Decency and Order

by Joanna Pierce on May 16, 2019

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:37–40, KJV).

The Purpose of Instruction

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth because there was confusion in their church services; they were making something ineffective God wanted to be effective. The believers were using tongues as a means of spiritual authority instead of moving them toward spiritual unity. Because of these factors, Paul’s goal was to teach the church how to mature their Christian understanding as well as unify and edify the church. His purpose was not to eliminate the gift of tongues in the church, but to improve it. In summation of Paul’s teaching, he speaks of decency and order: decency speaks to what’s right; order speaks to what works.

Tongues Place in the Church

Paul encourages the church to pursue and seek after spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:1). Tongues is something supernatural that occurs in the church that gives God an avenue to interact with His people. It’s a clear indication of God’s direct voice in the church. Speaking in tongues, or prophesying in the church, should transcend into interpretation so everyone can understand and benefit from it. This is the key purpose of prophecy, to communicate the message of God to those around you.

When people speak in tongues, they speak unto God and not to other people (I Corinthians 14:2). It can edify and help the individual greatly, but not the entire church (I Corinthians 14:4). But, those who prophesy speak to the church (other people) to edify them. Prophecy has a clear target and a purpose (I Corinthians 14:3): edification, instruction, correction, persuasion, comfort, etc. One of the main reasons God’s people come together is to build up the church; therefore, God has given the body of Christ tools for this purpose. Speaking in tongues in an individual and global capacity is greatly needed, which is why Paul desired for all to speak in tongues (I Corinthians 15:5).

When Tongues Aren’t Interpreted

The body of Christ needs to effectively communicate with each other: in a way everyone understands (I Corinthians 14:6). Therefore, when tongues are spoken in the church without interpretation, Paul likens this to misusing an instrument and rendering the wrong sound (I Corinthians 14:7). If a trumpet doesn’t sound like a trumpet, people won’t know they’re being called to battle. Without interpretation, we are wasting our words (I Corinthians 14:9). Remember, this instruction is in context to building a church.

Secondly, if we don’t interpret, it’s like speaking in a foreign language where no one understands. Paul compares this to everyone sounding like barbarians to one another(I Corinthians 14:10–11). Instead, the church must seek so they excel in the use of tongues and interpretation (I Corinthians 14:12).

How to Get Better

We need to pray we can be used to interpret tongues (I Corinthians 14:13). Specifically, we need to pray with the Spirit, but also pray with understanding (I Corinthians 14:15). If we don’t speak clearly, those in the church who are unlearned, or haven’t been exposed to tongues, won’t know what’s being said. Paul would rather speak 5 words that people could understand rather than hundreds of words in an unknown tongue (I Corinthians 14:19).

Speaking in tongues in the church must be done in decency and and in order so there’s no confusion. However, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak in tongues in the church. It’s very much a part of the New Testament church and continues today!

How Tongues are Used in the Church

Tongues are used as a sign in the church (I Corinthians 14:22). They are for the unbeliever to help them believe. This was exemplified on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. People heard the early church speak in tongues in their own language. It showed God was pouring out His Spirit on all people.  Additionally, tongues are also used as a gift for building the church. If we speak in a way people understand, God will convict and convert a person and the church will be validated through the gift (I Corinthians 14:24).

Steps for Getting in Order

We need to organize and coordinate (I Corinthians 14:26). This requires preparing spiritually for services as well as needed resources. Then, if someone speaks in tongues, just allow 2 or 3 people interpret (I Corinthians 14:27). Paul explains how the church should take turns and not interrupt each other. We don’t want confusion! Lastly, if there isn’t an interpreter, we should keep quiet and not draw attention to themselves (I Corinthians 14:28). Most likely, this edification is for the individual and not the entire church. We are in control of ourselves when we’re being used by the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 14:32).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on May 15, 2019 with Pastor Nave