WHAT IS A DECENT AND ORDERLY CHURCH SERVICE?
I Corinthians 14
This chapter of I Corinthians concerns all of us. We need to understand this very profitable chapter. These instructions are practical, vital, and imperative.
The church congregations are like "filling stations." As a car is driven into a gas station for the purpose of re-fueling the car... so it may resume its journeys... so the Christian must frequently go to the local body church, and be 're-fueled" for continued operation. Sometimes the Christian needs repair by the "Head Mechanic", and the place wherein the Lord has chosen to keep the operation of the tools of the Spirit, is the local assembly of believers. The saints are kept in good running order, if the local congregation of believers are operating an efficient, and properly equipped station.
What is the "church"? It comes from the Greek word - "ecclesia". It refers to a body of "called out ones..." It is translated "church" 112 times... and translated "assembly" 3 times. It is used in the Bible to refer to a gathering of a mob of people. In Acts 19. This mob was confused, disoriented, and behaved in a shameful way.
"Some therefore cried one thing, and some another; for the assembly (ecclesia) was confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together."
Unfortunately, this is descriptive of many congregations today. They do not know why they gather together, nor do they speak with unity, and have a like purpose. They are confused, and behaving in ways that shame the Lord they claim to serve.
Paul was speaking in I Corinthians to such a congregation. This church (ecclesia) was disorderly, and therefore was not prospering. Paul stated some serious, vital principles to guide such congregations.
We should recognize weaknesses, inconsistencies, extravagances, dangers in Pentecostal worship. The Holy Spirit takes people as they are, and none of them are perfect. The imperfections of people will creep out into the expressions of worship. The manifestations of the church are affected by these imperfections.
God did not make us robots, to automatically perform exactly as He would will... We, as people of free will, had better heed, and study the instructions of the Lord in the Word of God. For the behavior of people within the church, without such instruction, and the following thereof, will degenerate to shameful practices as it did in Corinth.
If we ignore the safety markings, the guidelines of the Lord, we can no more claim to be infallible examples of God's handiwork than the motorists who ignores all the highway laws and markings on his trip. It is dangerous and deadly for a congregation to play church without the proper guidelines being observed and obeyed.
The early church services were informal. One person had a psalm, or a song. Another would speak of a doctrine. A third would express a revelation given to them by the Lord that week. Each would take part, and encourage others. This excessive informality degenerated into a very unhealthy "free for all" in Corinth.
Some congregations have tried to substitute a cold, dead, formalism to avoid such problems as they were having in Corinth. These cold, dead, formal, and planned services are about as inspiring and Spirit filled as the morgue.
Excessive informality can engender confusion, false doctrines, and disorder... Paul's answer was not formality. He counseled teaching... as the answer. The easiest way to kill excess is form and rule, but that kills the spontaneity of the Spirit's moving, as well as man's. We need order, but not the order of a bodyguard.
God does not want a planned, ordered, and sin-to-be-changed plan for each service. He does want "all things to be done decently and in order..."
At least 20 verses in the 40 verses of I Corinthians 14, emphasize the need of edification of the church. The church is a place wherein the believers go to be edified, built up, helped, refueled, repaired, and cleaned up... As a car goes to a service station for gas, oil, repairs, and a cleaned windshield... so the believers should go to the local church "ecclesia."
The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to enable us to do the works of Christ. We need to carry on the work that He began. (Acts 1:1-2, 12-15, I Cor. 1:7, 12:4-31, 14:1-40, Rom. 12:3-8, Heb. 2:3-4) The ministry which we are commanded to do is to be confirmed by the signs and wonders which emanate through the exercise of the gifts. (Mark 16:15-20, Romans 15:18-19, 29)
The possession of gifts does not necessarily indicate that one is spiritual. Corinth displayed many gifts - but they were not very spiritual. (I Cor. 3:1-4) Corinth was torn by divisions, and lawsuits; they had drunkenness and gluttony. In Corinth, some denied Paul's apostolic ministry. Some denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul said you can have various gifts and not have love. He indicated that in these cases, the exercise of gifts will profit nothing. (I Cor. 13:1-2)
Where are the gifts today? Some churches find the subject of gifts to be strange. Some saints have not discovered or allowed the use of their gifts. Some do not even know what gifts are available. The church age is the Age of the Spirit. We are to have the Holy Spirit working and manifesting gifts through us during this church age.
For many, the Holy Spirit is just the last part of the doxology. To know the Spirit in that way is like understanding the workings of all the parts of the car, except the starter and accelerator. The Holy Spirit and His gifts have been neglected too much. We need to know Him as a Person, speak with Him regularly, and allow Him to work through us.
The fruit of the Spirit was given to us at salvation. We need to continue to develop and harvest these. However, the gifts of the Spirit need to be coveted, and sought. The Spirit has gifts for each of us. Don't feel, as many have, that "I'll take the fruit, others can have the gifts." If Jesus had felt that way, He would have had to tell the sick, blind, etc, - "I love you." Yet, He could do more than that - He could love them by exercising the gifts of healing, and the gift of miracles.
Paul admonished us to learn about the gifts.
I Cor. 12:1
"NOW CONCERNING SPIRITUAL GIFTS, BRETHREN, I WOULD NOT HAVE YOU IGNORANT."
If we do not learn how to receive and operate these gifts, we will fail to do the ministry of the Lord as He has planned. We need the gifts of the Spirit operating in the church. Paul had to speak to those in Corinth about the misuse of the vocal gifts. They were operating them without regards to safeguards to keep them profitable. The love was absent that would make them profitable, and the wisdom of how they actually worked, and what their purpose was missing.
If we are ignorant of these gifts, we will find that the devil will have a "hay day" with his gifts.
False gifts the devil will endow:
Gift of faultfinding
Gift of hypocrisy
Gift of discouragement
Gift of unfaithfulness
Gift of pessimism
Gift of unbelief and doubt
Gift of dissatisfaction
Gift of slamming with the tongue
Gift of interpretation of slams
Gift of misdirecting others
Let's learn about the gifts that the Holy Spirit wants to endow upon us. We can have a church full of the gifts of the Spirit. Don't let jealousy come into the body of believers. In Corinth, this happened. The arm can sometimes be jealous of the hand, and the eye can be jealous of the ear, etc.
What if Nathan had been jealous of David's gifts?
What if Moses had been jealous of Aaron's?
Too often in the church, the hindrance of the ministry of many gifts, is the jealousy, or the fear to upset the feelings of another.
The pastor may be jealous of one with the gift of teaching...
The teacher may be jealous of the administration gift of a deacon...
These things hinder the gospel proclamation. They ought not to be in the assembly of believers. The Lord is the head, and one may plant, another may water, but the Lord will give the increase.
If David had stopped Nathan from exercising his gift, David may have died in his sin.
Paul disagreed with Barnabas exercising his gift of exhortation on John Mark, and it caused a split of these two men of God. Paul was out of order in his stand, yet did not recognize it until later.
We must be very careful trying to be the "head", and telling others not to exercise their gifts. The Spirit will direct the exercising of the gifts, learn to follow Him.
The main fault in the exercise of the gifts in Corinth involved the VOCAL GIFTS. We need to heed the instructions of the 14th chapter of I Corinthians. The vocal gifts are the most common of the gifts in Pentecostal circles. They are gifts that are more visibly observed in their use than some of the other gifts. Paul speaks of these gifts, not to stop their use, but to encourage their proper use.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
The nature of the gift of prophecy is described by Paul. He indicated that the gift should be validated by two or three prophets that confirm the same truth. He also said the gift needed to be judged. When another begins to speak, the first prophet should be quiet and allow the next to proceed. The purpose seems to be spelled out as a method to "learn," and a method for God to give "comfort." The prophecy is subject to the prophet, meaning the prophet may speak it or not, he is not under some compelling force that makes him speak. The possessor is responsible for its use or misuse.
I Corinthians 14:29-32 "LET THE PROPHETS SPEAK BY TWO OR THREE, AND LET THE OTHER JUDGE. IF ANY THING BE REVEALED TO ANOTHER THAT SITTETH BY, LET THE FIRST HOLD HIS PEACE. FOR YE MAY ALL PROPHESY ONE BY ONE, THAT ALL MAY LEARN, AND ALL MAY BE COMFORTED. AND THE SPIRITS OF THE PROPHETS ARE SUBJECT TO THE PROPHETS."
Like the other gifts, this one also is bestowed by the laying on of hands.
I Timothy 4:14 "NEGLECT NOT THE GIFT THAT IS IN THEE, WHICH WAS GIVEN THEE BY PROPHECY, WITH THE LAYING ON OF HANDS."
This gift is not restricted to males. Philip had four daughters and they had this gift.
Acts 21:8-9 "ENTERED INTO THE HOUSE OF PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE SEVEN; AND ABODE WITH HIM. AND THE SAME MAN HAD FOUR DAUGHTERS, VIRGINS, WHICH DID PROPHESY."
Joel's prophecy said that "YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY." Many women are included in the list of church leaders given by Paul in Romans 16 (Phebe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Julia). The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts "AS HE WILL" fortunately, for many would like to limit them to one sex, or to the clergy, etc.
This gift is a foundation gift for the church. It must not be confused with the "word of wisdom," or the "word of knowledge." Those are for revelation to the mind of facts or the purpose of God. They may or may not be spoken by the person receiving them. The gift of prophecy, however, is spoken as it is received. It is not for guidance, but for edification, exhortation, and comfort. (I Cor. 14:3)
The gift of prophecy is a supernatural utterance in the known tongue of the speaker. It is a miracle of divine utterance that has nothing to do with human thought. The acid test for validity of this gift is the Word of God. All prophetic messages should be tested by the Word.
One should never misuse or suppress these utterances. Yet, false utterances should never be tolerated. A prophecy that is determined as unscriptural should be pronounced worthless, and repudiated, without fear. A FALSE utterance is detected by:
the wrong spirit of the speaker,
a rebuke or an unseemly utterance,
a message that glorifies man, and not the Lord,
an unscriptural utterance,
a message that attempts to establish or begin a new doctrine,
a message that produces "fruit" in the hearers that is unseemly,
the anger of the prophet if his message is not obeyed.
The purposes of the gift of prophecy are these.
1. God wants to speak to mankind supernaturally.
2. God wants to edify believers.
3. God wants to exhort the church.
4. God wants to comfort the distressed, and weak.
5. God wants to convict the unbeliever by speaking directly to him, and manifesting the secrets of his heart. (I Cor. 14:24-25)
We are instructed to greatly desire this gift.
I Corinthians 14:1, 39 "FOLLOW AFTER CHARITY, AND DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, BUT RATHER THAT YE MAY PROPHESY...COVET TO PROPHESY..."
The word "covet" is from the Greek word -zeloo. It means "to be eager for, enthusiastically zealous." It obviously sounds as though God wants us to really want this gift. It is essential to the proper functioning of the church.
It takes faith to exercise this gift. To begin to speak forth a prophecy, not knowing what may be spoken forth takes a great deal of faith.
Romans 12:6 "LET US PROPHESY ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION OF FAITH..."
We must be careful to give the proper respect to prophetic messages that are valid. Some do not listen to them, some ignore, some show disrespect during the message. These messages are given by the Spirit as a message from Jesus, or God, the Father. To hold them in low esteem is to insult the Trinity. If the Spirit is inspiring these messages, the disregarding of them will greatly grieve Him.
I Thessalonians 5:20
"DESPISE NOT PROPHESYINGS."
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
I Cor. 14:4, 14
"HE THAT SPEAKS IN A TONGUE EDIFIES HIMSELF...I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT, AND I WILL PRAY WITH THE UNDERSTANDING ALSO."
"...THE SPIRIT ALSO HELPETH OUR INFIRMITIES; FOR WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE SHOULD PRAY FOR AS WE OUGHT; BUT THE SPIRIT HIMSELF MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR THE SAINTS ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD..."
The gift of tongues has a separate purpose. And it is given for that reason to specific ones who are Spirit-filled. A message from God or Jesus is conveyed by the Holy Spirit to a body of believers in an unknown tongue through some saint with this gift. Then a person with the gift of interpretation is given the meaning of the message in the language of the hearers and tells the people what the Spirit is conveying to them. (I Cor. 14:12-13,5,26) This method of God speaking to believers is meant to be a sign to unbelievers that are present.
Can speaking in tongues be counterfeited? All the gifts of the Spirit can be counterfeited. There are certainly strange utterances and sounds that are made by those who worship other gods. They are counterfeits of the true gift of the spirit. Anything that God does, the devil will try to counterfeit. God has promised that he will not allow a counterfeit to take a Christian. (Lk. 11:11-13)
Even though there are counterfeits out there, we are told to desire this gift. We are also commanded to not forbid the speaking in tongues. Many churches are guilty of breaking this command.
I Cor. 14:39
"COVET TO PROPHESY, FORBID NOT TO SPEAK WITH TONGUES."
The test for the use of the gift of tongues is EDIFICATION. Is the gift used at a time that edifies the service? Does the message edify the meeting of believers? Is it done decently and in order?
I Cor. 14:26,40
"LET ALL THINGS BE DONE TO EDIFYING...LET ALL THINGS BE DONE DECENTLY AND IN ORDER."
THE GIFT OF INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
Those who speak the message in tongues are to pray for the gift of interpretation also.
I Cor. 14:13
"WHEREFORE, LET HIM THAT SPEAKETH IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE PRAY THAT HE MAY INTERPRET."
There is to be no more than one interpretation for each message in tongues.
I Cor. 14:27
"IF ANY MAN SPEAK IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE...LET ONE INTERPRET."
Don't expect monopolies. There should not be only one person who can interpret a message within the church. This gift should be had by a great many people within the local church. If the only interpreter were absent, could God not speak in this manner? If, there is no interpreter present, and the one about to give a message in tongues is sure they cannot interpret, then the utterance in the unknown tongues must be for personal edification, and not for the church. The person speaking in the unknown language should not interrupt the service by speaking aloud.
I Cor. 14:28
"...IF THERE BE NO INTERPRETER, LET HIM KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCH; AND LET HIM SPEAK TO HIMSELF, AND TO GOD."
A common regulation given for interpreting tongues is found in I Cor. 14:27:
"LET IT BE BY TWO, OR AT THE MOST THREE..."
This is commonly thought to mean that two or three messages and interpretations are allowed during any one service. Perhaps this is the correct understanding. Yet, there is only one verse to back up this idea, and the understanding of its meaning has been questioned. Having been raised in a fellowship that taught this idea, I find it nigh impossible to interpret a fourth message. I feel checked within my spirit, perhaps because of my upbringing. I have heard a fourth interpreted, and felt nothing was wrong with the message and interpretation.
If there were not to be four, then how do we know the fourth was the one "out of order" and not that the first, second, or third were "out of order?" Then, also, what if a message in tongues and interpretation is given in a Sunday School class, does that limit the worship service to only two more? Do we start over with the worship service being a new beginning?
Perhaps from the context, it may be argued that the meaning is that only two or three people should be giving the messages within a service.
The true understanding of this verse is not totally grasped by me, and therefore, in honesty, I cannot teach that one must interpret it one way or the other. Pray about it and be thoroughly convinced in your own concept, if you can. Don't judge others too harshly, if they hold to another understanding until you can absolutely prove your concept with the Word of God.
According to Rabbinic teachings in those days, when the Hebrew Scriptures were being read in the synagogues where people did not understand Hebrew very well, the targum (or paraphrase) of the Scripture could be also read.
The rule that was to be observed in such cases was taught that the Hebrew was to be read two or three times, and then one could interpret in the paraphrase. This was done to keep the emphasis on the original Hebrew text, lest any should misunderstand the paraphrase.
Paul, having been schooled as a Pharisee, had undoubtedly heard this rule very often in his pre-Christian training. Perhaps this is what he had in mind for the Corinthian church to help correct their misuse of tongues and interpretation. Perhaps he meant for two or three people to give the message in the various languages chosen by the Spirit, and then another could interpret the message of all three.
This would allow more people to be involved in the process. The Corinthians had a zeal to all be used, and they all wanted to bring a message or interpret. To use as many as possible, and to encourage the congregation to realize the divine origin of the message, the use of three or four in the supernatural revelation from God would help. Some think this is the teaching of that passage.
This would be a local instruction, that does not need to be followed by every church, and in every situation. Paul was handling a local misuse problem. That may be why there are no further Scriptures on the subject. Any important doctrine that is for all churches to observe always has at least two or three passages to confirm the teaching. Therefore, I am leaning more and more to this latter interpretation of I Corinthians 14:27.
The interpretation of tongues takes more faith than the giving of the message in the unknown tongues. The devil will try to tell you that you are making it up. Pray for more faith whenever you pray for this gift. Your ultimate goal should be to be given the gift of prophetic utterance. This gift is the ultimate of the speaking, vocal gifts. It requires the most faith, and is not dependent on another gift, as the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues are.