Today's Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 14
Selected Biblical Text
1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in another language does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in other languages but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in other languages unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. (1 Cor. 14:1-5 NIV, using textual alternative as footnoted)
Reflecting and Thinking
I have titled the devotionals from this part of Corinthians to reflect Paul's concern for the body, the church. Paul is writing to a church with many challenges. He is concerned about whether they will be the church God desires them to be. In worship, we must recognize the body. We must honor God's plan for body. We must edify the body. Christianity is not designed as a selfish religion. Christians are concerned about one another; Christians are concerned about others.
In today's text, Paul says that understandable prophecy is more to be desired than unintelligible languages that are not known to the others present. It appears that some of the Corinthians were exercising their language gift even when they did not have the gift of translation (interpretation). Paul says that in such cases no one understands what is said so the utterances are mysteries to all, possibly including the speaker (verse 2). The goal is the edification of the body. The gift of languages is desirable when someone interprets, because it edifies the church (in a two-step process) and has basically the same result as prophecy (a one-step process).
On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned do you think most Christians today are about the edification of the entire body? On the same scale, how would you rate the selfishness of the average Christian? Do you think most people go to church for what they can get out of it, or for what they can give in worship to God and encouragement to other Christians? What percentage of the classes or sermons you hear are effective in edifying (building up, strengthening) the church? What percentage of the classes or sermons you hear have little impact on edifying (building up, strengthening) the church?
The Corinthians failed in edification because they were focused on themselves and their own spiritual gifts and visibility. Does the modern church ever fail in the same way? When have you see Christians focused on themselves more than on God?
Dear God, help us develop concern for others and for the church. Help us get self out of the way so we can genuinely follow Jesus. May our lives and our words build others up, both to develop faith in other Christians and to help unbelievers learn about Jesus. As always, we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.