Conditions within the Corinthian assembly provided Paul with the opportunity to introduce teaching calculated to secure the to the Spirit of God in First Corinthians, emphasizing His centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the believers. One of these vital truths was the presence and activity of the Spirit of God. Standing at the entrance of this church epistle, like two massive pillars, is teaching concerning the cross of Christ (Chapter 1) and the Holy Spirit (Chapter 2). Had the Corinthian believers appreciated these significant truths, testimony for God would have been radically different. The practical power of the truth of the cross negates the activities of the flesh, while the recognized presidency of the Spirit produces spirituality and moral likeness to Christ. Paul makes 22 references important place in the function of the local assembly.
The Spirit indwells individuals. In the upper room the Lord Jesus communicated a very full body of truth relative to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16-18, He gave teaching concerning the Holy Spirit’s relation ship to the believer, using the delightful title of a Comforter (Paraclete), one called alongside to help, or encourage. The Lord used three different prepositions concerning the coming of the Spirit.
(1) “That He may abide with (meta, among) you forever…”
(2) “He dwelleth with (para, alongside of) you…”
(3) “and shall be in (en, in) you.”
I Corinthians (6:19) reminds us, “What, know you not that your body is a temple (sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” This fact was intended to regulate the thoughts and control the conduct of the believers, resulting in lives of moral purity.
With regard to the corporate indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this truth is underscored in I Cor 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Here, He is seen stamping His holy character upon the assembly.
Let us consider His residency and prompting, in three important ways:
(1) Communicating the divine revelation to the apostles by verbal inspiration (1 Cor 2:6-16).
(2) Cultivating and producing a right condition of character and spiritual life (1 Cor 3:16-23).
(3) Conducting and controlling gifts with a view to the edifying of the assembly (1 Cor 12-14).
Communicating the divine revelation (1 Cor 2:6-16)
In I Corinthians 2 the Spirit of God is mentioned seven times (v 4, 10a, 10b, 11, 12, 13, 14). Four outstanding references which are important.
In verses 1-5, The Holy Spirit is essential to demonstration.
Paul was very careful not to copy the Corinthian dependence upon human ingenuity and oratory with persuasive words and arguments; but he relied entirely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. The demonstration of the Spirit was seen in convincing, convicting and converting. Paul affirmed that his speech (how he spoke) and his preaching (what he said) did not reflect human ability, but rather divine enabling. This should be a word to all who would seek to preach the gospel. Spiritual results are not dependent upon our own persuasiveness but the Spirit’s power.
In verses 6-11, The Holy Spirit is essential to revelation.
Verse 9 informs us that, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things God prepared for them that love Him.” It has to be remembered that Paul is not referring to heaven, but to the things which are now revealed by the Spirit. The Lord Jesus indicated this in the upper room to His disciples, “When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12,13).
The Spirit of God who has taken up residency in the assembly is the Spirit of Revelation. Just as the ‘Golden Lampstand’ in the tabernacle shed its light in the “holy place,” so too in the assembly sanctuary, priestly men function by the shining of the light of divine wisdom from the pages of the Spirit-inspired Scriptures.
In verse 12, The Holy Spirit is essential to illumination.
Contextually the ‘we’ has special reference to the apostles. This is, they were given the capacity to receive and understand what God had revealed to them so they could expound His mind. But, it is also true that each believer today possesses a capacity to know and enjoy divine truth because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. To us, Illumination has a special meaning since we are in possession of the completely revealed Word of God. It is no longer limited to the apostles and prophets of the NT for we have the illumination of the Spirit in the truth already revealed.
In verses 13-16, The Holy Spirit is essential to inspiration.
“What things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Perhaps the expression, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” is best understood by, “making the utterance correspond to the thought, using Spirit-given words to express Spirit-given truth.” The Holy Spirit not only chose the subject matter but He also supplied the words. The Scriptures are the product of the creative act of the Holy Spirit.
The inspiration of Scripture covers not only the thoughts, but extends to the very choice of words. Inspiration then, of necessity, takes in both and should be
acknowledged as the verbal, plenary inspiration of the scriptures.
Cultivating a right condition (1 Cor 3:1-7)
“Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple (sanctuary) of God him shall God destroy (mar); for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,” or, “and such are ye” (R.V.). This verse makes it plain that a local assembly is the residence of the Holy Spirit, making it a sacred shrine. How delightful, yet how equally demanding, to realize that a divine Person has taken up His dwelling in the assembly and is presiding over its worship, ministry, and testimony.
Acts 5:1-11 informs us of the first blot upon the page of assembly testimony. Ananias and Sapphira brought their defilement to the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, resulting in the solemn act of divine government. The grace of God should be appreciated, but the government of God should be dreaded. Peter said to Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”
This ought to influence our behavior in the house of God. We should be constantly reminding ourselves of the moral and spiritual demands being made upon us by the fact of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the assembly.
Conducting and Controlling the function of the gifts (1 Cor 12-14)
The Spirit of God who has taken up His residence in the assembly acts there in sovereignty for the bestowal, function, and purpose of the gifts. He is seen presiding over them and prompting each member in the utilization of his gift. These Spiritual gifts are seen in ch.12:1,4,7,28,30,31. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal” (v 7). This means that the true gifts are the visible evidence of the unseen power and presence of the Spirit of God. The ‘manifestation’ is not that of human ability, but the indwelling, prompting, and power of the Spirit, resulting in spiritual profit in all the gatherings of the assembly.
In I Cor 14:29-33, Paul sets out regulations for the proper use of spiritual gifts. According to v. 3, prophesying was exercised to tell forth the mind of God for edification, encouragement, and comfort, and the gift of teaching which superseded it (2 Pet 2:1), is intended to do the same thing, right down to the present day. Well might we ask, “Are our meetings for ministry fulfilling that purpose?”
In conclusion, then, let us draw five practical lessons from this important chapter:
First, the prophets were to speak “two or three.” Not one man, and not any man, but as many as were fitted and led of the Spirit. “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted.” ‘All’ does not give permission for everyone to speak, but has to do with ability and possibility.
Second, Spiritual discernment had to be exercised relative to what was set forth. “Let the other judge” (V.29). How needful in our day!
Third, there was to be a recognition that others had something to communicate, so no one has a right to monopolize the time. ‘Brethren, consider one another.’
Fourth, “For ye may all prophesy” suggests the idea that no one man has all the mind of God, but by all (fitted) contributing, all would benefit, that is, all would learn the mind of God. How good to remember that a total ministry is not given to one man.
Fifth, verse 32 states, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” indicating that the one speaking by the Spirit would have complete control of himself. This leads to conditions of peace and harmony, and preserves from confusion and disunity. Rivalry and self- seeking are not of God.
First Corinthians 14 is intended to demonstrate the desirable outcome of an assembly functioning consistent with the glad awareness of the residence and prompting of the Spirit of God, leading to comeliness and order in all the gatherings of the local assembly. However, if the leading of the Holy Spirit is unknown in our daily lives, it is pointless to talk about it in the assembly. Paul reminded the Galatians, “If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us walk.” We need to be filled with the “fruit of the Spirit” in increasing measure. The life which is Spirit-led day by day, will produce moral likeness to the Lord Jesus. A spiritual condition of soul and life is essential to the enjoyment of His leading.
May it be our experience to enjoy the Holy Spirit as Residentand Prompter in the local assembly!