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 continues his instruction and exhortation concerning spiritual gifts saying: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. There are people who are called as prophets, but Paul says that we all should earnestly desire that we prophesy. The text says: One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. Certainly that sounds like something we should all desire. 2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Scripture, the God inspired written word is useful or profitable to fulfill the same purpose as God’s spoken word, revealed to and through prophecy. We tend to view reproof and correction negatively, but really they are intended to be good. Proverbs 3:12 says: For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. God says: know in your heart that just as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:5) Reproof, correction and discipline are not negative acts. Rather they are acts of love. When something is wrong, it is better to correct it than to continue to in the wrong way. Doing things the wrong way only leads to farther wrong. The old adage says: Two wrongs do not make it right. The farther we go down the wrong path, the farther we get from God’s intended plan for us. The word of God, both the written word and the word spoken through prophecy are meant to help keep us and others on the right path. Exhortation is also sometimes viewed in the wrong light. We sometimes think that exhortation is limited to encouraging and cheering on. Exhortation is: emphatically urging someone to do something. So it is encouraging and cheering on, but it is emphatically to go good rather than evil; right rather than wrong.
For too many people the idea of prophecy is tied only to the “end times.” They think of prophets as those who foretell of impending doom. Even the “end time” prophecies are intended to do more than proclaim the impending doom. Their true intent and purpose is to reprove, to correct and to exhort people to a better way, to the way of avoiding what may come. In Mark 16:15-16 Jesus says: “Go into all the worldand preach the gospel to every creature.He who believes and is baptized will be saved;but he who does not believe will be condemned.” The gospel is the good news. It is not a message of impending doom, but rather the way to avoid it. The truth is, there is impending doom. Jesus says: “He who does not believe will be condemned.” But whether by spoken words of prophecy, or by speaking the written word of scripture, it is the good news we are to share with all the world, that there is a right way, a right path to avoid what is coming. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) There are many paths for people to choose, but there is only one way. Our words should exhort and edify. They should encourage and not condemn. But, the good news will also correct and reprove those who are going and doing wrong.
Much of what Paul shares in today’s text regarding prophecy is in comparison and contrast to tongues. Even today, within the church, tongues can be a confusing and divisive gift. Many today believe that tongues are no longer useful or necessary, and certainly there have been and are abuses in the way tongues are used and presented. The first demonstration of tongues that we see in scripture is on the day of Pentecost when believers actually spoke in languages which were unfamiliar to them, but understood by others who were present. Certainly we can see that there could be a time and place for this type of spiritual gift to benefit people today. What Paul is addressing in today’s text though is the benefit of praying and worshipping in the spirit, using a spiritual language rather than a human language. Paul 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. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 says: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. God will reveal spiritual things to us through the spirit, so that we might know and share what has been freely given by God.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; as Paul says, I will: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts. I will earnestly desire the gift or gifts that You desire for the time and place that I am in. I desire that my words and actions will glorify You and will edify, exhort and correct others, that they may know the good news, Jesus Christ, the way. Amen.