Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.
In this verse of Holy Scripture we have the fundamental rule of the gospel. By this rule one who is of Christ is distinguished from him who is not of Christ, and the one born of the Spirit from him who is not born of the Spirit. This rule is never set aside. It holds true today and also will be true in the final judgment. By this rule incision is made among men as they come into contact with the gospel. One cannot escape the sharpness of the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword.
Of this fundamental principle of the truth the believer must have spiritual understanding. Because we are by nature in darkness (v. 2, “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.”), we must understand that the one, essential gift of saying that Jesus is Lord is the fruit of the operation of the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is first and absolutely indispensable. Without Him there is no knowledge and confession that Jesus is Lord. And without that spiritual knowledge and confession there are no other gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (v. 4). There are differences of administration, but the same Lord (v. 5). By that one Spirit we must know the one Lord in order that through Him we may know the one God, which worketh all in all (v. 6).
The form of this confession is presented negatively to emphasize that there is no exception. There are only two possibilities comprehending all of life from the spiritual point of view. You either call Jesus accursed or you say He is Lord. The two are mutually exclusive; it is either-or. Therefore, you either speak without the Spirit of God, or you speak by the Holy Spirit. This is presented in a striking way, in the form of two names (not apparent in the KJV). The first is “Accursed Jesus,” meaning that Jesus is the One doomed to perdition, implying that He is not even to be acknowledged. The second is “Lord Jesus,” meaning that Jesus is our Sovereign, our Guardian, whom we acknowledge as such. You either speak by the Holy Spirit and say, “Lord Jesus,” or you speak not by the Holy Spirit and say, “Accursed Jesus.”
The implications of the name Lord Jesus are that He is Jehovah-Salvation, come to save His people from their sins. He is the everlasting and unchangeable God of His covenant, come to tabernacle with His own. He is the only begotten Son of God, who humbled Himself for those whom the Father had given Him from before the foundation of the world. He bore for all His own the curse of the law and paid their debt.
Further implied is that He is the Lord from heaven, revealed as Lord in that, though He descended into hell, His soul was not left in hell. He struggled against death and He overcame. He entered captivity and took it captive, and died in order to kill death. As such, He was exalted, raised to glory and seated at the Father’s right hand. There He received the name that is above every name in order that with the power and authority given Him of His Father He might gather His elect church by His Spirit and Word, subdue all His and His people’s enemies under His feet, and finally come the second time to usher in the everlasting order of His glorious kingdom in the new heavens and earth. All this we mean when we confess that Jesus is Lord.
The opposite is “Jesus Accursed” or “Anathema.” By this name, you say that this same Jesus, whom God has exalted to be Lord, is to you accursed. You deny Him, lie about Him, and call Him one who is doomed to hell, thereby acknowledging that the devil is your lord. You are, then, of the many that say “Lord, Lord,” while your boast is not in Him, but in your own works. This is the speech of natural man, for no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed. The former is the speech of the child of God, for no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.
The character of this confession is very specific, while the church world today is not specific. They are so broadminded and doctrinally indifferent that they think anyone can make this confession. They tell us to forget our differences, break out of our narrow confines, and unite on the basis of this broad confession that Jesus is Lord. They encourage us to help Jesus realize His Lordship by ridding the world of all evil so that all will join us in this confession. But the Lord Jesus of the text is God’s Lord Jesus—not the one of man’s imaginations, but Jehovah- Salvation. He is not the Lord of man’s making, but the Lord whom God has exalted. Who He is and what He is the Scriptures make plain abundantly and in minute detail.
This confession is also all-comprehensive, for when you confess that Jesus is Lord you really need say nothing else; you have said it all by implication. You confess your sin, darkness, total depravity, and utter hopelessness in self. You also confess God’s almighty and free grace, rooted in sovereign election, and revealed in the gift of His only begotten Son incarnate. And with that you confess His cross of atonement, His resurrection, His ascension, His outpouring of the Spirit, His return in judgment, and His resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Moreover, this confession is personal. The text uses the form of direct quotation: you say, a man says—“Lord Jesus.” Thus you confess Him to be your Lord. That He is Lord over your soul and body, over all the relationships in your life, and over all your possessions. He is Lord over the devil and your enemies. When they attack, you confide in Him. He is your Lord in time and in eternity, in adversity and prosperity, in life and in death. He owns you, loves you, cares for you, protects you, dwells in you, and prepares a place for you. Therefore, you say this. Your very confession acknowledges that it is the fruit of the exercise of His Lordship that causes you to know Him as Lord. You speak very clearly in your conversation and walk, not with empty words while your heart is far from Him, but from the heart by a true faith.
Such a confession is impossible for the natural man. He is blind to his darkness, poverty, nakedness, corruption, and guilt. Thus, he is blind to salvation in Christ. He refuses to be clothed in garments that are washed in the blood of the Redeemer-Lord. The spirit of this world is his lord and is enthroned in his heart. Never will he, nor can he say, that Jesus is Lord. Always he will call Jesus accursed.
The confession is only possible by the Holy Spirit, for taught by the Spirit you can no more call Jesus accursed, but can only call Him Lord. The Spirit is God, the third person of the holy Trinity. He works powerfully and irresistibly to deliver us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son. As Spirit of God, He is given to Jesus. As Spirit of Jesus, He dwells in us. Through that Spirit the Lord Jesus dwells with us and exercises His Lordship.
This Spirit teaches us to say that Jesus is Lord through regeneration, not reform; through irresistible calling, not moral persuasion; through conversion, not mere correction. Through Him Satan is dethroned and Christ is enthroned. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, witnesses in our spirit, through our spirit, with our spirit, so that we witness only by Him that Jesus is Lord.
In such a confession we have comfort, for we know that our very confession is the work of the Spirit of God dwelling in us. We know that our Father in heaven, through the Spirit of His Son, reveals this blessed knowledge only to those whom He loves. Thus we rise from the confession that Jesus is Lord to the realization and assurance that the Father chose us and adopted us as His children before the world was, in Christ Jesus His Son. Then we know that His Spirit is our Comforter to cheer us while our Lord is away, to assure us that in the midst of trials and afflictions our Lord will protect us and lead us to glory.
Then we boldly fight the good fight of faith, keeping our confession pure from the speech of those that call Jesus accursed. We look forward to perfection, where forever we acknowledge Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.