You are invited to join the Reformed Church of the southern suburbs (RCSS) for our second worship service this coming Sunday evening. Until we find a more permanent venue in the southern suburbs, we will be meeting at the Reformed Church in the city bowl. If you live in the southern suburbs, please don’t let the distance put you off. On a Sunday, with no traffic, it will take you about 1o minutes from Rondebosch.
Date: October 21
Place: Cape Town Reformed Church (http://tinyurl.com/9n7lke7)
(Corner of Orange and Hof Streets, just before the Mount Nelson; parking off Hof Street)
To whet your appetites for this coming Lord’s Day, you might like to read the following by Rev. Robert Godfrey (Reformed minister and President of Westminster Seminary, CA) on the need for true worship. This need I believe has been met in the historic confessional and Reformed tradition, of which this church plant is a part. The rest of the essay below can be read form the beginning here.
The Need for True Worship
All Christians need to cultivate a life with God that is growing and developing. If we are not growing, we will stagnate or die. The corporate, official worship of God’s people is a crucial and essential means God has given to help us grow. Think of the words of Hebrews 10:19-22:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
This passage calls Christians to draw near to God through Christ since, even as Christians, we experience a distance between ourselves and God that only the work of Christ can bridge. We need to draw near to him personally and individually in devotion, meditation, and prayer; but we also need to draw near to him by meeting with him in the fellowship of his people, where God promises to be especially present (Matt. 18:20). We meet with God when the people of God meet together, pray together, sing together, and listen to his Word together.
Christianity is a religion in which individuals become an integral part of Christ’s body. We are not just an association of individuals, but we are organically connected to one another (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23). We express that we are the body of Christ, especially when we meet God together in public worship.
Worshiping False Gods
John Calvin rightly called the human heart “a factory of idolatry,” meaning that faithful worship does not come naturally to fallen human beings. Sinners become idolaters because God has so deeply planted the need for himself in human beings that when we do not know the true God, we invent false gods, false religion, and false worship. God warns against such idolatrous worship in the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The idolatrous worship of false gods is condemned throughout the Bible.
Worshiping the True God Falsely
We need to listen to the call of Scripture to promote holy worship and flee idolatry. But the worship of false gods is not the only kind of idolatry condemned in the Bible. The second commandment teaches us that idolatry is not only a matter of worshiping false gods, which is prohibited in the first commandment. It is also a matter of worshiping the true God falsely. The second commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:4-6).
This commandment clearly forbids the use of images of God in worship, but it also implicitly forbids all human invention in worship. The prohibition against images means that we must worship the true God only in ways that please him. The people of Israel claimed they were worshiping the Lord as the true God when they fashioned the golden calf. They regarded the image as Jehovah (Exod. 32:5-6). But such false worship offended God and brought judgment on the people.
The story of the golden calf reminds us that God’s own people can fall into idolatry in their worship of him. We may want to be creative and inventive in worship, but that creativity can lead to idolatry. Repeatedly in the Old Testament God judged his people for false worship. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for offering “unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command” (Lev. 10:1). Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his heirs were consistently criticized as idolaters because of images and false temples and services dedicated to the Lord. The people of God were rebuked in these instances not for worshiping false gods, but for worshiping the true God falsely.
The New Testament also warns against pleasing ourselves with false worship. Paul wrote to the Colossians condemning their novelties and experiments with “self-imposed worship” (Col. 2:23). Jesus warned against allowing traditions to dominate and subvert the Word of God: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). Jesus was not speaking about worship when he made that statement, but then he used Isaiah 29:13, which is about worship, to support his words:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules
taught by men. (vv. 8-9)
He was saying that our service to God, whether in life generally or in corporate worship, must not be determined by tradition but must follow the teaching of God in the Bible.
Paul specifically warned the Corinthians against false worship in the way they were administering the Lord’s Supper. The sins and errors that infected their worship led Paul to charge them with destroying that sacrament: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat (1 Cor. 11:20). In fact, God cares so much about worship that Paul records that God visited judgment on the Corinthians for their abuses in worship related to that sacrament: “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (v. 30).
The Bible reminds us that neither our instincts nor our traditions nor our experiments are reliable guides to worship. The Bible itself is our only reliable guide. One of the ironies of our time is that many Christians who affirm the inerrancy of the Bible do not really study it to find out what it says about worship. We must search the Scriptures to find God’s will to guide us in our worship. The Cambridge Declaration made this point: “The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.”