Conserving Biblical Worship – 3

Cain, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Uzza, Jereboam, Uzziah, apostate Israel and Judah, Ananias and Sapphira, the churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Thyatira, Pergamum, Sardis and Laodicea are biblical examples of false worship. What is noteworthy in all of those cases is that the guilty parties were not denying the existence of Yahweh. Often their false worship was simply adding a new practice to the prescribed order. Sometimes it was innovating, and offering the new practice in God’s direction. Sometimes it was omitting something God did require. There are at least two implications from these examples.

One, the error of false worship is not an error of identity alone. You can worship the right God in the wrong way, and God regards such worship as false. Of course, if you persist in worshipping the right God in the wrong way, over time, your false methods will end up warping your view of God until eventually you are worshipping a god who resembles your worship. However, false worship does not always start with wrong identity. It nearly always ends with it, though. 

Two, for God to respond so severely to the perpetrators of false worship shows us that God regards such people as culpable for their actions, actions which He takes very seriously. For God to hold people accountable for their false worship can only mean one thing: He must make it clear how He wants to be worshipped. For someone’s worship to be a transgression, God must have drawn the line in the sand, and said, “Do not cross.” God has always done this. Israel’s worship parameters takes up four books of our Bible. Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Saul, David, Uzza, Uzziah, Jereboam, Solomon were not shooting in the dark when it came to worship. They had detailed instructions. God has always prescribed how He wants to be worshipped. To innovate, omit, or otherwise tinker with God’s prescriptions was the beginning of false worship. God took it seriously then, and He takes it seriously now. 

The New Testament church is not Israel, therefore we do not follow the books of Moses for our prescribed worship. Instead, while regarding all of Scripture as authoritative, we look to the New Testament to guide us in the areas of church polity, regulation and worship. The church was begun when the New Covenant was inaugurated, therefore, the New Testament (or Covenant) guides our understanding of what God requires from His New Covenant people when they worship.  Whatever we may think about these prescribed elements, they are not ours to omit, tinker with or otherwise alter. To do so is no different than the sins of Nadab and Abihu or Uzziah. 

The Regulative Principle or Rule of Prescription states that we must worship God with the elements He has prescribed. If He has not called for it, we do not do it. If He has called for it, we have no business omitting it. 

So, it is hard to explain drama presentations, skits, films, strong-man demonstrations, comedians, magic shows, puppet shows, barking revivals, motorcycle demonstrations, flag-waving, dance, banner-waving, drama monologues, slain in the Spirit demonstrations and the like as worship elements according to the New Testament. Yet they are performed every Sunday in churches across the world. 

It is equally hard to explain older innovations like priests, a New Testament ‘altar’, the Lord’s Supper as a ‘sacrifice’, transubstantiation, incense burning, veneration of saints, prayers to Mary or other saints, as worship elements according to the New Testament. An ancient innovation is still an innovation.  

If God does not regard correct identity as a pass-mark when it comes to worship, but fails you if you omit, add to or abuse His prescribed elements, then we have no choice. We must rigorously apply the Rule of Prescription to our private and corporate worship. To fail to do so is to risk two things: the wrath of God, and apostasy – by turning from the true God to worship one of our own imaginations.

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One Response to “Conserving Biblical Worship – 3”

  1. Mike Says:

    Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

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