Regulative Principle of Worship from the New Testament Part III


My disclaimer  here

3. There is warrant for the Regulative Principle of Worship from the New Testament just as there was in the Old Testament.

A. Mark 7:6-9

The Pharisees had questioned the Lord as to why He did not follow the oral tradition of the elders which had been handed down to them for generations. Christ specifically calls worship that institutes the doctrines, traditions, or commandments of men, vain or meaningless worship. God does not accept it. Thus, any time a religious act, gesture, symbol, or ceremony is introduced into divine worship apart from the commandment of God, at that point the tradition of men has made void the commandment of God (“Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” Mt. 15:6). And for having added tradition to the commandment of God, the Prophet, Priest , and King of the church calls these church leaders “Hypocrites” (Mt. 15:7).

B. John 4:19-24

In the Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, note that the conversation turns to the issue of worship. Did it make any difference to God where God’s people worshipped in the Old Covenant? Even though the specific location of divine worship was not an element of worship but rather a circumstance of worship, it was a prescribed circumstance of worship (they were to worship in Jerusalem, Jn. 4:20-22). The Lord herein condemns all will-worship in one statement when He declares: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship” (Jn. 4:22). Because the Samaritan woman did not know and follow the commandments of God in her worship (regardless of her or any other Samaritan’s sincerety), Christ could say that she did not know what she was worshipping. Now the Samaritans did have the the five books of Moses to guide them in their worship. However, their worship was not true worship if for no other reason than this: they did not worship the Lord in His appointed temple in Jerusalem. Carefully note that the Lord teaches that “true worshippers” (Jn. 4:23) will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. In fact, Christ puts it even more strongly when He categorically states: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24, emphasis added). The worship of “true worshippers” must be characterized by spiritual ( that is Spirit created) praise and adoration for God (not just empty forms); but it must also be characterized by truth (that is worshipping God according to the specific forms He has authorized in the Scripture alone). The Lord makes it very clear that worship is not an either-or proposition: Either worship God in spirit or worship Him in truth. Those who emphasize only the inward aspects of worship fall under the condemnation of our Lord as much as those who emphasize only the outward aspects of divine worship. Both are necessary if we are to be among those whom Jesus designates as “true worshippers.”

C. 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Corinthians 1:24 (cf. Rom. 14:23)

These passages proclaim a common and precious truth: no man (whether minister, elder, bishop, or pope) can bind the conscience of another man to perform an act of worship which God has not positively authorized in His Word (by precept, approved example, or good and necessary inference), for God alone is Lord of the conscience (i.e. only God’s Word can bind the corporate conscience of a church to use specific religious acts, gestures, symbols, or ceremonies in worship). For a leader in the church to impose any unauthorized religious act into worship is to play the part of God (a role one should not presume to play without considering how God treats all such pretenders, e.g. Cain in Gen. 4:1-8; or Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10:1-3; or Korah in Num. 16:3ff; or Saul in 1 Sam. 13:8-13; or Uzza in 2 Sam. 6:6-7; or Jeroboam in 1 Kgs. 13:1-5; or Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26:16-21; or the Pharisees in Mt. 15:1-9). Furthermore, for a member of a congregation to submit to any unauthorized religious act, gesture, symbol, or ceremony in divine worship is to proclaim that Jesus is not Lord, but rather the minister, elder, bishop, or pope is Lord. Such a professing Christian has become enslaved to man. However, we maintain with our Confession of Faith that “God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it [in addition to it–GLP], in matters of faith or worship.”

D. Colossians 2:8,20-23

The emphasis of the great apostle throughout this chapter is on forsaking the traditions and commandments of men, and rather clinging to Christ and His commandments, for “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge . . in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:3,9-10). Dear ones, you are not complete in yourself or in any man-made ceremonies in worship. You are complete, made full and acceptable through His work on your behalf. He is the head of the church, not you or me. He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. He alone directs our worship and presents it acceptable to the Father. Paul infers that to practice any “will-worship” (or “self-imposed religion” Col. 2:23) “according to the commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22) is to undermine the finished work of Christ (Col. 2:11-23) and to seek to usurp the headship over the church that rightly belongs to Christ (Col. 2:8-10,18-19). Self-imposed worship (i.e. any religious act, gesture, symbol, or ceremony in worship) is expressly condemned by Christ and His apostles. It is in fact false worship which no Christian should tolerate in the house of God without a verbal protest to the leadership and separation from this false worship until there is biblical reformation in worship (“The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counselling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself” (The Larger Catechism , Question 109).

As a father, I have a prescribed protocol for any young men to follow who would want to court my daughters. Now some may think I’m too rigid in my standards. However, the issue is simply this: Any young man who would come to my daughter must first come through me. And he must please me. I must find him acceptable. A young man who disregards my standards and comes as he pleases will not find acceptance with me. This is the God-ordained duty of a father who loves his daughters. All the words of love a young man might have for my daughter will not impress me in the least, unless he comes to me in the way I have authorized. Now if I, as a sinful father, have the right and responsibility to establish an authorized protocol for courtship–how much more the eternal and infinitely holy God has the right and responsibility to establish a divine protocol for acceptable worship of His glorious Son. Dear ones, never forget what God told Aaron after slaying his sons who added to God’s authorized commands in worship, “By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy” (Lev. 10:2, emphasis added). And thus, John Knox was absolutely correct, “All worshipping, honoring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry.” Amen.

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