Thursday, June 6, 2019

Principles of Worship: Corporate Worship

As I have been laying out principles of Christian worship from a Reformed perspective (so far I have looked at the regulative principlethe Sabbath principle, and the covenantal principle), I have been focusing on the Lord's Day worship of the church. This is particularly true with my fourth principle, what I call the corporate principle of public worship. Not all worship is done as a church - God also calls us to worship Him in private and in families, although even then we should still be mindful of our communion with all the saints. But the convocation of the church which worships every Lord's Day is corporate, not private. The fact that we worship then as a church has several practical implications.

1. The congregation participates as a body. As we saw in an earlier post, the two parties in public worship are God and the congregation. The congregation usually responds to God by everyone saying the same thing, or by a representative voice. This is why we, following the examples of Scripture, use some forms like hymns and written prayers for the congregation to say together, as well as extemporaneous prayer led by the pastor, to which the congregation assents by saying “amen.”

2. Our gathering is inclusive of the whole covenant community. It ought to manifest the unity of the church without favoritism based on things such as wealth, class, or race (James 2:1-4, 1 Cor. 12:13). This gathering includes our children (Deut. 31:12, Mark 10:13-16), since we believe the children of believers are heirs of the covenant and members of the church (Acts 2:38-39, 1 Cor. 7:14, Gen. 17:7).

3. We worship in unity with the historical church. The church transcends our period in history and includes those who have gone before and continue to worship God in heaven. We benefit by using an order of worship that is shaped by centuries of use and biblical reflection. In addition to biblical Psalms, we sing hymns produced by the church over the past two thousand years.

Some of the details of worship (like the language) will vary according to the cultural context. We should worship in a way that is intelligible in our context (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Yet, when the corporate principle of worship is applied, it will generally result in a worship service that may seem traditional and “churchy” to many people. It will include a desire to avoid fads and to have a multi-generational vision for worship. It will serve as a manifestation of the unity of the church, bound together by one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:5).
"May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5–6)

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