God is Good (5)
For God is not the authorof 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
Order in the church
Paul was a stickler for having churches properly ordered. He railed at the Corinthians for the chaos and disorder in their worship, and in their practice of the Lord’s Supper. He congratulated the Colossians on the good order of their congregational life (Col. 2.5). He insisted that Titus bring order to the churches on Crete by making sure each one had qualified elders in leadership roles (Tit. 1.5).
Paul did not support the idea of spontaneity in worship or church life. How much less would he have supported a lack of order and discipline in the life of a believer? He wanted things to be ordered, and the reason he did was because he knew that God is a God of order, not of confusion. God is no shapeshifter, like the deities of many pagan religions. We can know Him, and observe the unity, concord, holiness, and harmony which are unchanging and unfailing in Him. We can understand His ways, albeit only imperfectly (Eccl. 3.11), and we can order our affairs to line up with the order He sustains throughout His creation.
The foundations of Western art, music, literature, government, business, and science were erected on the assumption that God is a God of order. Order is good, because order enables us to know, understand, and flourish.
As we continue looking to God to help us in understanding the nature of good, we must not overlook the fact that God, Who is good, is a God of order. How can we see this?
God’s order: vision
We can’t say everything there is to be said about the order God exhibits in Himself and His ways, but we can consider three important aspects of this, which can be helpful to us in understanding the meaning of good.
First, vision is an important aspect of God’s order. Before He spoke the first word of creation, God saw in His mind the whole of the cosmos, the whole of its history, and the entirety of what He would do to glorify Himself in this project. God leaves nothing to chance; what He envisions, He performs. What He sees, and what He reports that He sees, and wants us to see, He will most certainly bring to completion.
Wherever God employs vision to lead His people, we should pay close attention, and let the vision of the good life we entertain be shaped and informed by the vision of God. For example, how do we think about the Kingdom of God? Most Christians are aware of the Kingdom, and perhaps have an idea about what it is, or at least, what “Kingdom of God” means. But how many of us have God’s vision of that Kingdom as the vision that guides us in seeking that Kingdom as our first and highest priority? The more our vision for our lives lines-up with whatever God has revealed of His vision, the more consistently our lives will move toward and experience what God defines as good.
God’s order: priorities
Second, God expresses His orderliness, and maintains order in the cosmos, according to priorities – first this, then that, and that, and all the rest. God always does the right thing, at the right time, and in the right order. And whenever God expresses a priority for us, we should embrace it and apply it to our peculiar callings and circumstances.
We don’t have to guess about the priorities God considers good for us; He has told us plainly. Seek His Kingdom first and always. Pray without ceasing. Let His Word dwell in you richly. Love Him first and your neighbor as yourself. And so on. As God’s priorities become our priorities, we will know and express more of the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. 27.13).
God’s order: next steps
Finally, the order of God works progressively, not in leaps and bounds. Except, that is, for His original work of creation. While there is progress to note here – first the light, then the water, then land, then creatures, and so on – this work was accomplished during a special season of creativity and a condensed period of time. Normally, God works gradually, unfolding His plans and will, generation by generation, and calling His people to grow from childish ways to maturity by degrees. We see this especially in the patient, progressive way God unfolded His plan and work of redemption through the Old and New Testaments.
God does not expect us to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We are to grow by taking the next steps every day that will see us moving more fully into His good and perfect will for our lives. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (Is. 28.13). God’s order unfolds in regular progress, according to His priorities, and toward His vision of the good life.
God holds out a vision of the good life for His people, shows them the priorities they must heed in realizing that good life, then calls them to a long obedience in the same direction (Eugene Peterson), as they make steady progress in His good and perfect will.
Order is good, because God, Who is good, is a God of order.
1. What is the alternative to living an orderly life? Why is it better to live orderly?
2. What is God’s vision for our salvation? For our lives in His Kingdom? Can you think of some Scriptures that speak directly to these important matters?
3. What are the main priorities that govern your life? How do these line-up with God’s priorities?
Next steps – Preparation: Make a list of God’s priorities. How do you embrace and follow these each day? How can you improve in bringing more of God’s order into your life? Talk with a Christian friend about these questions.
T. M. Moore
What are you doing at 8:18 am? If you’re with Bruce Van Patter, you’re observing the goodness of God in your immediate surroundings. Take a look at Bruce’s column, and let your world come alive with goodness (click here).
Our Mission Partners Outreach can help you follow God’s call to share the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom with the people in your Personal Mission Field. The training and materials are free, and the program is available in two formats, and can be used in your Bible study group or Sunday school class. Watch this brief video (click here), and download the informational flyer to learn more.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.