Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.1 Corinthians 14:1-3
That ties this back to the
love chapter. Love is to be the basic, biblical reason for exercising a spiritual gift. Love is the hunger to reach out for someone else's benefit. That is to be the controlling theme throughout this whole chapter in the discussion of tongues and prophesying. Love is building up someone else. To that end,
desire spiritual gifts, so that they may be a means of helping others and fulfilling love.
Clearly the one spiritual gift that is most effective in that direction is prophesying. The gift of prophesying is not predicting the future. That may be an element occasionally in it, but it is the explanation of the present in the light of the revelation of God. The closest term we would call it by today is biblical preaching that unfolds the mind of God and applies it to the daily struggles of life. That is prophesying. That is the gift for a congregation to desire above all others.
Beginning with Verse 2 and on through Verse 5, Paul compares the gifts of prophesy and tongues. Anyone who speaks in tongues is not understood in a congregation because he speaks
mysteries in the Spirit. The reason for that was he was speaking in a language that they did not understand. At Corinth people would stand up and speak in these languages, perhaps recognizable as being languages used somewhere nearby (as on the Day of Pentecost), but the people there did not understand the language, and so they could not know what the speaker was saying.
In contrast, Paul now describes the gift of prophesying, which Paul says has a threefold effect. First, it builds people up. The word is oikodomen in the Greek, oiko means
house, and domen means
to build. To build a house on a solid foundation is the idea; and the work of prophesying gives people a foundation. One of the major problems among Christians today is the struggle they have with the sense of their true identity. Many people are emotionally torn apart because they do not understand that they are new creatures in Christ; they are no longer what they once were. Because they still get feelings of being what they once were, they believe those feelings, and they react accordingly. There is an up-and-down experience that they can never get away from. Prophesying corrects that. It teaches us who we are in Christ.
The second thing prophesying does is strengthen people. This is the word from which we get the word paraclete, one of the titles of the Holy Spirit. He is the strengthener of God's people. It means to support and encourage; it is
one called alongside, that is the literal meaning of the term, to support you and steady you and strengthen you.
The third ministry of prophesying is that of comforting. Still a third Greek word is used here, paramuthian, which means to empathize, to put yourself in the place of others, to understand the pressures they are under. It means to be able to feel with them and be able to encourage them with the fact that you know how they feel. That is what the word of prophesying is inclined to do. We have all had the experience of listening to a text of Scripture expounded, and it seemed to speak right to our basic problem. That is what prophesying does. You can see how useful and how important it is to have this exercised in a church.
Thank you, Father, for the ministry of the Word of God in life. I pray for those who expound it that they might be your mouthpiece to a needy people.
What is the primary aim in the exercise of spiritual gifts? In what ways does the gift of prophesying, as in exposition of the Word of God, fulfill this basic purpose?