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Biblical Studies in
Worship & Worship Services
by Gregg Strawbridge
1. How Sweet and Awful is the Place: Congregational Worship
Worship on the Lord’s Day
The Biblical Material on the Day of Worship
The Biblical Material on the Sabbath Day
The Historical Precedents
Sanctified by His Presence
The Reformation Concept of Sabbath and Lord’s Day
How Should We Then Worship?
2. O Worship the King: Foundational Questions
What is Worship?
The Domains of Worship
What is Christ-Centered worship?
What about Old Testament Worship?
What about Covenantal Worship?
What about Liturgy?
What about the Biblical Theological Development of Worship?
Worship as Covenant Remembrance
How Should We Then Worship?
3. How Firm a Foundation: Fundamental Principles
The Edification Principle
The Order Principle
The Regulative Principle
Four Different Approaches to Guide Worship
How Should We Then Worship?
4. Brethren We Have Met to Worship: Categories of Worship Actions
The Reading of Scripture
Teaching the Scripture
Teaching: How Should We Then Worship?
The Use of Scriptural Confessions of Faith
Confessions: How Should We Then Worship?
Worship Acts: Pronouncing God’s Word
Word-Pronouncements: How Should We Then Worship?
Prayer: How Should We Then Worship?
The Lord’s Supper
Giving Thanks and Verbal Praise
Giving or Offering
5. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above: Music in Worship
A Brief Biblical Theology of Music
The Validity of Musical Instruments in Worship
Arguments Against the Use of Musical Instruments
The nature of music
Music and the Aesthetic Problem
The Theological Solution to the Aesthetic Problem
Contemporary Musical Styles and Worship
Inter-Congregational Music: Soloists, Ensembles, and Choirs
A Biblical Philosophy of Choral Groups
A Biblical Philosophy of Musical Ensembles
Concluding Principles of Church Music
6. Lead On O King Eternal: Ordering Worship
Summary of a Biblical Approach to Worship Services
Principles of liturgy
The Gospel Liturgy
The Covenantal Liturgy
The Lord's Day Liturgy
7. Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus: Bodily Postures
Bodily Postures and Regulative Worship
Relevant Biblical Passages
The Biblical Meaning and Practice of Lifting One’s Hands
Dance and Regulative Worship
Dance in the Bible
Attitudes Toward Dance
References for Further Investigation
Appendix A: Objectives for Congregational Worship
Standards for Those Participating in Worship
Appendix B: Examples of Thematic Liturgies
Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah! A Thematic Liturgy of Praise from Psalm 146
Christ Our Passover: A Thematic Liturgy of Praise
The Blessing: A Thematic Liturgy of Praise from Psalm 67
Enter His Courts with Praise: A Thematic Liturgy of Praise from Psalm 100
Appendix C: The printed references to the prescribed elements (NASB)
The Lord’s Supper
Appendix D: Ecumenical Councils and Creeds of the Early Church
Appendix E: A Summary of the Biblical Doctrine of Prayer
Appendix F: Biblical Musical Instruments
Appendix G: Biblical Categories of Praise
“Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed,” said the ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus. The subject of worship commands the attention of many today just because of the endless changes. If there were ever days when the Church worshiped with one voice in a unison cadence, those days are gone, for now. After the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the tapestry of Christian worship disintegrated. The seventeenth century became the fountain head for Protestant thought with such creedal masterpieces as the Westminster Confession and the systematic works of Turretin and Brakel, though no clear unity of worship practice had been reached. Then, riding the waves of revival and revivalism, eighteenth and nineteenth century evangelicals followed many threads of the tapestry of Christian worship. The culmination of this has apexes in a quite sermon-centered, evangelism-centered worship service. Songs and a few necessary items, like offerings are to give way to the pastor’s “message.” Such revivalistic worship is at its apex, a “harvest of souls.” In the twentieth century, the high churches have seen a renewed emphasis on liturgical worship, while the low churches have been empowered by the new phenomenon of praise and worship music. Now we see variations so far removed from each other that the tapestry is like a selection from an avant guard artist. We hear a universe of liturgical voices in the fray—or is it a multiverse?
In this century, the impact of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement alone accounts for a full facelift of traditional worship. While liturgical patterns drone on, “world without end,” the ecstatic expressions of “praise and worship” have revitalized the worship of virtually every church, in every communion. Technology, too, has changed the face of worship with its overhead, slide, and even video projectors. One cannot overlook the last fifty years of media resources. Just think of it, could the contemporary worship service exist without audio recordings, making a wealth of new music accessible for worship?
There are deeper influences which contribute to an often unhealthy diversity in worship: the emphasis on individualism and the increased role of the psychology of self. We live in a frightfully unique time in the history of the church where the concept of sin is publicly repudiated (even from some pulpits). It is a sin to talk of sin. Salvation is dangerously connected to self-esteem. It seems that all the factors that make up the American mind significantly contribute to the modern kaleidoscope of American worship. With the diversity of church traditions, modern technological influences, and fundamental theological and psychological perspectives intersecting on Sunday morning, there is no end to the array of contemporary approaches to worship.
In spite of so many manifestations of worship (or perhaps because of it), it is still true that many believers are unaware of what the Scripture teaches concerning worship. Many have little motivation to go “ad fontes” (to the sources) and see what the Word declares. In addressing questions such as music, the role of Scripture, fixed forms (prayers and pronouncements), many are simply “out to lunch” regarding the Biblically relevant material. Either they are droned to sleep in traditionalism or they are doing aerobics with anti-traditionalists or defining worship with TV variety-show techniques.
A clue to the confusion is seen when individuals are asked about worship. We do not hesitate to answer questions about the worship of the Self-revealed Triune God in purely subjective terms of our own feelings. Worship convictions are put in terms of preference, rather than theological commitments. Often, the issues peripheral to the heart of Biblical worship capture center stage in worship talk. Rarely does one actually hear a discussion of worship in Biblical terms, where questions are focused on obedience and applications to the Biblical directives or in dialogue with the historical church’s life and practice. To observe our modern worship conversations, it could just as well be concluded that the Bible has nothing at all to say about the matter and the church has only recently begun to engage in it (!). (“Don’t they have seminars on that now?”)
This book aims to be more than another voice in the cacophony of calls to worship. It is a challenge to apply Biblical truth to a changing world, to a “post-Christian world.” I will have utterly failed if people read this book and say, “this is his position.” It is my aim for every reader to know why much more than know what. I want readers to be able to reflectively consider the issues from a thoroughly Biblical point of view.
Of course, I am very conscious of cultural, technological, and ideological influences on my theology of worship. Nevertheless, I seek to know and grow in a Biblical understanding of worship. Worship which honors the God of Scripture, which is historically conscious and which is congregationally meaningful. I truly desire to call the reader to a pursuit of the Scriptures as the basis for anointed leadership in corporate worship, as the blueprint for refining our services of worship, and as the theological backbone of our approach to God.
We must be vigilant for the precepts and relevant applications of Scripture to worship. But might we also engage in this discussion as observers of a historical church? Shall we tabula rasa? We cannot be blank slates with respect to tradition. If we do this we will probably imitate the least theologically rich tradition, that of the evangelical church over the last few decades. Rather, we must be careful not to hastily “move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” (Pro 22:28). Must we forever embrace, as C.S. Lewis called it, a chronological snobbery? After all is “new” really better?
A purely Biblical view with a clear appraisal of historical practices, is an aim one should not be too confident in claiming to attain. No present writer has stepped out of a time-capsule, having escaped the myriad of influences in the present. We are not cultural zombies. Neither must we be cultural slaves. We have the sure Word of the living God. While we are prisoners of our culture to some extent, no doubt, we have that which we need to “renew our minds” (Rom 12:2). Granting that one should not be dogmatic on matters which are to be reserved for adaptation, still whatever is unchanging truth, is unchanging. The reminder of this book’s thesis is the Word of God must be applied to congregational worship—to the priority, philosophy, structure, current issues, as well as the content of worship. Let us pursue the road map of Sola Scriptura (the Scripture alone is the final authority) to the celestial city and let us give our marvelous triune God His praise as we travel. Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory).