“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).
A biblical worldview is rooted in Scripture, and the profound insights of influential Reformers such as John Owen, Francis Turretin, and Thomas Watson, show a common theme in this. Looking upon the landscape of contemporary evangelical worship, it may be readily observed with a blend of trepidation and concern. It appears that key elements of biblical worship (see the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith), as cherished by our biblical ancestors, are at risk of being overshadowed or lost.
The insightful words of John Owen reverberate through the centuries: “The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto this world are enclosed in the New Covenant” (The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 178). Tragically, some contemporary evangelical churches seem to have shifted focus from this foundational cornerstone – Christ’s sacrifice – to more prosperity-based, self-help teachings; how we should all feel accepted no matter what we think or believe. While God indeed blesses and uplifts His children, our primary emphasis should be the redemption offered through the Christocentric Covenant of Grace (Hebrews 9:15).
Francis Turretin, another stalwart, stated, “Faith is the first act of justification and the first of all other saving graces,” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, p. 682). Yet, in the modern evangelical setting, faith’s central role appears diminished as churches veer towards trends and aesthetics. The essence of worship should be a united and harmonious celebration of shared faith in the holiness of God, instead of what we feel is best. Turretin’s asserts and is consistent with the plea of Ephesians 4:3.
The astute observations of Thomas Watson hold relevance today as well. He once wrote, “The Lord’s Supper is the soul’s feast” (The Lord’s Supper, p. 46). In some churches, the sacred sacrament’s role has been reduced, regarded as a mere ritual or optional addition; people often do not even know what they are doing in it, or how it should be accomplished in covenant renewal. This approach is a clear departure from the biblical understanding of worship.
While the Holy Spirit works in various ages to apply the truth of the word to sincere Christians, who walk in holiness, we must remain steadfast to the Faith’s core tenets, as reminded by these voices and echoes. Our worship’s foundation is Christ, His redemptive work, the unity He encourages, and the sacraments He has entrusted us, are all paramount in our understanding of holy worship.
Therefore, let us draw upon the wisdom of the past, applying it to our present, and remain faithful stewards of Christian worship’s biblical commands. Above all, we must heed the Psalmist’s timeless exhortation: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).