Sacred space

Paul instructed the church that whatever we do we should do it to the glory of God. He would also write that to sacrificially live for God constitutes our spiritual act of worship.

Have you ever started to list what we can do and say in order to serve God on a daily basis? It is a long list.

We might then begin to wonder – if we worship God through daily activities and we gather on the first day of the week to worship, are daily worship activities proper within the assembly? After all, if it pleased God on Friday why would it be offensive on Sunday? Or might the worship assembly be a sacred space shaped by specific parameters?

As it turns out, Paul made a distinction between what was proper in living for the Lord daily and what is appropriate when Christians assemble for worship. Not everything good belongs in the space and time when God’s people gather.

We might start with the spiritual gift that Paul shut down in worship! Paul acknowledged many languages exist (1 Corinthians 14:10). He also expressed the obvious. Those who do not understand a foreign tongue have no idea what is being said (1 Corinthians 14:9,11,16,17,23). Although the Spirit distributed the gift of tongues, this spiritual gift did not belong in church unless someone was prepared to translate! In Paul’s words, “if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church” (1 Corinthians 14:28).

Why was exercising this gift without a translator inappropriate within worship? Unlike prophesy which supported the assembly’s purposes, tongues did not edify the body of believers (1 Corinthians 14:3,4,5,26).

The gift to communicate in one or more foreign languages was a tool for reaching unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).  Remember how the travelers who heard the apostles proclaim the wonders of God in their own languages on Pentecost marveled and thus were open to hearing Peter’s message?

Paul also shut down another good Friday activity. He wrote that our eating and drinking should be to the glory of God  (1 Corinthians 10:31). Yet, he also chastised the Corinthians for how they were eating common meals within the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:22). Not everything that is good belongs within that time when the church is engaged in worshipping.

Likewise, women ought to teach and train up others (Titus 2:1). However, within all the churches Paul taught, “the women should keep silent in the churches” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Just as those with the gift of tongues were not to be teaching within the assembly, neither were women.

Did Paul offer the same reason as he did for speaking in tongues? No. Paul said that women were not to teach because of the order of creation and Eve being deceived (1 Timothy 2:12-14). When God’s people gather for worship, one purpose for the assembly seems to be preserving how God created things to be. Not everything that is good on Friday belongs within the assembly.

It would be appropriate to study God’s purposes for our worship services before we simply slide something from Friday into the assembly. After all, God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. God determines what is true.

I introduced this article with some poor reasoning. I asked, if something pleased God on Friday why would it be wrong on Sunday? Such wording obfuscates what is critical. Time is not the issue. What matters is the distinction between our daily activities in living for God versus what should happen in that time and space when God’s people assemble to offer God the worship he desires. Those principles determine what can and should be done.

Since, as Barry writes, God determines what is true, then chapter 2, “The Authority Question,” in the book The Right Kind of Christianity, becomes a critical issue in our faith.

2 Replies to “Sacred space”

    1. Thanks for taking the time to offer some feedback. I assume we agree that if something is truly biblical we can be thankful. Yet, I also agree with the question mark, if I accurately get its gist. Don’t we all experience that tension within “not my will but your will be done”? Along this line of thinking, I thought Lee Parish’s article, “Compliance or Submission” was excellent.

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