Worship


JG Vos was an interesting theologian. He was called the ‘people’s theologian’ because he believed that theology was for the common man; not for the ivory towers. I whole-heartily agree. He was also Christian Reformed as a child, and later became a Reformed Presbyterian, after his father began teaching at Princeton seminary (back when that meant something).

Here is his article on Christian worship. He deals with some of the objections to Psalm singing and answers them in a very pastoral and humble way. Our position on worship is not a popular one in today’s Christian milieu, which makes it all the more important to use care and a pastoral approach to dealing with these differences. If the position is biblical and offensive to some Christians; then the Scriptures should do the offending, not the messenger. I would recommend that you read it before the Lord’s Day.
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You find such great things while digging through synodical minutes. Some things are quite boring, but there are also comments that are very practical, devotional, and spiritual in nature. In 1898, the RPCNA re-afirrmed their position on worship that had been the practice in the church since the time of the Scottish Reformation. There are very few denominations or churches that have held their principles on worship as long… I could be wrong, but I do not think that there are any in North America.

Here is their reaffirmation on biblical worship:

Since the second or third century of the Christian era what should be sung in the worship of God has been a matter of more or less controversy. Until that time the subject was very simple; all were found singing the Scriptural Psalms. The only arbiter in the matter is the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. However much might be truly said of many songs of human composition in praise of their beauty and excellence, the Christian conscience must be satisfied with nothing short of Divine authority for what is used in the worship of God. What is best suited to incite devotional feelings and give them proper expression is not the primary matter for consideration; but what is the will of God? Saving faith is the submission of our wills to God’s, and the subjection of our judgment to His.

Concerning the matter and manner of His worship the Lord has laid down a general principle to be followed by his people in all ages, places and circumstances: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it.” (Deut. xii., 32.) “All power,” says Christ, “is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt, xxviii., 18-20.)

There are irrefragable reasons for believing that the Psalms, commonly called the Psalms of David, and they only, have been divinely authorized to be sung in the worship of God. These Psalms are inspired, as none dispute, and hence are found in the canon of Scripture. They are lyric in structure, and consequently composed to be sung. They have been, under divine direction and superintendence, collected into one book, and hence give proof of being intended for general and continuous use. As a historical fact, they have been used in the worship of God through all the ages of the Church, and exclusively until the Second or Third Century, A. D. The law authorizing their use has never been repealed.

The Lord has not given the Church another book of praise as a substitute. O n the contrary, Christ and the Apostles used the Psalms of David exclusively in the worship of God, and Christ has, through His Apostles, given His seal to their exclusive right of use: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. iii., 16; also, Eph. v., 19.)

In connection with the singing of praise in the worship of God there has crept into the modern Church a corruption in the use of instruments of music. It is deemed that there is no Divine authority for this innovation. In the pattern of the Tabernacle which God gave to Moses, after which he was to construct a place of worship, no mention is made of instruments of music, and in harmony with a principle now well-established that what is not commanded is forbidden, instruments of music were not introduced by Moses.

Instruments of music were introduced into the Tabernacle worship in the later years of David’s life, and also into the Temple worship; but only at the plain command of God. In the reconstruction of the Church in N e w Testament times no mention is made of instruments of music by Christ and His Apostles in their instructions concerning the mode of worship, and New Testament history and early Church history, their use before the Tenth or Eleventh Century of the Christian Era.

We recommend:
I. That pastors be urged to present the subject to their congregations at least once during the year.
2. That parents be urged to continue the old practice of having their children memorize the Psalms.

ROBT. A. PADEN,
THOS. A. RUSK, J. R. LATIMER, Of the Committee.

The following resolution was adopted: Resolved, that all our people, old and young, are hereby warned to avoid all appearance of giving their approval to the use of man-made hymns and instrumental music in the worship of God. R. M. Sommerville was instructed to issue such new editions of the Psalter as may be called for.

In a discussion on the article of faith, “He descended into hell” you will find much confusion. The ancients intended this phrase to mean just what it says- Jesus descended into hell after his burial. Most views say that he preached or proclaimed his triumph over sin and death before demons and/or the damned.

Reformed Christians historically deny this interpretation. We have reinterpreted this phrase in our ancient creed to mean that he either entered the place of the dead or he suffered the pains of hell on the cross. My personal belief (which does not find much support in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition) is that we strike this phrase from our Creed or we place a giant footnote at the bottom of every printing and state that we disagree with the original meaning of the authors of the text.

As far as I see there are three camps in the Reformed tradition here:
1. Those who are revisionists and reinterpret the creed.
2. Those that do not think that it is that important to change or redefine.
3. Those who want to strike the phrase out of our ancient creed.

Of course, all three have consequences. What should be done though? Does a revisionistic interpretation open the door to liberal interpretations of the Scriptures? Does striking the line show disrespect to our ancient heritage?

Three quotes were given in the discussion that shows the confusion that this phrase has made in the evangelical world. These quotes left me astonished that some have gone so far as to redefine Christ’s atoning sacrifice to fit into a creedal system. I see these as the bad fruit of not dealing with this early on in the Protestant Reformation (I understand that the Reformers would not have been able to maintain their claim on catholicity if they began disassembling the creeds of the historic Church):

When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne…Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption. -Kenneth Copeland

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God…Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. -Fredrick Price

He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death. -Kenneth Hagen

Baptism is a great doctrine and an even greater blessing to those to whom it is administered. As we anticipate the arrival of our third child we think of all that baptism means and represents to us and to our children. The Lord Jesus Christ has a claim on our children, which means that they are:

1. In covenant with Him.
2. Have a responsibility to believe the Gospel.

We have great responsibility as parents to reflect what it means to be members of the covenant community. It also means that all who have made a profession to believe the Gospel have a duty to live lives that adorn the Gospel. When a child is baptized in the church there is a series of questions that are posed to the parents and to the covenant community. The ARP Book of Worship states to the congregation, “in the name of the whole Church of Christ, do you undertake responsibility for the growth of this child in Christian nurture?” What a great responsibility we all have as the Church of Christ grows through the birth of another covenant child. We remember the words of the Apostle Peter, “the promise if for you and your children!

We should all improve on our baptism as we anticipate seeing this sacrament administered in the name of the Triune God.

Larger Catechism Question 167: How is our Baptism to be improved by us? A167: The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

When I first began studying the issue of worship, about 8 years ago, I was amazed at how much of the Scriptures speak of regulation according to God’s Word. This, of course, seems to lead to some sort of bondage to the will of God alone. How can a sinful human submit to the will of a divine being that does not allow me to do whatever I want in worship?

True confession: For the first couple of years in my Christian life, I worshiped in evangelical and even some charismatic churches. These churches are quite innovative in worship and do many things that they do in an attempt to please the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the way in which I learned to worship, as those around me did.

The more that I studied, the more I felt liberated from the will of men as well as the ‘worship wars’ that are so common in today’s churches. There is a lot of good things in evangelical churches; but there is also a lot of doing what is right in their own eyes.

The freedom that a simple, biblical, and reformed worship service brings is quite pleasing to the senses after-all. Acapella singing, God’s songs as the text, simple exposition of the Word, and prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Who could ask for more, besides these and the waters of baptism and the wine and bread of the eucharist?

The more I read, the more I loved the heritage in which I dwell. The more I submitted to what God desires in worship, the more I was able to cultivate a relationship with the Son. The studying of worship has been the single most liberating doctrine to my Christian experience. What has been your experience?

The more we do sanctify His name, the more we will fall in love with worship.
Jeremiah Burroughs

In the evangelical world you do not often see articles or discussions about women covering their heads in worship. Last week Andree’ Seu, of World Magazine, wrote the article: Symbol of Glory as a a defense of why she has been covering her head in worship.

I know that it is a controversial issue and that there are God honoring people on both sides of the argument; but it is nice to see that people are at least thinking about the implications of I Corinthians 11. 2-16.

I would like to see more discussion on the issue done in a God-honoring way. I am afraid that in some, it has become a symbol of control over a woman rather than of her glory. Either way, Seu has a balanced argument for the usage of head coverings.

Cotton Mather was dealing with a type of seeker-sensitive church in his day. He thought that the introduction of musical instruments (especially the organ) was a ploy to entertain the people and steal them out of the Reformed churches.

He saw the organ in the same way that many in today’s churches see guitars and a drum set. I guess that many of us, upon reflection, need to reconsider our positions on these things. What is the difference between a guitar and an organ? Is there any difference?

If we believe in doing what God tells us to do in worship, should we not have all of the instruments that God says to use in the Old Testament and not one that was invented in the 1600s? Or should we reconsider the whole thing? Why did ALL of the Reformed churches sing a capella? What does God want from us?


“Attempts to propagate the Church of England among us, by a most conspicuous and marvelous blast of heaven upon them, do very much come to nothing. Even the organs introduced into the chapel in this metropolis of the English America, signify very little to draw over our people unto them.” -Cotton Mather, in a letter to John Stirling, 1714.

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