DRAMA IN WORSHIP
It is sad when Christians are deeply tainted with the spirit of the secular world in its lust for the fashionable, in spite of the plainest of exhortations, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”. The strongest trends in ecclesiastical circles lead many into a blind ecumenism where vital Biblical principles are abandoned in the quest for apparent unity, whereas the latest trends in the popular ‘evangelical’ sphere draw many into the most recent form of religious advertising, the cult of the latest American evangelist, or the pragmatic argument that what gets the people in must be justified.
The presentation of the gospel according to the Scriptures is to be by the preaching of the Word, the preaching of the Cross. There is not the slightest hint in the Bible that the earliest Christians produced performances of religious drama or presented the gospel by re-enactment of events in the life of Christ, or even by a visible parable in the acting of a fictitious story. The proclamation of the
gospel by men sent of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit was the ordained means for the conversion and blessing of the elect church of Christ and it was left to the idolaters, like those at Ephesus, to produce their religious dramas and make their pathetic images of the goddess Diana.
The only drama in New Testament worship is the spiritual drama of the work of the living God in the hearts and lives of His people. Let those who look for some other drama remember that the most dramatic event in any sinner’s life is his conversion to God. The most impressive dramatic sequence in the Apostle Paul’s life is expressed very simply: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen….”. Let those whose insatiable appetite for the dramatic demands something other than this remember that there is such a thing as a carnal appetite and a carnal mind.
C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon on Matthew 28.2, has some trenchant remarks on this theme:
Preaching in symbol is very popular with a certain party nowadays. The gospel is to be seen by the eye, they tell us, and the people are to learn from the change of colours, at various seasons, such as blue, and green, and violet, exhibited on the priest and the altar, and by lace and by candles, and by banners and by cruets, and shells full of water. They are even to be taught or led by the nose, which is to be indulged with smoke of incense; and drawn by the ears, which are to listen to hideous intonings or to dainty canticles. Now, mark well that the angel was a symbolical preacher, with his brow of lightning and his robe of snow; but you will please to notice for whom the symbols were reserved. He did not say a word to the keepers – not a
word. He gave them the symbolical gospel, that is to say, he looked upon them – and his glance was lightning; he revealed himself to them in his snow-white garments, and no more. Mark how they quake and tremble! That is the gospel of symbols; and wherever it comes it condemns. It can do no other. Why, the old Mosaic law of symbols, where did it end? How few ever reached its inner meaning! The mass of Israel fell into idolatry, and the symbolic system became death to them. You who delight in symbols, you who think it is Christian to make the whole year a kind of practical charade upon the life of Christ, you who think that all Christianity is to be taught in semi-dramas, as men perform in theatres and puppet-shows, go your way, for you shall meet no heaven in that road, no Christ, no life. You shall meet with priests, and formalists, and hypocrites, and into the thick woods, and among the dark mountains of destruction shall ye stumble to your utter ruin. The gospel message is, “Hear, and your soul shall live”; “Incline your ear, and come unto Me.” This is the life-giving message, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But, O perverse generation, if you look for symbols and signs, you will be deluded with the devil’s gospel, and fall a prey to the destroyer.
Now we will listen to the angel’s sermon in words. Thus only is a true gospel to be delivered. Christ is the Word, and the gospel is a gospel of words and thoughts. It does not appeal to the eye; it appeals to the ear, and to the intellect, and to the heart. It is a spiritual thing, and can only be learned by those whose spirits are awakened to grasp at spiritual truth. The first thing the angel said was, “Fear not ye.” Oh! this is the very genius of our risen Saviour’s gospel – “Fear not ye.” You who would be saved, you who would follow Christ, you need not fear. Did the earth quake? Fear not ye:
God can preserve you though the earth be burned with fire. Did the angel descend in terrors? Fear not ye: there are no terrors in heaven for the child of God who comes to Jesus’ cross, and trusts his soul to Him who bled thereon. Poor women, is it the dark that alarms you? Fear not ye: God sees and loves you in the dark, and there is nothing in the dark or in the light beyond His control. Are you afraid to come to a tomb? Does a sepulchre alarm you? Fear not ye: you cannot die. Since Christ has risen, though you were dead yet should you live. Oh, the comfort of the gospel! Permit me to say there is nothing in the Bible to make any man fear who puts his trust in Jesus. Nothing in the Bible, did I say? There is nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in hell, that need make you fear who trust in Jesus. “Fear not ye.” The past you need not fear, it is forgiven you; the present you need not fear, it is provided for; the future also is secured by the living power of Jesus. “Because I live,” saith He, “ye shall live also.” Fear! Why, that were comely and seemly when Christ was dead, but now that He lives there remains no space for it! Do you fear your sins? They are all gone, for Christ had not risen if He had not put them all away. What is it you fear? If an angel bids you “Fear not,” why will you fear? If every wound of the risen Saviour, and every act of your reigning Lord consoles you, why are
you still dismayed? To be doubting, and fearing, and trembling, now that Jesus has risen, is an inconsistent thing in any believer. Jesus is able to succour you in all your temptations; seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for you. He is able to save you to the uttermost: therefore, do not fear.