Thursday, 15 January 2015
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1
Paul now returns to the subject of “gifts” which he left off with in Chapter 12. However, even in Chapter 13, he never really left the issue behind. Rather, he had used his discourse on love to show the believers at Corinth that their use of gifts, and particularly tongues, wasn’t in line with that precept. This will be seen in his coming words.
In order to set up his logic concerning tongues in the coming verses, he will first introduce a thought concerning obtaining a different gift. Why would he do this? The answer becomes evident when we see how Paul viewed the gift of tongues and its use within the church at Corinth.
Chapter 14 will explain these things in detail and understanding his instruction on tongues, in proper context, should be mandatory for every charismatic Bible college, seminary, and church. Almost every verse in chapter 14, a chapter which is 40 verses long, is given to properly instruct us on the completely abused gift of tongues.
And so to begin the chapter, he says to “pursue love.” This asks us to reflect on his words of chapter 13. Everything that is done should have this as its main consideration. In pursuing love, the use of our spiritual gifts will be proper.
Secondly, he says to also pursue “spiritual gifts.” True gifts of the spirit are necessary for the instruction and edification of the church. In that then, we are to pursue obtaining them. In fact, in 12:31, just before his parenthetical thought concerning love of Chapter 13, he said, “But earnestly desire the best gifts.” So it is right to seek after spiritual gifts and it is right to seek after the best of those gifts.
Having said that, and understanding the context of his words, he now finishes this verse with, “but especially that you may prophesy.” Why has he said this? To understand fully, consider again what he was speaking about in Chapter 12 – all the gifts of the spirit. To him, the best of the gifts was that of prophesying. This does not mean specifically “foretelling” but “forth-telling.” Forth-telling is the right interpretation and then explanation of Scripture in order to build up and edify the church; it is “preaching.”
The value of preaching the word is the highest gift to Paul because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The means of hearing about the salvation which God has chosen for the people of the world is preaching. Without people exercising this gift, the word won’t be heard and people won’t be saved.
Therefore, Paul says that men of God should pursue this gift above all else. With that now understood, he will contrast this with “tongues” in the coming verses. In other words, the intelligible, thoughtful, and proper preaching of God’s word will be used as the standard to compare to the gift of “tongues.”
Thus he will demonstrate that the use of tongues at Corinth (and which continues to this day in unstable churches) is unintelligible, thoughtless, and even improper. Instead of edifying the body, it often divides and confuses it. For this reason, Paul will set very strict limits on the use of tongues; limits which are all but ignored in many churches. In ignoring Paul’s words, they ignore the One who inspired his words.
Life application: Pay attention to the coming 39 verses of 1 Corinthians 14. Be prepared to rightly explain the use of tongues in a church – why they are to be spoken, who should speak them, and when they are to be allowed.
Heavenly Father, we often claim that we love You, but then we don’t do what You have instructed us. Sometimes it’s willful disobedience and sometimes its just our human weakness. Help us to know Your word and then to live by it. How can I say I love You and then willingly ignore what Your instruction manual says? Would my boss be pleased with me if I did this? Would the government allow me to ignore their laws? Help me in this. Surely obedience to You is a demonstration of love for You. And loving You is what I truly desire. Amen.