The Quest for Right Worship

In our age of gimmick evangelism and gimmick worship, what can deliver us from our man-centeredness in these matters? The answer is always, “repent and reform.” We must ask what we are changing, why we are changing, and where do our changes lead us?

The Reformers and the Puritans worked diligently, to find the right prescription that honors God the most, in our worship of Him. In one sense, they were liberating Christians from the inventions of Roman Catholicism. Rites and rituals, mostly born of superstitions, were remedied by a search of the Scriptures. Where a practice was not found and knowing the Old Testament temple cult was ended in Christ, the result was simplicity.

In simple worship, aberrations, like graven image veneration, were discarded, as a breach of the first and second commandment of the Decalogue. In this, the Scriptures proved sufficient in turning over the tables of the pre-Reformation practices.

Far from an “anything goes” spirit, this cleansing of the temple of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:20–22) established a principle to regulate the worship of God. This regulative principle originated with John Calvin, at Geneva. It was adopted by all the Reformed churches.

Later, interference by civil government in the national churches spawned the independent church movement. Episcopal versus Presbyterian governments were one case example, where church government would be intimately tied to worship practices.

True and acceptable worship of the One True God has always been challenged by false religions, false priesthoods, false doctrine, and false practices. Idolatry is a significant theme in both Testament eras. Cain, the sons of Aaron, the sons of Eli, Simon the Magician, the Judaisers, Arius, Montanus, Pelagius, Arminius, and the strange fire Pentecostals of our own day, all serve as examples.

False worship is the product of these elements listed above. The corrective that always keeps us reforming is the Word of God. Like an automobile, knocked out of wheel alignment, needs a realignment procedure, so Christian worship falls under wrong influences, requiring a reformation realignment. As noted, there are dangers to worship found in every governmental structure.

History shows this with Roman Catholic abuses of power, national government abuses of power within the churches, and of course, the frenzied free-for-all of today’s independent churches. Denominational structures, whether hierarchical or associations, give little relief. Mobility does allow some freedom to travel to better regulated worship centers, and access to excellent sermons, via media, does help.

If the biblical components of right worship are prayer, preaching, sacraments, and singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, there is still much conflict. Should prayers be spontaneous, written and read, or standard from a book of common prayer? Should preaching God’s Word be thematic or expositional? Should singing be the songs in the Bible, or can today’s song writers contribute something new to congregational singing? Obviously, baptism and the Lord’s Supper have their own ongoing disputes.

The Christian’s ambition is to please God (2 Cor 5:9); and worship is what we were made for, in order to bring glory, honor, and praise to Him. We suggest that perfect worship does exist in heaven, while imperfect worship persists in this fallen, sinful world. Still, it is the true worshiper who pains himself to find the congregation in clearest alignment with the prescription of the Word of God.

The safe place of true worship of God is where biblical worship is in Spirit and truth. It is the Spirit of truth, ministering the Word of truth that guides us into the acceptable place before Almighty God. Calvin was right to link this closely to the Bible. Therefore, we must have confidence that our pursuit to please God is ordered from the Words found therein.

Christians often lament a lack of clear statements of “how to.” Thus, we must conclude that there are boundaries, and liberties within those boundaries. We must honor both, and recognize order in our worship, complemented by freedom in the Spirit. This causes some varied practices.

In the quest for best practices, let us conclude that in worship we should be together on the Lord’s Day, in a place appropriate for focus on God the Father, through Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit’s power and direction. God’s people pray, sing, baptize, share communion, and hear the Word of God preached. All of these are biblical. They create an orderly variety. They are all done in the Spirit, who is more Word-focused than we are — He being without sin and without temptation from the devil and the world.

With God’s leading, we should employ these elements of worship and prayerfully ask the Spirit to give us direction, freedom, and help, in order to stay within the boundaries of acceptability for right worship. You really were made for this, and He is worthy.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

July 10, 2022

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher