The Pursuit of…
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is addressing the church in Corinth on the proper use of gifts in the church. He spells it out in verses 26, 33, and 40. He tells the church first, that the gifts are for building up, that God is not the Author of confusion, but of peace, and also that the gifts should be used in a decent and orderly fashion. These verses are absolutely vital for bringing clarity to the way that these gifts are to be used, especially among the congregation. However, it is not all of the explanations of the gifts, and prophecy and tongues that sticks out to me.
What sticks out to me in 1 Corinthians 14 are the three things which Paul tells us to pursue, desire, and seek.
The word “pursue” literally means to follow, in order to overtake or capture. Pursue is a verb. To pursue requires action. Now that this is established, what has Paul commanded us to pursue? The answer to that is found in verses 1 and 12. Paul tells us, pursue love, earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and strive to excel in building up the church. I’m sure that most of us read this list and are automatically drawn to the first part. “Pursue love.” That sounds so nice. Maybe someone will make a sign of that and put it over their door with “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” right? WRONG. When Paul says to pursue love, he is telling us that we are to actively hunt down ways to better put ourselves last. Now you’re all thinking that the second two items sound better, but wait. Lets continue to look at pursuing love. Paul has just finished penning 1 Corinthians 13, which is widely known in churches today as “the love chapter” where new definition has been brought to love. To sum up Paul’s new definition, love is putting the needs and desires above our own. Love manifests itself through humble service. This is something seen throughout the Gospels. Romans 5:8 tells us, in this we know that God loves us, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Christ’s death showed His love. What we do shows our love. This death to self is something that Paul even uses as an example specifically for husbands in the way that they treat their wives. Love, as Christ loved the church, giving Himself for her. The love that Jesus Christ brought embraces selflessness. “Pursue love” might as well be read “pursue selfless living”
Secondly, Paul tells the church in Corinth that they should earnestly desire spiritual gifts. These gifts encompass every way in which the Spirit of God moves among His people. As followers of Christ, our desire should always be to see God move in our midst. Jesus calls us to love God with everything that we are (Luke 10:27). That involves seeking His face above everything, regardless of how we feel, putting His will above ours. If we have Jesus on the thrown of our hearts and lives, nothing should excite us more than God Himself coming down to our level and moving in our midst. Spiritual gifts are not only when God’s Spirit moves among us, but through us. The Holy Spirit Himself moves and works in and through us. How could we, as disciples of Jesus, desire anything more?
Finally, in verse 12, we are called to strive to excel at building up the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t just tell us to try to build up the body of Christ, but to excel at it. We are supposed to be professional edifiers. The church of Christ should be the most encouraging, most uplifting people on this planet. That is how God calls us to be set apart. If we aren’t edifying the body, glorifying Christ, then we are not reflecting a faithful image of Jesus to the rest of the body and the world outside. When someone excels at something, not only are they the best at it, but it comes naturally to them. We as the church must be so wrapped up in who Jesus is and what He has done for us that edification should come naturally. This last item will truly be a product of the items which Paul places before it. When we are living selfless lives, fully dependent on the constant moving of the Holy Spirit, edification is the result. When we move away from this, we go from operating as a member of the body of Christ to operating in our own flesh, and it is certain that edification will not be brought to the body of Christ through one of its members walking in the flesh.
Pursue love, earnestly desire spiritual gifts, strive to excel at building up the church.