These three verses introduce the reader to the huge subject of the actions of the Holy Spirit which Paul will cover in the next chapters. One of the questions studious believers at Corinth were asking was: 'How do we know that the manifestations we are witnessing in our fellowship are acts of the Holy Spirit or some idol or demon?'
In this opening passage Paul writes of two phrases which were used as battle cries:
1. 'Accursed be Jesus' could have been used in four different contexts-firstly, by the Jews as synagogue prayers regularly would have included a cursing of all apostates and remember that Jesus was hung on a tree to die. 'Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree' was a Jewish saying.
Secondly, Paul confessed to King Agrippa in Acts 26 v 11 that he had forced Christians he had caught to blaspheme. It is likely that any Jew suspected of being a follower of Jesus would have been told to pronounce this curse or be excommunicated from Jewish worship.
Thirdly, the great Bishop of Smyrna, in the second century, was told to curse Christ or die. He replied: ''Eighty and six years have I served Christ and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'' So, the Roman inquisitors would have used this method.
Fourthly, it would be used as an identifier in church worship. As we continue to study the work of the Spirit in Corinth, we will recognise that it must have been a spiritual hothouse in the fellowship! Anything might have happened and have been claimed to be the moving of the Spirit. However, Paul's governing principle is that no one can say a word against Jesus and attribute it to the Holy Spirit's influence.
2. The Christian battle cry was 'Jesus is Lord' meaning that the person who spoke it gave to Jesus their supreme loyalty and worship. It was only through the grace of God working in the heart of a man or woman that could enable them to declare this. Questioning whether you are really a Christian? Paul declares that if you can say those three words then you surely are!