Rockport Sermon

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


There has been much discussion lately concerning worship, and I am so glad that our little congregation seems to have grown in this area and there is a sweetness in our fellowship that I have been longing for. But the subject of worship does come up periodically, and there is nothing wrong with that. We reformed people ought not to exclude worship in our examination of truth. Having said that, I hasten to add that there are always differences of opinions as to what is "best". Let me begin with just a few thoughts on the choice of music in our services.

We simply can’t insist that we have the inside track on what kind of music God likes. That would be a very arrogant assumption indeed. We are left then with the type of music we think is best, which opinions are very subjective.

We should strive hard to understand one another and prefer one another. What does this mean in a corporate worship setting? I will try to struggle through this. First of all, preferring one another would mean that I am not thinking about myself first. But that doesn’t mean that I am thinking about others first. In corporate worship, I ought to be focused first and foremost on what God thinks. Since all I have to go on is God’s word, the songs that we sing ought to be centered on the truths that we find revealed in scripture. Secondly, what happens in our worship services should reflect something of what happened in worship services we see in scripture.

Now, it has been said by some reformed leaders that our worship should reflect what we see in New Testament modes of worship and not Old Testament. But is this fair? I have to raise that issue because in every other issue that reformed people discuss, they would only expect dispensationalists to arrive at their interpretation of scripture that way. Why is the subject of worship any different? Is it because, God forbid, these reformed leaders have a prejudice to one type of music? Why would any reformed teacher attempt to arrive at a conclusion on the issue of worship by the same methods they accuse dispensationalists of? Now, we may be arriving at an important point. Good theology! But we will save that for later discussion
Of course I am being facetious, but you get my point.

So, in preferring one another, we certainly must learn to understand that the things that happen in our worship services ought to be subject to biblical guidelines, and those guidelines must be subject to the same rules of interpretation that we use to discuss every other issue. That is, that if the plain, literal, grammatical, historical sense of the words make sense, then we ought to interpret them literally.
So, as we examine the subject of corporate worship, we should strive to make scripture the standard, if I can call it that, by which we allow our thinking about this subject to be molded. Here again, I hesitate to use the word molded, because we are all different and ought to have no desire to make anyone else like us. But in discussing any subject, believers must always bow to scripture if scripture speaks, and yield our thinking to God’s Word.

Now, I have not answered the question as to what type of music God likes. According to scripture, there is a variety. They are called Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I have briefly discussed my opinions on these before and may again at a later time, but suffice it to say for now, that there ought to be a variety of scripture based songs. Underlying my discussion also are the various expressions we see in different worship settings, but again, scripture is to be our guide.

We will continue to strive for this variety, and allow freedom for a variety of expressions in our worship experience. We are not even allowing. We are simply being who we are and yet exhorting one another to in honor, prefer one another. Each member should pray about what that means as they yield themselves to the sweet influence of God’s Spirit.


Scott said...

I fully agree that worship must be God-centered, not man-centered and that we should be led by Scripture -- especially from places like the Psalms which are given as a guide and aid to worship. I think most of the discussions about "style" today miss the point entirely -- since they focus too much on "what I like" or "what is familiar." That certainly is not the issue.

God is glorified through our redeemed lives, and that includes the redeeming of our human cultures. How else can we praise except through instruments and songs and styles that flow out of our culture? That's one reason a rich variety is so healthy. The great hymns encourage us from the past as they testify to God's faithfulness in every age, just as solid biblical songs written today give continuing testimony to His ongoing mercy, all drawing from the rich well of Scripture. Along with that, it's also a joy to hear songs and styles from other places, times and cultures where the Spirit of Christ has stepped in to redeem hearts and minds.

I'm convinced the bottom lines for songs that we use in worship must be (1) They are biblical in what they say, and they say it well; (2) They are 'singable' in that the music does not get in the way of the singing, or make it difficult to focus on what is being said (I've seen old hymns and new songs fail here); (3) It is appropriate to that congregation and to worship. For example, our middle class American congregation would be hard pressed to worship to Gregorian chant, and I can't imagine using the clash bang of heavy metal as an appropriate platform for worship).

Any way. Thanks Bob. Keep us thinking along these lines.

Bob said...

Ah. Good thoughts