A denominational church publication makes the following claim:
“Our worship is based upon the Bible’s pattern of worship unto the Lord.” [It further contains the following.] “We hope this pamphlet will explain to you why we worship as we do.”
In consideration of the pamphlet, there are both positive and negative things upon which we must reflect.
The positive aspects of their statements are:
- The writer of the tract recognizes the need to worship.
- This religious group understands the Lord to be the proper object of worship.
- The denomination accepts the Bible as containing the “pattern of worship.”
- They desire to explain the nature of their worship to curious minds observing it.
These are all commendable traits, which any sincere student of the Bible would endorse; however, the application of these principles falls woefully short, as further examination will show.
The negative aspects of the pamphlet as a whole are too many to address in this brief space, but we can study the following.
The question is asked: “Why have musical instruments?” In response, Psalm 150:3-5 is cited. No additional comments are made, and the reader is left with the impression that the quotation furnishes the “Bible’s pattern” for worship.
The question/quotation has obvious problems, as careful students of Scripture can discern.
First, the Old Testament is not the pattern of worship for the church today. Inasmuch as the death of Christ abrogated the Old Testament system, there is no valid reason for utilizing it as a “pattern for worship” in this age (cf. Colossians 2:14).
Second, the church of Christ did not exist upon the earth at the time of the writing of Psalm 150. That context has to do with Old Testament worship, not the worship of the New Testament church.
Third, the question/quotation format implies that any Old Testament practice might be brought into the church simply by the recitation of an Old Testament passage. A similar pamphlet might have suggested: “Why We Offer Animal Sacrifices,” with a passage from Leviticus used for support. But such would not be a proper use of the Old Testament, and would not constitute a genuine “Bible pattern for worship unto the Lord” for the church today.
Fourth, Paul condemned the religious observance of Mosaic practices in the New Testament church, because they were only a “shadow” of better things to come (Colossians 2:16ff).
Fifth, in recognition of the above truths, the church must worship on the basis of New Testament authority. Only by the authority of Christ may we believe and practice religious matters (Colossians 3:17; cf. 2 John 9).
Sixth, if there were New Testament passages authorizing the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship surely the author would have included them in the pamphlet. New Testament passages are cited as alleged support for other practices engaged in by this denomination. But any New Testament citation pertaining to the present question is conspicuously absent. One can only conclude that this religious body practices that for which they have no New Testament authority.
A failure to understand the real distinction between the Old and New Covenants underlies a host of religious errors. This pamphlet demonstrates an example of one error that stems from mishandling the word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).
“Do all in the name of the Lord,” is the apostolic refrain (Colossians 3:17). We do have a biblical pattern for worship today, and it is contained in the New Testament. The Lord said: “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Worship is regulated:
- God is the object.
- It must involve the innermost essence of man, and it cannot be mere ritual.
- It must be “in truth,” which means it corrresponds to divine authority, and it is not subject to the whims and inclinations of men (cf. Colossians 2:23).
We plead with sincere men and women to throw off the practice of denominationalism altogether; we encourage them to embrace the Lord’s way by means of gospel obedience. Thereby, they may participate in genuine New Testament worship, honoring him who purchased the church with his blood (cf. Acts 20:28).