Paul teaches that “no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3). Plainly, Paul does not mean merely uttering the words, “Jesus is Lord,” because multitudes of people, such as little children who have had no exposure to Bible teaching at all, can say those words without having any idea of what they mean and therefore say them without attaching the proper significance to those words.
What then does Paul mean by this statement? By looking closely at related teaching from Jesus, we allow Scripture to interpret itself:
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying,’ What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?’ They say unto Him, ‘The son of David.’ He saith unto them, ‘How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, “THE LORD SAID UNTO MY LORD, ‘SIT THOU ON MY RIGHT HAND, TILL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES THY FOOTSTOOL?”‘ If David then call him Lord; how is He his son?” (Matt. 22:41-45).
Here Jesus declares that David in the Spirit called Christ Lord. He then explained that David did so when he penned one of the most important statements in the OT, Psalm 110:1. This premier OT statement highlights the Father’s exaltation to His right hand of the One who was David’s Lord.
Interpreting 1 Corinthians 12:3 by Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:41-45, we understand that saying that Jesus is Lord by the Holy Spirit does not mean only acknowledging that Jesus Himself is God; rather, saying that Jesus is Lord by the Holy Spirit also entails acknowledging how God the Father has exalted Him to His right hand. This interpretation, therefore, underscores the importance of our testifying in evangelism not just the deity of Jesus, but also how the Father exalted Him after He raised Him from the dead (cf. “God hath made that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ,” [Acts 2:36]; “who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” [1 Peter. 1:21]).