1 Cor 14:11 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (NKJ)
I'm teaching a series on spiritual gifts in our local church. It has been rewarding for me to revisit some of the great texts of the bible which deal with the subject of spiritual gifts. Many people immediately think of the Corinthians when the subject of spiritual gifts comes up. But there is a wonderful passage in Romans 12 about spiritual gifts as well as Ephesians chapter 4. Because of the Corinthian excesses and selfish displays, many have sought to discredit the value of spiritual gifts in our post-modern era.
To use the book of 1 Corinthians as some kind of proof-text against spiritual gifts is a grave error. Paul was not seeking to forbid or devalue the importance of spiritual gifts- just the wrong use of them. What becomes evident from the very outset of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is that they had a problem with divisions and factions in the church. Paul makes numerous references to this problem (I Cor 1:10,11, I Cor 3:3, I Cor 11:18) in this letter. This problem spilled into the arena of spiritual gifts as well- some felt superior because of their gifts, while trying to demean those who had (what they deemed as) the "lesser" gifts.
Many have rightly emphasized the need to follow and pursue charity (love). But following love and desiring spiritual gifts go hand in hand (see the initial verse I posted at the top of this blog entry). The two are not mutually exclusive! I have noticed and observed that many have made attempts to excuse their lack of desire for spiritual gifts. I hear comments like "well, if God wants me to operate in spiritual gifts, He will give them to me, but right now I don't think it's His will." While there is a truth in the sovereignty of God in the distribution of the gifts (I Cor 12:11, 18, 28), this should not be used as a cop-out for not desiring the gifts. This is much like the instruction in the book of James regarding prayer for the sick. While we acknowledge that not everyone is healed when we anoint with oil, and pray the prayer of faith- this does not diminish our responsibility to follow the directives of scripture. Regarding spiritual gifts, God may not grant us the spiritual gift (or gifts) that we desire, but that does not negate our responsibility to desire and pray for them. Paul especially seems to value the need for prophecy in the church.
Until next time...