ORDERED LOVE – ORDERED CHURCH -PART 5 – ‘From Chaos to Order’
Paul knows his congregations are being pushed back and forth by every wind and wave of teaching (Ephesians 4:14). Part of this is because their pre-Christian convictions were left unchecked at the beginning of their development. The other part is because the surrounding culture, which Paul wants to reach, sits nearby to them. Thus, it is difficult for young Christians to process what is “ok” and what is “foul” in such a complicated world.
In Corinthians, Paul is writing to a group of Christians who were surrounded by many religious practices. There were many temples and altars and foreign religious actions. One of the surrounding groups was called the Cybeline Priests. This group features quite large in the section on head coverings in Chapter 11, although at first glance one might not see it from the text alone.
A very common practice of the day was for women to wear a head covering over their hair. Hair was a covering, but also a garment of some kind was necessary. The Cybeline Priests reversed the gender roles of their time. The women in this cult, would take their head coverings off to give forth their ecstatic prophecies. The men however would wear a covering to give forth theirs. Moreover, the men would go much further and castrate themselves to be part of this group. As a side note, I always find it interesting when reading something near analogous to some modern practice, yet it is found in ancient cult practices. Leaving that on the side; either way Paul is unimpressed with their practices, and he does not want them coming into the church. He therefore lays down some temporary solutions which help to distinguish the people of God from surrounding groups.
What is found in these surrounding religions was immorality, disorder, and wild and ecstatic services. Paul is clear, any “prophetic utterances” of the Christian church are 1) Not to be accepted on the basis of authority alone. If one reads chapter 14, no one gets a free pass if they are going to ‘declare a word from the Lord.’ Everything is to be tested and discerned. Moreover, not everything is to be accepted. 2) Christian ‘utterances’ are not to be ecstatic and uncontrolled like the pagan groups.
Paul knows that any gift that any Christian has, is a gift. Not an overwhelming controlling force. Any woman or man who is going to be using their spiritual gifts, is to be using them in a controlled way. Very often Christians say, “just let your gifts be free,” or “just be natural with them,” or “just let them out.” But, this is not Paul’s advice. His advice is that “The spirit of the prophets is controlled by the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). He is setting a whole new tone for this immature congregation. Christians are not to be the wild and crazy ones. Their God is a God of order and not chaos. In fact, our God is a God of order and love. Let’s reflect that in our practices and our services. There is no higher way (see 1 Corinthians 13).