1 Corinthians 14

1 Corinthians 14 has Paul setting the agenda for the church – first and foremost as Christ Followers we are to pursue love – the kind of love he defines in the previous chapter as agape love.  He then addresses the topic of spiritual gifts again – primarily the manifestation gifts of tongues and prophecy.  There was nothing wrong with the Corinthian Christ Followers desire for spiritual gifts. But they had made a godly desire into an obsessive pursuit, when the only pursuit for Christians ought to be love. “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy”.  In the Corinthian church, there was an over-emphasis on tongues, and an under-emphasis on prophecy.

Paul encourages the Christ Followers in Corinth to seek spiritual gifts, but addresses in particular two that were creating some conflict.  There was some misunderstanding of the purpose of speaking in tongues in the church.  “One who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God…. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”. With the gift of tongues, the speaker is addressing God, not men. Disregarding this verse leads to one of the most significant misunderstandings regarding the gift of tongues, believing tongues is a supernatural way to communicate “man to man” instead of “man to God.”  The gift of tongues is a way to worship God not relate to men.

Paul returns to the direction he gave on spiritual gifts back in 1 Corinthians 12 – namely that gifts are given to unify, not divide the church.  “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church”.  It isn’t the expression of spiritual gifts that is the key, it is the building up of one another.  Gifts are not for our benefit but for the benefit of the Body and as a way to worship God Himself.  Too often we get caught up in thinking spiritual gifts are all about us when in fact they are completely not about us at all.

Paul goes on to define the correct way to express tongues in the Body.  He gives lots of direction and makes it clear that speaking in tongues is a gift from God.  But he also tempers the desire when he says “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues”. The gift of prophecy is more impactful in that it speaks to man.  Farnell wrote “Preaching is essentially a merging of the gifts of teaching and exhortation, prophecy has the primary elements of prediction and revelation”.  In summary, Paul reminds the church that “all things should be done decently and in order”.  God is not a God of chaos but order and His gifts will not create chaos in the Body if expressed correctly.

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