Paul taught on the spiritual gifts (charismata) in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 14, however, he began in Romans 11:33 reminding us that no matter how hard we try God’s ways are beyond our ability to discover and comprehend. That mystery led Paul into one of his explanations of the gifts of the Spirit (Rom. 12:3-21) in which he stressed love. Why?
It’s essential that the driving force for operating in the gifts be love. He’s crystal clear on that motivation; your passion for God leads to love for others. Love, agapao, is the unselfish, expecting nothing in return, seeking a person’s highest good kind of love and it’s always a decision of your will.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 ESV
Jesus called it the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34) and Paul tells us love is faith in action (Gal. 5:6); it’s serious business to them. So when I explained the gift of prophecy, speaking God’s words to build someone up, encouragement, and comfort, it’s obviously needed in the Church today. We don’t have to label it in order to draw attention to ourselves but we’re instructed to not willfully ignore (1 Cor. 12:1) or misunderstand it.
If that wasn’t enough Paul completed his thoughts in chapter twelve by commanding us to ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts’. What does he mean by ‘higher gifts’? The Greek word indicates gifts that have the greater importance and widest application; they help the most people.
Chapter 13 follows as an explanation of love, a higher gift; its not just a wedding passage but a teaching on the wide scope of love. You may speak in heavenly languages (tongues) or give a prophetic word to someone (vs. 1-3) but if it isn’t motivated by love Paul says its just noise. He isn’t discounting supernatural gifts because he knows God is unsearchable and unfathomable, however, clarification is needed.
He dives into Chapter 14 by telling us to pursue, like a hunter chasing his catch, the higher gift of love and be eager to possess the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, making prophecy a higher gift. Paul used the word ‘especially’ which indicates a comparing of better to good; he wants us to prioritize the gifts. All of the gifts are valuable but some have a greater degree of importance: love and prophecy top the chart.
… since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV
God chooses from a wide variety of grace-gifts to empower His people for the purpose of reaching out to others on His behalf. We are to speak His words, proclaiming His message as we listen to His voice with passionate love for Him and for others.
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. Matthew 22:39 NLT