Mid-Watch Report: June 2002
The True Worship of God:
The Activities of Worship

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

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Vol. III   No. 4      June 2002

The True Worship of God:
The Activities of Worship

In our last Mid-Watch Report we focused upon the meaning of the Greek word hosios which is often translated “holiness” in the Greek New Testament.1 We also discussed another Greek word used for “holiness” in the Greek New Testament; hagios. Hagios refers to uniqueness, separation, sacredness, and moral and ethical purity; and when applied to God it also refers to His exaltedness as the only, true God (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6) - all of which meanings are brought together in the English word “holiness.”

These concepts become important when we begin to consider the activities of Christian worship. Because even when we do an activity in Christian worship similar to what we might do outside of Christian worship - singing, for example - there needs to be a difference that makes it truly holy to the Lord. In this regard we have already discussed the fact that Christian worship must reflect the character of God and be an appropriate response to the presence of God in our midst.

The Christian Service of Worship

It is helpful, at this point, to recall that God commanded the priests who served the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) to wear a turban. Each turban was to have a gold plate with the engraved words “Holy to the Lord” attached to the front (Exodus 28:36).2 In the original Hebrew, this is qodesh leYahweh; in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint - the version of the Old Testament most used in the early Christian church - it is translated Hagiasma Kuriou where hagiasma is the quality of having been made hagios; which, in this case, means “holy” in the sense of being “dedicated to the service of the Lord."3 In the Old Testament, the word qodesh denotes that which is sacred as opposed to that which is common or profane.4

The symbolism of the Tabernacle in the Old Covenant points to the spiritual realities of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-10:25, 12:18-24). For example, the New Testament, contrary to the Old, teaches the “priesthood of believers.” In the Old Covenant, only the Levitical priests could enter the Holy Place within the tent of the Tabernacle, and only the High Priest could enter the inner Holy of Holies; which was done just once each year on Yom Kippur, Israel’s Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:1-7). However, because of the work of Christ at Calvary, all Christians may now enter directly into the presence of God with their prayers on behalf of themselves and others; and may represent God to others (Hebrews 9:11-28). In doing so, they become “priests” - those who stand between God and people.

The plate on the front of the priest’s turban, therefore, signifies the holiness required of all of God’s people as they serve God and humanity. For they have, in the words of the book of Hebrews, “the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14).

In the Old Testament, God commanded, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, 45, 19:1, 2, 20:7, 8). Peter quotes this verse in his first letter, where he exhorts his Christian readers to, “. . . like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior” (1:15, 16). Please note that this work - which sanctifies the people of God and makes them holy - is the work of God through Jesus Christ, mediated to His people by the Holy Spirit. It is this work that makes them, in the terminology of the New Testament, “the holy ones” - in the original Greek hoi hagioi - in our English Bible, “the saints.” And it is these who come before the Lord to offer worship, having “Holiness to the Lord” not written on a plate attached to a headpiece as they come before the Lord, but written upon their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, Jeremiah 31:31-36, Titus 3:5). Even in the Old Covenant, in Leviticus 20:7, 8 we read, “You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord you God. You shall keep My statues and practice them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you;” where the phrase “makes you Holy” may be substituted for the words “sanctifies you.”

The important thought to keep in mind, here, with regard to Christian worship, is that just as the people of God have been made holy, so must their worship be holy. And this holy worship must serve the unique goals that God has for His people - for His people come before Him to serve Him. This is why a meeting together of Christians for the purpose of worship is properly called a “worship service” or a “service of worship” (Hebrews 9:13, 14, 1 Peter 2:4, 5, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-14, Romans 12:1, 2).

The broad term for “service” in the New Testament is latreia. Its verb form, “render service” or “serve,” is latreuo. Its infinitive form - meaning “to serve” - is latreuein. The meaning of these words in passages such as Hebrews 12:28 and Romans 12:1 is not easily captured in English. This is because the full extent of their meaning in the New Testament is not conveyed by any one English word. These Greek words are closely bound to the concepts of sacrifice and worship in both the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament. With regard to their usage in the Greek Old Testament, Hermann Strathmann wrote, “It is not enough to say that latreuein has religious significance. One must say that it has sacral significance. Latreuein means more precisely to serve or worship cultically, especially by sacrifice."5 Strathmann notes that in the New Testament the verb form, latreuo, is used specifically of service to God, including “every form of divine worship."6 The infinitive, latreuein (“to serve”), Strathmann observed, is found in the New Testament, “in the broad metaphorical sense in which it comprises the whole of Christian existence,” as seen in Philippians 3:3.7

So, in the language of the New Testament, “service,” “worship,” “sacredness” (holiness), and “sacrifice” are closely related. Worship as a form of “service” means finding joy in doing what is pleasing to the Lord and advances His purposes in our lives (Ephesians 5:7-10). It involves a sacrifice of time, because time is set aside specifically for the Lord; and a sacrifice of gifts, because we use our talents and give of our resources to advance His purposes in this age.

The close relationship between these concepts tells us that any activity of worship must always be an act of giving before it is an occasion for receiving. The first question after leaving a service of worship should not be “what did I get out of it?” but “did I give what I went there to give?”

The activities that are appropriate to Christian worship, then, are those that are consistent with the unique and holy purposes of God. In this vein, Paul exhorted the Ephesians to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Similarly, Paul exhorted the Philippians to, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure;” therefore, Paul said, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:12, 13, 3:12).” The “purposes of God” are the reasons that Christ Jesus has “laid hold” of us - and they are far loftier and lead to far more happiness and fulfillment than any purpose or goal we can devote ourselves to on our own.

Devoting ourselves to our own goals and purposes is what Paul called “will-worship” in Colossians 2:23. “Will-worship” is an older translation of the Greek ethelothreskeia, which is found in the New Testament only in Colossians 2:23. The NASB renders it “self-made religion,” which is very close to the meaning; although “self-made worship” is also implied here. While there has been disagreement in the Christian community about exactly what constitutes “will-worship” and what does not, the essential meaning here is clear; it is worship that is inconsistent with the purposes of God through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:24-2:15). “Will-worship” is that which stems from what seems to be religious rather than what is truly spiritual in the sight of God; worship which is derived from the thinking of the world rather than from the teachings of Holy Scripture (Colossians 2:2:8, 18-3:17).

Protestant Insights into Worship

During the Protestant Reformation and for more than two centuries afterwards, Christians struggled with issues relating to Christian worship. Their goal was not just to differentiate themselves from Roman Catholic beliefs and traditions, but to make their worship more consistent with the will of the Lord as revealed in Holy Scripture. Although they sometimes came to differing conclusions, we can profit greatly from their extensive study and reflection on these issues; especially because even when they disagreed, they identified issues that can help us to be more thorough in our own consideration of Christian worship.

In undertaking such a review, it is helpful to consider whether the assumptions we make as we begin our consideration of worship are the same as theirs.8 For instance, their commitment to live by Scripture was not a rejection of all Christian tradition. Protestant Reformers such as John Calvin, and later Protestant leaders like John Wesley, were comfortable referring to the church fathers to argue for their understandings of Scripture; whereas, in our time, the beliefs and practices of any one time are often considered mostly or even wholly irrelevant to those living afterwards.

The concept of “recapturing” that characterized the viewpoint of the Reformers and the Wesleys was based upon the assumption that our understanding of Truth, though it may deepen, can never be different from what is found in the Scriptures. Thus, Protestants had an attitude of acceptance not only of Scripture, but of insights developed as the Christian community matured in its understanding of the teachings of Scripture. They believed that such teachings should be considered, not thoughtlessly discarded.9

A careless disregard for Christian doctrine and tradition, claiming that new revelations have now come, or that spiritual knowledge long forgotten has now supernaturally reappeared, is characteristic of Christian cults rather than of Protestant teachings.10

General Rules of the Word

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) is generally acknowledged to be one of the most carefully crafted and thorough Protestant confessions of faith. Written in the late 17th century through the collaboration of a large number of Puritan religious leaders, it has continued to be meaningful to many Protestants to the present day.

In section 1.6 of the WCF, the authors declared their commitment to what is commonly referred to as “the regulative principle;” by which they asserted that only those things explicitly taught in Scripture, or that may be deduced from Scripture, may be accepted as the counsel of God.11 This is a statement of the sufficiency of Holy Scripture to reveal God’s will for “man’s salvation, faith, and life;” and is, therefore, closely related to article 6 of the Anglican Articles of Religion; which, in turn, formed the basis for article 5 of the Methodist Articles of Religion written by John Wesley.12 WCF 1.6 also notes that the illumination of the Holy Spirit is required for a full understanding of the meaning of Scripture.

In applying the regulative principle to worship, WCF 21.1states, in part, “. . . the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in Holy Scripture."13 The carefulness promoted in this statement is worthy of note. In our own time many seem careless of the Biblical teaching that there are evil spiritual forces active in the world whose purpose is to subvert the purposes of God, and, therefore, who have a special interest in subverting worship (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:19-23, Ephesians 6:10-18, Ecclesiastes 5:1-3).

The last part of WCF 1.6 goes on to state that in matters of church government and worship, the church is to be guided by the “the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."14 All of the Scripture verses cited in support of this text were from 1 Corinthians.

We find in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that the Corinthians had perverted the celebration of the Lord’s Supper into an occasion for selfishness and drunkenness; the rich eating their food and leaving the poor among them hungry. In chapter 14, Paul alludes to the fact that the worship of the Corinthian church was also self-centered, undisciplined, and disorderly; people, again, catering to their own selfish desires. One of the verses cited in the WCF as a general rule of the Word was, therefore, 1 Corinthians 14:40, “But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.” The word translated “properly” here is, in the original Greek, euschemonos; a word that means pleasing in outward appearance or behavior. It carries the connotation of decency and honor. A little reflection brings to mind that beauty, honor, and orderliness are characteristic of God. Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians, then, are further confirmation that in worshipping God, Christians should reflect the character and holiness of God.

A second verse quoted as a general rule of the Word in support of WCF 1.6 is also of interest here. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul instructs the Corinthians to, “Let all things be done for edification.” Before this, in 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul had written, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Considering that the Corinthian church was in disarray, such statements of Paul in this letter, and the attention of the framers of the WCF to 1 Corinthians 14:26, indicates the importance of “edification” in the life and worship of the Church of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley preached a sermon on the Christian duty of edification, “On Pleasing All Men,” from the text of Romans 15:2. Wesley interpreted “edification” toward all people as acting, “in such a manner as may conduce to their spiritual and eternal good,” with the goal to “save their souls,-to build them up in love and holiness.”15 Wesley referred to a number of other texts with regard to edification in his ministry, including Acts 9:31, Romans 14:19, 1 Corinthians 8:1, 10:23, Ephesians 4:11, 12, 14, 16, 29. In a discussion of the proper form of Christian worship, Wesley wrote,

In divine worship, (as in all other actions,) the first thing to be considered is the end, and the next thing is the means conducing to that end. The end is the honour of God, and the edification of the Church; and then God is honoured, when the Church is edified. The means conducing to that end, are to have the service so administered as may inform the mind, engage the affections, and increase devotion . . .16
So, Wesley sees edification as central to Christian worship, especially in the sense that worship may be evaluated by whether or not it “edifies.” In this, Wesley is in agreement with the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1576); article 10 of which states that the church may, at any time, change ceremonies, “in such manner as is judged most useful to the Church of God and most suited to her edification.”17

The English word “edification” is the word oikodome in the original Greek. It is a term especially characteristic of Paul’s writings, but is not limited to his writings in the New Testament. It means “to build up,” being related, as it is to the Greek oikos, which means “house” or “dwelling.” In the sense that we use it here, it is a metaphor; and it is in this manner that Paul uses it in Ephesians 2:19-22, where he describes the people of God, the Church, as a Holy Temple being built for the indwelling of God’s Spirit (cf. Revelation 21:1-3, Leviticus 26:11, 12).

The “building up” or “edification” of this structure involves more than simply an increase in the number of building units - in this metaphorical sense, people. Thayer wrote of edification, oikodome, that it describes “the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, happiness.”18 Otto Michel wrote,

oikodome refers, then, to the spiritual furtherance both of the community and also of the individual by Christ. The term reflects the manifoldness of the primitive Christian understanding of the Church. A spiritual, theological and cultic or congregational element is concealed in it. Oikodome denotes the goal of knowledge, yet also the inner growth of the community and the content and purpose of its liturgical life and meetings. The word can thus carry many different nuances.19

So, “edification,” in the New Testament sense, must never be interpreted too narrowly. It has, as its goal, the building of the church numerically; but also the growth its members in knowledge, understanding, wisdom, faith, love, hope, righteousness, Christlikeness, fellowship, and holiness - and all that these things entail.

Worship and the Means of Grace

If edification is central to the Church of Jesus Christ, in worship as well as on other occasions, then, the question then arises, by what means is the Church of God edified?

This will seem like a strange question to many contemporary Christians. Many might say that it is even an inappropriate question. Does God need “means” to work? Cannot God do whatever He pleases? The answer to this has to be, “yes.” And, therefore, so the thinking goes, God needs no means. God can work without “means;” which we can refer to as “immediate,” which is to say, “without mediation.”

However, it is one thing to say that God can work without means, and quite another thing to say that He usually does so. God can transport people from one place to another without making people use their feet; and arguably He has, at times, done so (Acts 8:39, 40). But most of us will testify that we usually we do not get from one place to another without using our feet - even when driving our cars! In fact, quite often when our own feet are not getting us from one place to another, someone else’s feet are helping us to do so - whether riding in a car, a bus, or a plane, or being pushed in a wheelchair. Feet are the primary means God has given us to move from one place to another; though there are certainly times when we can move without them - or even be moved by God Himself.

John Wesley was consistent with earlier Protestants in teaching that God uses “means of grace” to enable His children to grow spiritually. In a journal entry for June 25, 1740, Wesley states that though the expression “means of grace” is not found in Scripture, that, “the sense of it is undeniably found in Scripture.”20 In his sermon on “The Means of Grace,” one of the fifty-two sermons that helped denote the standard beliefs of Methodism, Wesley states that there is no better expression than “means of grace,” which has been used in the Christian church “for many ages.”21 Wesley explained, “By ‘means of grace’ I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to me, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.”22

Wesley taught that remembering that God can work without means is essential in keeping these means of grace in proper perspective.23 The means of grace are not to be seen as limiting God in what He can do; but as the usual means whereby God brings His grace into our lives.24 The other extreme, believing that God generally works without means, Wesley called “religious fanaticism;” or in the language of the times “enthusiasm.”25 This same emphasis on means can be seen in Wesley’s words on worship and edification quoted earlier in this discussion.

Wesley’s view is consistent with the views of earlier Protestant Reformers, although they did not all view the “means of grace” in exactly the same way. They all distinguished themselves from Roman Catholicism in denying that the means of grace are effective without active faith on the part of the person receiving them.26 Lutherans taught that the means of grace were the preaching of the gospel and the two sacraments; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These can be viewed as one. In explaining the Lutheran view, David R. Naumann wrote, “Put simply, the Means of Grace is: the Gospel, in Word and sacraments.”27 While there are important distinctions between the Lutheran understanding of the means of grace and that of other Protestants, this Lutheran viewpoint is reflected in article 13 of the Methodist Articles of Religion, which echoes article 19 of the Anglican Articles of Religion in stating that “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered, according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."28

The same Westminster Assembly that produced The Westminster Confession of Faith also produced other documents, including one called, The Directory for the Public Worship of God. John Allen Delivuk referred to both when he wrote,

From the list given in the Confession, Chapter 21:3-5, and the Westminster Assembly’s directory for worship, a complete list of the parts of worship emerges. The ordinary acts of worship are prayer, the reading of Scripture, the “sound preaching” of the Word, the “conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God,” the “singing of psalms with grace in the heart,” and the administration and “worthy receiving of the sacraments.” This list tells us the how of worship as well as the what.29
Reading through this list, one notices that the activities mentioned are those considered “means of grace.” Those not tied so tightly to the regulative principle as represented in the WCF will notice that, Scripturally, other activities may be identified as means of grace that are associated with worship. For example, Colossians 3:16 teaches us to speak to one another in hymns and spiritual songs as well as in psalms, and in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 we have justification for viewing the giving of alms to the poor as a means of grace. However, the commitment to the authority of Scripture, coupled with the association of the means of grace with worship in the declarations of the Westminster Assembly, set a direction that is worth following. To call everything that Christians might do a “means of grace” is careless, and diminishes the value the WCF affirms by following Scripture. Delivuk wrote,
No evidence exists that the members of the Assembly realized that they devised a system of worship whose regular acts were limited to the means of grace. If they had realized it, they probably would have used the argument that edification is the goal of Christian worship (1 Corinthians 14:26) and can only be accomplished by the means of grace.30

Things that Don’t Matter in Worship

If then, edification is an important goal of worship, and worship activities are to be evaluated by the means of grace defined in Scripture, are there activities of worship about which there is complete liberty? Are there things that we, as human beings, might bring into worship that “don’t matter,” that are morally and spiritually indifferent?

The Westminster Assembly would have answered a resounding “no” based upon their regulative principle. Other Protestants have not been so sure. Even the Westminster Confession of Faith recognizes “circumstances” of worship that are less rigorously defined than the activities of worship.

Other Protestants during and after the Protestant Reformation identified certain things in worship as adiaphora - borrowing a term the Stoic philosophers used to identify things that are morally neutral.31 The adiaphoristic controversies involved such matters as liturgy, the sacraments, and how clergy should be attired. These issues involve the limits of Christian liberty and how Scripture is to be applied to the practical matter of worship within the church.

This is an issue that remains with us to this day, and one of the important tasks for us to apply ourselves to is to decide, before the Lord, whether there are things concerning Christian worship that may be considered adiaphora - matters open to the individual judgment of different churches and Christian groups - and, if so, what they are and how we are to judge them.

Traditionally, Methodists have been hesitant to criticize others about forms of worship. This has stemmed from humility before the Lord about what He might be doing outside Methodist circles coupled with charity towards other Christian brethren. John Wesley communicated his beliefs on such matters in two sermons that became part of the 52 standard sermons that defined the doctrinal basis of Methodist; “A Caution against Bigotry” and “Catholic Spirit.”

A careful reading of these and other Wesleyan writings shows that Wesley’s charitable spirit must not be considered an endorsement of all behaviors that might be found throughout the greater Christian community, however. Rather, Wesleyan discipline in the Christian walk recognized the danger inherent in a loose attitude towards all aspects of life in this present, troubled age. In recent times, Dr. Delbert R. Rose admonished his students to make their decisions in such open matters, “on the eternally safe side” - wise advice that reflects the view of spiritually mature and committed Christians in the Wesleyan community, and, indeed, the wider Christian community as well.

The 16th century Lutheran Formula of Concord was created to bring harmony and fellowship to Lutheran fellowships that had been troubled by various issues, including interpretations of adiaphora; which, in their case, involved issues of church ceremonies of worship. They considered decisions made concerning adiaphora to be important matters for serious consideration. At least two of their conclusions would seem to lay special claim to our attention in our time.

The first is their conclusion that, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 8:9 and Romans 14:13, great care should be taken not to cause anyone to stumble by practices of worship.32 Thus, any Christian group or church must solemnly and forthrightly examine their ceremonies and practices to be sure that they do not cause those immature in the faith to misinterpret the faith and fall into sin. In this regard it is helpful to observe that the early Christians went to great lengths to distinguish their worship from that of the pagans around them; worship which, in New Testament times, often consisted of musical and sport competitions, drama, and mystical rituals.

It is in this regard, I believe, that Paul’s admonition in Galatians 5:22 must be viewed, “do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” It is not just for our own sake that we do not indulge the flesh, it is for others, whose spiritual welfare must always be our concern.

A second conclusion rendered in the Formula of Concord is related and also warrants our careful consideration. On the basis of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and Galatians 2:5, 5:1, they judged that when any issue regarding the Christian faith was under challenge, that activities related to that issue that might otherwise be viewed as indifferent could no longer be viewed as such.33 When a clear understanding is at risk, the people of God are to give a clear testimony to the Truth of God’s Word by the way they practice their faith.

In Conclusion

The Christians who have gone before us have given us their example of humble, prayerful seeking after the Truth revealed in God’s Word. They have also left us the results of their investigations of Holy Scripture and its application to the true worship of God; much more than we have had time to investigate here. Their reflection on this subject that is at the very heart of our faith can help broaden and deepen the understanding of those who take the time to learn from them.

Their faithfulness is also a challenge to those who come after them to search the Scriptures diligently, thoroughly, humbly, and honestly, and to seek, first of all, to serve and please the Lord in worship; to make the second goal of worship the building up of others in the faith; to emphasize the means of grace that God has provided to edify His Church; and to live and worship in a disciplined manner that avoids stumbling blocks that prevent others from following or coming to the Lord. -SMD


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1 All of the books of the New Testament were originally authored in the Greek language.

2 Exodus 28:36, 39:30 in the NASB and Hebrew Bible, Exodus 28:32, 36:39, in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint version.

3 In our previous discussion, we noted that hagios is always used to translate the Hebrew word qadosh in the Greek Old Testament. In Hebrew, qadosh is the adjective form and qodesh the noun of the family of words that derive from the root qdsh.

4 cf. Leviticus 10:10, Numbers 18:32, and Ezekiel 22:26. Thomas E. McComiskey, “qodesh,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 787.

5 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), vol. 4, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 60.

6 Ibid., 63.

7 Ibid., 64.

8 In our time, regrettably, misleading writings about the Protestant Reformation are becoming prevalent not only from non-Christians, but even from those who are evangelical Christians. Some are writing that the Protestant Reformation was motivated primarily by cultural differences between the peoples of Northern Europe and Southern Europe. Others, who also claim that “salvation by faith through grace” was not the motivating factor for the Protestant Reformation, contend that it was motivated by a desire for a personal, inward spirituality versus spirituality that consisted of outward activities demanded by powerful bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic Church.

While it is true that the history of the Protestant Reformation is complex, and many factors contributed to the Protestant Reformation, it is nonetheless true that it was the spiritual, theological Truths that were rediscovered in the Holy Scripture that drove the Protestant Reformation; later motivating the Wesleyan movement as well. Those who deny this are either looking from a Roman Catholic perspective, and thus seeking to minimize the importance of distinctive, Protestant doctrine; or they are denying the importance of the Gospel and marginalizing Christianity, as indeed, is a predominant trend in contemporary society at large.

9 The early church’s understanding of the Trinity, and of the Person of Jesus Christ, as reflected in the statements of faith of the earliest church councils, was affirmed, not re-considered by the Protestant Reformers and the Wesleys.

10 The “rediscovery” of long forgotten “Christian truths,” truths not fully clarified in canonical Scripture, but available again to those “who live at the end of this age,” is a hallmark of erroneous teaching.

11 The text of the WCF referred to in this discussion is the 1647 edition taken from The Creeds of Christendom, 6th edition, vol. 3, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, reprinted 1983 from 1931 version), 600-673. The “regulative principle,” strictly speaking, is a Puritan concept that is not accepted by all evangelicals, inasmuch as it excludes everything that is not expressly justified by Scripture. It is in tension with the Anglican position, which permitted all things not expressly forbidden in Scripture.

We mention the regulative principle here to indicate the high view of Scripture expressed by it, and to show how this high view led to some helpful conclusions about Christian worship. Others who hold a high view of Scripture do not subscribe to the regulative principle. A full consideration of this principle is not appropriate here.

However, with respect to its application to worship, it is helpful to notice that while this principle seems opposed to Christian liberty, there is a sense in which it promotes it. The regulative principle puts absolute limits on what any Church - whether a denomination, association, or congregation - may require of its adherents; lay or clergy. It says that this group may require only that which is clearly taught in Scripture. Those who oppose the regulative principle because of Christian liberty also grant more freedom to church groups to add requirements for their members to conform to. This aspect of the regulative principle in relation to Christian liberty is important, but not frequently considered.

12 “The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation . . . ,” Article V, “The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation,” Methodist Articles of Religion, 1784, ibid., 808.

13 Ibid., 646

14 In the Latin version of the WCF, quae naturali lumine ac prudentia Christiana secundum generales verbi regulas (perpetuo quidem illas observandas) sunt regulandae, ibid., 604.

15 John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 3rd edition, ed. Thomas Jackson, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1978 from the 1872 edition issued by the Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London), 139, 140.

16 Ibid., vol. 10, 102.

17 Creeds, vol. 3, 162.

18 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 440.

19 TDNT, vol. 5, 141.

20 Wesley, Works, vol. 1, 278.

21 Ibid., vol. 5, 187.

22 idem

23 Ibid., 200.

24 Idem

25 Wesley makes this plain in his sermon, “The Nature of Enthusiasm;” also one of the fifty-two “standard sermons” that defined the basic doctrines of Methodism. Ibid., 475.

26 In formal theological language, Protestant Reformers denied that the means of grace worked ex opere operato.

27 “The Means of Grace: The Formal Principle of the Reformation,” The CLC Journal of Theology, vol. 36, no. 3, September 1996 [article on line] accessed 25 August 2001, available from http://clclutheran.org/, Internet.

28 Creeds, vol. 3, 499, 810.

29 “Biblical Authority and the Proof of the Regulative Principle of Worship in The Westminster Confession,” Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 58, no. 2 (Fall 1996), reproduced in The Theological Journal Library [CD-ROM], Garland, TX : Galaxie Software 1999, 252.

30 Idem

31 Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 1985), 25, 26.

32 Creeds, vol. 3, 162.

33 Ibid., 162, 163.

The American Night Watch Mid-Watch Report is an occasional publication of The American Night Watch Christian ministry in support of Scriptural Christianity and Scriptural holiness.

"The American Night Watch" is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

The American Night Watch Mid-Watch Report is copyright © 2002 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this newsletter or the articles within in their entirety as long as the copies are not sold for profit and all copyrights are included, and to quote from the newsletter as long as the meaning of the text is not distorted.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No donations in support of this ministry are solicited or accepted.

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This page was last updated January 1, 2003.