Worship is the most important activity of life and I believe Corporate Worship is our most critical need and comfort. God made us for worship. In worship, we engage with God who is “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah 6:3 Its importance is so great that God ordained how to worship Him.
Worship is defined, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Worship is an Old English compound word, worth ship. It described the devotion and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.
God is the supreme sovereign who has revealed the content of acceptable worship.
Moses wrote to the people of God and declared to them that God chose the place of worship. The context moves from individual behavior to corporate practice. Deuteronomy 12: 31-32, detailed God’s general principle for the content of corporate worship. “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way (the way the pagan nations worshiped their idols), for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. “
Matthew recorded the words of Jesus concerning this very important topic. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:19) This is the heart of what is called “man-centered” worship. Church leaders employ methods that are intended to grow their churches in numbers. They insist that the church ought to be “seeker” sensitive. Corporate worship is believed to be an evangelistic enterprise. Yet the Bible teaches that worship is for God by God’s people who are sought by Him. (John 4:23)
The Protestant Reformers understood man’s tendency to invent a worship that seeks to satisfy physical desires. Their recovery of biblical worship was handed down to the church and is called the “Regulative Principle of Worship.” It is stated succinctly in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, Paragraph 1. “…The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”
Protestant Reformed Churches, those who seek to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Doctrines recovered by the Reformers, have applied the Regulative Principle in Corporate Worship by including the elements of biblical worship. Those elements are: the reading of Holy Scripture, the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, the offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings, confessing the faith and observing the two Sacraments. On special occasions corporate worship includes the taking of oaths before God such as Commitments made for Church Membership.
The worship of God is serious. We gather in reverence and experience worship as a sacred event. It is sacred because we are coming before a holy God. We are submitting ourselves to Him as He has commanded. We know that God can only be approached by those who are covered by the righteousness of Christ.
I pray that all who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead will view worship on the Lord’s Day as wholly set apart to Him and not for our entertainment. Both the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s view of true worship.
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods…Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96: 4, 8, 9)
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.