“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
FOR the glory of God, Christ Presbyterian Church seeks to be a worshiping community which glorifies and praises God: instituted by Him as prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
IT is the purpose and goal of our church to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” and to offer praise, which may be found pleasing to Him.
I. The Purpose of Worship
WORSHIP is the joyful activity in the life of a believer and the covenant family in which they, recognizing the fullness of the Godhead as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to render to the living God the glory, honor, and submission which are His due.
The basis of our worship is found in God’s revelation of Himself. Biblical worship is, in effect, theology in reverse . Whereas in theology, we learn about God through his revelation in Scripture, in worship we tell God what we know about Him based on the same revelation. Biblical worship is not based upon “man’s reason nor upon man’s own efforts of mind and body.”
II. The Place of Music in Worship
Scripture strongly suggests that music and singing is but one form of praise that should be included in our regular worship of God. The author of Hebrews instructs his readers, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb. 13:15). Since music, therefore, is part of our worship, it should be held to the same standards which regulate all other aspects of worship. And “since the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the principles of public worship must be derived from the Bible, and from no other source.” Namely, that which God reveals about himself in Scripture, should be that which we offer back to him in our worship through singing.
There are four rubrics of worship that guide our services in the Reformed tradition and act as guides in one’s selection of music for public worship as well. One should ask if the worship (music) is Canonical, Catholic, Confessional, and Contemporary.
The music that is chosen to lead the people of God in their worship of Him must be true to the word of God. One can not afford to lead people in their worship of a holy God with statements that are not true concerning the One being worshiped. Great care should be taken to ensure that those things being offered to God are pleasing in His sight. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism instructs, “The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” It is not enough for a song to mention God or to mention personal reflections or ideas concerning God. That which is sung in the public worship of God must be true to His being (person and work) as revealed in the Scriptures.
We also wish to be balanced as Scripture is balanced. Our God is both transcendent (Holy Other, ‘Big’, Beyond Comprehension, Incommunicable Attributes, etc.) and imminent (took on flesh, made in the image of man, near to those who call upon Him, relatable, and having communicable attributes). There are some forms of, and forms in, worship which express and highlight these truths explicitly and implicitly. (An organ clearly expresses transcendence. A guitar is much more imminent. Even the positions of the ‘singers’ conveys both sides of these attributes. A choir in the back emphasizes transcendence, singers in the front convey imminence and incarnation/ ‘came near’.) God is both Creator and Redeemer. He is three in one. All of these and other truths of Scripture should be expressed in worship in numerous and various ways which do not bend or break the biblical constraints of worship.
As we teach and admonish one another in all wisdom in our singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs , those hymns selected should also recognize a church’s place among the Universal Church of God. All believers in Christ Jesus as he is revealed to us in the Scriptures are members of the body of Christ Jesus and are in the process of being made holy and acceptable as a bride to her bridegroom. The hymns which are chosen to represent the church in the worship of God should also recognize the present church’s standing in a long history of believers who have gone before, and in God’s providence, believers who will follow after. Therefore, our songs should reflect not only our being united with Christ, but our unity with the Church Triumphant as well. There are hymns and tunes which have served the church extremely well in worship and we should not forsake teaching them to our covenant children or children in the faith.
Christ Presbyterian does not believe it is the only church, nor the PCA the only Christian denomination. Also, Christ Presbyterian does not hold that the Reformed faith is the only tradition which makes up the body of Christ. However, we do hold that the Reformed tradition is accurate in its doctrines and principles as agreeable to and founded on the Word of God. Therefore, the hymns which are sung in corporate worship are those which accurately convey our understanding of God as represented in Scripture and summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Apostles Creed.
This is not a statement simply concerning the style of music that is to be sung. Instead, in the wake of the Reformation and its firm belief that the worship of God should be in the common language of the people, so too should the singing of hymns within the context of worship. People in a worshiping community should always be aware of what they are singing concerning God. Therefore, if an occasion arises when the group is being asked to sing a song which is not “in the language of the people”, appropriate care should be taken to inform those singing of what’s being proclaimed about God.
However, we also want to include contemporary expressions through music which are canonical, catholic, and confessional. Christians throughout the ages have expressed their faith through music which touches their souls and moves them to glorify God. While it is true that there are some hymns, songs, and spiritual tunes which will last the test of time, there is no golden age of worship where the expressions of exaltation are, in and of themselves, ‘more pleasing’ in their construct to God. (Scripture is silent on this matter. Therefore we do not have the privilege of speaking for God where He remains silent.) All our “good ole’ hymns’ were at one point, new and contemporary and no one could in that moment declare with any amount of certainty that they would ‘stand the test of time’. It is the saints who will come after us who will determine which hymns, songs, and spiritual songs are carried forward in church history.
Finally, as in all areas of worship, that which we offer to God should be offered with sincere hearts and done with excellence, or at the very least to the best of the worshipers’ ability. This is true not only for those leading in worship, but in all those who gather for worship. Worship is active in nature, not a passive event for those who gather. When entering into the worship of our Holy and Majestic God, one should approach with all awe and reverence seeking to offer only that which will be pleasing unto Him. May God grant us wisdom through the power of his Holy Spirit to discern what is right in the leading of His people in worship and sanctify our offering through the work of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church