Reverence or Joy in Worship?

Again and again we hear it. Some say, "Our worship seems so lifeless! Let's revitalize it by adding guitar and drums!" Others respond, "No! Worship must be marked by reverence!" The first group counters, "But shouldn't it also be marked by joy?" God says that worship that is genuinely vital—alive and enlivening—will be characterized both by reverence (Heb. 12:28) and by joy (Ps. 100:1–2). Why then do we find ourselves trying to choose between them? Could it be because we imagine that worship is primarily something that we do? We need to understand that the heart of true worship is the living God himself meeting with and working in his people by his means of grace . He alone can genuinely vitalize his church. We need to get out of the way anything that might distract or divert us from his work. If we do, what will worship look like? First Corinthians 14 provides five touchstones of vital worship. The Centrality of God's Word In vital worship, God addresses his people through ... Read more

The Beginning and the End of Worship

It is important to say hello and to say good-bye. Words of greeting and farewell are carefully chosen among friends and loved ones. It is no less the case that, when we enter God's presence for worship and then leave, those moments should be marked by appropriate and carefully chosen words. When we meet publicly with God, he comes with his greeting and welcome. And then, after having worshiped him, we depart with his blessing and assurance that he will go with us. We, in turn, look up with faith to receive his blessing, dedicating ourselves to go with him. These are precious and comforting moments during our week. Our present Directory for Worship reminds us: From its beginning to its end a service of public worship should be characterized by that simplicity which is an evidence of sincerity and by that beauty and dignity which are a manifestation of holiness. God has supplied us with simple, dignified, and beautiful language to use. He has placed these words in the mouth of his servant so that ... Read more

The Reading of Scripture in Worship

It may be self-evident that the Scriptures ought to be read. Most Christians, at least since the Reformation, have understood that individuals and families are to read the Bible. The church throughout her history has ordinarily included the reading of Scripture in public worship. However, the reading of Scripture can become a mere formality. Perhaps we need to raise the question: Why read the Scriptures? Though one may be able to answer this question in regard to private reading (i.e., private devotions, comfort in times of trial), the question of why the church should continue to read the Scriptures during corporate worship may not be so readily answered. The purpose of this article is to review why the Scriptures ought to be read during corporate worship. Moses Reading Scripture There is a historical precedent. In Exodus 24, there is a description of God's word for the first time being written and then read. The historical context is the ratifying of the covenant between Yahweh and his people ... Read more

Recovering Preachers and Preaching

We live in a day in which many regard preaching, at best, as sharing, not proclamation, and in which the therapist has replaced the preacher. We need to recover both the preaching office and a high view of preaching. Historically, there was in Protestantism a high view of both the preacher and preaching. It is striking what E. Brooks Holifield says in Theology in America regarding the place of pastor/theologians before the American Civil War. There was a real appetite then for serious theological teaching and preaching, and it was met in the pulpits and in the writings of ministers in parish service. In those earlier years, the theologian was not so much of an "academic" as he was to become in subsequent years, when biblical higher criticism, having ravaged Germany and England, took hold in America and the "academic theologian" replaced the pastor as the leading theological voice. We have experienced, over the course of time, a downgrading of the preaching office and of theological instruction in ... Read more

The Sacraments as Visible Words

Words mean nothing apart from a context, and this is certainly true with the word sacrament . The Roman Catholic Church and confessional Presbyterians both use this term. However, the context of these two theological communities shows that there is a world of difference between them. For the Roman Catholic Church, sacraments are visible forms of invisible grace—that created grace (even substance) that is infused into the recipient, whether he has faith in Christ or not. Confessional Presbyterians, on the other hand, employ the same term, but mean something quite different by it. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, sacraments are "holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace" (27.1). Immediately a significant difference emerges: a visible form of God's invisible grace has no historical anchor, whereas a sign and seal of the covenant of grace grounds the sacraments in God's historical dealings with his people. Covenant Promises and Covenant Signs In the Scriptures, God always ... Read more

The Proposed Directory for Worship

Mt. Tom is a beautiful mountain in western Massachusetts. Local hang gliders come there to launch. It's a fascinating sight to see them sail off, down over the trees below, and land on the field at the bottom of the mountain. I remember watching one man as he tested the wind and anxiously waited for the right moment to launch. Others became impatient and urged him to go. I could tell that he wasn't ready, but the pressure of those waiting made him launch. Sure enough! He didn't catch enough wind and landed high in the trees below the launching point. It was a case of waiting so long for the right wind that he was tempted to jump at any breeze. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been seeking to develop a new Directory for Public Worship (DPW) for many years. Godly men have worked hard to develop a new Directory, and it will be considered at our General Assembly, meeting from May 27 to June 3. I am concerned that the length of time invested in this Directory will make us eager to jump, even if the wind is ... Read more

In Defense of the Proposed Directory

This month, when the General Assembly meets in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it will resume work on a directory for public worship. Two years ago, the Committee on Revisions presented to the 74th General Assembly its Amended Proposed Revised Version (APRV). This was the product of eighteen years of work by the Committee. At the 2007 and 2008 assemblies, the commissioners spent three full days reviewing the document, paragraph by paragraph. They proposed a variety of amendments. Some were adopted by the Assembly, while others were not. By the end of the 2008 assembly, work had been completed on the body of the document, the part that is actually part of the Constitution of the OPC. Still to be considered are the suggested forms, which are not part of the Constitution and will be taken up separately. Under the procedure being followed, the next step is to open up the entire document for any final amendments, before voting on whether to send it to the presbyteries for ratification. The main purpose of that final ... Read more


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