Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Decently and In Order

God's People Must Be United and Growing in Holiness

1 Corinthians 14:26-40[1]

As preached at Rolling Hills Church on Sunday, July 8th, 2012

The central theme of this book, as I see it, is this: God's People Must Be United and Growing in Holiness. In chapters 12-14 Paul is responding to some question about spiritual gifts, for he begins this discussion by writing, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed." (12:1). The central theme of chapters 12-14 is that the gifts are to be used to unite and build up the body in love. Let's read the final portion of this portion of the book of 1 Corinthians 14.

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.

28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.

30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.

31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,

32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

34 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.

35 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.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

37 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.

38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

As Paul so clearly says… Let all things be done for building up. All things should be done decently and in order. Let's pray.

26-33a Order in the Worship

How does this instruction I've been giving you work out in your gatherings? Well, with respect and order, and for the purpose of building up the body. Strengthening, fortifying the church against all attacks of the enemy, against discouragement, against false teachers and faith that wavers due to persecution, and even maintaining hope in the face of stern rebukes from an apostle of the church! Apparently there was at least some worship gathering where the church enjoyed mutual communication, rather that just the elders/pastors teaching God's Word. So there isn't always a bunch of people sitting quietly and one up front leading, as in our more formal worship gatherings. As D.A. Carson said in one of his books, ""The least we must do is to provide an opportunity for the congregation to have an opportunity for mutuality[2]." That makes sense. If and when that type of gathering occurs, Paul gives us some guidelines.

-       What is brought or contributed to the church gathering must build up the church!

-       One speaks at a time, and if tongues are used, interpretation must be given; or else they are silenced.

-       All that is spoken is examined carefully. Paul also taught this in 1 Thess 5:20-21 "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good." Men can get things wrong. So when people are saying I think this is what the Lord is saying to me/us, we should listen, and evaluate – the subjective by the objective.

So we have order in the worship gathering, even when it is a unique type of service geared toward more people sharing than just the pastors/elders, who must be able to teach (1 Tim 3:2), and who must rule well (1 Tim 5:17). Interesting that here in Corinthians where Paul gives the most instructions about the worship service there is no mention of elders in the church. Interesting…

33b-35 Submission in the Worship

Women are to be silent in the churches, not speaking out. Alistair Begg said of this text, "A more challenging word – for men who have to expound on them, for women who have to listen to them, and for husbands who have to discuss them with their wives when they go home[3]."

We know it's not simply a local, cultural issue of that church because of what precedes (as in all the churches) and what follows (this is a command of the Lord). The command could have been made necessary by some issue, though. We know that in prayer and prophesying women are to be fully in submission to their husbands (1 Cor 11). Options here…

-       Silent during prophecy interpretation/commentary. It is clear from 1 Tim 2:11-12, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

-       Silent during certain gatherings of the church, but not all. 1 Cor 11:2-5 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. Here it is implied that women could pray out loud or prophesy in certain gatherings. We're a bit fuzzy here because we don't seek 'immediate revelation' prophecy in our gatherings. I have said we don't forbid such, but we don't seek such.

-       During all public gatherings, but 11:2-5 was meant for homes/family groups

Ladies, do not let submission be a bad word in your heart; do not let the feminism of America 2012 cause you to sinfully rebel against God and His Word. Men, hear this; if more husbands worked harder to know more about Scriptures, fewer women would feel compelled to lead spiritually in the home.

Our take here at RHC: it is hard to apply, but as long as a woman is under submission to her husband, to her pastors, and is not teaching or exercising pastor/elder authority over the church, she is free to speak in the worship service. As for commenting on the sermon, or asking questions during the message, we don't encourage that of any person. The format we provide for mutuality where many speak is in our small groups. I realize this isn't a perfect interpretation, and acknowledge this is a tough one to interpret and apply. So we have order in the worship, submission in the worship, and

36-38 Instruction on Authority. This is inspired by God and should be treated accordingly. Paul knew he was speaking from God. Paul's authority was given by God and he was firm that it must be submitted to by the church. This is from God. Finally…

39-40 Summary on the Use of Gifts. We have this succinct summary.

39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Prophecy is the greater gift, and evidently tongues, which is the least of the gifts, was the greater concern and thereby the greater problem in Corinth. Remember the ratio we discussed last week – 5 words in understandable language over 10,000 words in tongues. But do not forbid it. I see it as dispensable, but not forbidden. Some have; I disagree that it is necessary. We have this instruction to guide our implementation of it, so we should trust God and move on.

Earnestly desire to prophesy. If we take this as 'hear and share an immediate word from God', then we would be de-valuing what we know to be the inspired Word from God in Scripture, which is priority. So let us make this application: let us pray that God would call many to teach and preach the Word of God, some vocationally, from our church family! May God cause many to earnestly desire the gift of preaching the Word of God to God's people and to the lost!

Let all things be done for building up. All things should be done decently and in order.

Church family, the gifts are to build up the church, not to confuse it, or to set a hierarchy in it. Are you using your gift to build up the body of Christ in love?

Let's pray, and today let's pray the Lord's prayer together as we close.

[1] All Scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (via E-Sword Software) © 2001 Crossway Publishing. All Rights Reserved. I paste them in red for distinction.

[2] Most likely Worship by the Book, D.A. Carson, Editor. Copyright © 2002, by D.A. Carson, Timoth Keller, Mark Ashton, and Kent Hughes.  Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids

[3] From his sermon on this text found at his website

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