(1 Corinthians 14:1)
In several of my recent posts I have looked at the gifts of the spirit and the love of God. The love of God is the only thing that is eternal for God is love and He is eternal.
The gifts of the spirit do not continue on forever but that does not mean they are not important. In fact they are critical to us now in this age if we want to find the path of God’s love.
I have made this point also in my most recent posts where I have discussed both the gifts of the spirit and the love of God. Just because love is the “more excellent way” as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 12:31, we cannot ignore the need for the gifts of the spirit. Just because “love never ends” as we saw in 1 Corinthians 13:8, it does not mean we should ONLY pursue love to the exclusion of th gifts of the spirit sent by God.
I have made both these points in previous posts and now we see Paul saying exactly that here in this verse also.
I have made a point over a number of posts on this site about the importance of the little words. That is, those words that might easily be overlooked, and yet convey the real depth of meaning in the scripture under review.
There is such a word in this verse. It is the word “and” which I have emphasised in the excerpt below.
Pursue love, AND earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. – (1 Corinthians 14:1)
In the pursuit and execution of our walk in Jesus Christ, it is not an either/or proposition. We do not and should not pursue either love or spiritual gifts, but instead need to seek both at the same time.
See what Paul says in the verse above. “Pursue love AND earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.”
To desire something is to want it and seek after it. But to earnestly desire something adds an urgency to the process. Seek these gifts of the spirit with deep longing, with strong desire and with great earnestness.
He is saying here we are not to just seek and pursue love, but to do both.
Now if love is the only thing that will last forever, and if love is the aim of our Christian walk, that is, to be perfected in the image and the love of Jesus Christ, then why is that not our sole focus? Why do we need to not just desire the spiritual gifts but to EARNESTLY desire them?
It is because the gifts are valuable to us in our walk with Christ. As a church the body needs the gifts to the church to build, strengthen and protect the church. This is why Paul particularly singles out the gift of prophecy for that gift is given to the church so that God can speak directly to the body for their encouragement, warning and upbuilding.
But there are also gifts given to individuals for personal growth and protection, in particular the gift of tongues which is discussed in some length in this chapter and which I will cover in more detail as I move forward in upcoming posts.
What these gifts enable us as a church or as an individual is to learn and see the will of God. He wants to help us to grow into maturity as Christians and the purpose of the spiritual gifts is to bring us to maturity in Christ Jesus.
To put it bluntly, we need the gifts to show us the way of love and to love. No man can emulate the love of God nor learn it fully without the working of the Holy Spirit in them. God’s love is so different to the love of man that we need to learn it from Him directly.
The purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the Father who is the God of love. The Holy Spirit operates the gifts in both individuals and the church to teach us the love of God and to show us how to walk in God’s love.
We first learn how to walk in the spirit, which utilises the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us to overcome the evil passions, lusts and desires of the body. We walk in the spirit to “put to death the deeds of the body,” as we are told in Romans 8:13.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. – (Romans 8:13-14)
When we put to death the deeds of the body, that is, the passions, lusts and desires of the body of flesh, then we are walking in and led by the Spirit of God and are sons of God.
And as we continue to kill these passions by the Holy Spirit working in us, we learn how to walk in love with others. We learn how to not be upset by others when they are being led or driven by their passions and desires, by their irrational feelings and emotions.
And so we have peace because we have the fruit of the spirit growing in us and we are walking under the power of self-control rather than controlled by our emotions and passions.
This we learn how to love and Christ loves us and as God the Father loves us.
To do this and grow mature though, we need both the spiritual gifts while we are pursuing the love of God.
So do as Paul recommended. Earnestly desire the gifts of the spirit, especially those that build up the church, like prophecy. But also earnestly desire ALL of the gifts of the spirit that you will grow and be transformed in Christ. Ask the Lord to give you the gifts of the spirit to help you grow and to upbuilding the church.
And at the same time seek and pursue the love of God. Learn what His love is and how to apply it in your life. Pray for the Father to show you His love and teach you how to love as you walk with Jesus.