Summary: In today's lesson, we learn that spiritual gifts build up the church.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of spiritual gifts. Let’s learn about more about that in a message I am calling, “Comparing Prophecy and Tongues.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 14:1-5:
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 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. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:1-5)
In his commentary on I & II Corinthians Richard Pratt tells the story about a time when a friend called him on the phone and said, “Richard, I’ve got some money. Do you want it?”
They talked for a while about the kinds of ministry opportunities for which the money could be used. In the end, Dr. Pratt’s friend gave him a large check and it was devoted to the work of the kingdom.
Several years later Dr. Pratt saw his friend and thanked him again for the blessing he was to him. “Thank you for your gift,” Dr. Pratt said. “We’re using it to serve a lot of people.”
Dr. Pratt’s friend responded in a way true to his Christian character. “That’s what money is for,” he replied.
He believed that. God had given him success and money, but he understood that God’s gifts are to be used in service of others.
God had given the Corinthians many spiritual gifts. These were to be used to build up the whole congregation, but they did not know how to use them properly. So Paul gave them some very practical instructions in chapters 12 – 14 to help them use their spiritual gifts properly and to maintain orderly worship services.
Today’s church, like the Corinthian church, is full of gifted people. Yet, like the Corinthians many of us do not know how to use our gifts properly to build others up. We need to learn from chapter 14 that we must our spiritual gifts not for personal fulfillment, but to build up the church and to present a godly witness to the world.
So, in today’s lesson, we learn that spiritual gifts build up the church.
Let’s learn about this as follows:
1. Pursue Love (14:1a)
2. Earnestly Desire the Spiritual Gifts (14:1b)
3. Tongues Does Not Build Up the Church (14:2, 4a)
4. Prophecy Does Build Up the Church (14:3, 4b)
5. Prophecy Is Greater Than Tongues (14:5)
I. Pursue Love (14:1a)
First, pursue love.
Paul summarized the entire previous chapter 13 with one command in verse 1a: “Pursue love.”
The Greek word for pursue (dioko) means “to do something with intense effort and with definite purpose or goal.” Above all else, the Corinthians were to pursue love. Lack of love for one another was their greatest problem, and all of the challenges that the Corinthian church faced was related in one way or another to their lack of love for each other.
Jesus once said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” And, continuing, he said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
I love what Peter said about loving one another, especially when we sin against one another, which we do often. He said, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
I was talking with someone recently about how we sometimes sin against each other and hurt one another. However, we also noted that only in the church—and not in the world—do we see love covering a multitude of sins.
But, even though love is primary, and even though love is the only gift that will exist in heaven, that does not mean that everything else is to be disregarded.
II. Earnestly Desire the Spiritual Gifts (14:1b)
Second, earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.
Paul said in verse 1b: “. . . and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.”
Love is the motivation for every spiritual gift. That was Paul’s point in chapter 13. Chapter 13 is not a digression, as some commentators argue. Chapter 13, the great love chapter, is important because Paul wanted his readers to know that love is the true motivation for the proper use of every spiritual gift.