As my brother said recently (in so many words), it seems that worship has become a hot issue in Reformed circles. Whether it is or not, right and true worship is a vital aspect of the church effectively fulfilling her calling, and should be of great concern for congregations and denominations alike. New Horizon‘s latest issue (the OPC’s magazine) is themed around worship, and is a stellar issue.
Larry Wilson starts off with “Reverence or Joy in Worship?“, arguing that worship is not primarily something that we do, but is “the living God himself meeting with and working in his people by his means of grace.” The right methods, creating the right atmosphere, or having more of the right ministries won’t vitalize the church – only God can revive his church. If we get out of the way, Wilson writes, vital worship will be characterized by five things (based on 1 Corinthians 14). These are the centrality of God’s Word, clarity and order, one voice at a time, silence, and genuine reverence and genuine joy.
“Unless you are also abiding in Christ, vital biblical worship will still seem boring to you. You’ll go to worship just to meet other people, or to be entertained, or to be intellectually stimulated, or to be emotionally stirred, or to be motivated to action. But you’ll miss the main point. Worship is first and foremost about communing with the living, life-giving God.”
Steve Miller continues the discussion with “The Beginning and the End of Worship“, discussing the importance of a proper call to worship and benediction. “When we meet publicly with God, he comes with his greeting and welcome. And then, after having worshiped him, we depart with his blessing and assurance that he will go with us. We, in turn, look up with faith to receive his blessing, dedicating ourselves to go with him.”
William Kessler writes about the importance of “The Reading of Scripture in Worship.” He looks to Moses, Ezra, and Jesus to see how we should incorporate the reading of God’s Word in corporate worship. “There are many reasons why the church should continue to read the Scriptures during corporate worship. There is the historical precedent outlined in this article. Furthermore, in the reading there is a declaration of God’s mighty acts. Then the Lord commands that his Word be read publicly. But tradition, declaration, and command must be understood in the greater biblical context, that in the reading of Scripture we find God’s presence and we hear his voice.”
J.V. Fesko has an excellent article on “The Sacraments as Visible Words” in which he explains the importance of a true and robust understanding of the sacraments as “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace” grounded “in God’s historical dealings with his people.” Thus, a right understanding of the sacraments has “profound implications for the church’s practice.”
“The sacraments, the visible word, when joined to the preaching of the audible Word, herald the gospel of Christ to the entire body of Christ…If the sacraments are indeed the visible words of God, then preachers and sessions should make every effort to teach this truth to their churches and see that they observe the Lord’s Supper frequently. As we hear the word preached to our ears and see the word preached to our eyes, rejoice that God has revealed himself in Christ through his invisible and visible word, and that he applies it to our lives by the sovereign work of the Spirit. Rejoice in knowing that one day the invisible and visible words will no longer be needed because we will behold the incarnate Word of God face to face, when faith gives way to sight.”
I know this post has been mainly linking to different articles and giving brief summaries and long quotations, but these men have written on these subjects better than I could, and I recommend reading them in light of the importance of right and true corporate worship.