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1 Corinthians 14:1-25

Thursday, 19 May 2022

“…Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.”– 1 Corinthians 14:12

The letter to the Corinthians deals with various topics related to the church, one of them being about Spiritual Gifts. The enthusiastic growing church at Corinth was eager to have the gifts of the Holy Spirit working through them. But many were keen for the more “showy” gifts like speaking in tongues and prophecy and wanted to take pride in them. Apostle Paul in the letter corrects them and puts things in proper perspective for them to understand.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul elaborates on the working of the body of Christ and the functions of the various gifts for the building of the church. He makes it clear in 1Cor.12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Paul advocated for unity in diversity- the diverse gifts of the members of the church were to be unitedly used for the common good of strengthening and developing the church. He then continues in the next chapter (1Cor.13) about love being the foundation for the operation of the gifts. If there was no love, it would all be a meaningless exercise.

In our reading today, Paul focusses on two particular gifts- gift of prophecy and gift of tongues. Of the gift of tongues, he says, it personally edifies one (V.4) and when used in a public worship, it is best if there is interpretation to make clear the message to the listeners. In case of the gift of prophecy, Paul gives us a few points to ponder:

It speaks to people for strengthening, exhortation and comfort (V.3)

Prophecy helps to build up people. When a prophet hears from God bringing a message to people, it is for strengthening or correcting them in their Christian walk. In times of discouragement and through tough times, a message of encouragement and comfort goes a long way to lift his/her spirit. Most often, the prophet brings the “word of the Lord” that refreshes one who is facing an uphill task, bringing strength when he/she is ready to give up.

It edifies the church (V.4)

Prophets play a huge role in edifying the church revealing God’s heart and His purposes. The prophet often becomes a spokesperson for God in bringing His word to the church and giving both admonitions and encouragement for its edification.

It convicts an unbeliever of sin and judgment (V.24)

Paul writes about the role of prophecy in convincing one of sin and judgment- especially when a person is a newcomer to the church and hears a word of prophecy revealing his life and being convicted of sin. In the case of the Samaritan woman (John 4), Jesus does exactly that and she is amazed at His knowledge of her life that leads her to repentance.

It points an unbeliever to God (V.25)

The outcome of such revelation by the prophet through the Holy Spirit makes a sinner turn to God. Paul thus writes: “So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (V.25). They see God at work in the church and in His people that they turn to the true living God in worship.

Thus we understand that the gift of prophecy is something to be desired but one should keep in mind that it is in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit to distribute the gifts to each person as He wills.

A word of caution to believers in our day that run after prophets for their benefit and those prophets who try to misuse it for their benefit. God’s Word says: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1). If any prophecy does not agree with God’s Word and does not glorify Christ Jesus, it is to be rejected. Remember that the greater role of the prophecy is for the edification of both the believer and the church.

To heed: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

Ref: William Barclay: The Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Corinthians

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