29 February 2012
"EARNESTLY DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS"
Being Leap Year there are no readings listed for today so we read and discussed yesterday’s and tomorrows readings in 1 Corinthians 12; 13; 14 as these chapters together contain Paul’s advice to the believers at Corinth about the proper way to use spiritual gifts. He says that “each was given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good” [1 Corinthians 12:7]. Paul is concerned about the degree of competition among them and that some were failing to use the gifts in the ways intended.
The majority were Gentiles and had had no previous awareness of Israel’s God and his messages through the prophets or the Law. The gifts were essential for they had no Bibles to read like we do today. Let us appreciate the flow of connecting thoughts from 1 Corinthians 13 into 1 Corinthians 14 to grasp a central point in Paul’s message.
In 1 Corinthians 13 he had said that the gifts of tongues, knowledge and prophesying would one day cease [1 Corinthians 13:8,9]. Ignoring the chapter break we read, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” [1 Corinthians 13:13; 14:1]
The gift of prophecy has the primary meaning of speaking messages from God and, as we see in the Old Testament, they were mostly messages about attitudes and events happening then and God’s approval or disapproval, usually the latter! Properly used this First Century gift was invaluable in building up the believers until the Gospels were written, copied and circulated. The value of the gift of prophecy is most clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 13:24,25, “if all prophecy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all … he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” But if they were talking in tongues, the opposite happened, see 1 Corinthians 13:23.
Today we have the full testimony of God’s word and we need to adequately know it so it becomes part of our thinking and we can unfold the promises and ways of God to any unbeliever who enters or “anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” [1 Peter 3:15] We also noted Paul’s comment, “as in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches … they are not permitted to speak” [1 Corinthians 14:33,34] and we recall how Jesus only chose men as disciples and, on occasions, sent them out to preach [Luke 9:1-6]. However it is also clear that men and women teamed together in teaching the ways of God (eg Acts 18:26); it is only “in the churches” – in the services, that the women are “not permitted to speak.”
Paul told them to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” [1 Corinthians 12:31] and today we have the greatest gift of all until Christ comes, the gift of the Bible. Let us “earnestly desire” to read it every day.
29 February - Leap Year - Thoughts
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