing it as I speak,” in other words. He changes the word “know” from verse 2. The word “know” in verse 2 is oidate. Everybody intuitively already knows. You don’t have to be taught the problems you had in your past. You know what your flesh is like and you know what dominates you, or at least tries to dominate you.

He changes the word from oidate to gnorizo. This word has a different understanding altogether. In verse 2 you already know it, why do I tell you. But in verse 3, I am going to have to tell you because you wouldn’t know it any other way. It is transmitted knowledge. It is to inform somebody. It is to put something on someone’s mind.

For ten years I sat under Dr. Spiros Zodhiates. I did his radio and television with him, seven hours a week for ten years. Talk about the patience of that man working with such a thick headed person as me. You talk about a man who is intense! But you talk about a man who had to be patient to put up with me as he taught me Greek. But I would have never known any of it had it not been taught to me. It had to be transmitted from him to me. You don’t know this stuff intuitively, you’ve got to put your head in the book and let God, the Holy Spirit, teach you and let others help you. This is what it was all about.

So Paul is saying, “Listen, you know something in verse 2, but evidently you don’t know something in verse 3. I am trying to tell you something concerning spiritual matters that you don’t know evidently, and therefore, I am going to have to tell you.

Now what is it about spiritual matters that he zeros out and starts attacking? That is, when somebody speaks, notice the word that is so clear there. “Therefore, I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” There was a lot of speaking going on in Corinth in the name of the Holy Spirit of God. And the apostle Paul says, “In your immaturity, you don’t seem to be able to distinguish when its under the influence of the Holy Spirit and when it is strictly nothing more than pure flesh.”

When someone speaks under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, what he says will be in an understandable language

Three things he gives to them that were just nuggets. It so blessed me when I was studying them. First of all is this, when somebody is speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, what he says will be in an understandable language. In other words, there won’t be some gibberish that nobody has ever heard before. When God speaks, He speaks clearly and with understanding. Let’s wade in.

He says, “Therefore, I make known to you, that no one speaking.” The word “no one” is the word oudeis. It means absolutely no one in any shape, form or fashion, no one. Now, I hope I can explain the word “speaking” here. Sometimes it doesn’t get out like it gets in. The word “speaking” here is the word laleo. That word, when you take it and put it amidst two other words, simply means to make a noise. In other words, “Therefore, I make known to you that no one making any kind of noise, whether it is intelligible or unintelligible, any kind of noise,” It is very important to what we are dealing with, a gibberish even, if you please. Silence has been interrupted. Somebody has said something that broke that silence. And in this context is going to go on to deal with something that is very reasonable.

But I want you to see the meaning of laleo. It really simply means to make a noise. And it can be used in this context very well, but it has got to be clarified by the text. He ties this speaking, this making a noise, to the Holy Spirit’s influence. “Therefore, I make known to you that anyone making any kind of noise, saying anything, by the Spirit of God,” Now this puts it in another context. In other words, the noise, the sounds, the things that are said, are directly influenced and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God—no one making an utterance or noise by the Spirit of God.

The word “by” could be translated “in” and has the idea of under the control of. If a person says I am under the control of the Holy Spirit of God, whatever noise comes from me—we would say speaking—whatever noise comes out of my mouth that breaks the silence is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Now there is no definite article before Spirit. When there is a definite article, it identifies. When there is not a definite article it qualifies. In other words, it is the full character of the Holy Spirit of God you are dealing with here. “When a person makes any kind of sound that emanates from under the influence and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, when he says any words that breaks the silence.”

Then he goes on and says, “Therefore, I make known to you, that no on speaking by the Spirit of God says.” Now the word “says” that he uses there is the word lego. He completely changes the word. This is very significant. How many times do we read this stuff and go right on as if it means nothing? The word lego comes from the word logos.

Now, when you put up three words for “say” or “speak,” rema, subjective word, lego, or logos, and then you put up the word over here laleo, they all have a different meaning. When you put them all together, it makes a beautiful truth. The word lego, or logos, that is used here, the verb, means intelligent, understandable words. You see, anybody making a sound under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, will say that which is understandable and intelligent. There will be no gibberish in it. Everyone will hear in a language they can understand. Now, that may not mean they understand everything that is said, because the prophets would speak in a language everybody heard, but nobody fully grasped the depths of those things. When the Holy Spirit of God speaks and someone is making a sound that is influenced and inspired by the Holy Spirit, when he says (lego) something, it will be intelligent, it will be understandable, it will be full of integrity because it is coming from the Holy Spirit of God.

Now that immediately begins to make your ears perk up as to what is going on in Corinth. No man speaking under the leadership of the Holy Spirit can speak in some gibberish and call that the Holy Spirit. It will be a language that is understandable. God speaks so that His people can understand what He is saying. He does not speak in gibberish. As a matter of fact, the word logos is the word that is used of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the living logos. God wanted man to understand God Himself, so He sent His only Son that through Jesus we could understand He is the Father. He came to reveal the lamb nature of God.

So many things we know of the Father through looking at Jesus. He was very understandable. He never once spoke in a language that people could not hear and understand. They may not have understood what He said, but they understood the words that came from Him, because it is was in a language that communicated with them.

In fact, if you will turn back with me to Luke 3:22, God the Father speaks out of heaven, identifying who His Son is. I want you to know that God the Father did not use a language that nobody could understand. He spoke in a way that people could have use of communication and to understand it.

As a matter of fact, there are many verses. I just chose two of them because I am going somewhere with this. We could spend a lot longer time on this if I took all the verses, but you check it out. Hey, dig in, check it out to see if it is so, every time God spoke. Verse 22 says, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.” A voice came out of heaven, not in some language that nobody could understand, in a very clear language, whatever that was.

On the Day of Pentecost, what was the key? It wasn’t the speaking, it was the hearing. Everyone heard what was said in their own language. Look at Luke 9:35, “And a voice came out of the cloud saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” How are you going to listen to anybody if you can’t understand what they are saying? God chooses to speak in a language that people can understand, whatever that may be. If you have a Romanian Bible, He will speak to you in Romanian. If you have an English Bible, He will speak to you in English. He speaks so that man can understand. So, when somebody speaks and he says that he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, the noise that he makes will be that with intelligence, integrity and understanding. That is the first thing and the first rule of being able to decide. A lot of people are speaking, where is the Holy Spirit in all this? That is the first one he brings up. It is a very subtle one.

When someone speaks under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, truth will always be presented

But then secondly, when the Holy Spirit is influencing someone to speak, truth will always be presented. Truth will always be presented. Not only were there those in Corinth who were speaking in a gibberish which came out of their very pagan past, but there were other parts of their pagan past and idolatry. There were those who discredited the deity of Christ. In fact, there were those who would speak and you could understand them. The problem is, what they were saying completely nullified scripture.

Look at what he says, “Therefore, I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says [there are no intelligent words that can come influenced by the Spirit of God which says], ‘Jesus is accursed.’” The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is no way going to inspire anybody to say Jesus is accursed. Obviously, any saved person or unsaved person in a fit of anger could say those words. I know there are times in my life and your life we say a lot of things, but it is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. He qualifies—and make sure you understand—when somebody tags what they say to the leadership and influence of the Holy Spirit of God, you will never hear an unbiblical truth. Truth will always be presented.

What is here is a very heinous thing. They said Jesus is accursed. And probably in a fit of emotion of ecstasy, somebody might have got up and spoke in a language nobody had ever heard before. Not only that, somebody else gets up and says Jesus is accursed. Well, are they of the Holy Spirit of God?

The word “accursed” is an interesting word, and if you will look into it, it helps you better understand what is being said. The word “accursed” is the word anathema. It is an interesting word. In this context it means something that is given over to the curse in order to be destroyed. In other words, a person without Christ is anathema. He is given over to the curse that will one day be destroyed, in a sense that he is set apart from God forever. There is no relationship that can ever be there.

Well, what they are doing here, evidently in Corinth there were those who were taking the deity of who Christ is, the truth of what the Word presents, and they lowered it to where Jesus is just a human being. Now, who are these people? I don’t know who these people are. We can make some educated guesses. Maybe the ones doing the gibberish were the pagans who got in among the service and were trying to make the Christians think that this was really of the Spirit. Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe they are Christians themselves. Maybe there were others who were Jews. There were some Jews in Corinth, and the Jews were adamantly against the deity of Christ. So they came in and said He is accursed. He is like the rest of us. He is going to be destroyed under the curse. He is not God. They lowered Him down to a humanistic level. No man can do that and claim that he is under the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God.

You think the deity of Christ is not important? It is being attacked more than you realize it in subtle ways in our country today. People get up, well respected people, under the name of the Holy Spirit of God, actually by what they say, completely undermine the very deity of Christ. And Christians just sit there and say, “Isn’t he wonderful,” with no discernment at all.

Paul is saying that is the same thing that was going on in Corinth. They didn’t know the difference. A man could get up and say Jesus is accursed. Perhaps he didn’t say it in those same words. Maybe he got up and presented the fact that He is just mere man. You know, we talk about the Godman, maybe they presented so much of the humanness of Christ that they forgot the deity of Christ. And if you don’t have that balance, don’t speak until you are taught, because you are going to undermine the very deity of Christ. And when you undermine the deity of Christ, everything else unravels. So there are two things right here: when the Holy Spirit of God speaks, He speaks so that you can understand and so that His people can understand. God is not in the business of putting His will in some coded language.

When the Spirit of God speaks, the truth is presented and the truth is centered around Christ. It is the essence of who God is and it is centered right in His Word. Scripture will come forth when the Spirit has anything to do with it. I want to tell you something, folks, our flesh will chase an experience if you give it half a chance. It will chase an emotion, it will chase a great whim that is going on in this day and say it is of the Holy Spirit of God.

When someone speaks under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, Christ will always be revealed

Well, first of all, He will speak so that you might understand; He will speak so that you may understand. Secondly, He will honor the Word of God; the Word of God in truth will be presented. But then thirdly, Christ will always be revealed. When the Spirit of God is influencing, a noise, a word is coming out of somebody’s mouth, it is going to end up somehow in revealing Christ.

Look in the last part of verse 3, “And no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Now hang on a minute, hang on a minute. You’ve got to ease back. First of all, “no one can say.” Paul uses the same word which means absolutely nobody can say. The word lego, coming right out of logos, is used. Nobody can say with an intelligent thought and understanding and integrity that Jesus is Lord unless the Spirit of God influences him, because that is the kind of stuff that comes from the Spirit of God. He reveals who the Lord Jesus really is, that Jesus is Lord.

You think that is not important? I was doing a meeting down in Mississippi years ago I preached one day on the fact that Jesus is the only well you ever need to drink from, the only well. You don’t need anything outside of Jesus. I finished, and I remember a man came up. He said, “I want to tell you something, Preacher, you have offended me and you have offended the third person of the Holy Spirit of God.” Well, I was concerned about offending the third person of the Trinity, of the godhead. I said, “How did I offend the third person of the Trinity?” He said, “You never mentioned the name of the Holy Spirit one time. You only talked about Christ.” I was able to say to him something and pointed him to scripture.

I want to point you to it. I want you to turn to John 16:13-14. I want you to see it for yourself. I didn’t write it. You know, it is amazing to me how many people are trying to defend the personalities of the Trinity when there is no jealousy in the Trinity. The Father gives it to the Son, the Son gives it to the Spirit, the Spirit gives it back to Jesus, Jesus gives it back to the Father. They don’t have a problem with it. The problem is down here on earth with fleshly, immature Christians running around trying to defend the third person of the Trinity! Don’t defend Him, just bow to Him. And when you do, He will reveal Christ to you, and truth will be presented and He will do it in an understandable way.

John 16:13 says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes [that’s Him, the Holy Spirit], He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me [Jesus]” Do you know what “glorify” means? Give recognition to. Do you think the Holy Spirit of God came to this earth to give recognition to Himself?

But what is happening all over our country, folks, people are giving recognition to the Holy Spirit of God. And I want to tell you something that in no way demeans who He is. I bow before Him every day of my life. But He is the Spirit of Christ, He is God, He is absolutely, utterly God. There are three persons to the godhead, but only one God. You say, “I don’t understand that.” Well, if you did, then God would be no bigger than your brain, so don’t beat yourself up. You don’t understand that, you bow before it, the Holy Spirit of God.

I told that man, “I did not in any way contradict the Holy Spirit of God. I didn’t offend Him. As a matter of fact, I complimented Him.” He said, “What do you mean?” I read those verses and said, “The Holy Spirit of God didn’t come to present Himself. He came to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.” What is wrong with us, folks? Immature people build themselves around things that are emotional and they focus on only one or two aspects of what the whole is all about. And look out if they don’t present Him as Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

As a matter of fact, Paul says no one can claim intelligently, no one can say—and he uses the aorist tense—even once, that Jesus is Lord. Oh, do you know what he is doing? He is pointing back to their salvation. He says, “Do you remember when you got saved? You didn’t open your mouth and say that Jesus is Lord by the rationalization of your mind. You didn’t come up with that in your mind. The Spirit of God revealed that to you, and that is where salvation begins.”

That is why it says in Romans that people couldn’t come to know God. He was all around them but they couldn’t come to understand anything. The whole problem is, He has to be revealed to the human heart. Any speaker who ever stands up and says he is in the power of the Holy Spirit of God knows one thing, he knows there are a ton of things he can’t do. He can’t make things understandable. The Holy Spirit of God can. He can’t do certain things. He can lift up. He can speak in a language everybody can understand. He can present truth, but only the Spirit of God can glorify Christ and reveal Christ. And that is what will happen when somebody does this. No one can say even once that Jesus is Lord.

Verse 14 of chapter 2 says a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He does not accept them. And in verse 10 of chapter 2, he says, “To us God revealed them through the Spirit for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” So no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit of God.

Now, who are these people who would come in and bypass the Holy Spirit to talk about Christ or to talk about other things? Maybe it ties back to that other group of people we are talking about. I know one of the areas that Gnosticism targeted was the area of Greece and particularly Corinth. We know that Colossians was written to combat Gnosticism and Colossae was there in Greece. So what is going on here? —Actually, Colossae was more over in the Turkey area—But what is going on here? Gnosticism.

Do you know who the Gnostics were? They were the people who bypassed the Word, the Holy Spirit, and came into everything through a mystical knowledge that you could have, that you didn’t need any other revelation. Maybe they were the ones. I just don’t know. But something was going on, and what Paul had to say to them was, “You can’t even say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit of God.”

Well, there were some people in Corinth speaking in gibberish that nobody could understand, directly tied to their pagan past. There were some who were there who were denouncing the deity of Christ, directly tied to their pagan past, and maybe still pagan. Some of them were doing that. There were some who were trying to rationalize Christ and the message and didn’t realize that only the Holy Spirit could reveal Him and could make Him fully understandable. The apostle Paul says you are so upside down, you won’t know the difference.

When somebody speaks under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he speaks in a language that is understandable because he intends to communicate something to you. But not only that, when he speaks, he will speak in a message that is truthful and he will present scripture correctly. But not only that, when He causes someone to speak, Christ in the midst of it will be revealed.

There are three things that qualify a person as immature spiritually. First of all, is an ignorance of spiritual matters; secondly, is an influence of a pagan past; and thirdly, inexcusable speaking. All I can say to you is be real careful that you don’t make an experience the basis of what you think the truth has to say. The flesh is so powerful. If you ever have an experience, perhaps it is in gibberish or whatever else and you don’t understand it, be very careful. Experience never backs up truth. Truth must always back up experience. And if whatever experience we have does not fit exactly into what truth says, then evidently that experience needs to be questioned, not the Word of God.

We are walking through it carefully. We are dealing with a church that is so immature they didn’t know enough to get in out of the rain spiritually. They didn’t know the difference when somebody spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, how to watch for the marks and the pillars that give us a clear understanding that yes, this person is under the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is all I can tell you.

God speaks clearly. Scripture and truth is upheld and Jesus is revealed whenever He speaks. Always remember that.

Read Part 76

Dr. Wayne Barber

Dr. Wayne Barber

Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.
Dr. Wayne Barber

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