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Seek to excel in Building up the church. 1 Corinthians 14

Paul continues to speak about pursuing love and the more desirable spiritual gifts, which he identifies as prophesy and teaching. Some want to say that prophecy is no longer a spiritual gift given to believers that it was only used in the early church. I do not find any biblical grounds to believe that prophecy is no longer spiritual, but we do need to know what Paul is talking about here when he talks about prophecy.

The Old Testament standard of prophecy is that every detail had to be exactly right or that person was a false prophet and was to be put to death. Meaning that if a prophet said that would rain on Monday at 5 pm, but it rained at 6 pm they were considered a false prophet. We see a shift in the New Testament that prophets did not have to get everything right. We come to this conclusion by the events that happened with Paul in the book of Acts.

Agabus prophesied that Paul was going to be taken by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles when he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11). If we continue to read the chapter what we find is that the Jewish people beat him and the Roman commander took him into custody to stop the rioting. Paul was arrested by the Romans, not handed over as Agabus prophesied. (Acts 21:30-33). According to the Old Testament standard of a prophet, he would have been considered a false prophet, but not according to the New Testament standard. Not every detail had to be exact.

It is also considered the meaning of prophecy in the New Testament does not necessarily mean that one is telling of things that would happen at a future time. Paul says:

“But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.”

1 Corinthians 14:3-4 HCSB ( )

He says that the purpose of prophecy is to build up the church, by edification, encouragement, and consolation. It is possible that speaking of future events could fit into that description, but it seems that is the act of speaking words of edification, encouragement, and consolation. Anything that is spoken to edify other members of the church would be considered prophecy. Not like what we see Kenneth Copland doing, or any of the other TV evangelists.

The thing that is clear that Paul wants to get across to us in these last few chapters is that we should not seek the gifts that build ourselves up or the ones that we want for our self-interest. Instead, we should first seek love and then the spiritual gifts that work to building up the body of Christ. All of the spiritual gifts are to be used for the benefit of the church body, not the individual. This is why Paul says that if “anyone speaks in tongues builds himself up.”

It is human nature to seek the gifts that we feel are mystical or mysterious. It is possible that the members of the church at Corinth wanted the more spiritual-sounding gifts for their appearance in the eyes of other believers and not to build up the body. Paul isn’t saying that these other gifts are bad, but that our motives in seeking and using a particular spiritual gift should be for the benefit of the congregation, not ourselves.

“So also you — since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church.”

1 Corinthians 14:12 HCSB ( )

It is good that they were zealous for spiritual gifts. All Christians should be zealous for spiritual gifts. That is not bad it is something that Paul saw as commendable, but the most important thing that he points out is that they strive to build up the church. As Christians, we need to continually check our motivations behind our actions and desires because the heart is deceitful. We must remember that our responsibility is to the spiritual well-being of each other and we should seek to build up the church. Meaning that we may not be given the spiritual gift that we might desire, but we will be given the spiritual gift that is needed for the building up of the church.

May God help us to use our spiritual gifts in the service to others for the building up of the church and help us do not fall into the trap of pridefulness and self-service.


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