In 1 Corinthians 14 the Apostle Paul was giving instruction about how things were to be done in gatherings of the Church that, in those days, almost exclusively met in homes.
A lot has been changed by man since God instituted meetings of the Body of Christ in all their simplicity and beauty.
Early in what is now chapter 14 he discussed prophecy and tongues, neither of which are allowed in many Body of Christ meetings today, despite the fact that God commands the exact opposite situation:
“….brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)
These letters like the one Paul wrote here were written to help the brand new Church function in a healthy way and to inspire Christians to approach God as equally valued Christians. EACH one brought something vital and delicious to those Church meetings. This why Paul said this:
“Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:25)
Imagine an intimate gathering of Christians in a home or a workplace or even in a church building functioning like the Bible teaches. Imagine that each was valued equally in all ways…even in the spiritual sense….EVEN the brand new Christians. (There ARE places like this in the Body of Christ today in which it is acknowledged that EVERY believer has the Holy Spirit of Christ living and functioning deep inside him.)
How does that look?
Paul said this near the end of what we know as 1 Corinthians 14 in which he discusses how these meetings should go:
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)
What has been done to the simplicity of that verse? Well, for the most part, it is been whittled down to a piece of paper handed out when people enter a church service. It usually has the title “Order of Worship” on the top of the page. What it almost always contains is a pre-determined schedule of how the service will go. It is almost always the same from week to week and is almost always followed precisely.
Now, there is nothing wrong with doing this since the Bible never forbids the handing out of pieces of paper with the “order of worship” on it. However the Bible DOES forbid what it represents in practice.
“Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
The Greek word translated as “quench” in the NKJV means “to extinguish”…..as in throwing water on a fire. In this use it acknowledges that Holy Spirit, sometimes presented in the image of fire (Acts 2:3; Hebrews 12:29), will allow man to quench Him should man prefer whatever he desires more than he values what God wants to bring to man’s meetings or lives.
This is not a good thing.
I find that idea to be incredibly sad in concept…but more so in witnessing it in practice, including those times when I know I have quenched Holy Spirit.
In practice, man’s “Order of Worship” usually represents a strait jacket for the people and for Holy Spirit that restricts spiritual movement in the name of “decency” and “order”. The problem with this, besides the obvious negative spiritual effect this has on people, is that it depends on man’s idea of what “decent” and “in order” looks like.
Let’s consider for a minute what that looked like when Jesus, Whose Spirit directs Paul to write “Let all things be done decently and in order” walked the earth. Since we know that God never disobeys Himself we can consider that everything Jesus did was “decent” and “in order”.
Consider the scene when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas came with temple guards and Roman soldiers to have Him arrested.
“Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’" And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:3-6)
Imagine, just for a second, that scene. As all these fell to the ground with their weapons and shields and armor, can you imagine how chaotic that looked and sounded? Did it sound and look like what we consider “decency” and “order” to appear to be?
Of course not….but it WAS God’s order unfolding. These people came to drag Jesus off to the Jewish leaders….to humiliate and degrade. The order and authority of Jesus manifested itself with Him saying three simple words: “I am He.”
I believe that none of these men ever forgot what happened in the Garden that night and that after Jesus rose from the dead….someone from that disorderly rabble was born again as a result - decency AND order made manifest in their hearts.
Let’s look at one other scene from the ministry of Jesus. This one happened some time before the arrest in the Garden.
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!’” (John 2:13-16)
We know that Jesus did everything He did because His Father in heaven told Him to do them (John 5:19). Therefore, we know that Father God instructed Jesus to take the time to make a whip and then spend the time it took to drive all those people out of the Temple, turning over tables and throwing their money on the floor. I’ve read that some scholars estimate it took over two hours for Him to get all that done.
Again, do you imagine in your wildest dreams that this was a nice, quiet orderly scene? I don’t. I think it was wild and loud and appeared to be chaos; however, it was Jesus exercising His authority and bringing order and the Kingdom of God to the earth.
What is my point?
Is it that handing out pieces of paper in a church building is wrong? NO!
The point I believe the Lord woke me up to write this morning is that if we allow our human definitions of “decent and in order” to cloud our perceptions in any gathering of the body of Christ of what God wants to do to bring His order we will quench His Spirit.
Like you, I have been in many, many church services (congregational and house church meetings) that started with being handed the “Order of Worship.” As I said earlier, almost always things happened exactly as the piece of paper dictated they should go. Leaders went home that day feeling they had accomplished what God intended because they administrated their idea of “decent” and “order.”
I have also been in a few services that also started with being handed that same piece of paper (they are almost all identical from place to place) but at some point Holy Spirit moved in a powerful way and the leader(s) obeyed Him. At that point, the “Order of Worship” was completely abandoned and the Lord did something in the hearts of the people in attendance.
I’ve seen preachers and pastors completely lay down the sermons they had slaved over for hours that week and allow God to bring His order to the earth…decently. I’ve seen “ministers of music” utterly abandon the plans they had for the handful of songs they intended to play that day and follow the Spirit’s leading.
One of the more wonderful things I have experienced has been spontaneous praise and worship music in which musicians and singers received a new song direct from the Throne in Heaven and sing it in unison….none of them knowing what notes or words would come next. BEAUTIFUL!
I’ve seen house church leaders lay aside their plans for the meeting and just let Holy Spirit function in His proper place: leading and directing the gathering.
Prophetic words would flow – God speaking personally to those in attendance; words of wisdom and words of knowledge were released by God (1 Corinthians 12:8). Everyone would sense that God was present and personal.
Whenever this happens there is a sort of sense of near panic. Man’s ideas of order have been abandoned and sometimes it feels…or even looks like disorder.
It looks like the day that Jesus drove the moneychangers from His Temple. It might feel uncomfortable but it IS good and it IS decent and in order.
We will do good to face a fact: God is not like us.
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God is not like us and His ways are not like our ways….but we CAN be more and more like Him – as we repent and follow His lead and prompting.
We can attempt to force God to obey our human-generated “Order of Worship” in our personal lives and in our corporate gatherings if we want to, but it will never work and it will never yield the kind of supernatural life Jesus promised to us.
Let’s commit to making our plans as prayerfully as we know to do and to also being prepared to fully abandon those plans should the Everlasting God prompt us to do so.
I anticipate experiencing a life FILLED with the intervention of God. I LONG to see His order being restored to the earth and God does NOT need our little schemes in order to accomplish this. Instead, He desires partnership with us….we functioning in our proper place: following His lead.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:1-4)