Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened. Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful.1 Corinthians 14:1-6
Do you see Paul is continuing the same theme? Love is the highest goal but desire the gifts of the Spirit too.
I think the way Paul has handled the Gifts since the beginning of chapter 12 is very interesting. Do you remember I told you we do not know what the Corinthians asked Paul because we don’t have their letter? But we do know Paul is working his way through the things they asked. My hunch is that their questions were similar to the kinds of things that we might ask today. It all seems to fit so well to the things that drive the tongues issue in churches today. Is this experience a valid gift of the Holy Spirit? Do all speak in tongues? Do all have to speak in tongues? Clearly there was some excess in the practice of speaking in tongues, much like today it seems so Paul several times addresses that issue. But of course he still maintains his overall perspective of the gifts in relation to the whole and emphasises the importance of gifts that build the body and help others. And of course repeats the challenge to love – let love be your highest goal.
Now when it comes to speaking in tongues or prophecy: Paul says choose prophecy. But he has said I wish you could all speak in tongues (knowing full well they all won’t (see Bible Gem 445). Then he says even more I wish you could all prophesy (knowing full well they all won’t).
How does tongues stack up against prophecy?
- You talk only to God other people can’t understand you
- You are strengthened personally
- Unless someone interprets
- Even if Paul came speaking in tongues there is no help to others
- strengthens others, encourages them and comforts them
- strengthens the entire church
- prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues for the whole church is strengthened
- but bringing a revelation, some special knowledge will be helpful
You can see clearly where Paul is coming from. He is not looking to rank the gifts in reality. He has already said all are necessary to building up the body. He is correcting excessive behaviour and an undue focus on the gift of tongues. That much is clear. Be balanced, be biblical, but above all be body focused.
Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. Don’t make a theatre production out of your faith.Max Lucado
Small minds are given to big envy. The smaller the stakes, the more catty the remark. Spitefulness shows a shrivelled heart.Rick Warren
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