What We Believe

Christ Himself in the Assemblies of His People

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." —Matthew 18:20 There are people who think that they are bestowing a great favor upon the church of God when they grace it with their presence, and the implication seems to be that they bestow a great favor on the Almighty. How reprehensible is their own self-esteem! How far removed is their thought from the humility and contrition that reflects the inestimable mercy God bestows on us in the institutions of his church. There are also people who have such esteem for numbers that they will deign to patronize the exercises of worship only where crowds congregate. It is easy to discover the measure of such calculation. They have greater regard for the presence of people than for the presence of the Lord . If we make numbers the criterion of the Lord's presence, then we miss entirely the purport of our Lord in this text (Matt. 18:20). If only two came to a meeting for the worship of God, it would offer grave ... Read more

For Whom Is Worship?

For whom is worship? "For God, of course," comes the answer. "Worship is our response to God's grace. In worship, we give God the praise and honor he deserves. True, we may receive something in worship, we may be edified, but that is a very minor and secondary part of worship. Worship is theocentric." "Truly Reformed" Worship? Slogans such as these have come to define "Truly Reformed" worship in our day. This emphasis is understandable, since modern worship, infused as it is with the ethos of pop culture, has become deeply narcissistic. In reaction to seeker-sensitive worship, which focuses on the needs of the worshiper, Reformed writers insist that worship is about our giving, not about our receiving. Reformed as it sounds, this perspective is one-sided at best, false at worst, and definitely more Arminian than Reformed. Well, what's wrong with saying that worship is for God? For starters, it implies that worship is purely our response to God. It presents this picture: Somewhere, outside a ... Read more

Worship Is More Than a List

Traditionally, Presbyterians have tended to conceptualize worship abstractly as a list of activities. That conception is then applied to various concrete settings, namely, secret, family, and public worship. This is the pattern of the Westminster Confession, Chapter XXI. For Westminster, most of the activities of the public assembly can also take place in the family assembly and in secret. Of the parts of "ordinary religious worship," only the administration of the sacraments is limited to the public assembly. All the rest, at least in some form, find a place in family and secret worship. Even preaching, understood in its essential nature, namely, as the setting forth of the gospel by the exposition of Scripture, takes place both in secret and in family worship. In secret worship, it takes the form of the individual's study of the Scriptures. In the family setting, it takes the form of the father's catechetical instructions to his family. Is Public Worship Really Distinct? So then, what ... Read more

The Beauty of Reformed Worship

That we call our worship "Reformed" means that it has a specific character (and beauty) in distinction from other forms of worship. Our form of worship finds itself between two "extremes" in a specific respect. On the one hand, there is Romanist worship, in which not only is the "accursed idolatry" of the Mass (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 30) central, but for all practical purposes the congregation or laity is passive. It is not even necessary that there be a congregation present! Where the bishop or priest is, busy at the altar, there is the church—even if he is all by himself. On the other hand, there is independentism in its various forms. This worship all boils down to a gathering of individual believers without special office-bearers. There is only the congregation. Each member may contribute his input. It is a free-for-all. Especially with the enormous growth of the charismatic movement in our time, this kind of "meeting together" is rampant. Many people are attracted to this form of ... Read more

Worship: Evangelical or Reformed?

One of the challenges of being Reformed in America is to figure out the relationship between what is evangelical and what is Reformed. Protestantism in America is dominated by the mainline Protestants, the evangelicals, and the charismatics. After these dominant groups, other major players would include the confessional Lutherans. But where do the Reformed fit in, particularly in relation to the evangelicals, with whom historically we have been most closely linked? Some observers argue that the confessional Reformed are a subgroup in the broader evangelical movement. Certainly over the centuries in America, the Reformed have often allied themselves with the evangelicals, have shared much in common with the evangelicals, and have often tried to refrain from criticizing the evangelical movement. But are we Reformed really evangelical? One area in which the differences between evangelical and Reformed can be examined is the matter of worship. At first glance, we may see more similarities than differences. ... Read more


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