TITLE: Worship : Decently and with
Date : Lord's Day 04/03/2012
A great tendency in the church of the 20th century , particularly within Pentecostal and charismatic churches , has been to focus on the exercise of spiritual gifts . It was argued that these gifts of the Holy Spirit had been forgotten by the church and therefore , it was argued that the church had become powerless and dead . What was needed was a return to the exercise of the spiritual gifts , primarily the mystical gifts such as tongue speaking and prophesying . Well , history judges its children and its movements . The 20th century shall go down in church history as the century of the greatest divisions and church splits - many of them on account of the matter of the charismatic gifts .
What shall we say about this ? Only this : The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity ; He is not the author of confusion. He is the Spirit of truth ( Jn 14:17) given to lead the church into the truth. The Holy Spirit has inspired the sacred text which we hold in our hands ( 1 Peter 1:19-21). He is committed to unity , because Jesus prayed for the unity of His church “… that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:23)
I am convinced , more than ever , that the Scriptures which are inspired by the Holy Spirit do not allow us to organize and work as we please in the church. The work of the church must be done with a spiritual mindset . The spiritual gifts must be used spiritually , and not selfishly. Love, as defined in 13:4-7 is the key to the attitudes that undergird the use of spiritual gifts for our ministry.
The “building up of the church” is the desired end product ( 14:4,5,12,26) .
“Unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”( Eph 4:13 ) is the goal .
Speaking in tongues as an end in itself , or prophesying as a reason to boast as if this gift had its origin in ourselves is childish and immature . The Bible reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the Sovereign Dispenser of spiritual gifts ( 1 Cor 12 :6,11) . He is the One who decides which spiritual gifts are needed for the church at any given time . He decides which gifts are to be withheld from the church at any time . The matter whether all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT must be in operation today is not the issue . The issue is : What does the church need to be built up ? How can the church see and cherish the Lord Jesus Christ better ? Paul argues in 1 Corinthian s 14 that what the church needs most is clarity - clear speech ! What can be clearer in our day than reading the Word and hearing it expounded?
As Paul begins to wrap up his thoughts concerning spiritual gifts he reminds the church that all things be done for the building up of the church ( 14:26) ; “All things should be done decently and in order…” ( 14:40) . This includes the favourite gifts in the Corinthian church – tongue speaking and prophecy . Concerning these Paul has some specific instructions in terms of what should happen in public worship :
1. He recognizes them as beneficial gifts for the church of that time , and he therefore encourages them in v 39 “ My brothers , earnestly prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues…” . Nothing that benefits the church must be withheld. We need to pray for grace to know which gifts presently best up-build the church .
2. He limits the tongue speaking in public worship - two , at most three and not without interpretation (14: :27,28) to keep the clarity principle intact- (cf 14 : 6- 24 )
3. He also limits the prophesying in public worship - two or three prophets ( 14: 29-32) , and he encourages them to weigh or judge (Gr diakrinō) what is being said . Such prophecies must not be received uncritically ; they must be limited and those who prophesy must not ‘ hog’ the meeting . When somebody else wants to prophesy , they must keep silent and allow the next person to speak .
4. An important observation is that the worship meeting of the church ought not be a ‘ free for all’ . It must be orderly and regulated without quenching the Spirit . It may be right at times for those with prophetic urges to restrain themselves . This is the way in which Charles Hodge interprets the phrase “ the spirit of the prophets are subject to prophets .” (Hodge :p.303) . The great principle of order becomes apparent again when Paul says in v. 33 “ For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” How about the modern church ? Why do we not have a time when we allow those with prophetic urges to speak ? I have much sympathy for such a need . I could see for instance that at the end of an exposition of Scripture , when our hearts and minds have been settled under the word of God , a number of spiritually minded and accountable church members might be given the opportunity to speak into our lives , to warn us concerning a matter, or to exhort us to love God and one another more .
5. Next , and in this same context of the use of spiritual gifts , Paul addresses a controversial matter :“As in all the churches of the saints,  the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. This may come as a surprise to us , since in the OT it had been predicted that at the time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ( referring to Pentecost) “ Your sons and daughters shall prophesy!” ( Joel 2:28ff) . Peter the apostle quoted this text on the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:17) and Acts 21:9 makes mention of the fact that Philip had four daughters that prophesied . Furthermore in 1 Cor 11:5 , Paul seemed to take it for granted that women would prophesy . There is certainly no reason to believe that women cannot be equally gifted in all areas of ministry ; there is no reason to believe that women cannot contribute equally to the up-building to the church . So what is the matter here ? The matter here concerns order in public worship . Creation order determines that men must lead . Men in this instance are called to lead in public worship . That is the pattern from the beginning . OT temple worship knew of no female priests , and it had nothing to do with OT male chauvinism or Hebrew culture . It was by God’s careful design . This was apparently the practice also in all the NT churches ( 14:33) . Jesus chose no female apostles for the public ministry which was needed following His ascension. Elders and diaconal leaders in the churches were always men , although it is clear that women also have pastoral gifts (e.g. Priscilla the wife of Aquila – Acts 18 ) and diaconal gifts ( e.g. Phoebe- Rom 16:1 ) that build up the church. God’s plan for a woman is that she should influence mankind “from the bottom up “ , and not “from the top down “. Ignoring God’s will on this matter has severe consequences . In 1 Tim 2:14 Paul reminds us that Eve’s fall occurred when she ignored her divinely ordained position (i.e. when she began to ‘ desire’ her husband’s position) . Instead of following , she chose to lead . Instead of being submissive to God she wanted to be like God . Paul reminds us that it was Eve (not Adam) in this aspect who was first deceived . She listened to Satan. She sinned before Adam did. In this aspect she was the leader and he was the follower. The reversal of roles in this case led to the fall.
6. Let no church think that she is an exception to the rule : ( 14: 36 ) . The Corinthians might have thought that they were superior in the matter of unrestrained tongue speaking, prophesying and giving little attention to male leadership in the church , and so Paul rebukes and challenges them : “ Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?  If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.  If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Paul engages in some sarcasm here! Are you the mother church ? Are you the only church ? Did the Word of God ( i.e . the gospel ) originate in Corinth ? Did the Gospel stop here with you ? In so doing Paul appeals that the practice of the other churches is significant , and must be noted by the Corinthians .
7. But furthermore , the authority that Paul carries as an apostle , is of a higher order because it carries the direct calling and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ ( 14:37-38) . He bears the direct authority or command of the Lord . So when Paul speaks on these matters to them , they ought to listen , and if not - well , that meant that they were not recognized by God in the authority that they claimed to bear . They would simply be men driven by their own impulses , and unfortunately there are far too many church like that ! Likewise , for us the Scriptures ought to have a higher authority than the opinions of men.
8. All things should be done decently and in order. The final exhortation is that all worship should be marked by beautiful and peaceful order, and not by chaotic disorder , which inevitably happens when men and their ego’s are big and God is small and peripheral to our worship .
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
God, in His Word has given us general principles in terms of how the church ought to be organized and led in terms of spiritual gifts and in terms of leadership  .
The Corinthian church had experienced a crisis of fractured relationships and chaotic meetings which were induced by a lack of proper respect to God and His word through the apostle Paul , so that Paul now had to teach them and remind them that in the church “… all things should be done decently and in order.” ( 1 Cor 14:40) . In verse 33 he also has reminded them that God is not a God of confusion but of peace . In the immediate context he was speaking about the use of tongues and prophecies , but the principle surely applies to everything done in the church !
The place of Worship is not a place for self- expression . It is a place of adoration and for mutual up-building . You must leave here encouraged and thoughtful and resolved to serve God and His kingdom.
The place of worship must be respected . It is for this reason also that the first epistle to Timothy , the pastor of the church at Ephesus ( 1 Tim 1:3), was written . The purpose for writing is explicitly stated in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 : “ Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
When a large group of people get together for a public worship meeting there is even more need for self- restraint and control ! We cannot do as we please . We cannot organize the church as we please . The question as to whether women should occupy eldership positions in the church is unfortunately no longer an issue for many churches. It has , in fact become an entrenched practice . Female pastors and elders occupy the pulpit and leadership of many churches in Namibia and in the world at large . This is not helping the church . We are not free to depart from the divine design ! We need to be faithful to the teaching of the Scriptures . We must not go with the times , as if modern times were more spiritual than the scriptures . As for us and our household we will continue to hold on to the firm belief that the Bible is not controversial in these matters ; neither is its teaching ambiguous on this matter , so that it can be interpreted this way or that.