20th Aug, 2019 Day 232
1 Cor 14:1-19
I hadn’t been expecting God to speak to me as He did soon after I came to faith in Jesus. I experienced His voice in numerous surprising ways including dreams, visions, images of Scriptures, some of which I had no familiarity with, and people sharing prophecies with me. This all strengthened me in many ways, especially with the knowledge that God strongly desires to have an intimate relationship with me and you. And what’s more this relationship includes not just us speaking to him but Him enjoying speaking to us!
This part of Scripture unpacks more about the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts, including God’s loving pursuit to speak to us. Paul begins where he left off in the previous chapter, by highlighting God’s intention for us to relentlessly go after the greatest thing – love. I like the way Eugene Peterson phrases it in the Message bible “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does”, v.1. Far from love not involving a personal desire to equip oneself – as some may think based on Paul’s declaration of “love not seeking it’s own” (ch13:5) – our pursuit of love, according to Paul, is to be characterised by a strong and healthy passion for spiritual gifts. Here we find that the hallmark of spiritual gifts is the demonstration of love with it’s qualities of strengthening, encouraging and comforting. Qualities that seemed to be significantly missing in the display of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church at the time! As Paul exhorts, such qualities should be demonstrated in how we operate any spiritual gift.
While all the gifts are desirable the gift of prophecy, that is God speaking through people to people, builds up the church to a greater extent than any of the other gifts and as such should be given priority over the other gifts including that of tongues, which the Corinthians gave more weight to when gathered together.
This is not to downplay the power of the gift of tongues, for as Paul highlights “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself” (v.4). That said, we should not neglect, but rather desire to speak in tongues for our strengthening and growth; but there’s a divine order to the use of this gift, that we should honour. Paul reveals this in stating that “one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret” (v.13). The expression of a tongue is nonsensical to listeners as it’s the pronouncement of mysteries to God and as such may be particularly off putting for non-believing guests especially when used en masse across the congregation, as in the Corinthian church at the time. As such the most loving use of this gift amongst other believers is to accompany it with an inspired interpretation that comes through prayer.
Unlike the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy is directly geared towards being clearly understood by others and strengthening others. Therefore, prophecy with it’s greater beneficial impact on listeners should be prioritised over speaking in tongues when worshiping together as a church. Is it not wonderful to know that God is in hot pursuit, for us to hear from Him so that we would be transformed by his loving voice in our lives? Today are you lending your ear and mind to what God may be saying to you for the benefit of yourself and others?
Brothers and sisters go for it in being sold out for love and joyfully desiring and using spiritual gifts, particularly prophecy, to heap blessings over the people that God has in your line of sight. If you do have the gift of prophecy, no matter how small, I want to encourage you to make use of it this week to bless someone. This could be through a text or email or even better face to face. And if you have the gift of tongues, I want to encourage you to use it and pray for an interpretation that it may bless anyone listening.