Last time we looked some Old Testament passages to see what God has to say regarding His worship. This time we'll look at some New Testament passages to see if God still regulates His worship. First we will cover some things that are foundational to the Christian's understanding of who he is in Christ and who he belongs to.
Let's look at Hebrews 12:25-29
"25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire." (ESV)Hebrews 12:25-29
Verse 28 speaks of offering to God "acceptable worship, so what does it mean to offer God acceptable worship? Romans 12:1 says we are to first present ourselves.
In verse 1 of the chapter, Paul writes that we are, “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” The first command of worship is that you present yourself to God, “which is your spiritual service of worship”. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God! (Col 3:3). The believer comes to worship God having first given himself to God.
We are to present ourselves because we no longer belong to ourselves, we belong to God both body and spirit. This includes everything about us including our will, so there is nothing left to us that is not subject to the will of God? This should have an impact on the way in which we come into corporate worship. If we truly believe we are coming together as the people of God for HIS worship then we ought to come with that purpose in mind, with a humble heart and with Christ at the center of our focus, ready to offer worship that is acceptable to Him.
So the first question regarding acceptable worship must be, acceptable to whom? To God OR to us? In other words, do I offer to God worship that is performed according to what is acceptable to Him, to His commands and His will or according to what I want and to what makes me "feel good" or "that by which I am entertained"?
Romans 7:6 "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." Someone says, “yes but look at the text it says we serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (meaning the law).” Correct! But notice whose Spirit we serve in and notice that "we serve", and if "we serve" whom do we serve? Is it we ourselves whom we serve? Our will, our desires, our pleasures?
2 Cor 5:15 "and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."
Not for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf!!! We are not to live for ourselves but for Him! There is no part of the believer's life over which the Lord Jesus Christ has not declared . . . "Mine". Is worship of God therefore, something that we determine for ourselves or is it something that God gives to us in Word and sacrament? If we are to live "for Him who died and rose again" then it follows that we are to worship Him according to this same principle.
Back to verse 28 of Hebrews 12
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
Clearly then it is God we worship and therefore it is God who has decided and set forth in His Word that which is acceptable worship. Do you see that? It is not simply left up to us to present to God whatever we think He would like simply because we like it or it seems good to us.
Beloved we are His, both body and soul. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
We are His building being fitted together by Him
Ephesians 2:17-2217 "AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
Here we see that we have access through the Spirit to the Father. When we come to the Father we come through the Holy Spirit.
So how are we to know the will of God and the mind of God on that which is acceptable worship apart from that which is revealed in His Word?
The second thing to note in this text found in the last half of the passage:"In whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
Notice the language here:
A. Being fitted together
B. Is growing into a Holy temple in the Lord.
C. in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Does it sound repetitious to you? It should! So what is the point that God is making here?
We as the church are HIS temple, His building being fitted together and brought to completion by Him and for Him. Beloved, everything we are everything we have and everything we both do and think are His. For of Him to Him and through Him are all things, that includes all of us who know Him and are known by Him.
The New Testament on the Regulative Principle of Worship
First of all I assume we would all agree that we as Christians live according to the dictates of Scripture. Who among us would say it’s ok to steal or to lie or to commit adultery, or to covet, or to worship idols? If I say these things are ok what does your mind do? It says, “No God’s Word says…fill in the blank”. So in this sense Scripture regulates all of the Christian life.
If you are a Christian your mind probably did that as I went through the list of sins. "I cannot do that becasue the Bible says I cannot!"
It is with this foundation that the Christian understands all of his life to be regulated by Scripture. But what about out time of worship? Does the New Testament present us with the will of God on these matters?
First, remember the Old Testament command concerning worship.
Deuteronomy 12“Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.AND…
V. 32 “ Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.
Notice the regulative principle in this passage: You shall do all that I command you, you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
Let’s look at some of the passages that speak to this.
What we are not to do.
1. In Matt 15:1-9 Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 “BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.” Jesus here give a clear rebuke to the pharisees that they were guilty of teaching their own doctrines as if they had come from God and had replaced the commandment of god in doing so.
2. Col 2:20
"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence."
- NIV: "with their self-imposed worship"
- KJV: "Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship"ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ: Ethelothreskia Worship according to one’s own will.
Worship elements are regulated in Scripture:
1. We see this in the order of the church in worship: 1 Cor 14:26-40
A. For edification.
B. Two or three at the most.
C. No tongues without an interpreter.
2. If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual. . . “The things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (V. 37)
3. Look at verse 38 “But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant”. In other words, if you don't want to understand or receive the truth of God's Word and His will on this then stay as you are, ignorant!
What have we seen so far is that we are not to engage in will worship or worship according to one’s own will or desires. Second, we are to offer acceptable worship to God and third, worship is regulated as we have seen in the Corinthian church.
If worship is regulated by God then what are the Scriptural commands and examples?
Worship elements are regulated in Scripture, remembering that we are not to engage in will-worship (worship according to our own will) rather we are to do that which God has commanded in His worship and we are to do all of it and we are to do nothing of our own will or imagination.
New Testament RPW
1. Reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching.
1 Tim 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
2. II Tim 4:1-5 Preach the Word"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
3. Singing of Psalms Hymns and spiritual songs:Eph 5:19, Col 3:16 We see in these passages that we are not only to sing to one another but to the Lord.
4. A house of prayer:Matt 21:12-13 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Jesus is emphatic on the purpose of God's house and rebukes those who bought and sold in the Father's "House of Prayer".
5. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Col. 2:11–12).
Next time we will look at questions and objections to the Regulative Principle of Worship. In the meantime let us not be like those who lived in the time of the judges.
Judges 21:25…everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
"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