For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . Let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40
I hope you are beginning to see that God’s will for us is His order and that disorderliness is a serious issue. But how do we deal with disorder? How can we eliminate disorder from our lives? God is not the author of confusion or disorder and therefore we can be sure that He is not in disorderly things. The best way to address this issue (and all life issues) is to go to God’s word. We see disorder clearly portrayed and addressed in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians where he is inspired to write:
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 - 6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
In these verses Paul uses the word “disorderly” (ἀτάκτως - ataktōs, at-ak´-toce) which means idle, irresponsible, irregular, inconsistent or disorderly. Paul emphasizes the seriousness of the situation by using the same word three times in this short section (v. 6, 7, and 11). The opposite of such behavior would be diligence, industriousness, responsibility, regularity, consistency, and order. Paul tells us to withdraw from those who are disorderly (v. 6). This is probably because bad company corrupts good habits (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33). Disorderliness is infectious. Paul uses his own life example of order as a measure of what the Thessalonians were to follow and live (vs. 7-9). Paul didn’t want to be a burden to anyone and so he worked (v. 9). There are people who need to hear that today. It doesn’t seem like Paul was one with a sense of entitlement. Paul equates disorder with idleness or not working (v. 10-11).
Look at how the Lord used Paul. Paul was orderly not disorderly. If you are going to get anything out of this teaching get this: if you want to be used by God you must be orderly. God will use you in proportion to His order in your life. God works in orderly ways through people of order. Some might resist this statement saying, “Wait a minute, I’m sloppy and disorderly and God is using me!” Yes, you may be sloppy and God may be using you. But how much more might He use you if you were orderly? God is working through you in spite of your disorder. It would be a mistake to presume God approves your disorder rather than understand He is graciously and patiently waiting for you to come to His order and be used and blessed even more. Don’t mistake God’s patience for His approval (e.g. Rom. 2:4). What are you missing out on because of your disorder? How is your disorder hindering God’s use of you? God's best comes through order.
Our salvation is not based on whether or not we are orderly (cf. v 15). But spiritual health is definitely affected by the order or disorder in our lives. But there is a strong case to be made that orderliness is characteristic of spiritual maturity. The spiritually mature will be growing in orderliness in their lives. The spiritually mature want to be used by God. If we are to be used by God we must answer His call to order. He wants His people to live orderly and He will help them bring order to their lives if they seek Him for it. God’s word states, “Be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). God is orderly and therefore, we, His children, should be orderly.
Since disorder is not of the Lord, disorder itself is sinful (cf. James 4:17; 1 John 5:17a). We need to see disorder for what it is and stop allowing it to be an acceptable little idiosyncrasy. Disorder and idleness lead to temptation and sin. Some in Thessalonica were disorderly and idle and they were using their idle time to be “busybodies” (v. 11). “Busybodies” (περιεργάζομαι - pĕriĕrgazŏmai, per-ee-er-gad´-zom-ahee) means meddlers, or those who spent their time of unnecessary, worthless, superficial or inconsequential things (cf. 1 Tim. 5:13). Idle time is the devil’s workshop. They had nothing better to do than to talk about others and poke their nose into places it shouldn’t be. This caused problems. They were divisive. Disorder leads to division in the church.
Paul’s answer to the disorderly and idle was to get to work! (v. 12). He comments that those Thessalonians who were working should not “grow weary in doing good” (v. 13). Another problem with disorder and idleness is that it causes weariness and discouragement among those who are working. Too often too few are working in the Body of Christ. There is a business rule of thumb that says twenty percent of the workers do eighty percent of the work and eighty percent of the workers tend to do twenty percent of the work. Unfortunately this is often true in the church. The result is weariness. This is not God’s order or way. Each believer needs to learn to carry their own load so that the few who do work are not overburdened (cf. Gal. 6:2-5).
Paul ends his word to the Thessalonians with some pretty strong instruction. He says that they shouldn’t “keep company” with the disorderly or idle (v. 13). They weren’t to treat such persons as enemies but they were to admonish them by way of a level of exclusion. This would communicate their disorderly idleness was unacceptable. Maybe they would not include the disorderly and idle in certain events. Freeloaders were not to be entertained. They were to be taught that they must join in the work if they were to reap the blessing of the camaraderie that comes through mutually serving together in the ministry of the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 14:40 it describes how God would have us function. Paul uses the word “decently” (εὐσχημόνως - ĕuschēmŏnōs, yoo-skhay-mon´-oce) which means peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, one, or set at one. When God does something it is decently done; honest; true to His word. The word “order” (τάξις - taxis, tax´-is) means arrangement, fixed succession, dignity, order or orderly manner. God does things in an orderly way.
What does order look like? Simply put, God’s order is revealed in His word. The orderly life is a life lived within the parameters of God’s word. We can claim to love the Lord but if we are living a disorderly disobedient life outside the parameters of God’s word we are not truly loving the Lord. Jesus said those who love Him would obey Him (John 14:21, 23-24; 15:14).
When we look at the Corinthian church we find a very gifted church. But they were disorderly. Their disorder is seen in their factions which were a product of not living under the Lordship of Christ (1 Cor. 3). Their lives were morally out of order as they tolerated severe sin in their midst (1 Cor. 5). They were so confused and out of order that they were relying on secular means to resolve their church problems (1 Cor. 6). Their marriage relationships were out of order (1 Cor. 7). They were disorderly in their use of Christian liberty and it was proving harmful to the brethren (1 Cor. 8). They had little to no concept of God’s order to support those in ministry (1 Cor. 9). They had little to no understanding of the lessons learned by God’s people who went before them and were in danger therefore of repeating or falling into the same kinds of sin (1 Cor. 10). Their disorder was seen in their lack of love. For instance they didn’t care that some in their love feasts went without food while others had plenty (1 Cor. 11). They weren’t organized or didn’t function in a way that met all the needs of those in their body. This sent the wrong message. With some being neglected it communicated not only a lack of order that was outside God’s will and way, it communicated a lack of love which is abhorrent to God. They were using spiritual gifts in a selfish disorderly way (1 Cor. 12). There was a lack of love in what they did (1 Cor. 13). They had little apparent understanding of what God’s love was and how to live in it.
The Corinthians were using spiritual gifts in a disorderly way. This is implied in the corrective words given by Paul. They were speaking all at once, out of order with no limit or direction (1 Cor. 14:27). They were using the gifts incorrectly, (e.g. there was no interpretation for those speaking in tongues - 1 Cor. 14:28). The prophets were speaking out of order (1 Cor. 14:29-32). They were arrogantly asserting themselves rather than seeking the welfare and edification of those around them (1 Cor. 14:34-39).
Incredibly their disorderly ways had apparently resulted in a diminished value and awareness of the import of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15). Paul’s letter is filled with corrective measures to address their disorderly ways. He concludes by exhorting them, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14). Through Paul God was calling His people to order.
God calls us to order. What does your life look like? Would you best describe it with disorderly words like idle, irresponsible, irregular, inconsistent or disorderly, instability, commotion, confusion, tumult, disorder, disturbance, unrest, rebellion, or insurrection? Look at those words long and hard. Pray about them. Ask God to speak clearly and freely with you about the order or lack thereof in your life.
Could you describe your life in terms of orderly words like peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, one, or set at one, arrangement, fixed succession, dignity, order or orderly manner? Do you love God supremely and are you truly living out His word? Or are you making excuses and looking for loopholes and ways around applying His word in your life? Are you working? Are you being a scripturally sound spouse? A scripturally sound parent and child? Are you serving in your church? Are you attending church regularly and consistently? Are you church hopping or consistent in your accountability to a body of believers? These are questions that will help us keep in line with God’s call to orderliness. Keep in mind we have not only the incentive to answer God’s call in this matter but orderliness leads to peace, rest, prosperity, and oneness with the Lord and each other. Isn’t that what we want? Of course it is.
I encourage you to appraise your life and the way you live it right now. Take steps to bring God’s order into the places where there is chaos. Start off simply. Start with setting and keeping a regular devotional time where you prayerfully read God’s word and apply in the Spirit what He reveals to you. Maybe even keep a journal. Make every effort to find a Bible teaching spiritually sound church and get involved and make yourself accountable. Clean and bring order to your physical house. Clean and bring order to your mind and things you allow to enter it. Get your relationships in order. Follow God’s orderly scriptural guidelines. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the disorder. Ask the Lord to show you the disorder in your life and then step by step in faith begin to work His order there. Start a room at a time if you have to but work toward order. If you do that you will reap His rich blessings of order. You won’t regret it. God calls us to order. Will you answer that call?