“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
But earnestly desire the best gifts.
The command to “earnestly desire the best gifts” is not addressed to the individual but the collective church. The implied “you” is second person plural in Greek. We cannot select our gifts because that is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit (a point made in many places in this chapter). However, as a congregation, we can “earnestly desire” that the “best gifts” (superlative gifts) be manifested among us. The “best gifts” are those that benefit the general body of Christ. In chapter 14, Paul lists “prophecy” (exposition) as a greater gift.
And yet I show you a more excellent way.
The “more excellent way” refers to chapter 13, the chapter on love. Love is the motivation for using our gifts. “Excellent” means to cast beyond, to surpass. Love is something that surpasses gifts because it is a quality way of life. Chapter 12 catalogs the gifts but chapter 13 shows the correct use of gifts – love. Chapter 14 shows the misuse of gifts. Paul wants to “show” the Corinthians the importance of love in the use of their gifts.
The tandem of gift and love is powerful.
God does not give gifts on demand, but we depend on the collective gifts of the entire body. Love is a course of conduct, not a gift. God gives gifts to some and not others. Love is a way of life that all may seek. Love is a par excellent way of life.
No matter what gift we may have, if we do not demonstrate love in the use of that gift, we might as well not use it. A gifted person can be a carnal person. It is a great tandem to possess a gift and exercise love with it.