Q. Is 1 Corinthians 12:3 to be taken literally that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit?
A. I believe during the Church Age 1 Cor. 12:3 should be taken literally. No one can sincerely say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Spirit because only born again believers accept Jesus as their Lord. Non believers don’t think He’s their Lord and in any case don’t want Him to be.
But at the 2nd Coming, after everyone sees Him return in glory to take command of planet Earth, even non-believers will be forced to admit He’s the Lord of the whole Earth (Phil. 2:9-11, Zech. 14:9) even though they won’t have accepted Him as their Savior. This is why the people of Earth will mourn when they see Him coming on the clouds with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30). They will finally understand that He is who He has always claimed to be, and it will be too late for them to do anything about it.