In 1 Corinthians 14:1, we are given a foundational truth,
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Notice that this verse leads off with a very direct command. We are to pursue love.
It is interesting that this command is given in the context of Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 deal with the gifts of the Spirit: the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the discerning of spirits, the gift of faith, the working of miracles, the gifts of healing, the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues, and the gift of prophecy.
Chapter 12 gives us the definition of those gifts, chapter 13 teaches us the spirit that should characterize their use, and chapter 14 gives us guidelines for their functioning within the context of the local church.
When it comes to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, Paul is very clear. He tells us, “Desire the gifts. Seek to have these things operating in your life and operating in the life of the local church, but they need to be practiced in love.”
It is with that thought in mind that Paul writes 1 Corinthians 12:31. Here is what he says,
But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
As we read the following verses we are told that the more excellent way is love. Again, Paul is giving us the spirit that should characterize the use of the gifts of the Spirit as they function within the context of the local church.
Desire the gifts. Earnestly covet them. But let them operate through a spirit of love.