It’s Not All About YouDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
1 Corinthians 14:12
As you may recall, the Christians in Corinth were struggling with the issue of spiritual manifestations. In particular, some of the believers there were overly excited about speaking in unknown languages. It's likely that had been involved in pagan cults that emphasized speaking in tongues. Naturally, these immature Christians brought their assumptions about spirituality into the church. They were zealous for spiritual gifts, most of all for speaking in unknown languages in the midst of the gathered assembly of believers. Unfortunately, this practice was not helping the Corinthian church. People in the assembly who did not understand the language being spoken by the tongues-speaker had to sit there and listen. They were not being instructed or encouraged. In fact, they were getting nothing out of being together with other believers while someone spoke unintelligibly.
The Apostle Paul did not respond to this situation by forbidding speaking in tongues. In fact, he claimed to do this more than any of the Corinthians. But he did so in private, not in the assembly (14:18-19). Why not? Because Paul knew that the purpose of ministry in the gathering was building up the church, not fostering individualistic spiritual experiences. The problem with speaking in tongues was not that it was somehow unspiritual, but that it didn't help others.
So, the fact that the Corinthian Christians were zealots for spiritual gifts was a good thing, just so long as they sought those gifts that would be of benefit to the church. Thus Paul writes: "Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church" (14:12).
This exhortation is as needed today as it was in the first century. Though we may not be obsessed by speaking in tongues, we can easily think of the church as the place where we get our personal needs met. Worship, preaching, fellowship, teaching . . . they're all for me! But 1 Corinthians 14:12 reminds us of the contrary truth: It's not about me! Or you! We need to learn to think of church not primarily in terms of what we can get out of it, but rather in terms of what we can give to it. We should be zealous for that which will strengthen the whole church.
So, if I don't like a song or a sermon, don't let this dominate your consciousness. The more important question is: Did that song help others to worship? Did that sermon help to build up the church? When we take 1 Corinthians 14:12 seriously, we'll begin to see church more as a place to give to others than as a place to get for ourselves. I know this isn't easy, at least it isn't for me. But Scripture calls us to be more concerned for the well-being of our Christian community than for ourselves.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How often do you think of church in terms of what you get out of it? Are you committed to strengthening your church? How do you express this commitment?
Dear Lord, even as some of Corinthians were too wrapped up in their own spiritual experiences, I must confess that I struggle with this very thing. I'm not inclined to speak in tongues in church. But I am likely to evaluate a worship service in terms of what I get out of it. I can too easily think as if it's all about me. Forgive me!
Help me, dear Lord, to seek to build up your church. May this be true, not just in general, but especially as I engage with my local church. Give me a passion for the health and growth of this body. Help me to find my rightful place in our fellowship, where I can be a channel of your gifts for the building up of your body.
I pray in the name of Jesus, who called us to be servants. Amen.
P.S. If you're wondering about what Paul means when he speaks about prophecy and why he values prophecy so highly, you may want to read a piece I have posted on my blog: What is Prophecy in 1 Corinthians?