1Co 12:29-31 “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
Paul has presented a compelling argument for the unity of the members of the body of Christ. He has pointed out the need for all the members regardless of how feeble thy might appear. Also, he has outlined the truth that God has placed (set) in the church all that was and is necessary for His glory and the church’s benefit. He now points out once again that God, in His wisdom, did not give everyone the same gifts.
His questions here are rhetorical and designed to call our attention to the fact that God placed many different gifts in the church. It is not my intention to enter the debate of continuationism versus cessationism. Whether or not we believe that all these gifts continue in the church today, it is obvious that God placed them there and Paul addressed them for a purpose.
We do not all have the same gifts and talents. Instead of feeling either exalted or slighted that our gifts differ from the gifts of others, we should all be humbled that God has seen fit to give us gifts at all. Further we should recognize that God gives gifts according to His own purpose.
The giving of gifts from God is not like some celebrity in a parade just throwing hands-full of candy to those lining the parade route. Whatever gift or gifts God has given us, He has singled us out to be the recipient of such. He has chosen us to occupy a place in His service that is pleasing to Him. Why would it ever seem good to us to complain about what our loving Heavenly Father has set us in His kingdom to do?
Often, the word “covet” brings up negative connotations in our mind. We think of being jealous or of desiring something that does not belong to us. In the sense that Paul is using the phrase “covet earnestly” here, he is talking about our having a great affection for the best gifts. While there could be a lot of discussion about which of the gifts Paul lists should be considered the best, I believe it was his intention that we remember that God only gives the best gifts to His people.
We should have a great affection for every gift that God gives, because He always gives the best. We should earnestly covet the gift of preaching, praying, singing, visiting the sick, encouraging the weary, and upholding the weak. God only gives good and perfect gifts (Jas 1:17, 1Pe 4:10).How can there be a more excellent way than to earnestly covet the best gifts that God has placed in the church?
The answer to that, as least in part, requires turning the page to chapter 13. Yet, we can perceive the general outline of the answer, even if we do not see the specifics of it yet. Always, and in everything, Christ is the more excellent way. To wield the gifts of God with the mind of Christ is the more excellent way.
May we always look to the “the more excellent” way of using our God-given gifts to bring honor to the body of Christ, whose body we now are!