My God is not afraid of human faults. He isn’t turned off by my inadequacies. If I crave His presence, He does not withhold Himself from me… even if I’m not perfect.
You probably agree. But what if I say that my God also is not afraid of disorder? What if I said that His Spirit still moves within the context of disorder? What if I said that things don’t have to be orderly or decent for the Holy Spirit to effectively heal, save, deliver, work miracles, or anything else?
For years, I have heard the words of Paul used out of context: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” (See 1 Corinthians 14:33.) I hear this verse primarily quoted by three groups of people:
- First are those who don’t believe in Pentecostal/Charismatic gifts; which I think is funny considering that this verse appears in the context of a discourse on such gifts. If you’re going to throw out the rest of the chapter, then you might as well throw out this verse too. Right?
- Second are those who do believe in such gifts but are uncomfortable with the ways they often take place. Such people look at those who tend to be “flaky” or “spooky,” and they use this verse to discredit them. They see a person healed and analyze whether or not the miracle was performed in an orderly fashion, which, they reason, proves whether or not the miracle was God’s doing.
- And third are the people who believe in spiritual gifts but are uncomfortable with those who have had spiritual experiences that differ from their own. If the experience does not fit their orderly perspective of God, then it must have been a demon.
But do you see that all three perspectives are pointing fingers? Every time I’ve heard this Scripture preached, it seems to be spoken as though the one wielding it does everything in order. In other words, this scripture is often used to bolster one’s own pride — pointing out disorder as a self-inflicted pat on the back.
I have a problem with that. And I believe I can safely say that God also has a problem with that. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” He loves to use the foolish things to confound the wise. Maybe that’s why He chooses to use these people.
Our Orderly God Enters into Our Disorder
For years, I thought I had a perfect theology about God’s orderliness. I reasoned that if there was order in a situation, then God was in it; and if there was disorder, then it was the devil. I think we need to take another look at Scripture and straighten things out. While God is definitely not disorderly, He often functions within the context of disorder.
When Paul wrote the instruction about order to the Corinthian Church, realize that he had also said to them, “…you do not lack any spiritual gift…” (See 1 Corinthians 1:7.) He pointed out that the gifts they were demonstrating were “the work of one and the same Spirit.” (See 1 Corinthians 12:11.)
In other words, while the Corinthian church was incredibly disordered, and while they did indeed need correction for their disorder, every spiritual gift they experienced and expressed was still the work of God. The disorder of the Corinthian church was not proof that God was not in the work. On the contrary, every spiritual gift they demonstrated was the work of the Holy Spirit–even though there was disorder, disunity, and disgusting sin taking place at the same time. Find me a verse that says the miracles, healings, tongues, and prophecies were performed by demons, and I’ll change my perspective; but I can assure you it’s not there.
My God is not afraid of disorder. Sin doesn’t stop Him. A lack of love or unity doesn’t stop Him. Disorder doesn’t even stop Him. The only thing that stops Him is pride. Maybe that’s why so many churches today see so little of God’s Spirit at work.
Prideful Order is More Dangerous than Disorder
Please allow me to chisel away at some typical prideful thoughts:
- If you think you have order in your Christianity but you don’t have the same spiritual gifts in operation as the Corinthian church, then “order” has become an idol. You have a false “order.” You have an “order” that is devoid of God’s power and presence.
- No matter how “orderly” or “Christian” your meetings may seem, if the supernatural ministry of Jesus and the works of His Kingdom are not being done, then you’re not partnering with the Holy Spirit. It’s another spirit.
- Paul’s reason for encouraging the Corinthians to be orderly was not to stop the gifts from happening. It was to make the gifts more effective! It was to help the Corinthians better represent Jesus as they practiced the gifts! Therefore, if you’re proud of yourself for not being disorderly like the Corinthians, and yet your “order” is not producing equal or greater power than the Corinthians, then your “order” is man-made. It is a counterfeit. God is not in it. It is worthless.
- Godly order is the proper context for doing the “greater works” Jesus promised His disciples would do. If you’re not seeing greater miracles than the ones recorded in Jesus’ ministry, then you might want to reconsider your definition of order. False order cannot and will not produce “greater works.”
- If you’ve ever looked at a “flaky,” “spooky,” “goofy,” or “weird” person who was practicing spiritual gifts in a disorderly fashion, you know how unlike Jesus it looks — and you’re right. But if you’ve judged such a person in your heart, that could be the reason those same gifts aren’t operating in your own life.
- If you’ve ever pointed your finger at someone who is practicing a spiritual gift and called it “not of God” because of a lack of order, then you may have confused jealousy for discernment. Anyone who would have looked at the Corinthian church (in all its disorder and sin) and said that God was not in it does not have any discernment at all. Paul had discernment. He called sin what it was, he corrected shortcomings, and he clearly pointed out what was from God. Discernment is not afraid of muddy water.
Lead by Example, Not by Criticism
The main reason we find fault with people who demonstrate greater power than us is so that we can excuse our own lack of power. The only reason Paul could rightly correct the Corinthians was because he himself walked in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Chapter 2, verses 4 and 5, Paul wrote, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” Paul demonstrated the same power but was a better representative of Jesus in love, maturity, and holiness. That’s why Paul had authority to speak to them the way he did. If you’re not living a life of power, then you have no platform from which to correct people (who do demonstrate power) about how they walk in power. First take the plank out of your own eye.
I’ve noticed something about many of the people who throw around the “God is a God of order” verse: They’re typically people who demonstrate little to no power, trying to justify their own powerlessness by making powerful Christians look more like them. That’s not the work of the Holy Spirit. I would even go so far as to call it demonic.
Interesting how the tables turn when the truth comes to light.
With all that said, I don’t condone disorder. I believe we need to do everything we can to discover what God’s order looks like.
What Does Godly Order Look Like?
The answer is simple: Jesus.
The ministry of Jesus was very orderly. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, so we have to define God’s order according to the example Jesus set.
- Jesus disrupted funerals to raise the dead. Order is not a nice funeral. Order is the dead living again.
- Jesus angrily turned over tables and ran through the temple court with a whip. Order is not a nice, tidy church service. Order is judgment beginning with the house of God.
- Jesus had no problem associating Himself with sinful people. Order is not a sin-free environment. Order is light infiltrating and influencing darkness.
- Jesus preached to 5,000 people without first having a natural plan of how to feed them. Order is not perfect preparation. Order is seeking first the Kingdom and righteousness of God, knowing that He will confirm His word with the signs that accompany it.
- Jesus confronted Pharisees and religious people. Order is not catering to “church people.” Order is standing up for true believers and confronting the spirit of religion.
- Jesus healed everyone who came to Him. Order is not having nice, manmade advice for people when healing doesn’t happen. Order is healing every sick person who comes. Period.
- Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 to preach, heal the sick, and cast out demons before He taught them how to pray. (See Luke 9, 10, and 11.) Order is not waiting until people are perfect to send them in Jesus’ name. Order is discipling people through hands-on ministry.
This last example is particularly exciting to me. Jesus sent out the 12 disciples, and they actually did “the stuff” — casting out demons, healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. But when the 12 returned, they argued over who was the greatest; they became exclusive, denying ministry rights to anyone not of their number; and they even considered calling down fire on a village that wouldn’t accept them. Rather than Jesus changing His mode of operation, He did the unthinkable: Jesus sent out 72 more! (For more about this, watch the video “You Are Ready to Minister Healing.“)
Clearly, Jesus would rather have messy action than sterile inaction. Holiness is developed as we try to be like Jesus–not as we try to sit around, criticize, and pass judgment like Pharisees.
Pharisees have no power. Jesus does.
- If you think you’re just like Jesus, try healing the sick. If it doesn’t work every time, then you’re not yet perfectly like Him in that area. Everyone who came to Jesus was healed.
- If you think you’re just like Jesus, try walking on water. If it doesn’t work, then you’re not perfectly like Him yet in that area. Jesus could.
- If you think you’re just like Jesus, try calming a storm, multiplying food, or raising the dead… I think you get the idea.
None of us is perfectly like Jesus in every way. The less we try to act like Him, the easier it is to pretend that we are already perfect. But the more we try to to act like Him, the more we are pressed to actually become like Him. Take a look at the people who do practice the true power of God. You can probably learn something from their humility.
Jesus doesn’t require order before action. Rather, He chooses to teach us order in the context of action.
It’s time to get moving.