1 Corinthians 14 completes Paul’s detailed advice on the wise use of spiritual gifts that were available in his day. Those who claim possession of some spiritual gift today almost always quote selectively from this chapter, ignoring the context. The Corinthians had no Bible to read as we have.
There is one particular gift that Paul emphasis. “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophecy” (verse 1). What is this gift of prophecy? It is explained in verse 3, “… the one who prophecies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”. Verses 4 and 5 continue “The one who prophecies builds up the church … The one who prophecies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues … that the church may be built up”. We noted yesterday the negative effect of tongue speaking in church.
In contrast to tongues, if believers “prophecy” in the sense of building up fellow believers, how positive this would be. Remember this was God’s primary commission to the Old Testament prophets; frequently their task was to turn the people back to serving God properly. In the early church, prophecy was to be used in the same way, and those with sprit-empowered messages were to build up their fellow – then when an “unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed and, so falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (verses 24,25).
There is a parallel to this today. God’s word logically and clearly explained has an effect, usually over time, of producing a reverent spirit. Any visitor to our ecclesias who is seeking God will become convinced that God and Christ are really among us. In modern speech we say this is ‘awesome’! Do we sense this? Chapter 14 concludes with appropriate words, “my brothers earnestly desire to prophecy … all things should be done decently and in order”. We hear the words of prophecy today through reading the divine word every day – let us not neglect to ‘listen’.