Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Principles and Elements of Public Worship

Chapter 47 of the Book of Church Order, Presbyterian Church in America
The Principles and Elements of Public Worship

47-1. Since the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and
practice, the principles of public worship must be derived from the Bible, and
from no other source.

The Scriptures forbid the worshipping of God by images, or in any
other way not appointed in His Word, and requires the receiving, observing,
and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God
hath appointed in His Word (WSC 51, 50).

47-2. A service of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s
children with each other, but before all else, a meeting of the triune God with
His chosen people. God is present in public worship not only by virtue of the
Divine omnipresence but, much more intimately, as the faithful covenant
Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “Where two or three are gathered
together in My name there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

47-3. The end of public worship is the glory of God. His people should
engage in all its several parts with an eye single to His glory. Public worship
has as its aim the building of Christ’s Church by the perfecting of the saints
and the addition to its membership of such as are being saved -- all to the
glory of God. Through public worship on the Lord’s day Christians should
learn to serve God all the days of the week in their every activity,
remembering, whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, to do all to the
glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

47-4. Public worship is Christian when the worshippers recognize that
Christ is the Mediator by whom alone they can come unto God, when they
honor Christ as the head of the Church, who rules over public worship, and
when their worship is an expression of their faith in Christ and of their love
for Him.

47-5. Public worship must be performed in spirit and in truth.
Externalism and hypocrisy stand condemned. The forms of public worship
have value only when they serve to express the inner reverence of the
worshipper and his sincere devotion to the true and living God. And only
those whose hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit are capable of such
reverence and devotion.

47-6. The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public
worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given His
Church a large measure of liberty in this matter. It may not be forgotten,
however, that there is true liberty only where the rules of God’s Word are
observed and the Spirit of the Lord is, that all things must be done decently
and in order, and that God’s people should serve Him with reverence and in
the beauty of holiness. 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

47-7. Public worship differs from private worship in that in public
worship God is served by His saints unitedly as His covenant people, the
Body of Christ. For this reason the covenant children should be present so
far as possible as well as adults. For the same reason no favoritism may be
shown to any who attend. Nor may any member of the church presume to
exalt himself above others as though he were more spiritual, but each shall
esteem others better than himself.

47-8. It behooves God’s people not only to come into His presence with
a deep sense of awe at the thought of His perfect holiness and their own
exceeding sinfulness, but also to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and
into His courts with praise for the great salvation, which He has so graciously
wrought for them through his only begotten Son and applied to them by the
Holy Spirit.

47-9. The Bible teaches that the following are proper elements of worship
service: reading of Holy Scripture, singing of psalms and hymns, the
offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings,
confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments; and on special occasions
taking oaths.