With Reverence and Awe, Chapter 5

(A review of the book, “With Reverence and Awe, Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship” by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether.  Remember that in conjunction with our Wednesday night study, I am using this book and the principles taught in it to aid us in a study of worship.)

Chapter 5: Acceptable Worship

The evangelical world today is often confused by what constitutes good worship.  Does it revolve around a style of music?  Words such as “meaningful,” “dynamic,” or “exhilarating” are often used to describe modern worship.  Does it focus enough on visitors or a particular age group?  In searching for good worship, the one word not often used is, “Biblical.”  Is it Biblical?  

I recently read an article that has been bouncing around the internet about why over half of Millennials are leaving the Church.  If I could summarize the article, the majority of it centered on the fact that Church and worship are too much about God and too little about me.  While all Millennials are not this way by any means, the one who wrote this article was more concerned about personal thoughts and feelings and being heard (i.e., understanding the Millennial perspective), and the Church doing good deeds to be seen by the community, rather than worship being all about God and hearing from Him in His Word.

“Scripture insists that we must worship in a way that is acceptable to God.  The simplicity test for good worship, then, is whether it conforms to the Bible.  This standard has become known in Reformed churches as the regulative principle.”  (Hart and Meuther)

For the Reformed, the words “sola Scriptura” mean a reformation in doctrine, polity, and worship.  The Reformation was not merely to correct a few doctrines and go back to Scripture regarding things such as justification; but it also was concerned about Church polity (how we are structured) and how we worship.

“Because of the regulative principle, simplicity has characterized Reformed worship.  Without biblical warrant for many of the features of Roman liturgy, the Reformed tradition limited worship to the basics of the Word, sacraments, and prayer.  Reformed Christians worship without candles, liturgical vestments, or highly ornamented sanctuaries.  While Luther argued that God had given man five senses to use in worship, Calvin argued that we worship for God’s glory, only secondarily for our edification, and not in the least for our pleasure.  For this reason Calvin concluded about ceremonies of any kind in worship, “the more it delights human nature, the more it is to be suspected by believers.”  In sum, the regulative principle simply states that whatever we do in worship must have support from the Bible.  This is not to say that we have a prooftext for everything we do in worship.  Scripture gives the church no exact order of worship.  But by good and necessary consequence we may deduce from God’s Word the necessary “parts of the ordinary religious worship of God.”  (WCF 21.5) (Hart and Meuther)

The session of Faith Bible OPC has a great obligation to make sure that worship on Sunday adheres to the Regulative principle.  If we do not adhere to the Word of God we would be causing our members to engage in sinful behavior on the Lord’s Day.

“When the elders of the church call the people of God to worship, they are necessarily and unavoidably binding the conscience of worshipers (because Christians are forbidden to forsake the worshipping of God).  (Hart and Meuther)

The last chapter dealt with the day of worship, and that we are obligated to worship and not forsake the gathering together of God’s people on Sunday.  This chapter deals with the parts of worship and the obligation to make sure they are Biblical.  I focused on this in the morning message this week as we looked at the ordinary means of grace that God uses in worship.

As we think of our worship on Sunday, we have to distinguish between the elements of worship (things such as prayer, the reading and preaching of the Word, singing, the sacraments, etc.) and the circumstances of worship (the time we meet, what type of building we use and seating, etc.).  Elements are those things that we are called to do by God’s Word, and circumstances are those things where there is liberty for congregations to order as best serves God’s people in a particular location—those things which help us to worship decently and in order.  Instead of seeking our own desires, may we long for the things of God and worship that is pleasing to Him.