“Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Cor. xiv. 40.
In the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, the law of Christ amply provides for everything requisite to the maintenance of that perfect harmony which drew from the psalmist the admiring expression, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” When this law is observed, and the spirit of it prevails among the saints, there can be no schism in the body. No carnality can find a place, no jealousy can work its insidious way, nor can wrath or bitterness engender strifes and divisions among brethren when this law is recognized as the rule of supreme authority among the saints; nor will it be felt by them as a galling yoke of bondage, but rather as it is rules in them its sweet power is felt as the perfect law of liberty. Led by it, they experience unspeakable peace, causing them to exclaim in spirit, “O how love I thy law! it it my meditation all the day.” The joy of those whose conduct and conversation are ordered in conformity to this divine commandment, is such as can never be experienced by any who are not led by the spirit of God to deny every selfish emotion, and walk in newness of life. No other rule or principle can yield such comfort and rest as is found by the saints who take the yoke of Jesus; in keeping his statutes their heart is rejoiced, and they receive the great reward of which David sings in the nineteenth Psalm. Every saint desires this joyful rest, and feels the want of it as a grievous burden, causing that groaning spoken of by Paul, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” – 2 Cor. v. 4.
In the inspired record is given the perfect law which bears the seal of our loving Lord, by which the man of God is thoroughly furnished unto good works. Here is every needful instruction for every case which can ever arise. When anything is apparently needed which is not herein given, the defect is not in the rule, but in our darkened understanding; and even for this condition it is directed, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James i. 5. Hence it is evident that the direction in regard to the order to be observed in the church is to be understood in the light of revelation, and not as finite reason might interpret it.
Pre-eminent in importance, as well as in the divinely ordained order of the organized church of our Lord Jesus, is his royal authority as our Judge, our Lawgiver, and our King, who alone will save us. No law is to be received from any authority but his; no other judgment binds us; to no other power do we owe allegiance. Whenever this is forgotten, there is a departure from that decent order which he has enjoined. Nor is this contempt of his authority atoned for when we substitute “a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels;” that is, when we render a ready obedience to the teachings or practices of esteemed ministers or fathers. This is additional departure from the order established by the law of our King, when such teachings or practices of esteemed ministers or fathers. This is additional departure from the order established by the law of our King, when such teachings or practices are without the divine authority. With that authority, they demand obedience by all our allegiance to our Lord, and it is to him that such obedience is rendered. It is enjoined upon all the saints to hear him in all things, and to render reverent and implicit obedience to him in all things. – Luke ix. 35; Acts iii. 22. Observance of this rule will insure that all things be done decently and in order.
The order of the typical dispensation, as given by Moses, consisted in the faithful compliance of the natural Israelites with external forms and ceremonies required of them by that law which God gave to them. The Israelites who obeyed in the letter all those requirements was justified by that law, though he might be ignorant of the typical significance of the rites performed, as was Saul of Tarsus. But in the gospel church the saints are justified freely by grace from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. – Romans iii. 24; Acts xiii. 39. By the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus the subjects of the grace of God are made free from the law of sin and death; yet they are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ. This law in their heart produces that love for holiness and hatred to sin, which causes them to long for deliverance from the bondage of sin, and conformity to the righteousness of God as revealed in their great Redeemer. Under the guidance of this principle they can deny self, and honestly pray that the will of God be done in all things. Now their desire is to know their duty, and they feel that it would indeed be their highest privilege to obey every command of their precious Savior. His word is addressed to such as are in this state, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” His example is full of heavenly beauty to them, and they desire to follow in the ordinance of baptism. The beauty of the Lord, as manifested in his house, enraptures them, and their one desire is ever to dwell in the enjoyment of the delights of the sanctuary. This desire can be gratified only in the observance of the order which the Lord has established. In obedience to his law rest is found which can be found in no other way. The tempter and carnal reason may suggest some other way as preferable to the order of the narrow way which he has marked out; but all such departures from his authorized order will invariably end in the ways of death to all comfort and peace. Strict obedience is the order of the kingdom of Jesus, and therein alone is safety.
In the visible organization of the church the law of perfect order is established by the divine rule, and in conformity to it alone can the beauty of the Lord be manifested. When human inventions and the traditions of men are allowed to usurp the place of the order which our King has given, the consequence will always be found in strife, jealousies, variance, and perhaps even enmity among those who should love one another with a pure heart fervently. These hateful developments never can result from the peaceful order of the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. When such things exist it is safe to conclude that the rebuke is applicable as recorded by inspiration, James iv. Severe as is the language of the apostle in this rebuke, let it not be forgotten that it is written alone “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” whom the apostle addresses as his brethren, having the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet by their violation of the order enjoined in the house of the Lord they brought upon themselves this just rebuke. How important, therefore, that we heed the admonition, and examine ourselves. “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” – Heb. iv. 1. Surely, when a church professing to hold the simplicity of the doctrine of salvation by grace, is divided and torn by dissension among its own members, there is some carnal and selfish cause which produces the discord. Then well may we pray with David, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults; keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” – Psa. xix. 12, 13.
The order of the church consists not in any mere external forms or ceremonial rites, but in the spirit of love to the Lord and to one another. “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Then the order of this spiritual house must consist in something more than a mere formal observance of duties which may be laid down in rules written on paper. The law of Christ must be in the heart, and the spirit of Christ must direct every act of obedience in those who follow in the order he has appointed. So Paul exhorts the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons, to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Nothing is to be done in this work but what the word of the Lord enjoins. Anything else would fail to declare his praise, and could not therefore be his works, since it is written, “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord.” – Psalm cxlv. 10. The love of God in the hearts of his children will be manifested in causing them to love one another with a pure heart fervently; and therein God is glorified, because that love is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Rom. xiii. 10. “Love is of God.” – John iv. 7. This is the spirit in which every action must be performed to be in the order which the Lord has commanded. In this spirit every action is in order; without love, all is out of order. Even though the letter of the law of Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, may have been followed in every particular in a case, instead of being in order, it is at best but mockery, if the motive for action was anything but that love which seeks only the glory of God and the good of the saints. How inexpressibly beautiful do the courts of Zion appear when the saints walk in this heavenly order, and have the same care one for another! Then indeed it is manifest that we are members one of another. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now [in this perfect order] ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” – 1 Cor. xii. 26, 27.
For the practical development of this perfect order which the Lord has ordained in his church, it is the duty and privilege of all who are led by the spirit of God to embrace every opportunity for assembling themselves to commune together in spirit, to speak, teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; and whatsoever they do, all should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. For this purpose, as many as are so located as to render to practicable should be united in churches, as in the pattern given in the apostolic age. Each of these churches should meet as often as practicable for social worship in prayer and singing to the praise of their Lord, as the example is given in the New Testament; and in such meetings such public gifts as the Lord has bestowed should be brought into service for the mutual benefit of the whole body of the church. The order of this service is prescribed by the inspired rule, as recorded in this chapter, 1 Cor. xiv. But as these gifts are not all for preaching, though of the same of the same Spirit, each should be used in its own place and order. Gifts for the ministry, as well as all other gifts, are for the benefit of the church, and should ever be subject to the judgment and disposal of the church as directed by the spirit of Christ. But the responsibility of this judgment rests upon the church; and it is incumbent on her to judge righteously in this important matter, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, without reference to any carnal feelings or prejudice. Nor should any mistaken tenderness of natural sympathy bias their judgment to decide in any case against the light given them by the indwelling witness of the spirit of Christ. Disregard for the order of honesty in this particular has involved some churches in much perplexity; and in some cases other churches have suffered from the unfaithfulness of such as have acted hastily or from a wrong spirit. Such action certainly was not in order, nor did it evince a decent reverence for the solemn responsibility involved. Neither was it just to those brethren with whom the church acted thus unfaithfully.
So also in the reception of members into the fellowship of the church, order requires perfect honesty. This is due not less to the candidate applying for the judgment of the church, than to the peace and prosperity of the church; and any departure from the order of the law of Christ will result in confusion and trouble. In walking together as professed followers of Jesus, the order of conformity to his example excludes selfishness and carnality, and enjoins that the members should have the same care one for another. When this is the case the spirit of love appears, and the Lord is glorified in the body and spirit of such as walk according to the rule of the King of saints. This is the order of his kingdom. Contentions, wars and fightings among the saints are all in violation of this order; and James has told us that these come of our lusts, which war in our members. All these must be put off as belonging to the old man. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” – Col. iii. 8-10. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” – Galatians v. 16. Nothing which is prompted by carnal selfishness is consistent with gospel order.
In the practical development of this order in the walk of the associated saints in the church, some system is required in the transaction of such business as is incident to their organization. While no special formality is enjoined in this particular, convenience and a decent regard for accuracy require that the actions of the church should be recorded for future reference. Of course such records should be correct and authentic, and in order to secure this authenticity it has been customary, when practicable, to have a clerk to record the acts of the church; and to assure that accuracy which is desirable, as well as to relieve the clerk of liability to mistakes or omissions, it is a prudent course to submit the record to the approval of the church at each meeting, when those present will be competent to judge and correct the record of their own actions. A little attention to this system in their business proceedings would save much annoying uncertainty in subsequent actions of the church. Cases have occurred wherein the memory of those who were present when the church acted in some matter has become confused, and brethren have differed as to particulars. Then an authentic record would settle the difference to the satisfaction of all concerned, and perhaps thereby much trouble might be avoided, and the minds of all be relieved of what would otherwise have excited mutual recriminations, heart-burnings and distrust. Thus even in these, which might be considered matters of minor importance in the church, it is profitable to observe the apostolic injunction to “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
The law of perfect order supplies to the individual conduct of every subject of our King. In the inspired rule the order for every state and circumstance which ever can arise is given, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. However it may have the appearance of good works, or be approved by natural reason, nothing can be profitable for the man of God which is not in order according to the test of this rule. Many things in the world may seem by the rule of carnal reason to be desirable, and to promise profit and happiness; but all aside from that which is here written will prove but vain and delusive. As pilgrims and strangers here, the saints are directed, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” – Col. iii. 1, 2. In neglecting to follow this order many dear children of God have experienced bitter disappointment and deep sorrow; for it is the established order of the Lord in dealing with his children, that “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting life.” – Gal. vi. 8. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” – Rom. viii. 13. This order can apply to none but those who are led by the Spirit of God. No others can through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, or sow to the Spirit, since none can know the things of God but by the revelation of the Spirit. This revelation teaches us that the world, with all its alluring vanities, and all that pertains to its fashion or order, is to perish with the using, and passeth away. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” – 2 Peter iii. 14. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” – Col. ii. 6, 7.
Elder William L. Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.,
Signs of the Times,
Volume 49, No. 21,
November 1, 1881.