Prophesy speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
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 yesterday’s text and meditation we saw that love, true love is more than a feeling or an emotion. True love is s spiritual gift given to us by God. God’s love is demonstrated in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Our love, our ability and capacity to understand love and to ourselves express less, is based in our response to God’s love, demonstrated in the cross. We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) True love is as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. In today’s text, Paul continues his instruction and exhortation regarding love and spiritual gifts saying: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. One other characteristic of true love is that it must be pursued. It is not that we pursue to be loved as the world does. God’s love is unconditional and given freely even while we were sinners. We pursue to be those who truly love. Unlike God, whose very nature is love, human nature is at its core self-centered. The psalmist understood the path and process to the pursuit of love. In Psalm 37:3-7 he 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. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. To pursue love requires that we rest in the Lord, that we delight in Him. We need to cultivate faithfulness because it does not grow naturally in our human nature.
So again, look at the exhortation to us: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 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. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. The other spiritual gifts that we are given are for the expression of love; for the edification of others. Ephesians 4:11-16 says: He (God through the Holy Spirit) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping (and edification) of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. To prophesy is to speak God’s word to people for edification and exhortation and consolation. Prophesy is more than a warning of what is to come, although it can be that. Amos 3:7 says: Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. More though than just a warning of what is coming, God’s prophetic word is to encourage and exhort people to change, to counsel them, so that they can avoid what is otherwise coming. Additionally, it is to console them that even is spite of what might come, God will be with them. In John 14:27 Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” In John 16:33 He says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
The text says: One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 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. So again, the expression and the manifestation of true love is that others are edified. To edify is to: instruct or improve (someone) morally or intellectually. As we’ve seen before, the world says that love is expressed through tolerance, inclusion and through embracing all that others do, but in truth it is not edifying to allow others to continue in destructive behaviors, is it? As parents, if we truly love our children, we will encourage, exhort, counsel and console them. We will build them up in love. In John 6:68 Peter responded to Jesus saying: You have words of eternal life. If we truly love others, we will speak God’s word, the words of eternal life to them.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit, like the psalmist I will: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight in the Lord; that You will give me the desires of Your heart. I will commit my way to the Lord, Trusting also in You. I will rest in the Lord and wait patiently for You. I will pursue love, not that I would be loved because You have loved me from the foundation of the world, but that I would express love and be the manifestation of love to others. I will speak the truth, Your words of eternal life, so that others would be edified and built up in love. Amen.