There are many different kinds of Christian churches in the world that “do church” many different ways. This is inevitable, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. The Bible indeed gives us a great deal of flexibility in many aspects of running a church service. The Bible, for instance, is not very restrictive about worship styles. It does not prescribe a particular kind of music, liturgy, or dress code. Nevertheless, the Bible does give a few rules, and these rules must be followed, because we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and therefore the rules themselves are God’s commandments to us.
One such rule, which we discussed in our last post, was that women cannot preach publicly during a church service (I Corinthians 14:34-35). This command, of course, clashes with our modern culture, and there are many churches–including some fairly good ones that I have visited–that compromise on this issue. However, Christians need to be submissive to God, and therefore, we need to follow His clear rules, even when we don’t feel like it.
The first century church at Corinth was having trouble following God’s rules. Apparently, among other things, they would allow women to preach in their church services. Paul warned them that they should not be doing this:
Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? (I Corinthians 15:36 NIV).
What Paul is saying here is that they have already been told what the rules are, and they have no authority to change them. The church at Corinth was not the source of the word of God, that is to say, it had come to them through the preaching of the Apostles, it was not from them. They had to to obey the words God revealed to the apostles in unity with the other churches. Likewise, our churches today need to do the same thing. We have no license to make new rules for church that violates the rules given in scripture. When we make new rules we are behaving as if we are the only church that is reached by God’s word, and that all previous churches do not have the word of God. Thus we need to be unified with other churches in accepting the authority of scripture. If every church were to arbitrarily depart from scripture, then there would be no unity in the church, nor could there be any reasonable confidence that any of us are doing God’s will.