Throughout our worship services we sing songs to the Lord. Singing has always been a practice of God’s people, going back to when Israel sang a beautiful hymn of praise to God after being delivered from Egypt by passing through the Red Sea,
“I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously;the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.The LORD is my strength and my song,and He has become my salvation;this is my God, and I will praise Him…” (Ex. 15:1–2).
We also have the example of King David, who composed over 70 psalms and appointed 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to “offer praises to the LORD” in the temple (1 Chron. 23:5, 25:7). Over and over again the psalms (which themselves are songs) tell God’s people to sing unto the Lord (Ps. 33:3, 98:4–6).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus and the disciples singing “a hymn” after the Last Supper (Mk. 14:26), which scholars believe to have most likely been the Hallel psalms (113–118) which were sung when celebrating Passover. In Acts 4:25 the believers “lifted their voices together to God” and quoted Psalm 2 and later on we read of St Paul and Silas singing hymns together while in prison (Acts 16:25). Throughout the Epistles we are instructed to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:18, Col. 3:16) and to sing praise when cheerful (Jas. 5:13).
This practice of singing was described by John Calvin as a type of public prayer offered to the Lord. We do not sing during our worship services to sprinkle in some art or entertainment. Nor do we use song merely as a pedagogical tool to convey doctrine the way a sermon does. Instead, the church sings psalms and hymns to praise and glorify God our Lord, for “psalmody is not primarily thematic, decorative, or didactic, but doxological.
This paper was written during Westminster Term A.D. 2019 for the graduate Reformed Systematics course at New St Andrews College.
The purpose of this paper is to explore Reformed liturgy by way of the work of John Calvin and the practices of the Protestant church in Geneva during his tenure. Topics considered will include the role and significance of liturgy, the Sabbath, the regulative principle of worship, and Calvin’s Order of Service found in The Form of Church Prayers and Hymns with the Manner of Administering the Sacraments and Consecrating Marriages According to the Custom of the Ancient Church.
“The Word is truly the soul of the church.” And the preaching of the Word is an essential element of worship that was largely recovered during the Reformation. We find the preaching of the Word not only in Scripture (1 Cor. 14:26, Acts 2:42), but also among the early church in the prolific sermons of Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Gregory of Nazanzius, Chrysostom, and others—all of which the Reformers were familiar. Therefore, John Calvin wrote that “it was a principle of long standing in the church that the primary duties of the bishop were to feed his people with the Word of God.”
Hughes Oliphant Old began his book on worship with this sentence: “We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being.” The worship of God is indeed at the heart of our reason for being, and therefore worship is also the primary function of the church of Christ. Through the blood of Jesus, we have been granted the privilege of entering the holy place of God (Heb. 10:19–22). We now worship where the Jews feared to tread, through the mediation of Christ, at Mount Zion and the city of the living God (Heb. 12:18–22). And so like St John, Christians are caught up in the Spirit every Lord’s Day to worship their Triune God (Rev. 1:10).
Every week in our Lord’s Day worship services, we follow a consistent liturgical pattern which has been called covenant renewal worship. This pattern follows the worship of God’s people in the Old Testament, where there were three different kinds of sacrifices: guilt offering, ascension (or burnt) offering, and peace offering. The worship service begins with a call to worship and ends with a commissioning. It is called “covenant renewal” not because the covenant expires every week (it is eternal), but because the covenant is a living contract and relationship, which God is pleased to renew with us weekly. This renewal is not like the renewal of a yearly contract, but instead is like how sexual communion renews the marriage covenant or a meal renews the body.
This exhortation was given at Christ Church Downtown on February 21, 2021.
As I’m sure you know, last week was Ash Wednesday and the start of the season of Lent. And so very briefly I want to look at the Reformed tradition regarding the church calendar, our practice here at Christ Church, and how to go about differences in these matters.
Many Christians in Reformed churches today fall into two categories with regards to Christian holidays: staunch rejection of them as not Reformed or uncritical observance of them. In this position paper, my aim is to demonstrate that Christian holidays, specifically what have been called the five evangelical feast days, are both historically Reformed and profitable for the Church today.
Foundational to right worship and liturgical practices is an undergirding conviction regarding when to gather for worship and what this day looks like. The fourth commandment in the Decalogue reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Thereforethe Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11). This commandant of the Jewish Sabbath under the Old Covenant is fairly clear and straightforward. But how does it relate to the New Covenant and what Christians refer to as ‘the Lord’s Day’?