Regulations for Worship and a Holy Place 2

Hebrews 9:1; John 4:1-26; I Peter 2:1-10

Subject: The true Worship of God

Complement: is regulated by God through his Word.

Big Idea: God has shown and commanded us how we are to worship Him—and we dare not deviate from his direction without diminishing and diluting worship—even to the point of making it nothing, “a vacuous substitute” (Ligon Duncan).

1. Introduction

a. Engage: Your worship defines you. Both what you worship and how you worship. Your worship will dictate your activities, your spending, your dreams, and your hope. The God you worship will make you a slave or will free you to be a son. This is why the reformers of the 16th Century who followed Luther’s theological reforms were deeply concerned with worship and its reformation.

b. Review

i. An overview of all of Chapter 9—we cannot pluck a single verse from Scripture and amputate it from its context. “A text without a context is a pretext” In this chapter the author continues to show how the coming of the Messiah, Christ fulfilled and discontinued all of the types and shadows found in Old Covenant Worship.

ii. We focused on the fact that there are regulations for worship within in the Old Covenant. This is because

1. God “had a pervasive concern for how he is worshipped.” (Duncan)

2. Defined worship as

a. Bowing, kneeling

b. Serving

c. Praising, exalting

3. Because true worship is toward and of God, “The content, motivation, and aim of worship is determined by God alone. He teaches us how to think about him and how to approach him. The further we get away, then, from his direction the less we actually worship him (Duncan, p. 27)*.

4. Because when we (all people) are left to ourselves we destroy worship by diminishing it to a trivial self-centered subjectivism or worse we give in to out tendency to idolatry.

iii. We also showed ten examples of God’s concern for worship that is regulated and ordered by his word.

c. Preview

i. Continuity between OC Concerns and NC worship.

ii. Introduce the Reformation’s Concern for proper worship and what is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).

1. RPW Stated and Explained

2. Objective Elements of the RPW (The What of Worship)

3. Subjective Elements of the RPW (The how of Worship, or the concerns that we should have about ourselves in worship).

d. Big Idea. We are created to Worship the God who alone is worthy of worship, therefore we must give serious attention to his revelation concerning how we are to worship Him.

2. Last week we saw that God is rightly concerned about how his people come before him in worship. Because he is concerned about his worship he has gave his people under the Old Covenant very specific directions for how he is worshipped. As our author writes in 9:1 “even in the Old Covenant there were regulations for worship.” These two facts taken together tell us that there are also regulations for worship within the New Covenant. These regulations are not articulated in the same manner in the NC as in the OC. If I take the existence of regulations for worship in the OC and add them to the deep personal concern that God shows for his own worship I come the realization that there must yet today be regulations for worship within the New Covenant—what are they?

a. First we should see that the same concerns for proper and true worship we saw in the OC are the concerns of the NC the OC Concerns we studied Exodus 25:1-8 were:

1. God requires a willing worship. True the heart must be made willing be an inward change of his own working, but he is not honored by unwilling hearts.

2. True worship is a matter of Spiritual Communion and intimacy. I will be your God, you will be my people, I will dwell in your midst. This we also saw in chapter 8 and the repetition of the prophecy from Jer. 31

3. Ordered. I Cor. 14…

4. Fourthly we can say that all that we know about God and his worship is a matter of his own self-revelation. He tells us about himself and then he directs us to the proper way of coming before him. For instance in these texts: Mt 15:8,9; Cols. 2:22;I Tim. 1:4; Titus 1: 4, 14

3. What must people do not realize is the one of the primary concerns of the Reformers in the 16th Century Reformation was a reformation of worship more or as much as a reformation of theology. For example, John Calvin writing to Emperor Charles V in 1544, said, “…the whole substance of Christianity is a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained.” This amazes us. We would put the order in reverse. We would think that our salvation is the first part of Christianity and then worship

comes somewhere after. We tend to think that the reason the church is left on earth is that evangelism might take place. But evangelism is the means not the end. The end is worship. Evangelism is the means for bringing more worshippers before God.

a. What the reformers saw was a corruption of worship in the Middle Ages—which of course was a result of wrong theology. For as we know, doxology always follows theology. What we know about God drives how we approach God.

b. Any reformation in theology is going to result in a change in Worship. Justification by faith and not by works meant a change in the way that God was approached in worship.

c. As a result we have the formulation of what is referred to as the Regulative Principle of Worship by the reformers,

i. Definition. Put simply, the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture. (Derek Thomas, Tabletalk)

ii. A more expanded version is stated in the London Baptist Confession:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

In other words we are allowed to worship God according to what he has told us in Scripture. The Content is Scripture, the form is scriptural, and the various elements are found in Scripture. this from the Heidelberg Catechism Q 96

Q. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

A. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s Word

d. It is here that we must make a very important point—one that should go without saying, but cannot go without saying. Worship is about God—not You. Consider these two contrasting paragraphs.

“The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christendom is that worship is primarily for us—to meet out needs. Such worship services are entertainment-focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From the perspective preaching becomes a homiletics of consensus—preaching to felt needs—mans’ conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is

minimized, and the sermons are short and full of stories. Anything and everything that is suspect of making the marginal attendee uncomfortable is removed from the service, whether it be a registrations card or ‘mere’ creed. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terrible corrupts one’s theology.” [And worship too!]

Our worship service is a worship of God, not man. Therefore, the order of worship is purposed to bring glory to God, NOT man. The saints’ participation in the worship service is designed for all praise to go to God, not to preachers, musicians, artists, missionaries, church leaders, children, etc. Decorum concerning dress, instrumentation and presentations will assist in disallowing performances and enhance our awareness of God’s admonition: “Let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.” We rely upon the Holy Spirit to assist us in establishing an environment that encourages and advances your entry into the transforming presence of the living Lord Jesus Christ. (Bulletin Statement, Christ Church of the Carolinas, Columbia, SC)

4. This leads me to ask how are we to understand the RPW for today? There are two broad answers to this question, the objective and the subjective. or said another way, the What are the elements that are allowed and necessary for proper congregational; worship first. And second, what are the attitudes of heart that I am to bring to congregational worship? The objective elements (or the what) included in the RPW are these:

a. Prayer(s). As Jesus said in Matthew 21:12, “My house is to be a house of prayer” The Christian church gathered together is the house of God—not a place. When we come together, we are to life holy hands in prayer I Tim. 2: 1-4; Acts 2:42 devoted to prayer.

b. Reading of the Word I Tim. 4: 13.

c. Confession of Sins. James 5 confess your sins one to another.

d. Proclamation, Declaration, Explanation and Exhortation of the Word (The Holy Gospel) II Tim. 4:3

e. Singing. Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19

f. Giving, ex, I Cor. 16:1

g. Sacraments

The content is all Biblical; we read the bible, we preach the Bible, the pray the bible, we sing the bible, we see the bible.

5. Understanding the RPW for today: The objective elements include in the RPW: The subjective elements for us today: The who of worship (not the Whom, that is God alone). God is seeking true worshippers John 4:23,24—the only place we find God seeking… True and proper worship comes from those only who are

a. Truly Regenerate. Knowing God is necessary for worshipping God. How can one worship a God that he does not know? this is what Jesus is saying in part in John 4:23. This is the requirement for true spiritual worship in Romans 12:1

b. Truly engaged (“the soul enlisted”), Worship is active. It is not passive. While we do receive from God in worship, worship is not like watching TV, a passive entertainment. When I come, I do not merely come to mouth words, sit through the reading and teaching of the Word as though merely being in the place where public worship is being conducted has any benefit. No, I am to be actively involved, a part of the reading, praying, confessing, hearing, singing. Engaged with my mind, my heart, even my body. When I use the word engage I think also of combat and warfare. We are called to be engaged and also to engage the enemy. This means putting on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6). Which of course includes being:

c. Truly Prepared

i. During the Week—prime the pump

ii. Saturday Night

1. TV?

2. Food?

3. Entertainments

iii. Sunday Moring

1. Some quiet time

2. Prepare to be on time (Work, school)

iv. In the building…

d. Truly Submissive—ready to hear and to obey. Psalm 119:33, 34 teach me so I can obey. When I come to worship I need to engage myself in such a way that I will ask, Is the a command I am meant to obey? Is there a precept or a principle I am meant to integrate in my life? (At home, in the work place, in my everyday heart thought life). Is there a sin I need to confess and repent of. What does the Gospel teach me about God and what he has done that I need to put into my thinking? Worship is made up of the attitudes of appreciating, rejoicing, and resting on these truths. This again is the beauty of HC Q 96.

i. God who is

1. All-sufficient

2. Good

3. Powerful

4. Wise

5. Loving

ii. God who is better than the approval of people, etc.

e. Truly dependent on the Holy Spirit. I must have the Holy Spirit if I am going to properly worship.

f. Truly Trinitarian.

i. Father Creator

ii. Son Redeemer

iii. Holy Spirit Helper.

6. It is at this point (Next Week?) that we need take seriously the connection between idolatry and adultery

a. Idolatry, we know is the worship of the wrong God

b. Idolatry is also the worship of the true God in the wrong way—

c. And God calls both of these idolatries adultery. He is a jealous God fighting to protect what is his. Hos. 4:12-14

d. As John Owen warns us “it cannot be but dangerous for us to make any additions to God’s instructions to Worship.” (Comm. loc. cit.)

7. We will also need to have a better understanding of what it means to Worship God in Spirit and Truth (Coming weeks)

8. Conclusion. What needs reformation and change in your life?


Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, editors, Give Praise to God, a Vision for Reforming Worship, ((Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2003).

Terry L. Johnson, Reformed Worship, Worship that is According to Scripture, (Jackson, MS: Reformed Academic Press, 2000, Revised Second Edition, 2010).

John Calvin, “A Treatise on the Necessity of Reforming the Church”, Tracts and Letters, Vol. 1. Henry Beveridge, editor, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust,