Lesson 44


Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

14:1 Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 14:2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteries. 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation. 14:4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly. 14:5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.


Today's Lesson 

The Corinthians had a problem with the use of spiritual gifts. They used the gifts of the Spirit of God in a divisive manner. They envied one another for their gifts and competed with one another for those gifts that were more sensational. Paul counseled them that the gifts were for the building up of the body of Christ, which is the church. One day the gifts that God had given would not be needed by the body any longer and in that day the gifts would pass away. Faith, hope and love however, would never fail. Spiritual gifts that are not exercised by faith and motivated by love were of no value to the body. God is love and the greatest of all the qualities of human experience that we can share in His service is love.

 

So Paul tells the Corinthians to follow after love. This does not mean that they should not desire the gifts of God. Paul tells them that they should desire the blessings of God. In this section Paul apparently deals with a specific problem that was afflicting the Corinthian church.

 

Apparently the Corinthians had people who made a show of the spiritual gift of speaking in languages. They did so openly, even to the point of disrupting the worship service. These people spoke in tongues that no one could understand. The speaker was edified -- but no one else was! Paul does not deny that this gift is a gift from God nor does he seek to diminish it. Rather, he instructs the Corinthians that when they come together as an assembly they should desire the gifts that build one another up, not the gifts that only exalt one person over another.

 

So Paul tells them to seek after and extol those that prophesy in the name of God. A prophet is one who speaks the words of God. The gift of prophesy is given to edify a people and to exhort them to righteous living. The prophet clarifies the will of God, not obscures it. Prophecy reveals the mystery of God. It is sometimes confused with divination, which is the foretelling of future events. While prophesy does sometimes concern itself with future events, it only does so to the extent that God Himself seeks to instruct us in future events. Prophecy expresses the words of God -- about the past, the present and the future.

 

Rather than speak in a language that no one can understand, Paul tells the Corinthians to seek after prophecy that will edify everyone in the church. The purpose behind the use of everything that God gives us -- our talents, our gifts, our physical possessions and even our very lives -- is that we use them to bring glory to God. As members of the body of Christ, this means bringing glory to Christ. Every time we put ourselves in the spotlight, we take the focus off of Christ.

 

Remember the parable of the talents that Christ taught. When God gives us a gift, He intends for us to use it for His service. In the parable, the good and faithful servant used the money that his master had entrusted to him. His was commended when his master returned because he put that which he was given to good use and was able to show the master a profit on his investment. In the same sense Paul is instructing the Corinthians to use the gifts that God has given them. Moreover, he is instructing them to use the gifts for the purpose that God intended. God does not dispense His gifts so that individuals can be puffed up with pride. He gives gifts so that Christ may be glorified in us.

 

What gifts has God given you? Everyone has been given something. Everything we have is from God and He intends for us to use it all for the advancement of His kingdom. How can you spend the currency that God has given you in a way that Christ may be glorified? Start out small. Take what God has given you and pass it on to those around you. God will build from there. That is the purpose of the church in this day -- to witness to the world about the ways of Christ. What can you tell the world today?

 

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