Scripture-Based Worship

A worship service in which all words spoken, from first to last, are words from Scripture—such a service will be rigged and ready to sail into the waters that flow from the throne room of God (Rev. 22). God has chosen, in mysterious divine wisdom, this collection of documents that comprise our Bible to be the means by which we are formed to be the people of faith. God has chosen, in mysterious divine wisdom, this Bible to be one of the means by which Christ is presented to us in our gathered worship. God has chosen, in mysterious divine wisdom, this Bible to be the means of our comfort, judgment, instruction, hope, lament, and vision. It would be a great folly for us to fill our worship service with words—mountains of words—that do not find their source in this God-appointed well.

—Leanne Van Dyk, “Proclamation: Revelation, Christology,” A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony, 69-70.

The Neglected Trinity (18)

Overemphasis of one person to the exclusion of the others is in fact a virtual denial of the true God. The Father without the Son and Spirit may be treated as a first cause but not as creator; the Son without the Father and Spirit leads to a Jesuology of one who does not lead us in salvation to the Father or give the Spirit. And the Spirit without the Father and the Son may emphasize our subjective experience or the variety of gifts but is loosed from his true context in the divine life.

—John Thompson, Modern Trinitarian Perspectives95

At the Center

At the center of the New Testament stands not our religious experience, not our faith or repentance or decision, however important these are, but a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father—a life of shared communion, mission, and service into which we are invited.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 97 

The Missing Jewel

Man was made to worship God. God gave man a harp and He said, “Here! Above all creatures that I have made and created, I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument, and I’ve given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can.”

When man sinned, he took that instrument and he threw it down in the mud. And there it has lain for centuries, rusted and broken and unstrung. And man, instead of playing a harp like the angels and seeking to worship God in all of his activities, is ego-centered and turns on himself, and sulks and swears and laughs and sings, and it’s all without joy and without worship.

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized, we work, we have our churches, we have our agendas, we have almost everything. But there is one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: and that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church. And, I believe, we ought to search for this until we find it.

—A.W. Tozer (1961)

Old Things

The content of public worship is of immense importance. Writing in a different context, P. T. Forsyth said, “The preacher is not there to astonish people with the unheard of, he is there to revive them in what they have long heard.” What is so for preaching—which is in itself an act of worship which is foundational to any public assembly for worship—is also true for the context in which preaching takes place. Every element of the public worship of the people of God must communicate the true content of the faith, which finds its focus on the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.

—Noel Due, Created for Worship, 235

A Means to an End

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

—C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

Music is a wonderful tool. But it makes a terrible god.

Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters Jul 7, 2017

Mystery and Wonder

Here lies the mystery, the wonder, the glory of the Gospel, that He who is God, the Creator of all things, and worthy of the worship and praises of all creation, should become man and as a man worship God, and as a man lead us in our worship of God, that we might become the sons of God we are meant to be.

—James B. Torrance, “The Place of Jesus Christ in Worship,” in Theological Foundations for Ministry, 351

Our All in All

God gives us Himself, in all His gifts He gives us Himself. . . . Does God give us righteousness? He Himself is our righteousness. Does God give us peace? Christ is our peace. Does God give us light? He is our light. Does God give us bread? He is the bread we eat. God Himself is our strength. God is ours, and in all His gifts and blessings He gives Himself.

—Adolph Saphir, Epistle to the Hebrews, 211

The Neglected Trinity (17)

By rehearsing God’s actions in history, the church ensures that its worship is not directed to a hazy or vaguely defined god derived from philosophical or cultural ideals, but to the God who is active in specific ways in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the creating and sustaining work of the Holy Spirit.

——John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1997), 296

The Neglected Trinity (16)

Through the liturgy of the church, God comes to, speaks to, and joins with the worshiping community in Jesus Christ through the power the Spirit, and worshipers offer a response which is inspired by the Spirit and is united to the prayers and worship of Jesus Christ. In this way, a trinitarian theology of worship calls worshipers not to generate their own proclamation about God nor to muster up their own acclamation to God, but rather to receive the gift of the Word of God and to participate in the worship offered by Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. This understanding of liturgy commends liturgical actions which acknowledge the mediation of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and reflect the joy, confidence, and gratitude that is a fitting response to gifts of divine grace.

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1997), 297

The Neglected Trinity (15)

The doctrine of the Trinity highlights the perfect unity of purpose, will, and mission of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, expressed through their distinct roles in the economy of salvation. Through union with Christ in communion with the Holy Spirit, human beings are invited to share in this life of joyful relationality, shared purpose, and other-directed love.

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1997), 295

The Neglected Trinity (14)

In order to get a taste of the Trinitarian content of some contemporary worship songs, I’ve analyzed the lyrical content of many of the worship song albums that come out of the Vineyard movement over a period of 4 1/2 years. . . . I have looked through 28 worship albums produced by Vineyard Music between 1999 and 2004, containing 362 songs (though some songs appear more than once).

Three-person songs: 5 songs, 1.4%

Two-person songs: 32 songs, 8.8%

One-person songs (mostly about or to the Son): 140 songs, 38.7%

“You Lord” songs (“ambiguous songs that do not clarify exactly which person the song is about or being addressed to”): 185 songs, 51.1%

—Robin Parry, Worship Trinity, 140, 143

 

 

The Neglected Trinity (12)

The one scripturally authorized analogy of the Trinity . . . is the eschatological church (see John 17:22).

—John D. Witvliet, “What to Do with Our Renewed Trinitarian Enthusiasm: Forming Trinitarian Piety and Imagination through Worship and Catechesis,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 250

The Neglected Trinity (11)

Communities and individual worshipers who participate in fully trinitarian worship are formed over time to set aside any vague, hazy, quasi-deist, subtrinitarian way of construing God and to embrace a much more vibrant, grace-filled, life-giving trinitarian way. . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is not merely a set of abstract ideas. Rather, it is a description of the reality in which we live, move and have our being. As such, it shapes— indeed, it unsettles and transforms—how we approach basic practices of prayer, Bible reading, evangelism and community life.

—John D. Witvliet, “What to Do with Our Renewed Trinitarian Enthusiasm: Forming Trinitarian Piety and Imagination through Worship and Catechesis,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 245-6

The Neglected Trinity (10)

Trinitarian worship is worship that fits with a God whose own being is faithfully and aptly described in trinitarian terms. Worshiping this kind of God should not be done with just any readily available worship technique. It should rather look for approaches that are fitting to address this kind of God, including (a) celebrating and resting in the mediation offered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, (b) savoring the kind of intimate and healthy relationality in divine life that is depicted in the Scriptures and offered to humanity through Jesus, (c) rehearsing the astonishing litany of divine actions in history, and (d) perceiving the unity of purpose of divine actions attributed to each divine person. Each of these is a part of a distinctly Christian approach to worship.

—John D. Witvliet, “What to Do with Our Renewed Trinitarian Enthusiasm: Forming Trinitarian Piety and Imagination through Worship and Catechesis,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 244-5