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1 Corinthians 12:31

ESV But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
NIV Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
NASB But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And yet, I am going to show you a far better way.
CSB But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way.
NLT So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
KJV But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

What does 1 Corinthians 12:31 mean?

This concludes a section about the importance of the spiritual gifts in the life of the church. Paul encourages the Corinthians to earnestly desire the higher gifts. By this, he likely means they should want to see gifted apostles, prophets, and teachers in their church. This might seem confusing, since Paul has labored over these last verses to explain why there is honor and value in all gifts and roles. So, why would Paul say this about these certain spiritual abilities?

Perhaps it is because through these gifted functions that God is best able to communicate needed truth to His people. Or perhaps the Corinthians did not value these leadership roles among them nearly enough. From all Paul has had to correct in their understanding and practice of Christianity, it's possible that they either lacked or did not receive good teaching from gifted leaders.

Even keeping with the body analogy, this still makes sense. A professional athlete certainly desires to hone the abilities of their arms, or legs, or fingers. That's a good thing, and not something to be ashamed of. That same athlete, however, still knows that there is importance and value in those other, less-visible body parts. They realize that extraordinary accomplishments by the arms and legs require support and care for those other members of the body.

The chapter ends with a teaser of sorts for what Paul will discuss next. He calls it the "more excellent way." The theme explored in this passage forms a well-known discussion of the biblical concept of love.
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