God’s people are a worshipping people. It is a serious error when God’s people do not take worship seriously—we do not prepare our schedules ahead of time, we show up late, we nod off, etc. It is not only the church officers who must be prepared for worship. God will not be mocked.
There are many faithful congregations who do take worship seriously, but unfortunately, when we think of Lord’s Day worship, what comes to mind are the congregations who have gone off the rails. They would rather entertain the goats than feed the sheep, which is the definition of throwing your pearls before swine.
Speaking of Christian worship, the Confession begins, The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and does good to 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.
As Paul writes in Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Regardless of intellectual arguments (which are often emotional arguments cloaked in $10 words), every human being knows that God exists. That means Christians, but that also means Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Bahai, etc. What god are we talking about? Who are we worshiping? The light of nature, meaning natural evidence, shows us that there is a transcendent reality. So what?
We can know by nature that God exists and that we should worship him. But exactly how we should worship him is unknown until he reveals himself to us. As that ultimate, transcendent, holy reality, he determines how he is to be worshipped, not his creatures.
Deuteronomy 12 is full of laws concerning the right worship of God for the Israelites. The chapter ends with the command, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (v.32). God’s law includes right worship. It is not up to us to decide how to honor and glorify him. Scripture regulates how God is worshiped among his people.
When creativity in worship is a common goal for many churches today, we should rather strive for faithfulness to the revealed word of God. Watching or participating in worship in some of these churches makes clear that imagination is lord, not God. The tickling of the ears in these late days is not just about doctrine; it includes worship that seeks to be enjoyable rather than faithful.
Many worship services of today would be unrecognizable to the authors of this confession of faith. The type of worship services to which they were referring had to do with the Roman Catholic mass. The mass consisted of many things unfamiliar to the Scriptures. This did not only have to do with the content of the mass but the very ideas of an “unbloody sacrifice” and a priesthood as mediator between God and man. Scripture regulates worship, and there is one mediator between God and man, the God-man Christ Jesus.
Speaking of the God-man, the Confession continues, Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.
The Trinity is the Christian doctrine of God. It is the first fact that sets the one, true God apart from all false gods. To come into worship without a knowledge of God is to send your worship out into the ether.
In Matthew 4, Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of this world under one condition: fall to your knees and worship Satan. Such an atrocious, blasphemous idea should never be uttered. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, Satan has been tempting man to worship anything or anyone but God alone.
The ruse has worked ever since. Paul tells us, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25).
Again, the original context of the Confession’s article on worship was a refutation of the mass. But the worship of angels was a problem for the apostles, as well. Paul writes, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18). We can become so infatuated with the spiritual realm that it becomes a distraction to the truth, and that’s all that it is.
Neither should we worship any man. Saints here refers to those on whom the Roman Catholic Church has bestowed sainthood. They are a different class of Christian who have so many merits that we can benefit from them, as well—we just have to ask. They justify praying to saints by calling them “the great cloud of witnesses.” Now surely, all believers from all ages are among that great cloud, but supposed saints have no more merits or prayers to offer than you do. For every believer, past, present, and future, the only merit any of us have is Christ’s.
Beginning after the fall, there was a sacrificial system. Cain and Abel, the first children born after the fall, knew to offer sacrifices. That’s why Cain killed Able, after all—one was accepted and the other was not. There has been a mediator between God and man. God established the priestly role, first among the familial patriarchs (Job, for example, offered sacrifices and prayers on behalf of his children) and then formally among the Levites of Israel.
Because no one has ever been saved by the law, being a priest, or offering an animal sacrifice, the only true mediator has only been and ever will be Christ alone. The elect of the old covenant trusted in the promise of God that he would strike the enemy’s head, which was fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The elect of the new covenant have the benefit of looking back in faith that what was promised was accomplished.
Next time, we’ll start to look at which components of worship are determined for us in Scripture.