34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):
And so we come to the close of our conversation about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, yet there’s so much more to learn. Remember how we began?
Walk in the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
Paul closes the chapter in similar fashion as he began it:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
There is no definitive treatment of the gifts in Scripture. Paul engages them here in 1 Corinthians and also in the twelfth chapter of Romans. So where are we to learn more? Should we read more books about them? While that’s not a bad idea, I think this is an area where we will learn more from experience than from reading.
Walk in the way of love. The gifts of God flow from the love of God. What if the gifts are only entrusted to those who are walking in the way of love?
Eagerly desire spiritual gifts. Why? We desperately want the gifts so we can be empowered to love other people better. There’s another possible reason—so we might accrue more power for ourselves. If we eagerly desire the love of God, we will have the power of God. The corollary is not equally true though. If we eagerly desire the power of God, it does not follow that we will possess the love of God.
I think the most critical teaching in the whole chapter has to do with the sequence. First, walk in the way of love. Second, eagerly desire spiritual gifts. The more we love one another the more we want to help one another.
It brings to mind the singular command of Jesus. Love one another as I have loved you. You know where I think we can find a definitive biblical treatment on the gifts of the Spirit? It has only just now occurred to me. The life of Jesus. Yes, it seems obvious now, but doesn’t that make sense? Could it be possible that we can see all the gifts of the Holy Spirit operative in Jesus’ life at one point or another in the Gospels? His exercise of the gifts are pure expressions of love for people.
Now, just so you know I’m not dodging the tough passage in today’s text about women and the church, I want to point you to two of our Seven Minute Seminary sessions with Dr. Ben Witherington III which I think will shed light on a proper understanding of the particular problem Paul was dealing with on the front of women speaking in church. If you are interested, see them here and here. (The latter link cuts to the chase on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done; on Earth as it is in Heaven. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who is the gift. And thank you for Jesus, in whom we see the Holy Spirit in perfection and fullness. Now please lead me into the way of perfect love and all else will take care of itself. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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