By Bryan DeWire, Desiring God blog:
Some might tell you not to really desire all the spiritual gifts. But when you say that, it does not seem to do justice to what 1 Corinthians 12–14 really says.
The apostle bookends his famous chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) with these two (perhaps surprising) charges: “earnestly desire the higher gifts” and “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1). God means that we desire all of God’s gifts, not to glut our selfishness, but to selflessly strengthen others — “so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:5).
Here are ten ways and reasons from the New Testament to desire all the spiritual gifts, not just the comfortable ones.
- Desire all the spiritual gifts because you desire God himself. “To each is giventhe manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3). Compared to other “higher gifts” (such as tongues, healing, and prophecy†), love is “a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts because you need him to overcome the satanic fear that dwells in your heart (2 Timothy 1:6–7). As Sam Storms writes, “My opposition to spiritual gifts was also energized by fear . . . [like] the fear of what might occur were I fully to relinquish control of my life and mind and emotions to the Holy Spirit” (The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, 10).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that discernment is needed. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:19–20). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, buttest the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29–32).
- Therefore, desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that good things can be twisted and corrupted. But, as Storms says, “abuse is no excuse for disuse” (Convergence: The Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, 206).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts because God commands it (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39). In fact, God tells us, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39) and, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:19–20).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts because you long for God’s people to be as built up and encouraged and consoled as is pleasing to him (1 Corinthians 14:3). In fact, “since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). In other words, desire the gift of prophecy in order to build up and encourage and console others, in order to have a greater manifestation of the Spirit of God himself.
- Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that prophesying and casting out demons is no sure sign of being known by God (Matthew 7:22–23).
- Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that suffering will come. First, just as God did with Paul, he may choose to afflict you so that you might not become wickedly proud because of your great giftings (2 Corinthians 12:7). Secondly, the world, the flesh, and the devil will all fight against a greater manifestation of God through his Spirit in your life because of these gifts.
†Storms writes, “The gift of tongues is simply the Spirit-energized ability to pray, worship, give thanks or speak in a language other than your own or one you might have learned in school” (Beginner’s Guide, 151), and new-covenant prophecy is “‘the human report of a divine revelation.’ Prophecy is the speaking forth in merely human words of something God has spontaneously brought to mind” (110).