Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:1-17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.
6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? 7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
13 Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 16 Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.
Paul says: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. He then goes on in the text to talk about two of the perhaps most misunderstood, neglected, misused, feared; simply two of the most controversial spiritual gifts in the church today, prophecy and tongues. Paul says: Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. Paul does give a little explanation to the difference between the two different types or uses for tongues. Keep in mind that again Paul is addressing believers, in the church and the use of spiritual gifts within the church. When he speaks of tongues requiring interpretation, he speaks of someone speaking something in a language which is unknown to them. He says: There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. This is similar to what happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4-11 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” We can certainly see and understand the powerful testimony that the gift of tongues had that day. It is also, becoming easier to see how the gift of tongues could again play a large role in the current and future church, as our culture and society increases in diverse ethnicity. More and more public gatherings could be attended by people who speak many diverse languages and dialects. A modern day Pentecost experience is not inconceivable.
The other type of tongues which Paul speaks of is praying or worshipping in the spirit. This is what is spoken of in Romans 8:26-27: In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. This can be praying or worshipping in an earthly language or in a heavenly one. Paul does not say that it is wrong or evil. In fact he says: I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. It is simply that this gift of tongues, praying and worshipping in the spirit is more for personal or intimate settings than it is for the larger church body. The purpose of what is done and said within the church is to first glorify God and testify of Christ and second to edify, exhort and console the body.
Again Paul says: Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy. Paul says he wishes that all would prophesy. What then is prophesy since we all should do it? Prophecy is nothing more and nothing less than speaking the words of God about a situation, a circumstance or a time. It is not simply adding “thus says the Lord” to something that is said. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22, God describes the seriousness of speaking on behalf of Him. He says: I Myself will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. We then should take great care when we say “thus says the Lord.”
Still we are all encouraged to prophesy and surely none of us will ever be 100% accurate in knowing God’s will and heart for a particular situation. So how should we prophesy? First we should remember again what Paul says the purpose or result of prophesying should be? But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. What we speak on behalf of God should meet those tests. A good place to begin to speak the Word and will of God about a situation, circumstance or time is to speak God’s Word, scripture, to speak words of life from the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. So scripture speaking God’s “inspired” Word, is a good place to begin. What else though should we do? In John 14:12 Jesus says: “ Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” What was one of the things Jesus said He did? In John 12:49-50, Jesus says: “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19) and only spoke what He heard from the Father. That too then should be what we do when we prophesy. How do we do that? In 2 Corinthians 2:10-16 it says: God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God…Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words… For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who Jesus has given us, we too can hear what God is saying, we have the mind of Christ, but only if we yield our own minds, our own hearts, our own thoughts and agendas to Him.
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. In yesterday’s text Paul said: Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease… now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. As we desire and use the spiritual gifts God has given for the church, may we do all that we do in the fruit of that same spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Heavenly Father, as I yield and submit to You through the indwelling Holy Spirit, may I truly, like Jesus, my Lord and Savior, do the things that You are doing and say the things that You are saying. May I do the things that Jesus did; may it all be for Your glory and the edification, exhortation and consolation of Your body. Amen