Then in v. 31, Paul tells the Corinthians to eagerly desire the higher gifts. “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). The greater gifts are those gifts that build up the church. (R. Oster) Again, the emphasis is on using the gifts that serve the church.
Paul mentions the “more excellent way,” which is the way of love in 1 Cor. 13. No, he is not talking about romantic love or marital love. The context is about loving others in church. He is talking about how love seeks the common good in church. He shows that love for one another should drive our use of spiritual gifts in church.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Paul talks of the utter worthlessness of using spiritual gifts without love. If Paul has the gift of tongues but without love, he is just making noise. If he has the gift of prophecy but without love, he is nothing. If he has the gift of faith to move mountains but without love, he is nothing. If he has the gift of giving but without love, he gains nothing.
Paul’s point is that spiritual gifts are nothing without love. For Paul, the most excellent way is not being a gifted church, but being a loving church. It is not being a gifted church, but being the church that uses its gifts out of concern for each other. The failure of the Corinthian church was the failure to seek out the good of others. We see the same problem then and now in many churches.
Now if you use your gifts with love, you bless others. You bring good to others. You achieve the purpose of spiritual gifts—the common good. This is the more excellent way—using your spiritual gifts out of love for others in the church.