Our Guiding Principles for Worship
Creation itself declares there is a God who has lordship and sovereignty over all things (Ps. 19:1). God is just, good and kind to his creatures and especially mankind and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might.
But contrary to what many believe, God may not be worshiped any way one chooses. The only acceptable way of worshiping the true God, is determined by him and limited by his own revealed will in Holy Scripture.
Our Worship has God as its Sole Object
Scripture tells us to do everything to the glory of God, even our eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). How much more when we gather to worship! In worship services, we meet first and foremost to glorify God, not primarily to meet with one another, and not at all to entertain the congregation. The First Commandment states: “Your shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Worship means ascribing “worth” to this Triune God, by centering all the attention upon him who has said, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8).
Our Worship has Scripture as its Only Rule
God has not left His church free to invent her own worship. Rather, he has laid down in his Word exactly what is to be done. The Reformed and Biblical principle is that what is not commanded is not allowed in divine worship (Deut. 12:32 and Matt. 28:20). The Second Commandment begins: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:4). Our Confession of Faith rightly explains that this forbids worshiping God “under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures” (22.1). This Regulative Principle of Worship requires that everything in worship must have divine warrant drawn from Scripture. Nothing else must be added.
This means we should do only what the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Church, has told us to do in his Word. We should sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We should pray. We should read and preach the Bible. We should administer the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Biblical worship is marked by unadorned simplicity.
Our Worship has Christ as its Only Mediator
There is sin in all that we do. No worship can be acceptable to God unless it is offered through Christ as Mediator. There is no access to God in worship except through him. Worship, like every other Christian activity, must be performed by faith—faith in Jesus Christ. In their worship, Christians are “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
Our Worship has the Christian Sabbath as its Appointed Time
While there are prayer meetings and occasional services on other days of the week, we recognize the abiding obligation of the Fourth Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Therefore we emphasize worship on the Christian Sabbath, which is the first day of the week, called the Lord’s Day in commemoration of Christ’s resurrection on that day. Apart from works of necessity and mercy, the whole of the day is to be spent in worship, publicly in church and privately at home. No other days are holy in this New Testament age.
Our Worship has Reverence as its Proper Attitude
Worship services should emphasize reverence (Heb. 12:28, 29). A sense of God’s majesty has been lost in the relaxed and informal atmosphere in many churches today, where humor and triviality have become normal. As a result the reaction of some who attend Scriptural worship for the first time is to think it somewhat formal and overly solemn. But it is not formality. The worship of God is a serious matter, in which we must show due honor and reverence to him with whom we have to do. “God [is] greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him” (Psa. 89:7). The unchangeable God has declared: “I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3).
Our Worship has the Human Heart as its Primary Instrument
While the outward actions of worship are commanded by God in his Word, God looks chiefly upon the heart, and takes no delight in those who draw near to him with the lips but whose hearts are far from him. True worship is spiritual and comes from within. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). True worship comes only from regenerated hearts united to Jesus Christ by faith (Prov. 15:8 & 21:27).
Our Worship has the Word of God as its Preeminent Focus
We emphasize the Word of God in our worship. Believing in the supremacy of preaching as the chief means of grace, both for converting sinners and edifying saints, preaching forms the largest part of our worship services. We believe “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation” (Baptist Catechism, Q. 94).