Monday, September 19, 2016

In Pursuit of the Earnest Desire

As I continue to prayerfully meditate upon God’s word concerning spiritual gifts, I have found it notable how God describes the attitude he wants us to have in relation to what he gives us. Here are a few Scriptures that stood out today with special interest for how they are to impact both my heart and my behavior.

1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (I Corinthians 14)

1.  Pursue love: the kind of love described in I Corinthians 13. Don’t “wait” for it; pursue it; seek it.

2. Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts: no question that God wants us to not only desire them, but earnestly, eagerly, longingly. Nothing in the Scriptures tells us that God doesn’t mean what he says about this.

3.  Especially (earnestly desire) that you may prophesy: Paul goes on to show how prophesy does more to build up the church than tongues, and this is the reason we should earnestly desire prophesy even more than we would earnestly desire all the other spiritual gifts.

    We do not need to wait until we know for certain what prophecy means. We can pray that God would give us prophesy however he means it, and however he wants us to have it. He will lead us to understand his will. However, for starters, we are to earnestly desire the fullest experience of his will in this regard.

12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. (I Corinthians 14)

1.  So with yourselves: Paul’s expression, “so with yourselves,” shows that he was talking about how the Corinthian church pursued all the spiritual gifts. He says nothing in this chapter about any of the gifts ceasing with the apostles, or belonging to the apostles alone. His interest was in how the churches used spiritual gifts in the way they were taught through God’s breathed-out words.

2. Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit: Paul treats this as a good thing. I have been taught that it is only those pesky Charismaniacs who are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, and such manifestations will get weird and wild in a “beyond what is written” kind of way.[1] However, Paul taught the “manifestations of the Spirit” as good and normal, albeit with the provisos that everything is aimed at the common good.[2]

3. Strive to excel in building up the church: What would happen in our church groups if we came to every gathering having an aim to build up the church by striving to excel? Wanting to build up the church is not optional. However, the standard is not the bare minimum, but excelling at building the church. And, no matter how poorly we are doing at the moment, from where we’re at, we can strive to excel in building up the church

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (I Corinthians 14)

1.  What then, brothers?: I love this because Paul takes whatever he teaches and calls the church to consider what to do with it. He even TELLS us what to do with it so there is no doubt how to put the Scriptures into action.

2. When you come together: picturing the regular gatherings of the church. Note again that this is about when “you” come together, meaning the church, not an apostolic board meeting where the spiritual gifts were confined to a handful of men.

3. Each one has: “Each one” means just that. None of us are spectators to what the rest of the body is doing. “has” means that each of us has something to bring to church with us if we will pursue the spiritual gifts and consider how we are placed to build up the body of Christ.

4. A hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation: I think Paul is giving a summary of the gifts, indicating ways that we come together to a church service. He doesn’t picture a worship leader picking out all the songs, but people coming to church with songs that express whatever God is doing that week, and what would be most beneficial to building up the body of Christ. He doesn’t limit the instruction to the pastor, but expects that some will have “a lesson” to present for the good of the whole church. “a revelation” is included, and makes me want to know for certain what Paul meant by that. And tongues and interpretations are also included, simply taking us back to the list of spiritual gifts and calling us to come with these things ready to go. Of course, this means in context of everything Paul has instructed about such things.

Conclusion: When Paul tells us to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy,” we must add our “Amen” to this and seek it all. We can seek the fullest experience of spiritual gifts in the church of our communities, and the most loving character in handling these things.

As I have said a few times recently, when we seek to be filled with the Spirit, we will mature in the fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit. While there may be some sense in which we must wait on the Spirit to do what he will do, there is also a sense in which we can set our minds on the Spirit now, and follow him where he leads. We will become more Christlike, and more gifted, as we go.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I Corinthians 4:6
[2] I Corinthians 12:7

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