Before I begin this next article on the RPW (Regulative Principle of Worship), I think it is important to talk about the desire of God for a moment in worship. Worship is the act of surrendering ones will to God in the ackowledgement that He is sovereign and that we are the creatures. He is Holy by nature and we who believe have a righteousness that is not our own, it is an "imputed" righteousness that comes from another, from Jesus Christ. Why is this important to our understanding of worship and the God-given regulative nature of it? SImply put, it is becasue we who are the finite, are always to look to the infinite God for His will in all things. (Rom 5:17). We are not our own, we have been bought with a price and are commanded therefore to "glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:19-20).
When we enter into corporate worship we have entered into a relationship wherein we give honor, praise, glory and adoration and God is the one receving it. I once heard an analogy regarding the RPW as it relates to preferences in worship that went something like this.
Having been seated in your favorite restaurant, the waiter comes to take your order. You tell him you would like a rib eye steak cooked medium rare with sauteed mushrooms and mashed potatoes with a side ceasar salad. 15 minutes later the waiter returns and as he places the the plate on the table you notice it's the salmon and asparagus with a bowl of pea soup. You look at the waiter puzzled, "I ordered a steak with mushrooms and potatoes with a side salad" to which the waiter replies, "I know, but I really like the salmon and the asparagus so I brought you that instead!" with a big smile on his face.
Realizing that the analogy breaks down a bit, it does point to the simple truth that often we come to worship with what we think God would like when it is really what pleases us.
In the last post we looked at a few passages of Scripture that teach us God's view of His own worship. The attitude that God has concerning His worship can be summed up this way:
Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” (Lev 10:3)
And . . .
“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it." (Deut 12:32)
We saw that God is to be worshipped according to His will and not acording to ours. We have a tendency toward doing that which is peasing to us, even to the point of creating a worship service on Sunday morning that suits our desires with the belief that God will certainly accept from us whatever worship we offer "because He loves us so much". To this view the church must reply with the words of the writer of Hebrews;
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
This benediction is unstructive. It appeals to God to equip us in every good thing "to do HIS will" and "working in us that which is pleasing in HIS sight"
God is Holy, He is separate and He must be worshipped accordingly. But we need to look at a few more passages found in the Old Testament so that we have a litle better foundation in place for our understanding of worship in the Old Testament.
In 2 Kings 16:14-15 we read that King Ahaz replaced the bronze altar of the Lord:
The bronze altar, which was before the Lord, he brought from the front of the house, from between his altar and the house of the Lord, and he put it on the north side of his altar. Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, “Upon the great altar (my altar!) burn the morning burnt offering and the evening meal offering and the king’s burnt offering and his meal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land and their meal offering and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. But the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.”
King Ahaz did not remove the bronze altar "which was before the Lord" he simply set it aside for one of his own making and then gave the command to offer the sacrifice on "the great altar". "I know God commanded the priest to sacrifice on this altar", but why would I want to offer a sacrfice on this small insignificant altar when the one I built is so much better! Surely God will be pleased with the new and improved version!
One cannot help but remember the words of the prophet Samuel, "to obey is better than sacrifice"
We find the same departure from God's Word in I Samuel 13:1-13.
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue.I Samuel 13:1-13
Saul offered the sacrifice. As we read this there is a feeling of disappointment, we want Saul to wait for Samuel but he just can't seem to wait and so he makes the offering and it is no coincidence that Samuel shows up, "As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering". What are we to understand froom this? That God had appointed not only a particular sacrifice but the means of that sacrifice and further that God did not accept Saul's sacrifice as we see in verse 14, "But now your kingdom shall not continue".
Beloved, God is worthy of our worship and He is due our worship according to His will, not ours.
"I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will
of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter.
I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You
are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope
arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the
-Charles Hadden Spurgeon