Heavy Metal to Weighty Worship (Why Covenant Renewal Worship?)
Worship and Liturgy: From Heavy Metal to Weighty Worship
What persuaded me of the value of historic, prescribed, dialogical, communion-centered Lord’s Day worship is three things:
1) Hearing - liturgy explained.
2) Doing - experiencing weekly communion.
3) Understanding - seeing the whole Bible pattern of worship.
What is “Liturgy”? It is a NT term from leitourgia - literally “work of the people” (laos + ergon). It is used of the temple service and order of sacrifices (Heb. 10:11) in the tabernacle (Ex. 28:35) and the temple (2Ch. 31:2). Our word, liturgy, is based on this and means, “an order of events observed.”
The Necessity of Liturgy - Public assemblies gathered to worship simply cannot avoid a liturgy: “an order of events observed.” All worship services have a “liturgy,” an “order” of events. Scripture says we should plan and execute a biblical liturgy/”order” (euschemenos - “good scheme” - 1Co. 14:40). The concern is to avoid “man-made” or an unbiblical “order of events observed.” Strikingly, the only way we can avoid a “man-made” liturgy is to get our liturgy from Scripture, if possible.
The Sacrificial Liturgy - The Old Testament provides extensive instruction relating to worship with details and patterns in the sacrificial system of offerings at the Tabernacle (e.g., Lev. 1-10). These inform on the old covenant means of “drawing near” to God. In Lev. 9: “Aaron then brought (qoreb) the offering (qorban, “near bringing”) that was for the people. He took the goat for the people’s sin offering (chattat - “hiding”) and slaughtered it and offered it for a sin offering (yechatte - “hiding/offering”) as he did with the first one. He brought the burnt offering (olah, “ascension”) and offered it in the prescribed way. He also brought the grain offering (mincha, “gift”) took a handful of it and burned it on the altar in addition to the morning’s burnt offering (olah, “ascension”). He slaughtered the ox and the ram as the fellowship (shelem) offering (zevach, “offering/feasting”) for the people . . . . Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them.” (Lev 9:15-23 NIV). The order of the last group [of sacrifices] was significant...” (IVP NBC). “This order of sacrifices indicates that the congregation first sought expiation for their sins and then celebrated the occasion with a festive meal from the offerings of well-being” (Hartley, WBC). “The order in which they are presented here: always first the sin offering, then the burnt offering with its grain offering, and last, as always, the peace offering. . . Perfect fellowship with God in peace, joy, and life is possible only after one has fully consecrated to God all that one is and produces; but one is unable to consecrate anything to God until one’s sin has been forgiven and the wrath of God against all unrighteousness has been satisfied” (Kaiser, NIB).
Just as the OT saints looked forward to the Lamb of God, so Christ has fulfilled each aspect of the sacrificial liturgy in which we participate: Christ is our sin offering, our ascension, and our peace. We are Called into His presence (Heb. 10:24; 1Co. 11:33) to Confess sin (Sin offering, 1Jo. 1:9) so that we Consecrate ourselves (Ascension offering, Rom. 12:1), Commune with Him (1Co. 10-11), and are Commissioned to serve in His kingdom work (Heb. 13:20). Thus our new covenant liturgy should walk through these five steps: Call, Confession, Consecration, Communion, and Commission.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more