Order

Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Word of God places great emphasis and value upon good order. We will undoubtedly be surprised at the frequency with which this word appears and the implications that it has. There are several root words, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, that convey the sense of good order. All these words agree in their basic meanings: to set aright, to ordain, to arrange, to set in order, to walk orderly.

The church and her members are to demonstrate orderliness in all their lives, “for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all church of the saints” (I Cor. 14:33). God hates confusion, and is always characterized by orderliness, harmony, and peace. This is the outstanding virtue of the covenant life which the Father and the Son live in the Holy Spirit. This is likewise true of the eternal decrees that are ever before the divine mind. The word “ordained” (as in Acts 13:48, “…as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”) refers to election, and comes from one of the words mentioned above, meaning to set in order, arrange. Thus, Reformed theologians have good reason to discuss the order of God’s eternal decrees, to study their arrangement, and to make distinction between infra- and supra-lapsarianism. This is not vain and curious prying, but a fruitful and legitimate labor.

God revealed His regard for order immediately in creation, by first dividing the light from the darkness, then separating the dry land from the seas, and then creating the plants, animals, and man (Gen. 1). God showed His high regard for order by forming the multitudes of Israel into a nation at Sinai and giving them definite marching orders (Num. 10:11ff .). All the things of the tabernacle were set in order before God (Ex. 40), and the priests who served God there did so according to schedule and definite orders (Luke 1:8). The better priesthood of Jesus Christ is after the order of Melchizedec, having no beginning of days nor end of life (Ps. 110:4Heb. 5, 6, 7).

God bestows upon His church gracious salvation in Christ in an orderly manner. He does not save and gather His church in a confused, individualistic way, but He does so in the orderly way of believing generations; believing generations are grafted into the Tree of Life. And the application of salvation to the elect believer follows the order of salvation suggested in Romans 8:30. The young people learn this order as regeneration, faith, conversion, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification.

The church in her worship, labor, and organic life reflects the good order that is in God (Tit. 1:5), showing that they know and love God as dear children. We follow an order of worship regulated by the Scriptures. Our assemblies strive to do all things decently and in good order (I Cor. 14:40) by proceeding according to an adopted Church Order. Our Bible-study societies have constitutions for this same purpose. The apostle Paul behaved himself orderly among the churches (II Thess. 3:7), for orderliness is essential to the church’s unity. He also commanded believers to withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly (I Thess. 3:6, 11).

The life of the child (Jud. 13:12) and family life is to be rightly ordered and arranged. This involves keeping to a daily schedule, having regular devotions, requiring respectful obedience on the part of the child, being consistent in discipline, and insisting on neatness. Especially are we to have our houses in order as we see the day of our death approaching (Is. 38:1). Our personal lives, the very steps that we take, are to be ordered according to God’s Word (Ps. 119:113), for “the steps of a good manare ordered by the Lord” (Ps. 37:23), and he that “ordereth his conversation aright shall see God’s salvation” (Ps. 50:23).