The Verdant Pastures of Reformed Worship
When Christians assemble for worship on the Lord’s Day they participate in what is by far the most meaningful and consequential activity in the body of Christ. Worship is the highest calling of the believer. It is the center jewel on the crown of Christian discipleship. It is the verdant pasture in which Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, feeds and nourishes His sheep (Ps. 23:1-3; Jn. 6:52-59). Worship is the dynamic spiritual context in which the powers of the age to come break forth into this present evil age (Heb. 6:5; Gal. 1:4). Indeed, it is through the means of Word, sacraments, and prayer that God is glorified and His children, through faith, gratefully receive the benefits of redemption in Christ (WLC Q. 154) Therefore, dear believer, it is paramount that we understand and devote ourselves to corporate worship on the Lord’s Day.
The early Christians made public worship a priority in their lives. Luke reports that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42– italics mine). Notice the definite article preceding each action. This indicates that this was public worship. And what constitutes worship in the nascent days of the Church? The Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer (cf. Mt. 28:18-20).
The faithful reading and preaching of God’s Word are essential to biblical worship. Paul writes to Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (I Tim. 4:13). Later he charges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (II Tim. 4:2). All pastors and churches are called to do the same–– without exception. The bride of Christ hears the voice of her beloved in worship when His living Word is read, and especially when it is preached (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 4:12). The Bible is the sure Word that we do well to pay attention to until Christ’s return (II Pet. 1:19-21; I Tim. 3:16-17). The question is, dear believer, are you listening? Are you attending Lord’s Day worship with a humble and teachable heart? Puritan George Swinnock commented that “All in the church may hear the Word of Christ, but few hear Christ in the Word.” Nothing glorifies God more than when His dependent children gather together under the public ministry of the Word in order to hear, believe, and delight in God’s sublime attributes, loving promises, and Fatherly commands. Moreover, nothing provides greater spiritual blessing for Christ’s Church (cf. WLC Q. 155).
The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also integral to biblical worship. They are signs and seals of God’s covenant promises fulfilled in Christ. The waters of baptism represent Christ’s cleansing blood and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5). The bread and the wine of communion signify the broken body and shed blood of Christ–– the sinless Lamb who bore God’s wrath in our place (Mt. 26:26-28). It is through these visible signs and seals that the Holy Spirit, through the exercising of faith, powerfully assures us that God “grants us freely the remission of sin and life eternal for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross” (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 66).
God creates and nourishes faith through the preaching of the Word, and confirms it in the sacraments. Prayer, the third non-negotiable of biblical worship, is the Church’s humble and grateful response to the gospel (Ps. 103:1-5). Led by the minister or elders, prayer in worship is the church’s heartfelt response (spoken or sung) to the sovereign majesty and grace of God.
Dear Christian believer, Lord’s Day worship is no ordinary activity. In an extraordinary way, biblical worship both glorifies God and sanctifies the believer. Therefore, on the divinely-appointed “market day of the soul,” be sure to faithfully attend morning and evening worship with a ready heart and an expectant faith (Heb. 10:25). Come with a heart that is eager and willing to exalt the name of the LORD, and to joyfully receive all the spiritual benefits that your heavenly Father offers you in Christ.
This article originally appeared in The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth journal in June/July 2013 and is used here by permission.