What does it mean that God is not the author of confusion?
Paul makes this statement in his letter to the Corinthians: "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NKJV). We can glean some immediate truth from this statement in order to understand what he means: God did not create confusion, He created peace. In context, Paul was applying this general truth to a specific problem the Corinthian church was facing: disorder during church meetings.
Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians focuses on spiritual gifts and order during church gatherings. The church in Corinth was suffering because their services were confusing and unorganized. We get the impression in this passage that people who had the gift of tongues would share their tongues publicly during service, possibly interrupting whatever else was happening. People breaking forth in tongues was only adding confusion. No one knew what the tongues speakers were saying because there was no one to interpret, and no one was edified by this kind of demonstration of their spiritual gift. Paul compares the church services to instruments that are out of tune: "If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air" (1 Corinthians 14:7–9).
The issue of speaking in tongues during services was only part of what caused confusion during their services: "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (1 Corinthians 14:26). Each person was coming in with something to share, but it was not an orderly gathering where each person waited quietly for his turn. Paul gives the impression that the Corinthian churches thought each person should share "as the Spirit moves" no matter what is going on at the time. This confusion kept people from being able to focus on worshipping God, reflecting, or repenting, and their services were not building up the church. Paul did not prohibit the Corinthians from sharing with the church, but said that tongues were only to be spoken if an interpreter was present, and only two or three at most should speak (1 Corinthians 14:27–28). He said the same regarding prophets speaking, saying that the others should "weigh what is said" (1 Corinthians 14:29). The Corinthians were to "let all things be done for building up" (1 Corinthians 14:26).
In stating that God is not the author of confusion, Paul dispelled the idea that people are subject to the whims of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not come over people in an uncontrollable manner so that spiritual gifts are used without self-control. On the contrary, because God is a God of order, His Spirit does not move people to act in a disorderly manner. We are mistaken to believe that this is how the Holy Spirit moves. It is important to grasp this concept of God's orderliness when it comes to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. Some churches base their level of being "Spirit filled" off a disorderly display of spiritual gifts. But that is not how we should measure a person or churches' spiritual maturity or proximity to God because, as Paul points out, God is a God of peace and order, not confusion. As such, His worship services should reflect His character. Church services should have order so that the congregation can be edified and built up, and so that God can be honored by His people's full attention. As Paul told the Corinthians, "all things should be done decently and in order" because "God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:40, 33).
While Paul acknowledges this attribute of God's in specific reference to church services, he references it because it is true in general. Anyone who has observed nature knows that there is an order to the universe that we can only scratch the surface of understanding. The chaos and confusion that exist in this world do not exist as a reflection of God's character; they exist in opposition to God's character. James contrasts demonic wisdom to God's peace and order: "This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere" (James 3:15–17). Only demonic wisdom brings disorder and confusion—these things are not from God. God is not the author of confusion. We can take heart knowing that the chaos in this world is not because of God but because of our sinfulness and Satan's desire to corrupt what God has made to be good. God designed for us to live in stability and order. If we are submitted to Christ, our lives and our church services should reflect this.
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