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Love for Christ & Scripture-Regulated Worship 1: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series

"Love for Christ & Scripture-Regulated Worship"

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

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on the Regulative Principle. This offers documentation for and expands upon my presentation to the 2018 Knowing, Loving, Ministering Conservative Christianity Conference.

Two streams concerning worship diverged from the headwaters of the Protestant Reformation. For Luther, a church may worship with any element not forbidden in Scripture. This is typically called the Normative Principle for Worship. Anglicans and many evangelical congregations also hold to the Normative Principle. In “higher church” traditions, the normative principle results in “smells and bells.” In lower church traditions, it results in practices like skits and dance and (anymore these days) “smells and bells.”

Calvin and Zwingli advocated for a second approach to the elements of sacred worship. They and their heirs have argued that Scripture alone must regulate our worship. The expression was Quod non jubet, vetat—what he (God) does not command, he forbids.[1] That is, it is not enough to avoid those parts of worship that the Scriptures forbid, but we may only include in our worship services those parts of worship that Scriptures command. This understanding of the relationship of Scripture and worship is often called the Regulative Principle of Worship.

The so-called Regulative Principle can be found articulated in several Reformation confessions, including the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) and Second London Baptist Confession (1689). Consider the latter’s articulation of this belief at chapter 22.1:

The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.[2]

Many authors have argued for Scripture-regulated worship.[3] I want to highlight some of the key reasons given why Scripture-regulated worship is both right and wise. But my primarily goal is to show how Scripture-regulated worship is very much bound up in the believer’s love for Christ.

[1] Horton Davies, The Worship of the American Puritans, 1629–1730 (Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 17.

[2] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1969), 280. The Scriptures the Second London Confession cited in defense of this article are Jer 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deut 12:32; and Exod 20:4–6. The Baptist statement is almost identical to the one found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The differences are small. The Westminster dives had “with” before “all the soul” and “imaginations” rather than imagination. Compare WCF 21.1.

[3] See, for example, Davies, Worship of American Puritans, 16–19; D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2002); J. Ligon Duncan III, “Does God Care How We Worship?” and “Foundations for Biblically Directed Worship,” in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice, Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003), 17–73; “The Regulative Principle: Responding to Recent Criticism” in Give Praise to God, 74–93; Kevin T. Bauder, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order (Schaumburg, Ill.: Regular Baptist Books, 2012), 24–35; and Kevin Bauder, Scott Aniol, et. al., A Conservative Christian Declaration (Religious Affections Ministries, 2014), 44-49.

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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).