Worship in Romans (22)

God will not be one iota more for us by keeping the instructions in Romans 12 and 13. He is totally for us already.

—John Piper

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Ascension 7

This is that festival which confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, His nativity would have come to nothing . . . and His passion would have borne no fruit for us, and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.

—Augustine

Church Music as a Means of Grace

There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense. But where the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste—there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

These highly general reflections will not, I fear, be of much practical use to any priest or organist in devising a working compromise for a particular church. The most they can hope to do is to suggest that the problem is never a merely musical one. Where both the choir and the congregation are spiritually on the right road no insurmountable difficulties will occur. Discrepancies of taste and capacity will, indeed, provide matter for mutual charity and humility.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” in Christian Reflections, 96-97

Grace before Law

In the Bible, the form of covenant (in both the Old and New Testaments) is such that the indicatives of grace are always prior to the imperatives of law and human obligation. “I have loved you, I have redeemed you . . . therefore, keep My commandments. . . .” But Judaism turned it the other way round. “If you keep the law, God will love you. If you keep the sabbath, the Kingdom of God will come”, etc. That is, the imperatives are made prior to the indicatives. The covenant has been turned into a contract, and God’s grace made conditional on man’s obedience. It is precisely against this inversion of the order of grace that Paul protests in Galatians 3:17-22. God made a covenant with Abraham, and although the law came four hundred and thirty years later (to spell out the obligations of grace) it did not suddenly introduce conditions of grace. It did not turn the covenant into a contract. To introduce conditions would be to break a promise.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):56

God as Subject

All priestly action within the place of meeting was by way of acknowledgment and witness to God’s testimony of Himself in the Covenant. God is not acted upon by means of priestly sacrifice. Priestly action rests upon God’s Self-revelation in His Word and answers as cultic sign and action to the thing signified. That is particularly clear in regard to the teaching of the OT about atonement, for the various words used to express expiation or reconciliation are used with God as Subject always, never with God as object (except in describing heathen sacrifice), and are only used with man as subject in the secondary sense of liturgical obedience to God’s appointment. It is actually God Himself who performs the act of forgiveness and atonement, but the priestly cultus is designed to answer to His act and bear witness to His cleansing of the sinner.

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 3