Archive for February 7th, 2020

1 Corinthians 14:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 14:1-4 Paul shifts gears back to a discussion around gifts. In Chapter 12, he talked about gifts at a high level. He then did a 180 in Chapter 13 and switched to a discussion around love. That was done to emphasize that love is above all gifts. But now he returns and gets into the weeds around how gifts should be applied and used in the church. He begins right where he left off – making it clear that love should be our lifelong pursuit. “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Gifts are the temporary enablers God provides to help us get the work of the ministry done, but agape love is the ultimate pursuit.

There is much focus in this chapter on the gift of tongues which was of particular interest and focus in the Corinthian church. Paul works to explain how tongues fit not only as one of the gifts of the Spirit, but also how it should work in the church. He begins by reminding us that tongues are a language used to speak to God, not man. “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” It is a prayer language that allows a person to connect with God in a different way but does not build up the church because no one can understand. It may impact the church through answered prayer, but it isn’t something others can directly benefit from.

Paul, like he did in the opening verse of this chapter, makes a point that prophesy is a gift that should be desired. Unlike tongues which no one but the speaker can understand, when one prophesies they share God’s truth so that all can understand. “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Paul lists the three things that prophesy can do:

  1. Build up
  2. Encourage
  3. Console

It directly impacts those who hear it and builds up the body which is a purpose of spiritual gifts overall. Paul tells us to desire that gift as it has maximum impact on the body of Christ.

And to be sure we heard him clearly, Paul again compares the difference between tongues and prophesy. “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Tongues is something that is powerful for the individual who is given that gift, and the result of their speaking in tongues may impact the broader church, but it is primarily focused on the individual. When we look at prophesy, it is God’s truth shared with God’s people and impacts the church at large. It is God’s way to share truth with people and give them direct hearing of what God has to say through his prophet to the body.

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