THE WORSHIP GOD REQUIRES
Worship belongs to our relationship with God and is of great importance. We must ever seek that what we do in worship meets the test of Scripture lest the Lord’s evaluation be, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15.8). We must also seek that what we do Scripturally, meets the standard of God. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24).
We begin with certain great principles of worship.
1. It is the duty of all men everywhere to worship God.
(a) There is One, True and Living God.
He has made the world and man (Gen. 1.1. and 1.26,27).
All God has made depends upon Him for its continuing existence (Acts 17.24-29).
(b) God has made known His existence and power to all men, by reason (Rom. 1.19,20) and by conscience (Rom. 2.14,15).
2. Sin however prevents all men from rendering this worship
Historically this is shown by the Fall (Gen. 3).
Sin entered the world “by one man” and has affected all
men, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”
As a result,
a) Many refuse to worship altogether (Rom. 1.21). Atheists and Agnostics exemplify this refusal.
b) Many render a worship which God refuses (Rom. 1.21-23). They set up their idols and worship these. Multitudes have lived and died as idolaters from the earliest times to our modern world.
That God refuses this worship is plain from the first two of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20.3-6). Notice that it is not just worship of false gods that God refuses. He also refuses worship of the true God that is not divinely approved.
3. Acceptable worship of God depends on salvation.
Though we may not be Atheists or Agnostics, we cannot worship God acceptably till we are brought to experience salvation in Christ. Nicodemus was influential in the eyes of the Jews but needed spiritual life through the Holy Spirit (John 3.6,7). We must be born again to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. All our approach to God is through Him, the Mediator (1 Tim. 2.5). All our worship must be through Him. When Paul speaks of singing praises in Eph. 5.19,20 and Col. 3.16,17, these are “in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Holy Spirit who brings us spiritual life for Christ’s sake, enables us to be spiritual worshippers pleasing to God.
4. The Experience of Salvation determines the mode of acceptable worship.
The believer learns the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God (II Tim. 3.16). He finds, as the 1689 Baptist Confession puts it, that, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience” (Chapter 1, paragraph 1). Thus, how to worship God will be explained and controlled by the Scriptures. The forms of worship that God sanctions are laid down for us in the Bible.
Any form of so-called worship that cannot be proved from the word of God is to be rejected.
5. The Regulative Principle in Worship
This regulation of acceptable worship by the Word of God, the Regulative Principle as it was termed at the Reformation, is very important. Mediaeval Christendom was full of ignorance of the Bible, resulting in spiritual darkness, confusion and superstition. By the mercy of God and in His providence, the Reformers were given to see clearly that religion is empty and vain apart from salvation in Christ. As they preached this gospel so they came to stress the authority of the Scriptures and attempted the massive work of Reformation – making church worship Biblically based. The Preface to the Geneva service Book in 1556 states, “A reformed church is limited within the compass of God’s Word which our Saviour hath left unto us as only sufficient to govern all our actions by, so that whatsoever is added to this Word by man’s device, seem it never so good, holy or beautiful, yet before our God, which is jealous and cannot admit any companion or counsellor, it is evil, wicked and abominable.”
We must be continually examining our practice in worship against the Scriptures. It is sinful to neglect anything God has instituted. It is also sinful to add to what God has revealed. In his day Jeremiah was directed to “speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying,… Return ye now everyone from his evil way and make your ways and your doings good. And they said. There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (Jer. 18.11,12).
Our day is just the same, and against the many contemporary abuses and additions we must raise our Biblical standards. The principles to guide our worship are laid down in the Word of God. We must come to understand these and ever ask God’s help to implement them. May the Lord enable US to worship, though many still refuse. And may He enable us to worship in the ways that are acceptable such as are ‘expressly set down in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (Westminster confession, chapter 1, paragraph 6).
K. F. T. Matrunola