The fourteenth Chapter of 1 Corinthians deals with edification—how to help build up the spiritual lives of other believers. There was a party in Corinth that reveled in their spiritual gifts—especially in the gift of being able to speak in other languages without having to study them. It was a remarkable gift, well-suited to the early church before there was a complete canon of New Testament books spread throughout the church (for data on the relationship of spiritual gifts to the formation of the New Testament see my book, Signs and Wonders in the Last Days). Those who possessed the gift of tongues (the Greek word for “languages”) were zealous to use them. But, the trouble is, tongues were given for reaching unbelievers, and they were using them in the church instead (v.22). Others, who could not interpret were not being edified by what is said. And disorder prevailed (v, 40).

So, Paul says, “since you are zealous for spiritual gifts; be zealous for what builds up the church.” He then sets prophecy over against tongues as more profitable for the congregation. It could be understood because it was in Greek. Throughout the chapter, he compares the two and opts for prophecy over tongues in speaking in church meetings.

Now, lay hold on that point—if you are filled with zeal, your zeal should be directed toward ways that benefit your brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, in 2 Corinthians 10:8, Paul says that the authority he was given by God was for the purpose of building up members of the church—not tearing them down. And at the conclusion of that book, he repeats this point (2 Corinthians 13:20).

Now, the first thing is the need for zeal in the church. The Corinthians had it. Do you? If not, that’s should be your first priority. The church could use many more zealous Christians. You get zeal from studying the Word of God. If you are not regularly reading about God’s promises and encouragements no wonder you lack zeal.

But the second thing is—if and when you acquire a zealous desire to do things for God, remember—the way to harness and direct that zeal is to focus on using whatever you may be able to do not for yourself, but for other believers.

Zeal can either hurt or help. Be sure yours does the latter!


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