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.
In today’s text Paul speaks of the gifts of tongues and prophecy. These two are often misunderstood and sometimes misused in the church. Consequently, they have been eliminated from much of the church today. Prophecy is much more than a prediction of future events. It is true, in part, that prophecy does in fact reveal what is to come. Amos 3:7 says: Surely the Lord God does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. Often though what we see in Old Testament prophecy is that what was revealed involved a choice for the people. Much like when God gave the Israelites the law and in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 said: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” God’s will; His desire is that we would always choose life.
In today’s text Paul says: One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. Much of what we see and hear of prophecy in the church today tends to either focus on warning of what is to come or words of encouragement regarding the good God intends. Exhortation is more than just giving an encouraging word. It is also urging and encouraging a person to attain and fulfill God’s plan; to do all that is necessary. Jeremiah 29:11 says: For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Just because a prophet reveals God’s plan for us; His plan for our welfare, for our future and for hope, does not mean that it will necessarily come to pass. We, those who hear God’s plan for us, need to work toward and walk in that plan. The words of a prophet spoken to us or about us are like the words in Deuteronomy. They represent a choice. They give us a glimpse into what God wants for us and what He wants to do through us, but still there is a choice we must make to walk in the revelation. I exhort you today, if you have been given a prophetic word concerning God’s plans and desire for your future, do all that you can to walk in His plan. In Psalm 37:3-5, the psalmist says: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. That is the formula for attaining and fulfilling the promises and the plans God has for our lives.
Concerning the gift of tongues, Paul gives instruction also for its use and its purpose. Many believe that it is a gift that is no longer relevant for the church today. Considering how our society is changing, how there are many people who speak little or no english, but rather speak and understand a variety of different languages, it is not beyond comprehension that we could see a situation like the one described in Acts 2:4-11: 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.” At the very least it is good to do as Paul says: If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 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. In Romans 8:26-27 Paul says: 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. Praying in the Spirit and praising in the Spirit is part of how we delight in the Lord. In John 4:24 Jesus says: "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." To walk in the fulfillment of God’s plan and His promises for us, we need to pray, praise and walk in the Spirit He gave to us.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for You words of revelation and exhortation. Thank You for revealing Your plans for us and showing us the way to walk in them. I trust in You. I delight in You. I choose life and I choose to yield to Your Spirit that I might attain and fulfill Your plans for my future. Amen.