1 Corinthians 14:40
How does God want us to worship Him? This is a question that has been asked by different denominations throughout the centuries.
In the church I grew up in, I remember what we thought of any church that had “wild” church services. We deemed those people “incorrect” because their services weren’t conducted “decently and in order”—at least not according to our perspective.
But over the years, I have come to learn that “decently and in order” can mean different things to different people. What is acceptable to one group may be outrageous and offensive to another group. What is deemed holy, sweet, and touching by one group might be viewed as dead and dull to another. Everyone has his or her own opinions about what is appropriate or inappropriate in worship.
The Body of Christ is composed of too many different groups to list them all here, such as Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. It therefore shouldn’t surprise us that Christians have differing opinions about the right and wrong way to worship God. It also shouldn’t surprise us that most people assume that their form of worship is the most scriptural.
So who is right and who is wrong? Is there only one correct form of worship? Could there possibly be room for a variety of different expressions of worship in the Kingdom of God? And are we ready to honestly ask ourselves, Are my opinions about worship influenced only by the Bible, or am I also influenced by my culture and upbringing? What are the guidelines set forth in Scripture?
You may personally believe that praise and worship with instruments, clapping, dancing, and all kinds of celebration is the right approach to worship. Or you may be a person who loves a quieter, more structured form of worship with hymns and organ music. Either way, you may have a host of scriptures to back up your conviction and support your view of what worship ought to be.
However, the New Testament basically gives us only one rule to follow in regard to this question of what is acceptable and appropriate in worship. That rule is found in First Corinthians 14:40, where the apostle Paul tells us, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
The word “decently” is the Greek word euschemonos. Other than this verse, the word euschemonos is only found two other times in the New Testament—in Romans 13:13 and in First Thessalonians 4:12. In both of these places, it is translated to do something honestly or to walk honestly. It carries the notion of something that is done properly as opposed to improperly. It has to do with intent and motivation more than outward action, although such a good intention always results in right actions.
The word “order” is the Greek word taksis. It carries the idea of something done in a fitting way or something done according to order. The Jewish historian Josephus used the word taksis when he recorded the orderly way in which the Roman army erected their camps—indicating their camps were orderly, organized, and well-planned. The commanders didn’t engage in last-minute planning. Their camps were not hastily thrown together but rather set up in an organized and thoughtful manner.
Josephus also uses the word taksis to describe the way the Essene Jews were respectful of others. These Jews would wait until others were finished speaking before they’d take their turn and speak out. In Josephus’ depiction of this behavior among the Essenes, he used the word taksis to picture people who were respectful, deferential, courteous, accommodating, well-mannered, and polite.
Taking these meanings into account, First Corinthians 14:40 could be translated:
“Let everything be done in a fitting and proper manner that is organized, well-planned, respectful, well-mannered, and polite.”
This throws open the door to all kinds of worship! It can be quiet, loud, soft, or bold. The important thing is that the time of worship would not be something thrown together at the last minute with no thought or organization. After all, we’re talking about believers coming together to worship the Almighty God! Therefore, when we plan corporate worship, it should be well thought out and organized. Additionally, our time of worship together should be well-mannered, respectful, and polite.
A group of believers can be bold, loud, and well-mannered all at the same time. They can also be soft and quiet while at the same time rude and offensive. The style, use of instruments, and volume level are not the biggest questions in God’s mind. The big question in His mind is this: What is their intent and motivation? If the group’s intent and motivation is correct, their worship will be accompanied by an attitude that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.
So don’t get upset if others worship a little differently from how you are accustomed to worshiping. Jesus is listening to their hearts. He is watching to see how much energy and forethought they put into the plan before they enter into His Presence. Their form of worship may be different than yours, but if they are worshiping God from a pure heart and with their entire being, you can rest assured that their worship is acceptable to Him!
The truth is, God is more interested in the condition of your heart than the style of worship you use in the format of your church service. So instead of focusing on who has the best form of worship, concentrate on whether YOU have an open, pure heart before God!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I want to have an appreciation for the entire Body of Christ and not hold others in judgment because they worship differently than I do. Please forgive me for the times I’ve been so judgmental, narrow-minded, and closed to anyone who does things differently than what I am accustomed to doing. Help me see the wonderful flavors You have placed in Your Church and to learn to appreciate and enjoy the wonderful blend and varieties that exist in Your family!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am tolerant and nonjudgmental toward those who worship God differently than my friends and I. As long as they worship Jesus and do it with all their hearts, I thank God for them. I choose to do everything within my power to show respect for and to honor the way others feel most comfortable in their worship of God. If God sees their hearts and receives their worship, I am in no position to judge or condemn. For the rest of my life, I will no longer take a contentious position against those who represent parts of the Church that are different from mine.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you been opinionated and judgmental about other people’s forms of worship?
- After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, what attitude do you think is right for you to have toward other people’s different forms of worship?
- According to First Corinthians 14:40, what is the most important thing for you to be concerned about in the way a church worships God?