Reformed Worship? (Part 2)
Updated: Feb 11
But the Lord has set aside one day in seven as holy to His people. The rhythm of the Christian life is six days of work, and one day of holy rest unto the Lord. The Lord’s Day is supposed to be different from the other six. It is the best day of the seven for the Christian because God intends to bless His people through their observance of it. Hart and Muether lament, “North American Protestants, we have noted, are generally not in sync with this rhythm. Attracted to the inward and extraordinary, they commonly suffer from spiritual bulimia, binging at big events, then purging , by absenting themselves from God’s prescribed diet” (65).
Someone might object to such an insistence upon the importance of the Lord’s Day as engaging in an unbiblical dualism between the holy and profane. Anticipating this objection, the authors observe that Scripture repeatedly identifies holiness and Sabbath-keeping. The priests of Judah, for example, are rebuked for profaning the Sabbath Day (Ezekiel 22:26). God’s people in Christ are free to keep holy the Lord’s Day; but we are not free to profane it. Distinguishing between the holy and the profane is incumbent upon believers. One of the primary ways we maintain a distinction between the church and the world is by keeping holy and common time distinct. By insisting on the importance of observing the Lord’s Day we uphold the fact that in corporate worship something entirely extraordinary happens: we assemble with all the saints and angels together before the holy of holies.
The Reformed conviction of the authority of Scripture ought to also shape Reformed worship. The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) says that worship to God must be offered as He prescribes in His word. Important advantages flow from seeking to order worship according the RPW. One advantage is that if we limit our worship to God’s commands, we can be confident that our worship is on the right track toward pleasing Him. Another advantage is simplicity. Extraneous worship practices that lack Biblical warrant are removed and those that have biblical warrant are given their due place. Hart and Muether defend the RPW against the charge that it is a Puritan invention, and against the charge that it is an old covenant principle that has been abrogated by the new. Still another advantage of the RPW is that it protects Christian liberty; the people of God will not be bound by having to worship God in any way other than what He commands.
Further reflection on this work will continue in part 3.