Summary: In this lesson, we learn that in the worship service all things should be done decently and in order.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of spiritual gifts. Let’s conclude our section on spiritual gifts in a message I am calling, “Let All Be Done Decently and In Order.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 14:33b-40:
33 . . . 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. (1 Corinthians 14:33-40)
Science writer Winifred Gallagher argues that what we call boredom (which she defines as “the unpleasant sense that there is nothing that interests you”), is largely a recent problem that still doesn’t exist in many places around the globe. She writes:
Situations that would strike us as unbearably dull, say, waiting for hours or even days for a bus, are considered just the way life is in many developing countries. Anthropologist Henry Harpending has done extensive fieldwork in the backcountry of [Africa], where in most ways, he says, “folks are just like you and me. But one thing that the Westerners that go there just can’t understand and are open-mouthed about is the people’s tolerance for tedium. They can just sit all day under the trees . . ..” [Harpending] is fluent in Bushman and he has tried for twenty years to elicit a word for boredom, but the closest he has gotten is the unsatisfactory [word for] tired.
Gallagher also adds, “[In the English language] boredom has no derivation: That is, it doesn’t come from any other word but was specially created. Moreover, the word didn’t appear in English until the later eighteenth century.”
Our culture is averse to boredom, isn’t it? Winifred Gallagher defined boredom as “the unpleasant sense that there is nothing that interests you.” Thomas Szasz defines boredom differently. He says that boredom “is the feeling that everything is a waste of time.”
“Worship is boring” is one of the most common reasons people give for not attending worship services. So, what do many churches do to address the boredom issue? Why, they spice up their worship services with all kinds of things that God never commanded to be done in worship.
The Corinthian Church had a similar problem. I don’t know that boredom was their primary problem with regard to worship. But I do know that they were doing things in worship—and in the church—that should never have been done.
The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians is a very important letter in the Bible. As you know, the Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth. He had moved away, but he was still very concerned about the welfare of the church.
He had received communication from the Corinthian Church in which they had asked him to address a number of challenges that were facing the Christians in the church. So, The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians is a letter intended to address various challenges that the Christians in Corinth were facing.
In fact, the Corinthians had communicated to Paul at least 6 challenges they were facing. Each time Paul responded to them with a phrase that tips us off that he was responding to one of their questions. He said, “Now concerning . . .” in 7:1, 7:25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1, and 16:12.
One of the challenges facing the Christians was the issue of spiritual gifts. Beginning in 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers,” and continuing all the way to the end of chapter 14, he addressed the issue of spiritual gifts.
In chapter 14 Paul wrote about the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy. The church in Corinth was very confused about the proper use of the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy, not unlike some churches in our own day.
Now, prophecy was used in 1 Corinthians in two senses. In one sense it was used of “fore-telling the future” (and thus giving new revelation from God to the church), and in the other sense it was used of “forth-telling God’s truth to people” (and this was the more common use whereby God’s truth—which had been previously revealed—was proclaimed to people, much like preachers do today).