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9:30 am. Sunday School
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Bethel

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The Head of this Church:
JESUS CHRIST

 

 

 

 

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The Regulative Principle of Worship
 

By Russ Atmore

John Dick, the Scottish theologian of the nineteenth century wrote that, “some have supposed that the government of the church is ambulatory (changeable; italics mine), by which they mean, that no precise form has been prescribed, and that it is left to the wisdom of men to vary the form according to circumstances; to adapt it to the genius, and habits, and civil constitution of different nations.” William Cunningham further affirmed that the introduction of ordinances or arrangements into the worship and government in the Church was not warranted and indeed was unlawful if it was not approved, and sanctioned by Christ or His apostles. The Westminster Confession of Faith makes this comment in Chapter 21, section 1, “…But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations or devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.” The 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 22, section1) makes the same statement, “…But the only acceptable way of worshipping the true God is appointed by Himself, in accordance with His own will. Consequently He may not be worshipped in ways of mere human contrivance, or proceeding from Satan’s suggestions. Visible symbols of God, and all other forms of worship not prescribed in the Holy Scripture, are expressly forbidden.”

Worship belongs to God only and to God alone. We have instructions in the Bible as to how we are to worship and how not to worship. Both of these statements we can readily grasp. On the one hand we understand that God has given us direction regarding worship and we should be desirous of obeying those instructions. On the other hand where Scripture forbids us we should be careful to not do that which God has forbidden us. However, what about where Scripture says nothing about worship, and we want to introduce something into our worship? The Westminster Confession states simply that anything not warranted is therefore excluded. In many respects this is sound advice to follow regarding the Christian life. If Scripture is silent let us not make it say something it does not, or what we want it to say. This applies equally to worship. The introduction of all kinds of aids and art to act as an aid to worship should be abandoned.

Genuine worship according to the Lord Jesus is to “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23,24). Worship is simply the activity of giving glory to God in His presence with our hearts, minds and voices. We need much preparation for worship. I fear that the Church today has lost this discipline. We go to bed late on Saturday night, and we engage in activities that are not conducive to bringing us to a frame for worship. We sleep in on Sunday morning, and stumble out of bed and rush to make it to church. This is not the right way to be prepared for worship. Worship is discipline and delight all wrapped up together.

The things that are worthy of our attention are worthy of time investment. God demands worship from us. It is not an option to be considered sometime on Sunday morning. It requires attention and demands work. Churches today are seeking to make worship easy. There is way too much emphasis on music, testimony and too little emphasis on praying, reading and preaching the Word. I believe that singing is vital and necessary and has its rightful place but worship today seems to be designed to make you feel good about yourself, and not too much attention is paid to God. The first commandment has to do with worshipping God. God has no rivals, yet we have created al kinds of rivals to God and genuine worship.

Let us not go beyond Scripture. What Scripture does not mandate that we will not do! What Scripture commands that we will do! All indifferent things must have their origin and foundation is the Bible. What is not of faith is sin, and therefore things indifferent must be able to be related to faith or they too must be shunned. What God prohibits is not of faith, and is also not indifferent. Be careful of introducing into your worship that which is not of God. Be prepared for worship. Use Saturday to prepare your heart for the Lord’s Day. Get up early on Sunday and seek God, and then come and offer to Him that which rightfully belongs to Him from a fresh heart overflowing with love and adoration. That’s worship!