“Some assembly required.” I have come to despise these words! However, I have accepted that fact that when we get new things for the kids, mom and dad are going to have to spend some time putting it together. I open the box, look at the pieces, and try to decide whether or not I can put it together without the instructions. Sometime the picture on the box is enough information. But sometimes it’s not and… I’ve learned the hard way.
Similarly, last week we discussed the corporate worship of the local church and how the Bible must be the guide for every aspect of worship. This idea is generally referred to as the regulative principle of worship. Today, I’d like to open the instruction book, the Bible, in order to get a glimpse of this principle in action.
The easiest way summarize the principle is to say that local churches ought to read the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, and see the Bible. Evangelical churches affirm that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is vital to the church, but the limited use of the Bible in every aspect of worship seems to be in opposition to such a profession. The Apostle Paul implored his protégé Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Churches should want the Bible to take center stage in the worship of the church because when the Bible is read, the voice of God is heard. Theologians Ligon Duncan and Terry Johnson explain, “Worship services in which the formal reading of God’s word is absent is a self-imposed famine of the word”. According to Johnson and Duncan, scriptural reading is not an option, but is precisely what God calls for in His word.
Likewise, faithful Bible exposition should be at the center of Christian worship. While the landscape of American Evangelicalism would lead you to believe that music style and presentation is of the greatest importance, Dr. Albert Mohler agrees with the Reformers who “were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God”. Mohler defines expositional preaching as “preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible”. This point is so vital to Christian worship because, as Mohler puts it, “God is most beautifully praised when his people hear his word, love his word, and obey his word”.
Prayer, both private and corporate, has been an aspect of biblical worship throughout the history of God’s people. While worship is about hearing from God through His word, worship also entails calling out to God in prayer. Daniel Block explains how “prayer is essentially a verbal act of faith” as one is trusting that God hears and acts upon their prayers. Tracing a canonical picture of prayer, one can see examples of the various types of prayers given by different people including Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:12), Moses (Exodus 32:11), and Joshua (Joshua 10). Each time, similar patterns emerge as trust in God and His provision is expressed. Prayer is a way that one not only makes requests but also confesses sin, delivers thanksgiving, and learns to align ones will with God’s will. Prayers filled with biblical language are good ways to learn more about God, teach truths about God, but also to help filter our own thoughts and prayers by what God has given to His people.
What is the role of music in worship? This topic is very important in contemporary discussions because, as Daniel Block explains, “Music has become arguably the most divisive factor in North American evangelicalism”. Music has always been an important part of life. Whether to express joy or sadness, music is an avenue for emoting. Likewise, music has always been an aspect in the worship of God. When God led His people out of the bondage of Egypt their response was to worship Him through song and dance (Exodus 15). Music has the distinct ability to inspire hope, motivate love, and energize ones faith. However, when Israel sinned by created a false god, they also worshiped the idol through song and dance (Exodus 32). Music can be used for good but also for evil. Music was used at the dedication of the temple, Jesus sang with His disciples, and Paul and Silas sang out to God while in a jail cell.
The question is, “How can Christians use music appropriately?” Our music must show our submission to God, our response to His goodness, and the centrality of Christ and the cross. When our music become a means to glorify God and not simply a way for individuals to “feel good”, we will begin to enhance our worship and use music correctly. Our music must be chosen wisely and with biblical warrant. Even our music is to be under the authority of the Bible.
Finally, one can “see” the Bible through the proper use of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is a symbol of unity between the believer and Christ. Congregations should celebrate the baptism of individuals and use that time as a reminder of what Christ has done for everyone who belongs to Him. Likewise, churches should regularly participate in the Lord’s Supper as a vital aspect of corporate worship directly commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ. These two ordinances are essential to our worship.
While church leaders may desire to be clever in order to come up with “new and improved” ways to worship, we should rather look at what God Himself has given to the church in order that we may worship Him in the ways that He desires. True worship is always by the Book.
Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ