Conserving Biblical Worship – 5

Christians committed to biblical worship will rigorously uphold the Rule of Prescription and seek only to worship God in the way He has prescribed. That means that conservative Christians must be Hezekiah-like.

Once Hezekiah assumed the throne, he began a two-fold process of destruction and restoration. He sought to destroy all the worship innovations of his time, and to re-introduce what had been neglected.

An example of his acts of destruction is seen in 2 Kings 18:4

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.
2 Chronicles 29, 30 and 31 is an extended account of Hezekiah’s zeal to see the Temple cleansed and re-consecrated, musical worship reinstituted, the priesthood once again supported, the festival days begun again, the Sabbaths and New Moons properly observed, and the Temple service operating properly. 
To get Israel back to worshipping God as He had prescribed, Hezekiah needed to do a lot of breaking down, and a lot of building up.
Our situation is analogous to Hezekiah’s. Like him, we need both to break down and build up. We need to remove alien elements of worship, and make sure all the elements of New Testament worship are present in their pure form in our churches.

That is probably where our real battle lies.   It is not that the elements of worship have completely fallen into neglect.  It is that we have so mixed them in with our worship innovations that we cannot tell them apart from the intruders. Too often, our love of theatre and drama has not only made skits, plays and film demonstrations acceptable in church, but has turned our music into theatrical extravaganzas. We cannot tell that music is not supposed to be amusing, because we have lived with drama in our worship for so long. Our love of ‘relevance’ has baptised all and sundry as  ‘teaching methods’ – celebrity testimonies, magic shows, puppet shows, strong-man shows, biography monologues, so that we cannot see that preaching is a different and altogether separate proposition from those things. If the thing somehow teaches us, we regard it as an acceptable stand-in for preaching. Our love of ecstatic experience driven by an orgy of sports, games, thrills and other entertainment has led us to believe that convulsing, babbling uncontrollably, swaying sonambulantly, is identical with encountering God in prayer.

It will take some discipline, and some courage, to rather ruthlessly interrogate each part of our corporate worship services to see if it is truly prescribed by God, or if it is an innovation rationalised into place. It will take some boldness to cut out the skits and monologues and shows and entertainment. It will take some boldness to cut out the older innovations like prayer to the saints, a sacrificial mass, mystical prayer, prayer to icons and veneration of Mary. It will take boldness to cut out the now established pentecostal and charismatic traditions. However, if it is clear that these are innovations, then the spirit of Hezekiah is to cut down, remove, break in pieces and crush.

Positively, we must make sure that the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, corporate prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the celebration of the Lord’s Table and baptism and the collection of offerings are performed without addition or diminution. We must scrape off any theatrical, man-pleasing, orgiastic, entertainment-driven coatings that have come to characterise our use of these Divinely prescribed elements.

Finally, we must give careful thought as to how we will implement these six elements. That is the subject of the next post.

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