What are the “best gifts”? in 1 Corinthians 12:31

For the longest period of time, many within the Body of Christ have taught that the “best gifts” Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:31 is love.

That’s incorrect for two reasons:

1) Paul can’t call love (singular) “the best GIFTS” (plural). However, Paul DOES refer to love as “a more excellent WAY” to function in the gifts of the Spirit (vs. 31). When you read 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is discussing love WITHIN the context of the things of the Spirit. The Corinthian Church was misusing the things of the Spirit (showing off giftedness, rather than seeking to edify others). Love in 1 Corinthians 13 was therefore to show how a believer should act when operating in the gifts of the Spirit.

2) Technically, Paul groups love under the “fruits of the Spirit,” (see Gal. 5:22) not under the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Corin. 12:8-10)

What then are “the best gifts”? The word “best” is “megas” (μέγας) in the Greek. It is used of rank, what is more eminent than another. This implies that some gifts are of more benefit than others. We discover which they are in chapter 14:1

1 Corinthians 14;1 (NKJV)
1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially THAT YOU MAY PROPHESY.

Observe that the SAME words “desire” (“zéloó” in the Greek) used in 1 Corinthians 12:31 is repeated here also. This shows that Paul intended that his statement in 1 Corinthians 12:31 be explained in the subsequent texts (1 Corinthians 14).

We see clearly that “the best gifts” are the utterance gifts (prophecy, which comes by way of tongues and interpretation of tongues). This is because these gifts major primarily on edification (vs. 3) and they end up in the edification of the whole Church not just certain individuals (vs. 4). Hence Paul says in vs. 5;

5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you PROPHESIED; for he who PROPHESIES IS GREATER (same word used in 1 Corin. 12:31 for “BEST gifts”) than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he INTERPRETS (which is prophecy), that the church may receive EDIFICATION.

Prophecies (which can also come about by interpreting tongues) are therefore “the BEST gifts” Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:31, they lead to the edification of the Body of Christ as a whole.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2020.


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