12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
Let's quickly define some terms here before we get off on the wrong foot. Typically we use the word ignorant in a negative and often derogatory sense. Paul does not. He uses the term properly. An alternative word in this context would be unaware. Another word used here that we often misuse today is dumb. Typically we use dumb as a synonym for stupid. The word actually means mute - unable to speak. Paul is referring to the fact the idols they used to serve were inanimate objects.
You will remember that chapter 11 ended with Paul stating he would deal with the other issues when he came in person. That means for this letter he is done sorting out the issues they were divided over and has moved on to some teaching. That teaching begins with the topic of spiritual gifts.
How Paul begins is subtle and if we aren't paying attention we could easily miss it. Idols can't talk or move so how can they lead? They can't. So if the idol isn't leading who is? We are. The whole reason why idolatry was so popular (and still is in a different form) was because we are the god. We call the shots.
Now Paul said they were lead and carried all over the place by these dumb idols. Why such a scattered picture? Why do we get the impression there was no consistency? Why were they off in all kinds of directions? Because there was no Leader. When your God is yourself in the guise of an idol truth and wisdom changes like the wind. Mood affects it. Changing circumstances affect it. New desires and interests affect it. There is no foundation. There is no objective anchor apart from ourselves. Idolatry is appealing because we are in control but it is chaotic because we are out of control.
Paul offers an alternative - the Spirit of God. With Him there is no inconsistency. No one who is lead by the Spirit can curse Jesus and no one can confess Him as Lord apart from the Spirit.
It's a simple lesson today but with profound implications. We are either lead by the Spirit or we are our own god. Take for example the recent declaration by the World Health Organization that pork and processed meats are more unhealthy than smoking is. Well there was a time when smoking was considered beneficial and pork has been a regular part of our diet for a long time. When we are our own god we are literally fumbling in the dark to know what is what. On the flip side the Bible separated clean meat from unclean meats from the beginning. Had we been following God we wouldn't have been eating pork to begin with. That's just one simple example of the difference between the unchanging foundation of being lead by God and the shifting sands of human wisdom, even if that wisdom is a statue named Zeus.
See you tomorrow :)