1st Corinthians 14:1 reads, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (NKJV). In chapter 12 the apostle Paul had spoken on the subject of “spiritual gifts” and in chapter 13 he pressed home the importance of “love” in the exercise of our gifts. In light of that teaching he now exhorts the saints to “pursue love,” for love must be the driving force if we are going to effectively serve others with the gift God has given to us. This is borne out in 1st Corinthians 13:1-3 which says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

Paul goes on to say, “and desire spiritual gifts.” Though love is vital, spiritual gifts are also necessary for the edification of the saints. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:8, 11-12: “When He [Christ] ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and GAVE GIFTS TO MEN…He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.” If we truly enter into the importance of these gifts as outlined in these verses, we will indeed “desire spiritual gifts.” We won’t desire them to draw attention to ourselves; we will desire them to see our fellow-brothers and sisters edified. The word “edify” means “build up,” and we should all have a passion to see our brethren in Christ “growing up spiritually!” The Apostle Peter’s very last words to the saints come to mind, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2nd Peter 3:18).

After Paul spoke at length about spiritual gifts in chapter 12, he ended on this note in verse 31, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts” (NASB). What did Paul mean by “the greater gifts?” I believe he meant “the gifts which will lead to the edification of the saints.” The connection to the verse we are meditating on is obvious, for after exhorting us to “desire spiritual gifts,” the apostle says, “but especially that you may prophesy.” The gift of “prophesying” is one of “the greater gifts” because it would lead to the edification of the saints. The Corinthians were in need of this instruction because they were making so much of what we might call the “show gifts”: the gifts of healing, miracles, and especially tongues. As needful as they were, they paled in comparison to the gift of prophesying. Paul makes that point in verses 2-4, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for EDIFICATION and EXHORATION and CONSOLATION. One who speaks in a tongue edified himself; but one who prophecies edifies the church.”

Before we close, we need to understand exactly what “prophesying” is. The word “prophesy” means “the speaking forth of the mind of God.” The gift of prophesying then involves the ability to speak from God’s Word to address the needs of the saints in a particular place. Some have called it “a word for the times” because it will be just what God’s people in a certain place need at that time. We saw in verse 3 that it will result in EDIFICATION, EXHORTATION and CONSOLATION. Another has said that “the prophet builds up, stirs up and binds up.” As a Christian, don’t you want to see your brothers and sisters blessed in this way? If so, then “pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”  (210.1)  (DO)