Faithlife Sermons

(Dis)order (Worship Issues, Part 8)

1 Corinthians: The Gospel for the Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:50
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I’m so glad to have all of us together this morning. I’m so glad that you’ve chosen to gather together with this small part of Christ’s Church. I’m so glad to worship together with you all here and now.
This morning, we’re going to try something different. Over here, you all are going to sing “Amazing Grace”, hymn #200. ________, you lead them when I tell you all to start. You’ll sing a few verses.
Over here, you all are going to read out loud Psalm 23 together. Go ahead and find the Psalm in your Bible and wait for me to tell you to start.
In the back, some of you are going to pray the Lord’s Prayer together and some of you are going to share praises aloud with one another.
Okay now. When I say go, let’s all of us worship together. Also, if you don’t want to do what the rest of your section is doing, do whatever you want as long as you do something. Sing, read, pray, praise. Go!
Well, what can I say? That was a hot mess. Talk about chaos. Total, complete and utter chaos. That was a disaster. A circus of activity.
>There’s a reason we have an order of service: order.
We might change it from time to time, but only slightly. In the near future, we will probably mix it up a bit more than we have in the past. We’re not meant to be stale and stagnant, but what happens in the church worship gathering must be characterized by order; it must be orderly.
Paul is addressing the church regarding their worship, their worship gatherings. As the church there in Corinth gathers together, and they all share—both men and women, possibly children—they are all worshipping the Lord together.
And the goal of all this is the building up of the church, the edification of the church, the strengthening/encouragement/instruction of the church.
He wants to make sure that what they do is intelligible and edifying.
If you read through this chapter (1 Corinthians 14), you’ll come across the word edify and the phrase build up over and over.
In this whole discussion of the gifts given to the individual members of the church, edification and building up are key.
If it’s unintelligible, it can’t edify or build up.
If it’s disorderly, it can’t edify or build up.
That’s the basic caution of 1 Corinthians 14.
>If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 14. If you are able and willing, please stand with me for the reading of God’s Holy Word.
1 Corinthians 14:26–40 NIV
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
May the Lord add His blessing to the reading of His Holy Word!
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This, I believe, is the essence of what Paul is getting at:

Disorder doesn’t build up

If the gathering devolves into chaos, the church can’t possibly be built up. The church is built up—and only built up—with intelligible words and orderly worship.
To some, this sounds little boring, too staunchly conservative, a squelching of the Holy Spirit.
I get where people are coming from, I do. It seems to them that if every part of the worship gathering is so ordered, so scheduled, so planned then the Holy Spirit can’t possibly move.
But some people trade-in the order, the planning, the scheduling out of a preference for a free-for-all.
To me, that entire thought process smacks of laziness. I knew a minister who wouldn’t write down any notes—no outline, no manuscript, no Bible references—and he didn’t study the week ahead of his sermon, not at all. He believed the Spirit would lead him. And then he told me, straight to my face (I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t hear it straight from his mouth): “If I had notes written down or even an outline, the devil would be able to read over my shoulder and he’d take what I had written and confuse it as I was speaking.”
True stinkin’ story. To me, it was plain laziness cloaked in a completely whacky, unbiblical theology. He’s no longer “preaching”, and that’s probably a good thing.
Others say: “We can’t schedule anything or commit to an order of service without squelching the Holy Spirit.”
It’s almost as if some people think the Holy Spirit is the crazy, hippie, free-loving cousin of God the Father and not part of the same Triune Godhead.
God is not a God of disorder…and it goes to follow that neither is the Holy Spirit disorderly or somehow a fan of haphazard spontaneity.
The Holy Spirit works and moves as He will, but it’s clear that the Spirit uses the simple, planned, organized study and presentation of God’s Word to work. God honors the preparation and planning that His people put into the worship gathering.
In the 1990s, in the wake of the so-called “Toronto Blessing” of a charismatic church, the leader of a religious group contradicted virtually every principle laid out in 1 Corinthians 14. He actually cautioned people against using their minds and their doctrinal convictions. “God wants to reach your heart, not your mind. It is not necessary for you to have a rational understanding of what’s going on here.”
He encouraged people to speak in tongues simultaneously, even though no one interpreted any of those utterances. And finally, he turned the meeting over to absolute chaos, unleashing a frenzy of noise and activity in the name of the Holy Spirit.
It’s worth asking: “Can God possibly be behind something like that?”
You might think, “Well, yeah, maybe? It’s possible...”
The Bible answers that question with a definitive “No sir!”
1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
Such chaotic displays in churches must not be attributed to Him. The Bible speaks with absolute clarity on this. In different terminology:
1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV 1900
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
God is neither glorified nor is He pleased where chaos and confusion reign. And if the gathering devolves into chaos, the church can’t possibly be built up.
Verse 26: “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

Disorder doesn’t build up

Disorder can’t preach

Why does the church gather? Worship, fellowship, and proclamation.
If all of this is chaotic, some level of worship might take place, but will it be worship that pleases God?
If all of this is chaotic, some level of fellowship might occur, but it’ll probably be a sporadic fellowship at best.
If all of this is chaotic, I very much doubt that anything substantive is proclaimed. And that is a most serious problem.
If the gospel—the Good News about Jesus—isn’t proclaimed, then whatever’s happened in that place isn’t church.
The Good News about Jesus must be the primary focus each Lord’s Day. Gospel proclamation is paramount.
The way the church is built up is by hearing the gospel—that Jesus came to save sinners like me, that He died, was buried, and rose again, to justify us, making us perfectly righteous, giving us life everlasting; this news needs to be made clear, it needs to be proclaimed plainly during the church’s worship gathering.
This is the task of the Church. It is the commission that Jesus Himself gave to us. Disorder cannot possibly lead to a clear proclamation of the gospel. Disorder cannot begin to build up the church; disorder cannot preach.
Disorder cannot further the mission or the message of the church. This should be what concerns us most—the mission and message of the church being advanced.
It’s not about our preference, our comfort, our feelings, or our emotions. It’s about the mission of the church (the building up of one another) and the message of the church (the gospel, the Good News about Jesus).
Paul desires for his brothers and sisters in Corinth to come together in order to advance, not their own individual kingdoms or any earthly kingdom, but the Kingdom of God.
“When you come together…everything must be done so that the church is built up.”
It’s pretty clear. But it’s also, apparently, easier said than done.
The Corinthians’ misuse of the gift of tongues is leading to disorder.
The guidelines for utilizing the gift of speaking in tongues is laid out in verses 27-28:
1 Corinthians 14:27–28 NIV
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
The first half of this chapter focused on the clarity and the intelligibility of tongues and other gifts.
Here, it’s pretty clear the Corinthians have an issue with orderly use of these gifts. They are apparently gibber-gabbering all over one another and using the gift of tongues in a way that could only possibly lead to disorder.
That Paul has to emphasize what he does is pretty telling. He has to limit the number of those who would speak in tongues (2, at the most 3). He has to tell them to speak one at a time. He has to tell them that there must be someone who interprets what is being said, and if there is no one to interpret what’s being said, nothing should be said at all.
Personally, I have never seen the gift of tongues used in a Biblical fashion. Not once. Not ever.
I’ve seen people speak in what they would call “tongues” during a worship gathering—but it’s almost always the entire congregation going at it all at once, or at least a large group of people. It’s never one at a time. And it’s never just two or three people. It’s chaos.
I’ve seen people speak in what they would call “tongues” during a worship gathering, but I’ve never once seen any interpreter present. In fact, I’ve never heard of any charismatic leader demand an interpreter interpret what’s being said. They miss the clear instruction of 1 Corinthians 14.
A lot is unclear about the gift of tongues, but this is simple, isn’t it? If it doesn’t conform to this, it’s unbiblical.

Disorder can’t preach

Paul leaves room in the early Corinthian church for the possibility of speaking in tongues—if anyone speaks in a tongue—but Paul assumes that two or three prophets, at least, will speak.
Paul wants two or three prophets to speak and establishes guidelines that would keep the congregation from ever experiencing more tongue-speaking sessions than prophetic sessions.
The prophets speak in turn—not over one another or at the same time as the other.
1 Corinthians 14:31 NIV
31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
Not only are the prophets to speak in turn, the others in the congregation are to weigh carefully what is said.
Church is not an anything-goes event. It matters what happens in church and it matters how stuff happens in church.
The people are to “evaluate by paying careful attention” to what the prophets’ messages.
Christian prophets don’t lose control in some ecstatic trance as if they are possessed by some foreign spirit.
The use of spiritual gifts in the congregation is for the building up of the congregation as they grow together in Christ.
The use of spiritual gifts requires the engagement of the mind and spirit of the gifted individual and their ability to restrain, channel, and control their gift.
If it’s disorderly, it doesn’t work. And we know disorder is not from God.
1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
God is not the author of disorder. Quite the opposite. God takes what is disorderly and orders it. He took chaos and creation sprang up.
Genesis 1:1–5 NIV
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
God is a God of order and of peace—from the beginning, from creation.
You might have noticed that Paul has already mentioned—twice—some reasons to be silent:
those who would speak in tongues without an interpreter should zip it.
those who are prophesying when a revelation comes to another should stop speaking.
Now he adds a third:
1 Corinthians 14:34–35 NIV
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Paul tells all three groups—tongues-speakers, prophets, and here women—to be silent. This can’t mean that they are meant to be silent all the time, rather silent at appropriate times.
We can assume that there was a particular kind of women’s speech in worship that was creating a problem in the church that Paul had to address. If there wasn’t a problem, the Corinthians would have had similar problems accepting that women weren’t permitted to speak in church.
This isn’t “women be silent all the time”. Paul isn’t saying, “if they have something to contribute, they should tell their husbands later.”
He’s saying that if they wish to learn about anything they should ask their own husbands later.
The problem, then, seems to be that they were asking someone else’s husband their questions right there in the middle of worship, right there for God and everyone to see. This was considered scandalous in the Greco-Roman world—a woman carrying on a conversation with another woman’s husband (heck, it was considered scandalous when a women bared her arm in public!).
This was not the orderly way to handle oneself.
Paul assumes that women are going to pray and prophesy (11:5, 13) as long as they do not dishonor their husbands by the way they dress.
And so Paul assumes that women might have some questions during the worship gathering, and the best way, the most culturally appropriate way, the least disorderly way for them to do this is at home, asking their own husband.
Peace and order are preserved by the church as a whole when they submit themselves to the practice of all the churches and to Christ’s authority.
Some in Corinth thought they were free to go their own way, free from any concern about what the rest of the churches do. Others monopolized all the church’s time, refusing to be silent long enough for others to have a chance to share with the congregation.
Paul’s argument is that the Corinthians’ worship should be ‘in tune with the rest of God’s churches.”
After a quick rebuke and warning in verses 36-38, Paul concludes his thoughts on the Corinthians’ worship:
1 Corinthians 14:39–40 NIV
39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Paul doesn’t idolize order. He’s not seeking order for order’s sake.
But, for Paul, since God is not a God of disorder, that means He is a God of order, and, therefore:

Order reflects the nature of God

If everything is to be done for the glory of God (in our worship gatherings especially) it should reflect His orderly nature.
Paul’s instructions in this chapter have been intended to guide the Corinthians (and us) to a more orderly and fitting approach to the use of spiritual gifts in worship in order to better reflect the glory of God.
Disorder doesn’t build up, nor does it preach. We cannot rightly worship God and build up one another without order.
Without order, those who need to hear the Good News about Jesus—the perfect Son of God who gave up His life for His enemies to bring them to God—those who need to hear will never be able to hear if it’s all chaos and noise.
When we see that our highest virtue is glorifying God and making this a place where others can glorify God and praise Him for what He has done, we will not become disorderly. We will commit to a God-pleasing orderliness, so that the lost will be found, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and all of us will join together with one voice praising our Triune God.
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