Reformed church worship

There can be no Reformed church without Reformed worship

By Brad Isbell

Thesis: No confessional Presbyterian church will long remain confessional or Presbyterian if it loses Reformed worship.

First, some definitions:

  • Confessional: orthodox soteriology and doctrine (doctrine of God, Christology, covenant) according to the Reformed confessions.
  • Presbyterian: government by ordained male (per scripture) elders organized in accountable, graded courts.
  • Reformed worship: scripturally regulated (RPW), simple, ordinary means of grace worship—a Reformed bucket to carry Reformed water.

Why will unscriptural, man-centered, culturally conditioned, over-contextualized worship undermine confessional orthodoxy? Because worship by its very form (which ought to be according to spirit—uppercase and lowercase—and truth) communicates certain things about the nature of God and man, thus theology proper and anthropology can’t help but be warped by unbiblical worship. Theology proper and biblical anthropology are the foundations of soteriology, which will also be warped by unbiblical (e.g.: revivalist or sacerdotal) worship.

Why will unscriptural, man-centered, culturally conditioned, over-contextualized worship undermine biblical, Presbyterian church government? Because free-form, optional, variable worship forms suggest free-form, optional, variable ecclesial forms…or little form at all. And when worship is no longer led by ordained elders, government by ordained elders seems less plausible. Presbyterian order is not hierarchical, but neither is it excessively horizontal. Rolling it out too thin leads to its disintegration.

The regulative principle of worship suggests and bolsters a regulative principle of everything for the church. Doctrine, order, and doxology are a three-legged stool. When present and sturdy, these legs will bear great weight; when any are missing or compromised, collapse is imminent.

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