Those who speak in strange tongues help only themselves, but those who proclaim God’s message help the whole church.
I would like all of you to speak in strange tongues; but I would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God’s message. For the person who proclaims God’s message is of greater value than the one who speaks in strange tongues – unless there is someone present who can explain what is said, so that the whole church may be helped. (verses 4,5)
It seems the people in Corinth had problems with spiritual gifts. They seemed to argue about what were ‘superior’ gifts and which ones were necessary if you were ‘really’ going to be Christian. Here and in earlier chapters Paul re-teaches the meaning and significance of gifts. The key point: gifts are given to build up the church.
In this passage he emphasises the need to proclaim the message of God clearly, so that all who hear may benefit. Each and every member of a congregation will have opportunities to proclaim the word – usually to a friend who is searching for some meaning to life, some hope for the future. It is just as important that the good news be shared in simple, clear language in that situation as it is from the pulpit. To proclaim the good news we must first know it, and we must know what God has done for us personally. If we know we have eternal life, if we are totally sure that we are saved, that we are God’s new creation in Jesus, then we have a message to share. And there are people who need to hear it.
Holy Spirit, work through God’s word in my life, so that I may hear, believe and tell. Amen.
by Bob Turnbull, in ‘New Strength for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 1998)
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