“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” (1 Cor. 12:3 NKJV). In the previous verse, Paul reminds his readers of their former lives as éthnē [pagans, gentiles] = non-Christians (cf. Eph. 2:11; Tit. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:10). They were “carried away/led by dumb idols” (cf. 6:9-11; 8:7), i.e., controlled by irrational impulses they couldn’t understand or control. But this does not characterize one who is genuinely led by the Spirit of God.
No one speaking by God’s Spirit says that Jesus is anathema (“cursed”) (1 Cor. 12:3a). It’s not clear to whom Paul refers here; perhaps self-professed Jewish or pagan prophets, who had disdain for Christ while claiming divine guidance (cf. Acts 18:6; 26:11). No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (v. 3b). Actually anyone can say this mockingly or insincerely (cf. Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46), but the lordship of Christ cannot be realized apart from revelation. It can only be fully comprehended and spoken with true meaning based on what the Holy Spirit has revealed about Christ.
Later Paul provides a good commentary on this as he writes: “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:3-5).
--Kevin L. Moore
Image credit: http://www.dakini.se/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/hands-on-heart.jpg