Reformed Worship, The Regulative Principle, etc.

Chapter 1

Introductory Remarks

The worship of God is a universal duty. This fact is acknowledged by all men except blatant infidels.

Christianity rests upon a fundamental premise that God's favor is extended only to those who come to him through the person and work of Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Yet, while many profess faith in Christ, professing Christians differ widely in the manner in which they conduct their worship.

Such diversity in practice may prompt an inquiry. What means of worship possess the Lord's approval? What pattern of worship does the Lord truly require of his people? Specifically, is there a biblical measure by which we may evaluate various practices of worship?

The present ecclesiastical scene illustrates the urgency of seeking a biblical understanding of worship. Some churches are introducing "contemporary" modes of worship: drama, sacred dance, multi-media productions ­ even puppet shows. Others advocate free-style services, wherein anyone present may exercise his "gifts" spontaneously ­ religious democracy with a vengeance. There are still others who are alarmed by growing ecclesiastical anarchy; their solution is to embrace the liturgical forms of Rome, Canterbury, or Eastern Orthodoxy.

We hold a different perspective. We maintain that the Bible contains general principles which regulate all matters of worship. First, religious worship must be directed to the Lord God alone; worship must not be given to false deities, humans, or any created thing. Second, the only acceptable means of worship are those established by God.

This latter principle will be at the center of attention throughout our discussion. We will refer to it as the scriptural law of worship, as a reminder that the Lord regulates the worship of his people by means of his word.

Our premise differs sharply from contemporary attitudes toward worship. Many people claim that Christians are free to employ a variety of practices in worship, as long as the means employed are not specifically forbidden in scripture. (If something is not forbidden, it must be o.k.) When their worship activities are challenged, their response is, "Show us what is wrong with this practice."

We reject this view as inadequate. Certainly, any method of worship which is demonstrably unbiblical should be discarded immediately. But we reject the idea that the burden of proof rests upon us to prove a negative - to show that every new fad in worship violates some particular scriptural prohibition.

We believe that the scriptures contain a general prohibition against all elements in worship besides those which God himself has instituted. In other words, the burden of proof falls upon those who wish to introduce a practice into worship, to prove that God has required it in his word. This is the force of the scriptural law of worship; it guards against man-made innovations in worship. We trust that this truth will be amply demonstrated in the pages which follow.

It would be nice if a discussion about worship could be conducted without major conflicts; but that is not likely. Ever since the days of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3-8), there has been enmity between the practitioners of unapproved worship and the true worshippers of the Lord God. The advocates of corrupt worship always seek to subvert or exterminate true worship among the people of God. This is the real source of conflict over worship, and we cannot overlook that fact. If we seek to practice genuine biblical worship, we will encounter heated opposition from the advocates of synthetic worship.

Readers will note that the discussion which follows is largely concerned with matters of corporate worship. This focus on the public worship does not mean that family worship are unimportant. Indeed, domestic piety is essential among God's people; and we hold that private exercises of piety are also restricted to the elements of worship commanded in the word of God.

All of our worship should possess two preeminent characteristics: (1.) we must come to the Lord with sincere hearts filled with love for him; (2.) we must worship God using only the means established in his word. Any worship which lacks either of these qualities is sinful; we must not approach the Lord with corrupt motives or with improper methods.

Finally, it has been the author's goal to provide a succinct statement of the general principles of worship taught in holy scripture. A publication the size of this booklet cannot be ex pected to treat its subject in every particular detail. Readers who are interested in exhaustive polemics will have to look elsewhere.

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Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed

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