The Holy Spirit: The Spirit in 1 Corinthians

The references to the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians may be broadly divided into three groups. Those in chapter 2 have to do with the communication of divine truth.

Those in ch 2 have to do with the communication of divine truth. The references in ch 3 and 6 point to the importance of practical sanctification. Those inch 12 give great emphasis to unification or unity in the assembly. Viewing these references to the Spirit as a whole, it may be observed that the enjoyment of divine communication and the deep exercise as to personal sanctification which the Spirit produces go far in the maintenance of that unity which is the Spirit’s delight.

Communication of Divine Truth

In chapter 2 it is evident that instruction is given, not only as to the reception of truth by believers, but also concerning its transmission. It is obvious that the Spirit of God produces spirituality, and it is the Spirit’s pleasure to unfold to the spiritual those things that are freely given to us of God. When it states in verse 10 that the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God, it does not mean that He searches for His own information, for He is omniscient. Rather, He makes them known to believers. It is to be feared that most of us do no more than tread on the surface of the infinite mine of precious truth which the Spirit delights to reveal.

Many able and scholarly writers have explained verse 13 as referring to the inspiration of the New Testament Scriptures. No doubt the Scriptures are corn-posed exclusively of “words… which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” However, in order to be a direct reference to the inspiration of the New Testament Scriptures, the “we” would be required to refer, not to the apostles, but to the men chosen to write the New Testament, a very large portion of which was written by those who were not apostles in the technical sense of this word. It seems therefore, best to view the “we” in a general way. It is true that the verb “to speak” is used of what was put down in writing in the Old Testament in 2 Peter 1:21, and this is taken by some to indicate that it may be so explained in 1 Cor 2:13. The context and the use of the verb in the chapter seem rather to point to the setting forth of divine truth in general. An example of “words which man’s wisdom teacheth,” may be found in the speech of Tertullus (a certain orator), in Acts 24: 2-8. The words of the Lord Jesus were in their entirety perfectly chosen. Would not that man, however, who speaks according to the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, be, in measure, like His Lord, of whom it is said that they wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth (Luke 4:22)? What days of heaven on earth there could be for God’s people if only saints were sounding the depths of divine revelation, in the energy of the Holy Spirit, and experiencing His ability to clothe their words of ministry with that power that makes so much difference. In dealing with this portion of Scripture, the late Win. Trew said:

“The perfections of creation are microscopically discerned.
The perfections of astronomy are telescopically discerned.
The perfections of revelation are spiritually discerned.”


In ch 3:16 the solemn statement is made that the assembly is the temple of God and is indwelt by the Spirit of God. A similar statement is made concerning the believer’s body in ch 6. The tremendous import of these statements will be more apparent to those who have learned something of the extremely sensitive nature of the Holy Spirit. How easily He is grieved by that which is unholy! The general tendency amongst those who minister the Word of God in handling the subject which Paul here presents, would be to diminish the directness of the language, and to say that Temple of God is “an assembly,” and is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Paul makes it more direct by applying it to the assembly in which each is in fellowship, saying, “ye are the temple of God… the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” What weight all this gives to the next verse which warns: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy!” It is solemn to belong to an assembly, and serious to harm it in any way. Those so doing have to give account, not only and not chiefly to men, but to God.

The declaration in chap. 6:19 that the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, is a solemn incentive to flee all immorality and to glorify God in the body. In verses 12-19 of this chapter, a number of cogent reasons are given why immorality is unthinkable for the believer. Two of the strongest reasons are reserved for the conclusion of the passage. They serve to terminate the warning with great solemnity: 1) “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.. .and ye are not your own,” 2) “Ye are bought with a price.”


1 Corinthians 12, deals with the working together of the various members of the assembly and commences with the statement in verse 3, that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Thus it is evident that the Holy Spirit, where He has His way, will lead each member of the assembly to the practical recognition of the Lordship of Christ. Where that Lordship is acknowledged by all, the company is well on the way to the enjoyment of practical unity. The Spirit is seen to be the source of diversity (V.4) but this need never cause disunity. Verses 7-11, with their emphasis on the expression, “the same Spirit,” teach that where the Spirit of God has His way, He produces a variety of gifts which will make for harmony and mutual blessing, leaving no room for envy or jealousy.

Generally, when verse 13 is expounded, all are anxious to know the speaker’s view as to when the baptism in the Spirit takes place. It may be that with many, once this is made clear, there is little more to be thought about. The time of the baptism is not emphasized in the verse. Emphasis is very definitely on the word “one.” If all have been baptized in one Spirit, forming one body, and all have been made to drink into one Spirit, then unity has been made forever, and God’s people must live in the light of this and give practical expression to it. Acts 2:2 sheds much light on this verse. The moment the “rushing mighty wind” filled all the house, the present company was clearly “baptized in the Spirit.” Those not present would also be included. According to v. 4, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” and this helps in the understanding of the second part of I Cor 12:13: “and have been all made to drink into one Spirit,” for once the Spirit indwells a person, He is available to fill that person. The use of the word “all” and “one” in both passages gives great emphasis to the unity of which the Spirit is the author and which finds its expression in the one body of which all saints of the present period are members. The passages not only give incentive for the preservation of this unity, but also indicate the availability of power to maintain it.

It would seem that, as a whole, the study of the Holy Spirit and His character and work is somewhat neglected. Much help can be obtained on this precious subject if a list is drawn up (a printout) of all the references to Him in whatever book or epistle may be under consideration. This, of course, makes clear at a glance the activities of the Spirit as seen in that part of the Scriptures. A little study is all that will be required to make very clear that the Spirit of God ought to vitally affect every department of the lives of God’s people and of the assembly.