1 Corinthians 12:31 - A Command or a Rebuke?

The next problem in 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the meaning of the statement "But eagerly desire the greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31). Paul appears to be commanding the church to eagerly desire the greater gifts. However, this seems to be a very strange thing to say, especially since Paul has just finished explaining to them that a) every gift/manifestation is important to the church, b) they don�t have all the same gifts/manifestations because God has given out a diverse range, and c) the Holy Spirit distributes gifts/manifestations as HE desires. Actually, this verse may also be legitimately translated: "But you are eagerly desiring the greater gifts" (the NIV has a footnote indicating this). The Greek word translated "desire" has exactly the same spelling when it is used as a command, and when it is used to describe something. It is a bit like the English word "read", which could be used to say that I have completed reading something or that I am currently reading something. The context tells us which meaning was intended by the author. In this case, Paul, having explained how the gifts in the church are supposed to work, is actually rebuking the Corinthians because they were eagerly desiring what they considered to be the greater manifestations (ie. speaking and interpreting tongues). Also, Paul goes on to say in the next sentence: "And now I will show you the most excellent way." It makes no sense to command the church to desire the greater gifts and then immediately tell them there is actually a better way!

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