1 Corinthians 14:1
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
The other day I was having a conversation with one of my kids- we were not in agreement. The words and the expressions coming from my child were absolutely not acceptable. However, I knew I needed to pause and just listen. I don’t always do this, I don’t usually do this, but today was different. In that space filled with my silence and their volume, something was said that resonated with my heart.
“Dad, you’re just too honest.” That was it. Life.
Sometimes grades are awful, sometimes kids are lazy, sometimes attitudes stink. Sometimes. So what do we do? It depends.
Jesus once looked at a few priests and said, “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt 23:27). Jesus also looked at a woman caught in adultery and said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (Jn 8:11). While I’m not one to speculate why the communication was different- I would just like to point out the difference exists. Therefore, the present distinction forces me to consider my own responses. Apparently, there is a time to say, “Go and sin no more” and there is a time to say, “you are full of uncleanness.”
Knowing the difference is the beginning of prophecy.
Have you ever heard the voice of God? You probably have.
That day, I heard the voice of God through the mouth of a child.
Prophecy has become synonymous with bold predictions. As a result, we ignore the possibility of prophecy among commoners. Bad neglect. What if prophecy is just bringing forth the will of God in a given situation? What if prophecy is the release of what is in you for the purpose of influencing what is around you? It is.
Please understand I am not promoting a cheap, TV-preacher, get-whatever-you-want theology. Trust me. I am, though, hoping you see the potential of your conversation to bring heaven on earth. There is always life to be spoken. Always. Within your heart are found words that will make the moment better or worse (Lk 6:45). Prophecy can fill conversations with friends, family and co-workers or just simply be absent.
If this sounds New Agey, it’s because others have tried to borrow the power without the process. We need to bring what is spiritual back into the Christian life. Included in his conversation about spiritual gifts, Paul says, “don’t be uninformed” (1Cor 12:1) and “don’t be children in your thinking” (1Cor 14:20). In the process of being evangelistic, we (Christians) have become slow to grow. The mission of the church is not solely to reproduce. Our mission is to attract the community and grow Christians. Both. If we’re just attracting but never growing in spiritual matters, we remain like children. It’s great we’re all family but it’s not great that we’re a bunch of babies. To think that spiritual matters are unimportant to ordinary life, is to ignore the vivid spirituality of salvation itself.
Think about it- whoever believes the soul of man can be instantly washed from a life of transgression and transformed into a sterling heart destined for everlife with God must absolutely affirm the existence of the spiritual. Eternal life is not something of the flesh but rather of the Spirit (Ga 3:3). If salvation is of the Spirit and gifts are of the Spirit then we must seek to understand what is spiritual (1Cor 12:1). Maturity is a process that begins when we leverage our understanding of salvation for the purpose of growing spiritually.
THIS IS NOT THAT
Now, today’s particular text does not tell us to desire gifts of the Spirit. It tells us to desire spiritual gifts. There is a huge difference. The nuance is better understood in Greek than English because the words used are nowhere near the same. Spiritual gifts are called pneumatika while gifts of the Spirit are called charismata. The spiritual gift of prophecy is not the same as the gift of the Spirit called prophecy.
All nine gifts of the Spirit given only to some are founded on a spiritual gift common to all.
Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? No (1Cor 12:30-31). However, of the super-gifts mentioned, everyone has a measure of each. Maybe everyone won’t experience the gift of faith, but to each has been given a measure of faith (Ro 12:3). Sure, not everyone will receive an utterance of wisdom, but there is wisdom for everyone (Jam 1:5). The reason we are able to test gifts (1Th 5:20-21, 1Jn 4:1) is because we have a baseline from which to judge the experience.
Excuse the cheesy metaphor but it might help.
How do we know the marathon runner is a gifted athlete? Because we have all run across the street. How do we know our accountant is gifted in numbers? Because we’re all required to balance our funds. We recognize a gifted teacher because we have all labored through the Gospel without the aid of a devotional. We understand gifts because we have the beginnings of every single one. We do. You do.
What does this mean? It means that when the Holy Spirit of God commands us through the pen of Paul to especially desire to prophesy- the impact is life changing. You. Can. Prophesy. You can literally speak life into your family. Into your work. Into your community. Not according to what you want but according to what He wants. This not-so-subtle instruction has been missed on this generation. Doctrinal hawks have overcorrected because zealots have irresponsibly spoken only the life they wanted and called it prophecy. It’s not. Prophecy does not have life simply because it is happy, positive and selfish. Prophecy has life because it releases what is spiritual into what is otherwise natural.
Sometimes spiritual words rebuke while other times they exhort (2Ti 4:2). Sometimes spiritual words drop you to your knees in repentance while other times they cause you to lift your hands and magnify God. Repentance and worship are both life.
What is God saying about your day? This day?
Prophesy, my friend. Prophesy.