Summary: This is #6 of 7 on Worship. This talks about not letting fear of doing something wrong keep us from really worshiping God.
In Spirit and In Truth
A Series on Worship
#6: Decently and In Order
We’re continuing our series on worship. This is the sixth in a series of seven lessons on worship. Since I am purposely teaching these lessons as a group, I want to review a bit for those who haven’t heard the other lessons. I will mention that we are recording each of these lessons, and you will be able to order copies of them. I also plan to print up copies of the outlines of each lesson and distribute them in booklet form. I feel that the topic we are discussing is one of utmost importance, and I would like you to be able to go back and study what is said here.
We started off by examining the different words used for worship in the New Testament. We saw that the focus of New Testament worship is on the spiritual, not the physical. Our "bowing down" before God is now done in spirit and in truth, not in a physical way. We’ve seen that worship doesn’t just occur on Sunday, that our main worship, in fact, occurs outside of this building. We’ve seen that the focus in worship should be on what goes on inside, not the external acts. We noted that there are many acts of worship that we do as a body, not just the five that we have traditionally taught. We’ve also seen that much of what we do in worship comes more from tradition and culture than it does from biblical teaching. We have to be careful to use traditions without making laws of them.
With that as a background, let’s look at today’s topic: "Decently and in order." That’s a phrase that you may have heard used as regards worship. For many, it has been their basic definition of what worship should be. "I just want to be sure that things are done decently and in order." Let’s look a bit at the verse from which that comes, I Corinthians 14:40:
40 Let all things be done decently and in order. (KJV)
The context of this admonition is a discussion on miraculous gifts and their use in the church. I find it ironic that some of the concepts we use the most come from a discussion on speaking in tongues and prophesying! It’s also ironic that the "order" Paul describes in I Corinthians 14 includes allowing one man getting up to speak and being interrupted by another who in turn is interrupted by another. Paul says that each man is to allow the one interrupting to speak. Today that would be called disorder!
But Paul is taking a chaotic situation and trying to make order. He is teaching them that no tongues should be spoken in the assembly without translation and that speaking is to be done one at a time. He especially admonishes the women not to interrupt with questions, but to ask those later. Those are the things that this passage addresses.
Unfortunately, for many of us "decently and in order" became a watchword of fear, the ever present warning that God would not tolerate our "stepping out of line." We came to focus mainly on "not doing anything wrong." If we focus all of our attention on not doing what’s wrong, we may never get around to doing what’s right. You can’t achieve a positive result by focusing on the negatives.
Let’s say a man is going to make a trip from here in Stockdale to Houston. Before setting out, he checks the oil, water and tires on his car. He fills up with gas and heads out. He makes sure to use his seat-belt and carefully observes the speed limit. In fact, he is vigilant to follow all traffic laws, especially when he gets on the Interstate. And when he gets to El Paso, he begins to wonder why his trip is taking so long!
In our effort to "follow all the rules," let’s make sure that we do the right things. In sports, a team can’t just play "not to lose." We Spurs fans know that. How many times have we agonized over games where they had a big lead, then merely tried to protect it? You can’t win that way. You can’t get positive results by focusing on the negative.
Look at the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2. Jesus recognizes the church as a hard-working, doctrinally pure church. They will not tolerate false teachers. Yet look at what it says in verses 4 and 5:
Revelation 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.