1CORINTHIANS 14:26-40 (NIV – UK)
Good order in worship
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 enquire 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.
BUILDING UP THE CHURCH
What are the services like at your church? I suspect you might be able to give quite a specific answer to that question. You’d probably give quite a prescriptive list of things that happen in your services, in a certain order. But imagine a church service where everyone is just doing what they want – there’s no clear order and nobody really knows what’s being said or what’s going on – chaos – this is what Paul is warning against. No, instead our services should be well ordered – and for a very good reason: ‘Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’ (v. 26).
We must all be seeking to build up the church in our time together – not just a chaotic party or a talent show – but a service that points us all clearly to Jesus – where we are able to meet with him, learn more of him, be led to worship him. In all our worship together we must maintain order so that we can focus solely on Jesus.
Paul picks up specifically on the role of women in public worship (v. 34-35). Is Paul saying women shouldn’t speak in our churches? I don’t think he is. I think it is likely there were problems in the church at Corinth to do with wives submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5:21-33) – perhaps displaying public defiance on occasions. Whatever Paul is saying there, what is clear is that he is calling for ordered worship in all our churches – where Jesus is put at the centred, honoured, and the church built up as a result.
Question: In what ways do the order in your church services point you to Jesus and build up your church?