Our passage today is one that has been the source of debate for centuries. It is one that makes Baptists’ skin crawl and Charismatics clap their hands with excitement (was that too far?). All joking aside, our goal today is not to further theological division, but to truly see how the Bible addresses these ideas.
The point of this passage is not to spark debate but rather to help the church see that the point of spiritual gifts is to build up the church. This is all over this chapter:
“3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14:3-5)
“12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12)
“17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.” (1 Corinthians 14:17)
“Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26b)
The building up of the church is what Paul wants the church at Corinth to grasp, and it is what he wants us to grasp as well. Pursuing Christ is not an isolated journey. We often drive home the importance of practicing the personal spiritual disciplines (praying, reading the Bible, etc.) and these are important and should be practiced consistently. But this is only half of what it means to grow in Christ. The other half is meeting together to hear the Word of God preached, sing to God in worship, and be mutually encouraged, challenged, and held accountable by other brothers and sisters in Christ. That list is certainly not exhaustive, but the point is that the church is not built up by an individual’s quiet time, but by sharing life together and growing closer together as the body of Christ. This means that we use our spiritual gifts in order to build up the church, and not ourselves.
How are you personally contributing to the building up of the body of Christ? Do you cause more division or unity? How do you use your spiritual gifts for others and not just yourself? How can we as a church grow in building up one another, and therefore building up the church?
In the comments, feel free to share different ways that God’s Word has been encouraging you lately, and different ways that the church can be praying for you.
By: Graham Withers