How to Manifest the Spirit
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:12
What quality is at the heart of a person that strives to excel in building up the church? Love! Just as 1 Corinthians 14 is built upon its preceding chapter focusing on self-sacrificing love (1 Corinthians 13), so it is love that is the foundation of any person that prioritizes attitudes and actions that build up God’s Church. We know love is at the center of the desire to build up the church because the selfless qualities of love (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) are essential in the life of a person who seeks the good of the church rather than their own needs. You can’t truly seek to build up God’s church lovelessly. And, it is the love beaming out from the cross of Christ that is foundational to any love any Christian will ever show. So, building up the church happens when love is present, and love leading to building up is present in one who has tasted the love of Christ for them.
Now let’s go deeper. Notice that Paul doesn’t simply say that we should build up the church. He clarifies it with the eye-opening truth that certain gifts of the Spirit (things like speaking in tongues) may not be helpful depending on the setting in which they are used. Wow! Gifts from God (God wrought and God glorifying) may not be helpful depending on the situation. Rather, we are to focus on the upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation of the church.
Question: What does that mean for us practically? If good things from God can be rendered unhelpful depending on the situation, what does that imply for the Christian desperately seeking to see God work in them?
Answer: We need to readjust our spiritual standards and focus in order to properly pursue the manifestation of the Spirit.
Adjusting the Spiritual Measuring Stick.
So Corinth comes to Paul and says, “Do you think if we speak in tongues, we will reach the highest heights of spiritual maturity? After all they are one of the greater gifts.” The question seems to be rooted in identifying the type of gift that they can accomplish in order to manifest the Spirit most vividly.
Corinth’s sure-fire process to manifest the Spirit:
Christian >> Exercise Higher Gifts = Spirit is Manifest
Paul flips the script, however, and from a 1 Corinthians 13 mindset draws us to see the true “sure-fire” method for manifesting the Spirit.
Paul’s Proper Method for Christian’s to Manifest the Spirit:
Christian >> Seek to Build Up the Church (love) >> Exercise gifts that Build Up = Spirit is Manifest!
Paul exchanges the Corinthian’s “Spirit-Manifestation” measuring stick. Where their focus used to be on the type of gift itself, Paul gives them a new measuring stick focusing away from the higher gift they desire to express and toward the effect that the gift has on the church. He says, “Since you want to see the Spirit work in you, try setting your focus on building up others for a change!” We must do the same! We don’t just do things because we feel they will have some spiritual value. Strive to build up the church, and the love of Christ will be shown in you. Make building up your focus, and the corresponding gifts will follow in the wake of that passion for seeing Christ glorified as others see and worship Him.
Question: How would my ministry to others change if my first question was not, “Is this something true?”, but rather, “Does this build up the church?”