Reformed Worship, The Regulative Principle, etc.

Chapter 3

Worship in the New Testament

Turning to the New Testament, we find changes in the outward forms and ceremonies of worship dictated by God unto his people. Nevertheless, the great underlying principle remains the same: the only acceptable forms of worship are those which possess divine warrant. It is still unlawful for us to alter the God -given elements of worship, or to supplement the biblical means with methods of human devising.

Christ's Temptation in the Wilderness

When Christ was tempted in the wilderness, he reinforced the biblical law of worship. Three times Satan assaulted Jesus with temptation. In all three cases, Jesus responded with quotes from the scriptures: "It is written...."(Matt.4:4,7,10). When the devil sought to induce Christ to idolatry, through the lure of power,Jesus replied, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt.4:10).

Satan uses similar temptations to destroy men in our own day; but for some reason, Christians act as if idolatry is not a real and present danger among the people of God living in twenti eth-century American culture. Yet, if it were not a real temptation, there would be no need for the timeless scriptural warning: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). We must be watchful against all species of idolatry, whether in the blatant form of worshipping false deities, or in more subtle ways by adopting corrupt means of approaching the true God.

Consider how Christ handles this temptation. He goes back to the foundational precepts of the law, as given in the book of Deuteronomy. So should we. When discussing the subject of worship (or any other subject, for that matter), we should not hesitate to consult the law of God. Sometimes, for fear of being labelled legalists, we cast aside our strongest defense. We drift into a pragmatic defense and allow the debate to be conducted over subjective and pragmatic considerations. Instead, we should take the higher ground and consult the law of God.

Of course, appeals to God's law will be unpopular. If we merely discuss things from a pragmatic perspective, our opponents will politely discuss topics such as the didactic use of images, clerical attire, the merits of hymns, ecclesiastical festivals, liturgies, etc. But simply mention that these practices are condemned by the scriptural law of worship, and the reaction will become quite heated. Formalists will always discuss the "practical" reasons, pro and con; but they cannot abide an appeal to the law, because it shuts them off altogether.

We should follow the example of our Lord, who closed the discussion with a reference to biblical law. Christ did not enter into a lengthy academic debate over the matter. After all, such confrontations are a temptation, although we do not always perceive it that way when we are faced with similar assaults. When we are presented with faulty suggestions about worship, our response should be simple: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).

Christ's Confrontation with Vain Worship

The 15th chapter of Matthew records a confrontation between Christ and Jewish religious leaders of his day. In considering this passage, we should recall that the scribes and the Pharisees were not heathen idolaters. They did not worship Baal, nor did they bow before the state god, Caesar. They did not make graven images, adhering to the strict letter of the law. They had a high regard for the temple in Jerusalem, which they knew to be the prescribed place for the public ordinances. But was their religion scriptural?

No! The scribes and Pharisees held to the traditions of their fathers so zealously, that their traditional practices had, in many respects, superceded the precepts of the Old Testament (Matt. 15:2). Hence, the apostle Paul later refers to this traditionalism as "the Jews' religion" (Gal. 1:13-14), indicating that it was not the religion of the Bible.

A conflict was created because the Jews sought to supplement the biblical precepts with practices of their own devising. Jesus rebukes them for substituting man-made duties in the place of God-given responsibilities. "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matt. 15:3).

The Saviour then exposes the method of subterfuge the Pharisees had invented in order to cover their negligence. They had cloaked a corrupt practice by claiming a high regard for the temple, the focal point of public worship. Yet, their argument was merely a pretence for neglect ing family duties prescribed in the law.

As a result, the divine verdict was against them: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:8-9; cf. Isa. 29:13).

Here Christ draws a connection between the religious service performed by these men, and the worship which they offer. Their worship is eclipsed by the spurious religious traditions which they annex to it.

This rebuke clearly condemns the notion that mankind (or the church as an institution) has the right to institute new modes of worship and religious service. If men assert the right to invent new forms of religious piety, they are usurping the authority which belongs to God alone. Christ is the King of the church, the only lawgiver.

The Pharisees paid lip service to God. We know they made long prayers, fasted twice a week, and arranged financial bequests to the temple. As formalists, they were exceedingly concerned about outward conformity to man-made regulations.[1] At first, we might not link their practices to "public worship," since many of these activities were conducted outside the temple and synagogue services. Yet, their traditional observances are accounted by Christ a measure of their worship. And their worship is declared to be vain. It is vain because it ignores scriptural directives; it is vain because it exalts human innovations (called traditions), thereby violating the spirit of the second commandment; and it is vain because it leads to perdition (Matt. 15:13-14).

The Essence of True Worship

Christ describes the essence of true worship during his conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:17ff.). After the Saviour declares the woman's immorality, she perceives that he is a prophet. Therefore, she propounds to him the prominent religious controversy which existed between the Jews and the Samaritans.

Specifically, the dispute was over where to worship. Now, it is true that God had prescribed Jerusalem as the place for public ordinances ­ although that would soon change. But the dispute had degenerated into a focus strictly upon the outward forms of religion. Thus, Christ was confronted with a loaded question ­ the kind frequently spawned by religious controversy.

Jesus responds by placing the dispute within a larger context: the nature of true worship. He notes that there is more to the matter than simply settling a dispute over the proper place for worship. He also points to the approaching changes which would render obsolete the whole debate about the locale for worship.

Outwardly, as to the place for public ordinances, the Jews were right. God had prescribed a pattern of worship which was focused upon Jerusalem. The divine pattern was designed as a witness for all mankind, regarding the right way of salvation. "Salvation is of the Jews," for "unto them were committed the oracles of God" (John 4:22; Rom. 3:22). In this sense, the Jews worshipped what they knew: that is, they adhered to the knowledge of the law as it pertained to the place for divine ordinances. (Herein we are again directed to the importance of revealed religion, as given in the law.) The Samaritans had abandoned the law, and forged their own mongrel religion. (See 2 Kings 17.)

In another manner,Jesus reiterates the importance of God's appointment in religion. "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father" (John 4:21). A great change was about to occur, respecting the outward ordinances of worship.At whose direction? Not by man's appointment, but by the appointment of God. He alone is the lawgiver. None may tamper with the pattern which he has established; yet it is the Lord's prerogative to make alterations in conformity with his purposes.

Jesus next summarizes the essence of true worship, which includes the inseparable union of both piety and knowledge. True worshippers shall worship God "in spirit and in the truth" (John 4:23-24). The worship of these true worshippers is characterized in this manner, as an outworking of God's saving grace. God's sovereignty in salvation extends not only to the manner in which elect are saved, but also to the purposes for which they are redeemed. One essential design in the salvation of the elect is that they shall worship in spirit and truth: "for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23).

The language is repeated in imperative form. It is language similar to other imperatives in the teaching of Christ, such as the statement recorded in the previous chapter of John's gospel: "Ye must be born again." The true worshippers "shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 3:7; John 4:23-24).

True worship must be "in spirit." It involves the inner man, demanding sincerity and love. Worship includes more than the mere outward forms of devotion. Many times God has pronounced a curse against persons wedded to empty forms of religion. The unbelieving Jews had hearts far from the Lord, even though they were in the right place for external ordinances. Our worship must flow from hearts of sincerity and love toward God our Saviour (Cf. Matt. 15:8-9; Isa. 29:13).

Likewise, genuine worship must be "in truth." That is, our worship must be in conformity to God's written revelation. There is, indeed, an outward measure for our worship. In the present day, it is common to hear comments that the "heart" is all that matters: a mistaken concept that sincerity of motive and fervent emotion are the substance of genuine worship. But Christ does not confine the essence of worship to worship in spirit; he adds the measure of truth. Acceptable worship is more than the gushy effervescence of a fervent heart. Without truth, such fervor is an offense before God; it is zeal, "but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2).

Christ's statements imply a solemn warning. By his reference to "true worshippers" (John 4:23), we may perceive a distinction which sets them apart from other worshippers. In other words, there is a class of worshippers who are false in their worship. Therefore, we must examine our own worship, that we may discern to which class we belong.

Worship in the Synagogue

As we consider Christ's teachings about worship, we should not overlook his practice with respect to worship in the synagogues. A lengthy discussion on the synagogue system is beyond the scope of this booklet. Nevertheless we note that the divine warrant for the basic elements of synagogue services may be found in the biblical commands enjoining prayer, reading of scripture, and instruction in the word of God. These elements of worship are found throughout the Bible, not being tied exclusively to the temple services in Jerusalem. Prayer is an essential duty, and it was always lawful for prayer to be offered in any place. The wide diffusion of biblical truth was commanded, that the earth might be "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14; Isa. 11:9).

The synagogues developed during the period of captivity, when worship in Jerusalem was impossible. No sacrifices were conducted in the synagogues, so they never became rival centers of worship with Jerusalem, even after temple services were restored.

The synagogues served as repositories of the scriptures. It would be centuries until the invention of printing presses; individuals and families could not readily obtain Bibles. By attending services in the synagogues, the people had regular access to the word of God through the public reading of the scriptures.[2]

The synagogues were the stage for several confrontations between Jesus and the corrupt Jewish leadership of his day (Matt. 12:9-13; Mark 1:21-28; 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-11). Yet, Jesus participated in the synagogue services, "as his custom was" (Luke 4:16) by reading and teaching from the scriptures. "And when he was come to his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?" (Matt. 13:54; cf. Mark 6:1-6; John 6:59; 18:20).

The New Era Following the Death of Christ

As Christ indicated to the woman at the well, a great change was occurring; it would render the dispute between Samaritans and Jews obsolete. When Christ died upon the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two "from the top to the bottom" (Matt. 27:51). This event signified the fulfillment of the Levitical ordinances of the Old Testament. Formerly, "the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God." Now "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:6; 9:24; cf. 8:2). The earthly tabernacle (the temple) had always been a mere "example and shadow of heavenly things." Now that the substance is manifest in Christ, the types and shadows give way to reality (Heb. 8:5; cf. 10:1; Col. 2:17).

Through his priestly offering on the cross,Jesus "by himself purged our sins" and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Having been declared "a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec," Christ rendered the Levitical priesthood obsolete (Heb. 1:3; 5:6; 7:12).

With "the priesthood being changed," and the temple ceremonies having fulfilled their purpose, Jerusalem is no longer the fixed locale for the preeminent expressions of public wor ship. With the Old Testament ceremonies gone, what remains?

Apostolic Practice and Teaching

Although temple worship reached its conclusion, several ordinary elements of worship continue. These are practices of piety which always were found beyond the precincts of the temple ­ in private worship, family worship, and the synagogues ­ things such as prayer, the reading of scripture, and biblical instruction.

We are told that the church "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). As Christ's commissioned messengers, the apostles arranged things according to divine directives. They had been ordered to "observe all things whatsoever" Christ commanded (Matt. 28:20). The church still was not permitted to worship and serve God according to human wisdom or man-made devices. Therefore, the apostles' doctrine was not something invented by the apostles; it was simply the doctrine of Christ ­ the doctrine of the holy scriptures.

Under the direction of the apostles, the reading and exposition of the scriptures were regular practices in the public assemblies of the church. These practices were not novelties, "for Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day" (Acts 15:21; cf.2Cor.3:15).

Since the apostles were Christ's appointed messengers, apostolic epistles were also read publicly as part of the canon of scripture. The practice of reading apostolic epistles in the public assemblies could easily be inferred from the fact that the letters are addressed to the churches as a whole. Lest there be any doubt, however, we note Paul's commands, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren" (1 Thess. 5:27). "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea"(Col. 4:16)[3]

Closely tied to the reading of the scriptures was the practice of expounding the word by public preaching and teaching. Jesus routinely expounded the word of God within assemblies for public worship: "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 9:35; cf. 4:23). Thus it is not surprising to see the apostles adopting the same course: "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:42). Later, Paul and Barnabas abode in Antioch, "teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also" (Acts 15:35). Before Paul departed from Troas, "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them" (Acts 20:7).

There are scores of passages in the New Testament illustrating the apostolic practice of expounding the scriptures. It was obviously a regular part of public worship. Hence the apostolic aspirations, "I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also" (Rom. 1:15); and the apostolic admonitions: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2)


The reference in Acts 2:42 to fellowship points to an important truth. Although temple worship has been discontinued, that does not mean that religious duties are now limited to private and family exercises. There yet remains a role for congregational worship and public ordinances. The public exercises of worship are no longer centered around a particular location (Jerusalem); nevertheless, corporate obligations are extensive among the people of God.

"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Rom. 12:4-5; cf. 1Cor. 12:12). For this reason, we find an apostolic admonition to provoke one another "unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:24-25).

Wherever the gospel was received, gathered congregations were formed and organized. It is in the context of the congregation assembled corporately that we find many expressions of public worship and service. Therefore we see why it was mentioned as an important factor that the early Christians continued steadfastly in apostolic fellowship (Acts 2:42). Corporate worship is the highest public expression of adoration rendered unto God.[4]

The Sacraments

The "breaking of bread" (in Acts 2:42) appears to be a reference to the Lord's Supper, one of the public ordinances of the New Testament. Although the ceremonies of the temple have reached their fulfillment, the church still possesses outward signs or seals of God's covenant. The Lord's Supper and baptism serve as a visible word to compliment the word preached.

The Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus on the night before his crucifixion. It was a commanded ordinance; the language is plain: "Take, eat. Drink ye." "This do in remembrance of me" (Matt.26:26-27; Luke22:19-20; cf. Mark 14:22-23).

That these actions were meant to be an ongoing observance, is clear from both the words of the Saviour, and the apostolic commentary provided in 1 Cor. 11: 23-26: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."

The divine warrant for baptism should be unquestioned, since it is embedded in the words of the Great Commission (Matt.28:19-20). "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Numerous baptisms are recorded throughout the book of Acts.[5]

"Though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory" than the old ordinances, the New Testament sacraments hold forth Christ "in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles. "[6] Through them the gospel is preached through the divinely-ordained "pictures," much as the Old Testament ordinances prefigured the gospel in a typical manner (cf. Heb. 4:2). The Old Testament ordinances pictured the Messiah who was yet to come; whereas the New Testament signs declare the work of Christ who has already come and conquered sin and death.

Since these signs are ordained by God, it should be clear that it is a monstrous presumption for anyone to add new sacraments, or to supplement the two sacraments of Christ with other "images" of human devising.[7] Yet, throughout history, men have often corrupted the church with liturgical "aids to worship" and new ecclesiastical ordinances. Others have embellished the sacraments by imposing a superstitious manner of observing them ­ such as Romish baptismal rites or Anglican liturgical forms. These deviations are an insult to Christ, because they imply a deficiency in the scriptures, as though the sacraments of Christ are insufficient as signs and seals, and therefore require humanly-devised supplements to increase their effectiveness.


Prayer is a basic element of worship, whether public or private. Throughout the Old Testament, prayer was freely offered in a variety of settings beyond the boundaries of the temple. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see Christians constantly resorting to prayer within congregational meetings. There are numerous examples of congregational prayer in the book of Acts (Acts 4:24-31; 6:6-7; 12:5; 13:3; 14:23; 16:13; 16:25; 20:36; 21:5).Apostolic injunctions repeatedly enjoin prayer. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." "Continue in prayer." "Pray without ceasing." "Brethren, pray for us." "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.""I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17; 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-2, 8).

Other Practices of Worship

Based upon Acts 2:42, we have briefly noted several basic elements of public worship found in the New Testament: the reading and preaching of the word of God, the sacraments, and prayer. Readers may wonder ­ beyond the subjects mentioned in Acts 2 ­ are there additional elements of worship which continue from the Old Testament, or which have been instituted by Christ or the apostles?

From other passages of scripture, we learn that psalm-singing was a regular practice within the Christian church. The Bible additionally provides a warrant for fasting, as well as special seasons of thanksgiving. Also, the scriptures also mention temporary practices of worship and church order which were suited to the transitional era of the apostles. These temporal aspects were not intended to become permanent elements of worship. In order to address some of these related topics, we have furnished a preliminary discussion in the following chapter and the Appendix.

Apostolic Warning

We cannot conclude our discussion of the New Testament without looking at Paul's warning to the Colossians. The apostle warns them not to be beguiled by religious ordinances which are merely "the commandments and doctrines of men." He cautions that such ordinances "have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col. 2:18-22).

The religious ordinances in question impose a burden upon those who practice them, requiring a degree of "humility, and neglecting of the body." This kind of religious discipline might seem commendable, but it is only a show.

A key to understanding the root problem with these ordinances is in the expression "will worship" (Col. 2:23), which is somewhat cryptic to modern readers. The Greek term here, ethelothreeskia, might be rendered "voluntary worship" or "arbitrary worship."[8] The gist is that these ordinances are forms of worship or religious service chosen by man (according to the will of man), not means chosen by God.

This is the essence of corrupt worship, when men seek to establish their own forms of religious service. We might call it free-will worship, since the advocates of man-made worship are claiming that men possess the right (or freedom) to institute acceptable means to worship God.[9]

This passage was cited frequently by the Reformers in their struggles against the corrupt worship and burdensome ordinances of Roman Catholicism. The passage was again employed by Scottish Protestants and English Puritans to repel the impositions of the Anglican liturgy. Indeed, Paul's warning furnishes a sweeping indictment against all humanly-imposed forms of worship and religious ordinances.

New Testament Summary

Based upon the doctrine of Christ and the apostles, we reiterate the following truths (which we found initially in the Old Testament):

1. God is the only proper recipient of worship.

2. Mankind must worship according to the means prescribed by God.

3. It is unlawful to amend or alter the worship prescribed by God in his word.

In contrast, with the Old Testament, we note the following changes made by the Lord in the New Testament:

1. There is no longer a central place for worship. The temple ordinances have reached fulfillment.

2. The ordinances of public worship are no longer conducted by the Levitical priesthood.

3. The church no longer observes sacrificial ordinances. The New Testament ordinances are simpler and fewer in number.

Summary Remarks

From an overview of scripture, we have seen that the Bible consistently teaches (1.) that the Lord God alone is to be worshipped; (2.) that he is to be worshipped only through the means appointed in his word; and (3.) that it is sinful to employ man-made additions or alterations to the worship of God. We should ponder some ramifications of these truths.

Corrupt worship is a widespread evil in our own society. Americans often feel that their culture has advanced beyond primitive societies which worship false deities. The truth is, however, that contemporary society is cluttered with polluted worship, even among professing Christians. Man-made innovations in worship are prevalent, especially within "conservative" and "evangelical" churches. If biblical principles of worship were upheld, there would be little fascination with liturgical superstitions, sacred dance and drama, musical performances, multimedia spectacles, and puppet shows in worship services.

We need to grasp the truth that deviant forms of worship are evil. The basic principles of worship are embedded in the decalogue; transgression of the commandments is blatant immorality. In our modern pluralistic age, professing Christians have lost a sense of the immorality of false worship.

Variant forms of worship should not be treated as the subjects for mere academic debates and theoretical speculations. What is at stake is the proper worship of God, who has declared that he will not give his glory to another nor his praise to graven images (Isa. 42:8).

Individually, we must examine our hearts and practices. Are our hearts prepared to seek the Lord God? Have we repented of our own sins ­ including our sins of corrupt worship? Will we reform our practices in worship (privately and in our families) to conform to the scriptural law of worship?

Corporately, churches need to purge their services of all elements of worship which lack clear biblical warrant. Congregations should carefully examine all practices of worship which are urged upon them. Disputed matters must be settled on the basis of a scriptural evaluation alone.

From Kings and Chronicles, we have seen that public worship is an outward indicator of the true spiritual condition of a nation. This truth should drive us to repentance and prayer, as we survey the current pollutions of worship in our land.

Moreover, corporate worship is a significant indicator of the true spiritual condition of a congregation (or denomination). Christians should refuse to affiliate with any church which openly embraces corrupt worship. "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? ...Where fore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you...." (2 Cor. 6:15-18).

Finally, we should work to restore the proper elements of worship given in the scriptures: prayer; the reading, preaching, and hearing of God's word; singing of psalms; and the right administration of the sacraments ­ as well as occasional appointments of fasting and thanksgiving. The Lord has not left us groping in darkness, guessing at the proper means of worship. He has provided a sufficient manual of worship in the scriptures. His word needs no supplements of human origin. Let us stir our souls in adoration for the living God, who has appointed all sacred means of worship.

Footnotes for Chapter 3

1. In our own day, we meet with many humanly-imposed measures of piety. For example, some fundamentalists condemn all use of alcoholic beverages, and they use this doctrine as a measure of spirituality. For centuries, the Roman Catholic church has enjoined celibacy upon the clergy as a requirement for service. At root, the issue is still the same:"Do men have the right to institute supplemental measures of piety, beyond those given in scripture?"

2. These considerations illustrate the oft-criticized doctrine of "good and necessary consequence," mentioned in the Westminster Confession (1:6). Prayer and biblical instruction have been commanded, indicating that we must pray and study the scriptures at some place and at some time. Since these duties are not restricted by God's word to a particular place and time, we may establish an appropriate location and time, provided that we avoid a superstitious regard for a place or manner of doing these things. As the Confession states, "There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed" ( 1:6).

3. Peter classifies Paul's epistles as scripture ( 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Since we know that the epistles were read when the congregations assembled for worship, we may safely conclude that the reading of scripture continued to hold a prominent place in the public worship of the churches.

4. A puritan writer, David Clarkson, explores this theme in a provocative sermon entitled, "Public Worship to be Preferred Before Private," based upon Psalm 87:2: "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." See The Practical Works of David Clarkson (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865), vol. 3, pp. 187-209.

5. A detailed discussion respecting the proper subjects and mode of baptism is beyond the scope of this publication. Nevertheless, the author maintains that these important questions should not be left to individual preference or mere ecclesiastical tradition. Rather, such details pertaining to public ordinances must be settled by the word of God. It is our fundamental premise that the administration of all ordinances of worship must be conducted according to the word of God.

6. Westminster Confession of Faith, 7:6.

7. Often, we have heard men argue that we need " pictures of Jesus" to instruct children and other unlearned people. Their arguments are nothing but rehashed papal doctrine that images serve as "books for the laity." If individuals sense the need for a visible representations of divine truth, we suggest that they study the lawful administration of the sacraments. In baptism and the Lord's Supper they will find divinely-ordained, outward representations of the essential truths of redemption.

8. The Geneva Bible has "voluntary religion," with a note explaining it as "such as men have chosen according to their own fantasy." Tyndale translates it "chosen holiness."

9. It is ironic that many professing Calvinists abandon their principles when it comes to worship. On the one hand, they denounce free will as a fatal error respecting the doctrine of salvation; on the other hand, they grant to mankind free will in respect to worship. Does this make sense?

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Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed


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