As mentioned from the last blog post, I’ve been thinking about the regulative principle of worship much more recently. Now, when this topic is usually discussed today, much of the discussion involves the type of music that is usually played during a corporate worship service or the liturgy of corporate worship. However, I’ve been thinking more about the essence of the regulative principle of worship – namely, I’ve been thinking about the fact that God has truly given us sufficient instruction on how we should worship Him from the scriptures. It’s truly a blessed thought to realize that God has not left us in the dark about this topic, but He has prescribed how we should worship Him.
I purposely emphasized this basic point because I grew up in a background where worship was a very mysterious act. There were a number of clichés that I heard growing up such as “worship is a lifestyle” that never answered how we should worship. There were others who warned me about false worship, but their definition of true worship was shrouded with mysticism and subjectivism (i.e. “in my experience, worship is ____”). There were others that equated good worship with good, meditative music at a worship service. Eventually, I became more and more confused on how believers should worship God until I realized that God has spoken sufficiently in His Word about worship.
In the scriptures, we have many accounts of men and women worshipping God as well as accounts of temple worship and New Testament worship. However, when it came to applying the knowledge of God to worship, Paul was the first person that I usually studied since most of the theology of the New Testament is written from Paul. Some time ago, I did a study on the doxologies written by Paul and it greatly enriched me in my desire to reform my worship. It was amazing to read how Paul could write about lofty biblical truths and then conclude his discussion with a doxology. It suggests that Paul was taken aback by God while discussing these truths and thus, he found that it was only fitting to write a doxology after reflecting on the topic.
God’s Eternal Purpose and Worship
Romans 11 concludes Paul’s comprehensive discussion on salvation and after meditating on his conclusion he writes
For God has consigned all to disobedience that He may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:32-36
Here, Paul is left awe in the wisdom and knowledge of God. In reflecting on our salvation in Christ, our justification by His righteousness, our election by the Father, the calling of the Gentiles, the partial rejection of the Jews, and the final restoration of the Jews, Paul breaks forth into exclamation. Truly, God’s ways are not our ways. When we mediate on our salvation, we see that it is truly a profound display of God’s knowledge and wisdom. We know that we will not fully comprehend all aspects of this salvation, but the work of God in salvation is the basis for Paul to worship God. I believe that this is true for every Christian who has come to understand the depth of God’s wisdom in salvation. As I continue to reflect on God’s dealings with me, it completely floors me and initiates prayer and praise towards God. As I understand more about this, it deepens my worship of God. Yet this is the essence of the regulative principle of worship. As we meditate on God’s revelation in the scripture, it drives our worship and forms the content of our worship.
The Love of God and Worship
Ephesians 3 concludes Paul’s discussion of unsearchable riches of Christ for the Gentiles and as he begins to pray for the Ephesians for perseverance, he writes
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
In praying for the perseverance of believers in Ephesus, Paul prays that they fully comprehend that they are fully grounded in the love of Christ. The foundation of the Church cannot be shaken and it is from this alone that we are fully redeemed and persevere to the end. Therefore, Paul prays that they may know the depths of God’s love for them and that they may be completely filled with this glorious truth. In reflecting on the greatness of God’s love, Paul again breaks off to a doxology, knowing that his prayer will be answered superabundantly. Again, Paul is taken aback by how sure of a foundation he is resting on and realizes how able and willing God is to accomplish this. In other words, the eternal purpose and power of God is so abundant towards His church that He will accomplish more than we could even think. He has prepared a glorious future for His church that it causes Paul to worship God for His goodness and love. Here, scripture indicates that our worship for God deepens as we understand God’s purpose for our redemption and as we become convinced of the glorious future of the Church because of God’s grace and mercy.
Our Testimony and Worship
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul gives his personal testimony of his conversion and in acknowledging his own sinfulness, he writes
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17
From a young age, I remember going to testimony service where sincere believers would describe how sinful they were and how they were eventually converted. However, some of the testimonies bothered me because it seemed to exalt their sinfulness and at the end of describing their sin, they would say something like “I gave my heart to the Lord”. Over time, I began to think of those testimonies and I wondered how often those testimonies actually led to humility and worship. Paul’s testimony is of a completely different type. Here he doesn’t describe the details of his conversion, but simply states that he is the direct product of mercy. The mercy he received was not only for himself, but it was to magnify God’s patience. Here, we see why our personal testimonies are a cause for worship. It can also be said that our entire life before our conversion have been designed to reveal God’s patience towards us. We can look back on our lives and observe how patience God has been towards us and here, we see a reason to praise God.
So we see through scripture that we have an abundance of examples of the means and content of our worship. God hasn’t left us alone to our own devices to figure out how to worship, but He has given us His Word to instruct us in the proper way of worship. My hope is that we would examine the scriptures that He has given us so that we may worship Him more fully.