On Scripture Regulated Worship

It is on the ground of this robust understanding of the authority of the Word of God that we assert that Christian churches must follow the worship of God regulated by God.

“We deny that God desires or is pleased by innovation in matters of faith. We deny that silence from God’s Word on the circumstances of worship renders them amoral, or their implementation a matter of indifference.”

 

We affirm that the worship of God is regulated through his Word. Innovation, however well ­intentioned, is “will­ worship” (Col 2:23), violates the free consciences of individual Christians (Rom 14:5, 23), and is therefore displeasing to God (Matt 15:9). We affirm that the circumstances of worship are matters of prudence, informed by the sound judgment that comes through ordinate affections (Prov 9:10).

We deny that God desires or is pleased by innovation in matters of faith. We deny that silence from God’s Word on the circumstances of worship renders them amoral, or their implementation a matter of indifference.

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The foundation of the Christian church is found in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 17:1-8; 28:18). Jesus owns the church (1 Cor 3:11, 23). He designated his apostles and prophets to be those men who spoke to his followers his words as revealed by the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 2:10, 13). Today, since these men are no longer living, Christians regard the writings of these men, canonized in the New Testament, as the authoritative teaching of Christ himself (Matt 10:40; John 13:13-15, 20; Acts 1:2; 1 Cor 15:3; 1 Thess 2:13). In this sense, the apostles and prophets serve as the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19-22; Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:28; cf. Matt 16:18; Rev 21:14). On this ground, Paul told believers to hold fast to the apostolic tradition (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 15:1-3), for this tradition is from Christ himself. Paul commanded the Corinthian church, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). This doctrinal foundation, given to Christ’s apostles, is the “good deposit” of apostolic teaching that Timothy was to guard (1 Tim 6:20; cf. 2 Tim 1:14; Jude 20). Although apostles were not perfect (see, e.g., Gal 2:11-14), disobedience to an apostle’s commands was (and is) the essence of apostasy (2 Thess 3:14-15).

It is on the ground of this robust understanding of the authority of the Word of God that we assert that Christian churches must follow the worship of God regulated by God through Christ’s apostles and that they may not innovate in worship.1 When Paul saw some trying to lay new regulations on the Colossians in their worship, Paul called this “will worship” (Col 2:23, AV). The translation of this phrase in the English Standard Version is even more striking; the regulations promoted “self-made religion.” The faith we profess is not self-made. God has designed it. As he has prescribed our doctrine, God has prescribed our worship.

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