Love for Christ & Scripture-Regulated Worship 7: Loving What Christ Loves
I am forming an argument for Scripture-regulated worship from two pillars: the authority of Christ and our love for him (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6). If Christ is Lord, then we should obey him. But we should also obey Christ because we love him. The way Christ exercises authority in the church is through the apostles, and the writings of the apostles are the way Christ’s authoritative teachings have been communicated to us. So regulating our worship according to Scripture is the way we submit to Christ’s lordship with respect to our worship. Christ’s apostles not only dictate the doctrine and practice of churches, but the worship of churches (which is an important part of our practice). And we ought gladly allow our worship to be regulated by Scripture because we love Christ.
There’s another way in which love for Christ leads us to Scripture-regulated worship. Now, all that I’ve already argued still holds true. If Christ’s authority regulates church practice, and if that authority is mediated through the apostles and prophets and then the finished canon of the New Testament regulates church practice, then we should only worship with those elements Christ has given us.
Moreover, if we love Christ, we not only willingly submit to his authority, but in that submission we learn to love what he has prescribed for us. As John tells us in 1 John 5:3, And his commandments are not burdensome. We know, however, that human depravity does find God’s commandments burdensome. Natural men have evaluated New Testament worship and found it wanting. It’s not technologically sophisticated. It’s not visual enough. It’s not relevant enough. But I am arguing that our love for Christ teaches us to love what he loves. If Christ loves (or wills) a certain kind of worship, that should draw my love away from my own “style preferences” and interests.
What we love is very often taught to us by others. (We see this principle at work in popular cultures.) There is a social dynamic at work in the things we love. Leave it to Donald Trump, and a bunch of people suddenly hate Oreos and love Big Macs. All it takes is one respected art critic to spoil your love for this or that composer or painter.
When Christ gave his church the elements of worship, he as it were said to her, these are the ways of worshipping that I delight in, that I find beautiful. In fact, Holy Scripture compares prayer to the sweet aroma of incense (Rev 8:3–4); it describes the Word of God as better … than thousands of gold and silver pieces (Psa 119:72); and says that those singing to the Lord are radiant (Jer 31:12). If Christ declares that such worship is beautiful, we ought to find it beautiful as well. We have the mind of Christ, and so we should agree with his aesthetic judgment, and love what he loves.
In fact, if we find that we do not love the simple beauty of Scripture-regulated worship, it is evidence of our remaining depravity. Herein people are drawn away from what is good and holy and beautiful, and toward that which God has never willed that we use to worship him (Col 2:23; cf. Jer 32:35).
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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).