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The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 18


A fortnight ago we began to examine what is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship which states

Only those things which have the positive sanction of Holy Scripture are permitted in Public Worship of God.

The term POSITIVE SANCTION does not only mean PERMISSION – but it communicates a command. So put another way

“The Divine Command is the only basis for worship, - so that what is not commanded in Scripture is forbidden.”

This Evangelical Principle of Worship was set in contrast with the OPPOSING PRINCIPLE which states that

“Providing a thing is not expressly forbidden in Scripture then it is allowable.”

We noted that these 2 views came out of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century – but that it was the first – the Regulative Principle that was the predominant view of the Reformers. After a brief historical survey of the Reformation in Europe we asked where the Bible teaches the Regulative Principle.

We found it

1. In the Old Testament

When God first appointed worship in the Garden of Eden he laid the foundation – then provided a sacrifice – then refused Cain’s offering and in doing so instructed the Adam’s family at the beginning of time. God then instructed Moses, David, Solomon and many others about how He was to be worshipped.

2. Specifically in the Moral Law

– In the Ten Commandments and in particular the first two commandments. Making up anything out of our own minds or imaginations, or with our hands – all are condemned by the Lord God. He lays down the details of ordered worship – not man.

3. In the New Testament

God’s moral law, since it is eternal, is reflected in the New Testament. No more do we observe the Old Testament rites and ceremonies – because the Lord Jesus Christ came to fulfil all of these when he died as the one perfect sacrifice – acceptable for sin. They were a picture, a shadow, a type of Him.

So now we worship in a new and living way – through Christ alone.

1. He the Lord Jesus teaches us to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. John 4 v 24

2. Then in Matthew 28 v 19-20 He said quite explicitly

Observe (to do) all things that I have commanded you.

3. Paul the Apostle is concerned with order in Worship. He wrote many letters under inspiration of the Holy Spirit – particularly mentioning worship –

Titus 1v 5a For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting,


We now need to apply the Regulative Principle. In doing so we seek to deepen our understanding of what God requires of us. He has taken such pains to make sure that as ordinary Christians we know exactly what He desires – so that we may be obedient and fully worshipful.

Now at this point it seems true to say this – that the stating of the principle is always easier than its application.

Yet it should not be that way for us.

We need to remind ourselves that the biggest issue here is our view of the Bible, the Word of God.

We are called an EVANGELICAL CHURCH. This word EVANGELICAL has been hijacked by the world to be an adjective for any group of people, calling themselves Christians – who take the Bible a little more seriously than others, and in some cases appear to be a bit extreme. David Blunkett when he was Home secretary is on record as saying that those who believe the Bible are evangelical extremists. He has never withdrawn that remark.

Another example of this is the General Synod of the Church of England.

They have within their ranks the Evangelical wing, the liberals in the liberal wing and the high churchmen in the Anglo-Catholic wing. Some take the view that Evangelical means “Bible bashing” – proselytising Keenies who confuse evangelical with evangelistic.

However the true meaning of Evangelical is this – the Gospel – the Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone in Jesus Christ as revealed solely in the Bible. In a word evangelical means Bible Believing. We do not merely take the Bible a little more seriously than others – we take it totally seriously – it is God’s word for us and to us. We believe the Bible, the whole Bible and – here is the difference – nothing but the Bible – no extras – no add-ons – Just the Bible.

This is where the Reformers stood as well. When the Regulative Principle was laid down they did so in the light of the scripture. They believed that:

1. God’s word is the only rule for the church. 2. The worship and government of the church is laid down in scripture. 3. Nothing is to be introduced in addition, but that the church must simply ensure that everything that is required by God’s word is done decently and in order.

From this therefore we can understand that the Perfection and Sufficiency of scripture is the basis for the Regulative Principle.

Since God is perfect, and has given us His perfect word – by which believers in the Lord Jesus Christ might be thoroughly equipped, or throughly furnished unto every good work – then He must have given His people a DIRECTORY OF WORSHIP.

Two illustrations have a bearing on this.

In these days of health and safety consciousness, manufacturers of electrical goods are required to provide explicit instructions for the use of the appliance along with safety notices. We are required to take notice of the written instructions.

And a complicated device is often rendered useless for lack of a set of instructions to enable it to be used most effectively.

In the same way the Perfect Holy and Righteous God would not require us to worship only in a way which pleases Him – without telling us how to do it!

And we will find His instructions in His perfect infallible Word.

In Romans 12 v 1 we find these words –

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

The 2 words ‘REASONABLE SERVICE’ are LOGIKANE LATREIAN. Literally these 2 words mean WORD WORSHIP. Speech Service – worship in words and worship derived from the Word of God.

The Scripture dictates our mode of Divine worship. There is no need therefore to supplement God’s directed worship as found in the scriptures, with our own ideas.


1 Peter 1 v 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

It is important that we are wary of what begin to exist in worship that are called TRADITIONS. Some of them are man-made and not scriptural. Peter exhorts us to look at everything we do with regard to worship in this verse.

VAIN here means useless.

CONVERSATION means manner of life or conduct.

TRADITION means something handed down from our ancestors.

Not all things are bad that have been handed down to us by our families and in our Christian heritage.

But with regard to the worship of God, because He has given directions for worship, we do not lean on traditions at all – unless they are those which God has directed! What does this mean for us?

1. We do not follow the Pharisees in their supplementary man-made traditions which Jesus condemned –

Mark 7 v 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

These men believed that it was permissible to add to the Worship Practices of the Old Testament because they believed that God would be pleased with them – they increased the rules and regulations – in order to demonstrate their own piety.

But God had not required it! The Lord Jesus Christ said so! The latest copy of the CWI Herald has a leading article which explains how the Jews historically arrived at their traditional view.

But now let me make an important point.

In case you think that these thoughts about worship have their origin in Reformers, Commentaries on the Bible written by men or a tradition borrowed from other believers of like mind – I need to say this.

The Final Word – the final Authority is the scripture.

I dare not bring anything to you and exhort you to believe it and practice it which does not have the full authority of the Holy Scripture.

I am not arguing for a Reformed view. I am not arguing against a Jewish view or a modern view.

I am arguing for a Biblical View with regards to worship.

We may have referred to those in history who held differing views and wrote about them. They help us – but do not dictate to us.

It is in the Bible that we shall find our Directory for Worship. Please keep that in mind as we proceed.

Before we look at the directory in scripture I must try to bring the Lord Jesus Christ’s words up to date – for there are examples in our modern times of traditionalism, modernism as opposed to Biblical direction.

Example 1. You see we cannot accept the Theory of Development. This theory states “that even thought the basics for worship were laid down in the time of the Lord Jesus and the apostles – since then there has been some kind of increase in the development of belief and ritual under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

This theory was suggested by Cardinal Newman in the 19th Century – he saw it as Necessary Development. Cardinal Newman was an Anglican who turned later in his Christian life to Rome and Roman Catholicism.

But our Lord Jesus Christ anticipated such departures when he taught His disciples in John 14 v 25

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The Holy Spirit would not teach us new things – BUT He would teach us ALL THINGS that the Lord Jesus Christ has already said.

It is the Holy Spirit then who will guide us into Scripture Truth. We read earlier in John 16 v 13

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Jude says that the faith has been once delivered unto the saints – and there is no more! Therefore all matters to do with the worship of God are in the scriptures alone and have been entrusted to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We cannot accept this doctrine of Development.

Example 2. Neither can we accept the Doctrine of Expediency. This doctrine states “That which was alright in the days of Christ and the Apostles must be brought up to date.” We must get on with it! That was 2,000 years ago – we must modernise!

There was an elder once whose daughter was bored with church and she wanted to liven things up. She started by wearing “with it” clothes, listening to what she called “with it” music and thoroughly modernising herself. Then she said to her father when talking about church and worship, “Dad – you’ve really got to get with it!” The elder wrote his daughter a little poem in her birthday card – and it went like this –

“You say I must be with it! Daughter – I do not doubt it! But when I see what I’ve got to be with – I’d rather be without it!”

Those friends who teach and demand expediency say “look – we are now in a different culture – we are in a different time – and there are different conditions – we must take account of these things.”

In answer to this we have to ask “Where in God’s word do we find these notions expressed or expounded?”

The apostles were given the task of laying down, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the constitution and ordering of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – for ALL AGES AND CULTURES.

If we in the 21st Century begin to add or subtract anything from what the apostles said then we call into question their ministry. We challenge these specially appointed writers of the Holy Scriptures. And ultimately we question the Sovereign Lord God who inspired them.

We accuse them of saying nothing about what the Christian Church should do in worship when they get to the 21st Century. Did they say that there would come a time when the worship of Almighty God would have to be adapted to the prevailing conditions of society and culture? I cannot find it if they did! I believe that they spoke to their time, to our time and beyond our time – right up until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

So what is the Implication of This?

The implication is that we who are God’s people, who have believed Christ’s word through the ministry of the apostles, DO NOT NEED to turn to unbelievers; nor do we need to turn to the PROFESSING CHURCHES around us; nor even to our own hearts – to discover how we may rightly worship God in these days, in this time and in this culture!

We have God’s precious word – and it is all we need.


The Evangelical church in the last 30 years has tended to look to the unbelieving culture for new ideas to enhance their worship and modernise their services. They have often done it in the face of dwindling numbers in their congregations – and they seen millions flocking to the cinemas, theatres, entertainment centres – and reason “These places can get people in – that must be the way – let us discover what they are doing – then we will fill our churches with people to whom we can preach the Gospel message – but we need to get them in. We had better not estrange them with our old fashioned even though Biblical worship!”

My friends this is faithlessness! When someone is truly seeking the Lord then nothing will prevent them from coming to Him. We believe that don’t we? We believe in irresistible grace don’t we?

Seeker sensitive services may well be thronged – but those who go are on record that they went for the music, the relaxed atmosphere and the minimal preaching!

Romans 12 v 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

In this text the word WORLD is the Greek word AEON which means age. We are not to be conformed to this age – scripture tells us.

Should we look to other churches to see what they are doing? No.

Many churches have fallen prey to unbiblical worship when they have been encouraged to go to conferences and events where the worship is different. Members come back and put pressure on the eldership to change to being like that church. Sadly we live in an apostate age – a dark era as far of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is concerned.

We remember from an earlier sermon that each local church is responsible directly to the Lord Jesus Christ her head – individually and will answer to Him at the judgement. So the Lord Jesus Christ makes us answerable for the things that we do – but not for the church down the road.

Hosea 4 v 5 Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.

Well then should we look to our own hearts? No!

We dare not follow our own hearts’ inclinations. We are fallen men and women and as such we are likely, on our own, to get worship wrong. Do you remember King Saul? He knew what to do as far as worship was concerned.

1 Samuel 15 v 1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. 13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. 14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? 15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. 16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. 17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? 18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Frank Sinatra had a famous song, sung by others and loved by many – but it describes Saul at this point – I did it my way! He did it his way!

Our purpose then my brothers and sisters must be to adhere as closely as possible to God’s word and His original directory for Godly worship.

The Lord Jesus Christ gave us instructions – His Holy Spirit instructed the Apostles and they passed it on to us – in the perfect word of God.

1 Corinthians 11 v 1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

Keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.

Maintain worship as originally given.

Now – having established out Biblical Mandate – what do the scriptures tell us about how we are to worship?

That will be the subject of next Lord’s Day’s sermon – but let me give you a taste – an outline of where we will be going in the study of God’s infallible word –

The Gospel Worship of Almighty God consists of the following –

1. Praise.

Colossians 3 v 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

2. Prayer.

1 Timothy 2 v 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

3. Public Reading of Scripture.

1 Timothy 4 v 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Colossian 4 v 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

4. Preaching.

2 Timothy 4 v 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

5. The Solemn Benediction.

2 Corinthians 13 v 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

6. The Ordinances.

The Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 11

And Believers’ Baptism.

Matthew 28 v 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

These elements of worship are in the New Testament. None are traditions – none are man made – all are God centred and God directed.

Perhaps you have understood only a little of what I have said about worship and doctrine this morning – because you are not yet a believer.

We have been speaking about the worship of the most remarkable man in history.

The Lord Jesus Christ shows us all up with His perfect life and He precious death for sinners. And He calls men and women and boys and girls to consider Him! To talk about him and to trust Him with all of our hearts.

May the Lord open hearts today to receive His word and to join people worshipping the Lord God in Spirit and in Truth. If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ this morning then know this – that He is seeking for His lost people – those whom He made and those who rebelled against Him – in sinful rejection. He died for such so that they may be released from the grip of sin – that their souls may be saved from everlasting hell.

You need to repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. May He grant it in His sovereign mercy this morning – for His name’s sake.

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