At the same time, there was another group in the same church who were convinced that speaking in tongues was not for the present era. It was a gift given in the first century, but it was no longer relevant. At best, it was a sign of emotional instability. At the worst, it was a result of satanic seduction.

Whereas the proponents of speaking in tongues viewed this as a sign of spiritual superiority, those who were opposed attributed it to emotional imbalance and satanic attack.

My inclination, along with that of many other Christian teachers and preachers, was to open the Bible to 1 Corinthians 14 to set the record straight on the matter of tongues. Now looking back thirty-six years at notes I used then, I can see the danger of topical preaching and teaching. I had become so caught up in the problems of that moment that I had taken a chapter of the Bible that does address the tongues issue and did have some things to say to that situation. But I had distorted the ultimate purpose of 1 Corinthians 14 in its continuity with 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 14 does not primarily address the issue of speaking in tongues. If anything, it speaks of three primary commands that emerge out of the magnificent teachings of 1 Corinthians 13. We see these commands in 1 Corinthians 14:1, which reads, "Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy."

Command #1: Make love your aim.

That's right. Let love be the motivating influence on all you do. These two competing groups, which vied for my attention and pastoral blessing, battled in ways that used these teachings from 1 Corinthians 1; but they denied the underlying motivation, which was to provide the energy. These charismatic renewal, tongue-speaking types, although claiming to be lovers, were manipulative types — passive and not-so-passive aggressive persons who were determined to own me and the church. Those who denied the validity of the tongue-speaking experience for today were as equally adamant in their protestations motivated by anything but love. I must admit that I, the pastor caught in the middle, was so traumatized by all this that my response was defensive to both parties in a way that rendered me incapable of learning, expanding and embracing these brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I myself had failed to obey this command to make love my aim.

Command #2: Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

My calling and yours also is to desire, in an earnest way, spiritual gifts. We are to give attention to these matters. We are to pray about them, yearning to be used by God, motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, effective in His service, exercising our spiritual gifts.

Command #3: Earnestly desire the gift of prophecy, prioritizing that particular gift above all others.

Just what is this gift of prophecy?

As we've already seen, there are two primary kinds. One is predictive prophecy that foretells the future. You are a false prophet if your predictions do not come true. This is no gift with which to play. A second kind of prophecy is that of forthtelling the Word of God. This involves the faithful teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, God's revelation revealed through the prophets and apostles. This prophetic ministry is one of moral exhortation and theological instruction, usually related to the particular problems and issues being faced by a community of believers. The gift of tongues is a legitimate gift. However, the gift of prophecy is one to be more greatly desired.