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Love for Christ & Scripture-Regulated Worship 6: Love for Christ and New Testament Authority

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series

"Love for Christ & Scripture-Regulated Worship"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

This is the sixth post in this series (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5). The whole of the first five parts could be summarized in the final paragraph of the last post:

In sum, the Christian religion is subservient to Christ’s authority. Christ gave that authority to his apostles and prophets, and they sealed that authority in their writings, which they regarded to be both authoritative and inspired. This body of teaching is sufficient for the faith and practice of Christians today. If we claim to follow Christ, we must not only conform our beliefs to Scripture, we must not only conform our personal lives to God’s Word, but the practice and worship of our churches must also conform to the New Testament.

In this post, I want to develop more the idea of Christ’s authority. More than being about the so-called “worship wars,” Scripture-regulated worship is really about our love for Christ. We submit to Christ’s authority because we love our Savior. It is certainly true that all men are obligated to submit to Christ’s authority (Phil 2:9–10; Rev 5:12–13). To disobey the New Testament is to disobey Christ himself. If we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Acts 2:36; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 1:2; Phil 2:10), we are obligated to obey him. Christ’s Lordship and his authority is over us as believers.

The force of this must rest upon our consciences as we go about our work as churches. Christ is Lord of all. He is the head of the body (Col 1:18). And our faith, polity, and worship are all received from Christ himself. But for every Christian, our obedience is not merely a matter of submission to a supreme authority. It’s also a matter of loving the one who died for us. Jesus said to us in John 14:15, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Our submission springs, not as prisoners toward a violent guard, but out of love for the Lamb once slain. Jesus taught us, If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15; cf. Exod. 20:6).

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This is why we want the New Testament to govern our churches. Though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we love him. We believe in him and rejoice with joy that is unspeakable and filled with glory (1 Pet 1:8-9). We love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible (Eph 6:24). Again, this is why we Baptists are so careful to follow the New Testament. Our desire to obey the Scriptures flows out of our love for our Savior.

True religion is very much a religion of love or affection for Christ. As Jonathan Edwards observed, “That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull and lifeless wouldings, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his Word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion.”[1] Believers, according to Paul, are those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible (Eph 6:24).

There are many reasons we should love Christ, and the topic would amount to a whole series of lessons. The Son of God himself is the reason why the Son of God is to be loved.[2] John taught us, We love him because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). Looking at Revelation 5 alone, Christ is due our love, for he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (v 5), the Root of Jesse (v 5), the Lamb who was slain (v 12), the one who opens the seals of divine judgment (v 5), the object of angelic worship (v 8, 11), the one who has ransomed people from the entire globe for God by his blood (v 9), and the one who has made those who believe in him a kingdom, priests to our God, giving them a right to reign on the earth (v 10).[3]

American Baptist John Leadley Dagg wrote a wonderful book on church practice called the Manual of Theology. In it, he connects our obedience to God’s Word to our love for Christ: “To love God with all the heart is the sum of all duty. … [L]ove to God produces obedience; for it impossible to love God supremely without a supreme desire to please him in all things. Hence this one principle contains, involved in it, perfect obedience to every divine requirement.”[4] Again: “The true spirit of obedience is willing to receive the slightest intimations of the divine will.”[5] Love for Jesus Christ, our dying Savior and risen Head, is the fertile ground out of which the fruits of good church doctrine, practice, and worship springs.

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 So why should we insist on Scripture-regulated worship? Simply put, because we dearly love our Lord Jesus Christ. Worship is not only the vehicle whereby we express our love for Christ (more on that in a bit), but we worship with the elements we do because we love our Lord Jesus.

Too often, when we hear about New Testament authority, we think about it as either stern authoritarianism (such is the Adamic response to authority in general) or that the Bible is some kind of law code to decipher. On the latter, New Testament authority is more than a matter of turning the Bible into a church handbook or lawbook. The reasons we hold to New Testament authority shows the real significance of New Testament authority. To disobey the New Testament is to disobey Christ himself. To add to or alter the New Testament is to disobey Christ himself. There is no gap between Christ’s teaching and the apostles’ teaching for the churches.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, vol. 2 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959), 99.

[2] Bernard of Clairvaux: “You wish me to tell you why and how God should be loved. My answer is that God himself is the reason why he is to be loved. As for how he is to be loved, there is to be no limit to that love.” “On Loving God,” Robert Walton, tr., in Treatises II, vol. 5 of The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian Fathers Series 13 (Washington, D.C.: Cistercian Publications, 1974), 93.

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Worship: Effective or Affective

[3] For an excellent, brief treatment of Christ’s glory, see Edwards’s sermon, The Excellency of Christ (Boston, Mass.: Thomas Dicey, 1780). Online: https://books.google.com/books?id=YxtdAAAAcAAJ In his preface to a 1780 edition of Edwards’s sermon, John Ryland observed that “The Excellence of Christ” … “is the first grand truth of divine revelation in point of dignity, beauty, and usefulness; and therefore it demands and deserves the utmost regard and affection from every true Christian on earth.” Ibid., 3.

[4] John Leadley Dagg, Manual of Theology. Second Part. A Treatise on Church Order (Harrisonburg, Va.: Gano Books, 1990), 9.

[5] Ibid., 11.

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Ryan Martin

About Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too. Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017) and is the author of Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: "The High Exercises of Divine Love" (T&T Clark, 2018).

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