If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to 1 John chapter 4, beginning in the 7th verse. We’re continuing to make our way through this book, and we've really come to a culminating passage. John has a lot more to say, but he's come back in the passage we're going to read today to the subject of love as a test of authentic Christian experience and profession for at least the third time in this book, and he has combined it with the idea of rightly believing in the truth of God's word as to who Jesus is.
The last time we were together looking at 1 John 4:1-6, we saw his emphasis again being on the confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and is from God–we see that in verse 2 of 1 John 4. And now he immediately moves to the subject of love again, the expression of self-giving commitment to one another in the church, of caring for one another in tangible ways, of seeking to advance the best interest of one another even at our own expense in the bonds of Christian fellowship.
Now why would he move from this discussion of faith, our believing in the truth of God's word about who Jesus is, immediately to the issue of love? How are they connected? Well, if you look back to chapter 3, verse 23 you’ll see one way that they’re connected. In chapter 3, verse 23 he summarized the New Testament call of the Christian life in this way: that “We believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us.” Now isn't it interesting to see John summarize the call of Christian life, the call of Christian experience to believing in who Jesus is, in accordance with the Scripture, and loving one another in the bonds of Christian fellowship in accordance with Scripture? He does it there in 1 John 3:23.
All chapter 4:1-16 is, is an elaboration on that point which he has given in an outline, in a synopsis, in a very succinct phrase or statement in chapter 3:23. And so John has repeatedly in this book been concerned not only to call us to faith, not only call us to trust, not only to call us to belief in who God says Jesus Christ is and what the Bible says about the Lord Jesus Christ, in calling us to belief in who Christ claimed to be, but also he has been concerned to call us to a mutual self-giving as Christians: denying ourselves for the sake of one another, loving one another despite our natural differences and even sinful differences that have arisen between us as believers, loving across those obstacles and boundaries. He calls us to this constantly.
But in the passage today, we are going to see perhaps more clearly than anywhere else in this book how those things are not only parallel in John's argument, but inseparably connected in John's argument. For John, you cannot love without the truth, and the truth is unto our love of one another. So often today a wedge is driven between those two things. People will say, “Oh, we need to stop talking about all this doctrine and love one another.” As far as John is concerned, you cannot love like God calls you to love if you do not embrace the doctrine of God's word, and the doctrine of God's word has not wrought its purpose in your heart until you have a love for God and a love for your brethren and a love for your neighbor like He himself has in His own heart and has expressed in the gift of His Son and has called us to live in His holy word, the Scripture. For John, you see, the truth and love go hand in glove. They go together, and they cannot be separated without damage to one or the other. Now before we hear God's word read and proclaimed, let's look to Him in prayer. Let's pray.
Our Heavenly Father, we ask that by Your Holy Spirit You would make Your word to be fruitful to our hearts and lives. We are people who are quick to speak and quick to opine, and we are slow to learn sometimes. Make us then willing, patient, and obedient hearers of Your word. And by Your Spirit work its truth deep into our inmost hearts, that we might be changed from the inside out and that the whole of our lives would reflect that change. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear God's word.
1 John 4:7-16:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
John is known to us as “the apostle of love.” We've been reminded over and over in this book. It is a subject that he can't get away from; he keeps circling around to it. And we're perhaps thinking to ourselves, “No wonder in church history the historians of the past have reminded us that in the last weeks of John's life, when he was too feeble to go to the assembly of the saints on the Day of the Lord to worship with them, that the elders of the church would literally carry him there on a pallet, and he at his very last meeting with his Christians in the local congregation could only say one thing: ‘Beloved, let us love one another.’” And we're not surprised by that with John.
But I want to say there is a specific reason why this message of love is on John's heart. It's not because John was a sappy, sentimental guy who was quick to cry; it's not that he was in touch with his feminine side; it's that there's a specific situation in the Christian church in his day and there is a standing situation in the Christian church in all days which requires this emphasis on the love of God and the truth of God for the life of the church.
In John's day, there was a group of people in the church who claimed to be “super Christians.” They were teaching other Christians that the way to be super Christians was to be introduced to a secret knowledge which could be taught by only these super teachers, these super Christians, and that if you were introduced to this secret knowledge you could live at a higher plane than everyone else.
And the result of this particular teaching was not only that there were people in the church that were embracing things that were untrue, like the denial that Jesus was truly, fully human and in the flesh when He came to save us from our sins, but there was as a result a division in the church because of this teaching. I mean, you can imagine that if somebody's been introduced to a secret teaching that nobody else knows and they've been told, “Congratulations! You’re now a super Christian because you know these things too,” a spirit of pride can enter in. And division was happening in the congregation. In fact, we know that there was enough division that some people were leaving the church. John talks about them in 1 John chapter 2. And John says, “I can tell you that that teaching is wrong by its effect.” It's effect has been to divide the body of Christ, to set people against one another–not to edify, not to build up, not to encourage one another so that when a brother learns a new scriptural truth he says, “Oh, my brother, I want to share with you this new truth of Scripture which I have come to learn so that you might be built up and edified.” It was a spirit–“Oh, I now have the truth, and if you do the requisite initiations perhaps one day you will be able to be initiated in this deep and special truth which only I know.” It was bringing division to the church, and so John wanted to say, ‘Real biblical truth, as opposed to the false truth of these false prophets…real biblical truth will issue forth in love; that is, a real, tangible care for one another in the Christian community.’ It won't lead to division: it will lead to a greater unity. It's not that there won't be obstacles and problems in the life of the church; it's not that there won't be division there. John wouldn't have to talk about this if there were not those problems. But it is the people of God as they grow in a greater knowledge of the truth of God will have a deeper and deeper desire to encourage one another, to care for one another, to build up one another, to seek the best interest of one another, to take care of one another in time of need. There will be a greater unity which results from the truth, as opposed to the disunity which comes from what is purported to be truth but which is, in fact, false.
And so for that very practical reason John keeps circling back to love, because it's one of the ways that he can show them false teaching. ‘Aha! You see that teaching over there?’ he says. ‘That led to disunity.’ Not the kind of disunity that happens when godly, Bible-believing people fear that on the basis of conscience they must separate themselves from a congregation, or from a denomination because that denomination rejects Bible truth. That's not the kind of division that John is censuring. But the kind of division that is brought about by people claiming to have a truth which is not revealed in the word of God, or which is beyond the word of God, which takes them deeper into the deep things of God and yet the result of it is, what? Division, fracturing in the life of the local congregation. And so, John says, ‘Look. Love is a test of truth. And the fact that this so-called truth that these false teachers are bringing is leading to division in the congregation is an evidence that what they are teaching is not truth but falsehood.
1 John 2:8-10: Love is part of the commandment, old and new.
So there's a practical reason why John keeps coming back to love. But there is a standing reason why we need this message in the Christian church, and that is because, my friends, we are still sinners. We wound one another in the Christian church. We let one another down in the Christian church. We offend one another in the Christian church. We’re really different. The Lord brings together all sorts of people into the Christian community, and we don't naturally have an affinity for one another just because we happen to be part of a local body. And there is every manner of challenge to living together in love in the Christian church. It's hard to live together in a family. When you live together in a family in close proximity, you step on one another's toes; you get on one another's nerves; and the closer you are, the deeper the wounds can be, the more powerful the divisions. It's like that in the Christian church. We’re a family, and we let one another down sometimes. We offend one another sometimes. There are divisions even in this church: people who don't want to see that person coming down the hall between Sunday School and church, and when they round the corner, your head turns and you head another direction. Um, business deal went bad and you’re in the same Sunday School class–time to change Sunday School classes. Oh, that thing happens; it happens at every church. And John is concerned that the truth would build us up to have a love which overcomes those kinds of things in the body of Christ.
But John has talked about our loving one another before. And let me ask you to keep your Bible open and turn back to 1 John 2. You may want to allow your eyes to fall upon verses 8-10. In 1 John 2:8-10 John says, ‘Look, we should love one another because this is the commandment of God.’ And it even says, ‘Look, I'm not telling you something new; I'm telling you something old.’ And then he comes back and he says, ‘But it really is new.’ And he's not contradicting himself. He's just bringing out the very thing that Jesus brought out in the upper room: that is, that the new commandment to love one another was really not a new commandment; it had been God's commandment from the beginning.
But Jesus was going to show how it was to be done in a way beyond which it had ever been shown. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” You see, it's that phrase that's new. The commandment to love one another comes right out of Leviticus 19. The commandment to love one another as I have loved you comes right out of the cross. Jesus says, ‘Now this is how I want you to love one another: I want you to be willing to lay down your own life for the sake of the brethren. I want you to seek the kingdom and its righteousness first. I want you to die to self. I want you to give yourself away. I want you to serve your brethren. I want you to serve the brethren like I have served you.’ And John points to that in 1 John 2. He says, ‘That's a motivation for our loving: Jesus’ following of that great command to love one another; Jesus giving us that great commandment.’ Remember, John had been there. John heard Jesus say to the disciples, “Beloved, love one another as I have loved you. By this the world will know that you are mine, if you love one another.” John had heard those words, and so he uses that as a motivation in 1 John 2.
1 John 3:14-16: Love is the evidence that we are a new creation.
Then if you turn forward to 1 John 3, and you look especially at verses 14-16, you’ll see that John says that love is also an evidence that we are the new creation, that God has done a work in our hearts, that He's given us new life in Christ. And he says, ‘Because love is the evidence that a person is new, has been recreated, has been reborn, has been regenerated, has been made a new creation, is a new person walking in the newness of life in Jesus Christ–because of that we ought to love one another.’ So John not only says, ‘We ought to love one another because God has commanded it and Jesus has shown us how to love in accordance with God's commandment,’ but he also says, ‘Loving one another is an evidence that God has done a work of grace in your hearts.’
1 John 4:7-12: The nature of God and His work through Christ.
But he doesn't end there. He goes right here to 1 John 4, verses 7 through12 especially, but you see it all the way to verse 16, and he says, ‘Look, we ought to love one another because God is love, and He has shown love in the giving of His Son.’ In other words, he says, ‘We ought to love one another because of who God is and because of what He's done.’ So he argues, ‘We ought to love one another because it's God's command and Jesus has shown us how to keep that commandment, and we ought to love one another because it is the evidence that God has done a work of grace in us; but we also ought to love one another because God Himself is love and because He has loved us in the giving of His own Son.’ John's arguments, you see, are building. This is the biggest argument he's given yet for love.
I. Because God is the source of all real and true love, we are to love one another (7-8).
Now he says four things in this passage that we need to pay very close attention to. So let's look at them together very quickly today. In verses 7 and 8, he points us to the divine source of love. And this is his first argument in this passage for why we ought to love one another. Notice what he says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” There's his argument: God Himself is the source of real love. When you see people really and truly loving one another as God intends it in His word, John is saying, ‘You can bet that God is at work because God is the source of love.’ And John is making this argument, ‘Because God is the source of all real and true love, we ought to love one another.’ John is saying that all true love flows from God, all true love derives from God. And, of course, John isn't just talking about an emotion here. He's not just talking about a feeling; he's not just talking about feeling warm and fuzzy about someone else. He's talking about real, tangible self-commitment to others. Sometimes you have a deep commitment to a person who you don't have that strong and emotional bond to. If your marriage is healthy, you have a stronger emotional bond with your husband and wife than you do with many people that you are called to love in the Christian church. John is calling us to that kind of self-denying, self-giving commitment to one another's best interest. That's what he's calling us to in love. To look out for one another, to care for one another, to encourage one another, to help one another. And John's saying that that kind of love flows from God. ‘You can't give yourself away,’ John is saying, ‘unless God has filled you up with His love first,’ because He is the divine source of love.
When I was a teenager, there was a pop-jazz musician named George Benson, who made popular a song which has subsequently been made popular by another pop musician, and the song was called “The Greatest Love of All.” Now I remember when I first saw that title I thought, “Oh, somebody's written a Christian song.” And it was going to be somehow about the gift of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. And then I heard in the song that the greatest love of all was learning to love yourself, and I said, “Oops! Not a Christian song.” Now there's a whole philosophy, by the way, behind that song. And the philosophy is this: that unless you love yourself, you really can't love others. John's logic is polar-opposite from that. John's logic is: unless you have been filled up with the love of God you can't love others. Because there is no human love on this earth that can fill up the void that is in us in need of the filling of the love of God, and we cannot give ourselves away even unto death unless we have been filled up to the brim with the love of God. And John's reminding us of this here: God is the source of love, and God is the source of our ability to give ourselves away in love. The Latins had a little dictum that they had for this truth. Some of you who are studying Latin in high school or perhaps in college right now maybe have memorized this; it goes like this: Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est. “Where there is love and tender affection, there God is.” That's exactly what John is getting to right here. Where we see real love at work, we can best believe that God the Spirit is at work as well. And John is suggesting that really, only Christians can properly imitate and reflect the love which flows from God Himself. John is just telling us that a real knowledge of God, if we know that God is the source of love…a real knowledge of God will lead us to love God and neighbor.
What is it that Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:5? “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” You see, Paul and John are in lock step together. Don't ever let somebody tell you, ‘You know, Paul's the one who's theological, and John's the one who's practical–he's always talking about love and Paul's always talking about this abstract theology.’ No, right together: John says, ‘The truth is for love’; Paul says, ‘The truth is for love.’ And that's why in the Christian life doctrine and experience and practice go altogether. Doctrine, right believing of Bible truth; experience, right longing and desires for what God desires for His people; and practice, obedience to what God calls us to in His word–those three things go together. And John is saying here that if you know who God is, and if you know that He is the fountain of all love, then it will show in the way you love.
II. Because God has manifested His love in the giving of His own Son, we are to love one another (9-11).
Secondly, he says in verses 9-11, we are not only to love because God is the source of all love, we are to love because God has manifested His love in the giving of His own Son. ‘Because God has manifested His love in the giving of His own Son we are to love one another,’ he argues. And so he's pointing to the saving action of God as revealing just how great the love of God is. Look at verse 9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.” In other words, John is telling us that God has shown us His love in the sending of His Son on a deadly mission to give us life. John goes on to say that, “In (verse 10) this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
In other words, John is saying that God's love is manifested not just in God sending His Son into the world, but especially in God's Son dying the death of the cross on behalf of all those who trust in Him. In dying that death, we are told, He was a propitiation for us. Now propitiation is not a word that we normally say over coffee. Some of your Bibles will translate it atonement–that's a perfectly good translation. Some of your Bibles will translate it expiation–that's another word that we don't use very often. But the biblical word behind this translation, whether yours says expiation or atonement or propitiation or atoning sacrifice or something else, means all of those things. When Jesus propitiates that means “He turns away God's wrath.” But the word can also mean expiate; that means, “to cover our sins.” And that's what Jesus came to do in His death: to turn away the just judgment of God against us and to cover our sins, the sins that separated us from fellowship with God, so that we might again walk in communion with the living God.
And that is salvation: fellowship with the living God, for God to be our God and for us to be His people. And John is saying that God's love is manifested in that He gave the blood of His own Son…that we might fellowship with Him forever. Now John says, ‘In light of that love, we ought to love one another.’ The measure of how we are to love one another is the Father's giving of the Son. Isn't that interesting that here, unlike 1 John 2, here the emphasis is on what the Father gave? You see, John is drawing us and he's reminding us again of how great the heart of love our Father has for us. It's not just Jesus in His self-giving (Yes, Jesus’ self-giving love is matchless!), but the Father's giving of His own Son. ‘Ah,’ John says, ‘you love like that.’
III. Because God's love is made visible in our mutual love, we are to love one another (12).
But he's not done. In verse 12, he gives a third thing, a third reason we are to love one another. “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” You see, John says there that we are to love one another because of the result of the present activity of our loving one another. Now I know that's clear as mud, so let me explain. ‘God's love,’ John is arguing in verse 12, is made visible when we love one another the way God calls us to in the Bible. And because God's love is made visible when we love one another the way we are called to love another in the Bible, we are to love one another not only as an encouragement to one another, but as a witness to the world that God's love is true. Here's the logic. John is saying in verse 12 that the unseen God who manifested Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, is also manifested when you love one another. And, my friends, that is astounding. John is saying that your love–your practical commitment, your selfless, self-giving to one another–is a standing witness to the world of the love of God. It is a visible manifestation of the love of God. That is phenomenal. Because Jesus is the great visible manifestation of the love of God in Scripture.
But John is saying, ‘Friends, I want you to understand that when you love one another as you are called to love one another in the Scriptures, you in your love, in your mutual love are a visible picture of the love of God to the world.’ In other words, my friends, there is an evangelistic and missionary reason for us to love like this. There is a reason why we cannot set aside the business of working through the divisions and barriers in personal relationships in the life of the local congregation, why we cannot put ourselves first and others second in the local congregation…there is a reason why we cannot do those things, or avoid to do those things. And the reason is, the world sees the love of God in the way we relate to one another. My friends, this applies to marriages in the Christian church. It applies to divisions which arise within the life of the congregation. Perhaps they derive from the business world and wronged persons or hurt feelings in business dealings, perhaps they derive from the world of school, and we've been divided because of something that's happened in the course of our schooling or the schooling of our children, but, ‘It is vital business,’ John says, ‘for us to go about loving one another in the Christian church despite those things–whether they are natural, or whether they are derived from sin–because the quality of our love for one another is a witness of the love of God in the world.’
Of course, John had heard that before. John was in the upper room when his master said, ‘Love one another, for the world will know that you are My disciples by the way you love one another.’ As far as John is concerned, the two most powerful tools for the extension of the gospel are the word of God and the love of Christians for one another. And isn't it interesting that God invented two classes of officers to foster both of those things? –elders to foster the word of God in the congregation, and deacons to foster the love of Christians for Christians in the congregation. Isn't that amazing? And John says, ‘There's your evangelistic plan. Here's how you take the world for Christ: Preach the word; love one another. Now that's huge.
IV. Because God is love, we are to love one another (13-16).
But John is not done. John saves the biggest truth for last. It's in verses 13-16. Here he says, ‘We are to love one another because God Himself is love.’ In verses 7-8, he said because God is the source of love we ought to love one another; in verses 9-11, he said because God has manifested His love in the giving of His Son we ought to love one another; in verse 12, because God has made His love visible in our loving one another we ought to love one another; and here in verses 13-16, he says because God is love we ought to love one another. Now that's huge.
But before we get to that truth, let me just say one thing. If you look at verses 13-15 closely, you will learn a great truth. They say, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” In other words, in verse 14, he's saying, ‘The apostles have preached this. We preached that God sent His Son into the world to be the Savior of the world.’ And then he says in verse 15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” In other words, all those who profess that Jesus is the Son of God sent into the world to save sinners are manifesting the fact that God the Holy Spirit has done a work in their hearts and He dwells in them. And he's saying, ‘That is why that doctrinal truth, that affirmation that Jesus is the sinless Son of God come into this world into our human flesh to save sinners–that is why that truth is so important. It's absolutely essential for salvation,’ he says.
But now he connects it to love. Look at what he goes on to say: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” You see what John is saying? John is saying, ‘The reason that truth, that affirmation that you embrace the fact that God sent His Son into the world to save sinners…the reason that truth is so important is that is the supreme picture of love, and you can't love unless you know that God has sent His Son into the world to save you.’ You can't love like God calls you to love unless you embrace that truth.
This is why John is so big on doctrine, because our capacity to love is tied to understanding the love of God in sending His own Son into the world. That's why one, old Christian puts it this way, “To weaken faith is to deaden love.” “To weaken faith is to deaden love.” Don't ever let anyone drive a wedge between truth and love. Don't ever let anyone drive a wedge in between doctrine and love. As far as John is concerned, you can't love unless you know this truth, and this truth will go bad on you unless it creates in you a heart of love. Cuts both ways, you see. Now, here's the truth. John says, “We must love one another because God is love.” Now this is the second time John has said this in the passage. He said it in verse 8; he says it again in verse 16: “God is love.” ‘God Himself is love, therefore you love.’
Now John is not saying that God is only love. John is not saying that all that God does is love. Some people will use this verse to argue against God punishing those who don't trust in Christ. They say, “Oh, you couldn't possibly think that God would send somebody to Hell. God is love, after all.” That's not what John means. I can prove it. John 3:16, a great passage about the love of God, says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish…” The implication being that those who will not believe on Him will perish. That is not an unloving thing for God to do, to bring justice upon the wicked. Justice, you see, is not the opposite of love. You can be loving even in the administration of justice. And John is reminding us of that here. You see, it's not that the only thing that God does is love, but that God is loving in all that He does.
But John is saying here that our love for one another is to reflect the very nature of God. He's saying, ‘You love one another because that's what your God is like.’ You remember when Moses was talking to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 7 and he's trying to explain to them why God chose them? And it's an interesting conversation. He starts off with why God didn't choose them. He says, ‘God didn't choose you because you were the greatest. And God didn't choose you because you were the most. God chose you because He loved you.’ You know, the people of God are… ‘Ok, tell us more.’ And John tells you the only “more” that anybody can tell you here. God loved you, why? Because God is love. “Why am I a guest?” we just sang. “It was that same love spread the feast that sweetly drew me in.” He just loved me. I didn't earn it. I didn't deserve it. And, my friends, it is the feeling of the depth of that love of God for you that sets you free to give yourself away to your brothers and sisters, to husbands and wives who have broken your heart, to former friends in the congregation from whom you have long been sundered in your relationship, from people that are just not like you that are a part of this body, and to give yourself to one another so that we become a family. That's why John says we ought to love one another. Let's pray.
O God, show us Your love that we might love. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God our Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit rest and abide upon you now and forevermore. Amen.
A Guide to the Morning Service
The Worship of God
At First Presbyterian Church we believe that all true worship must be biblical. That is, both the form and content of corporate worship must be ruled and guided by the Bible. Worship is to be biblical in its every aspect. The first question of Christian worship is not, what musical style should we use? Or what do people like or want? Or what will attract seekers? Or what are other churches doing? But rather how does God want to be worshiped? And that question can only be answered from the Bible.
For our worship to be biblical in all its aspects means (1) that its substance and elements, its content and parts, are in accord with Scripture; (2) that it is Spirit-gathered, Spirit-dependent, Spirit-engendered, and Spirit-empowered, in accord with Scripture; (3) that it is simultaneously a communal response of gratitude for grace, an expression of passion for God, the fulfillment of what we were made and redeemed for, a joyful engagement in a delightful obedience, and a corporate Christ-provided encounter with the Triune God, again in accord with Scripture; and (4) that it aims for and is an expression of God's own glory, and has in view the consummation of the church triumphant's everlasting union and communion with God.
When the Bible guides our worship, biblical elements (like singing, praying, reading Scripture, preaching, administering the sacraments) are the main features of the service. When people are guided by the Bible, they will care more about biblical preaching than having a contemporary worship style; more about God delighting in the worship they give to Him than about singing the kinds of songs they want; more about a service permeated with the Bible than a service that caters to their likes.
Worship should be simple, spiritual, and scriptural. Such worship will be both heartfelt and reverent. What does this kind of service look like? Well, an apt motto for it might be “Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible.”
We are to read the Bible in public worship. Paul told Timothy “give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim. 4:13) and so, worship services should contain a substantial reading of Scripture (and not just from the sermon text!). The public reading of the Bible has been at the heart of the worship of God since Old Testament times. In the reading of God's word, He speaks most directly to His people.
We are to preach the Bible. Preaching is God's prime appointed instrument to build up His church. As Paul said “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:14, 17). Faithful biblical preaching is to explain and apply Scripture to the gathered company, believer and unbeliever alike. This means expository and evangelistic preaching, squarely based in the text of the word of God. People who appreciate the Bible's teaching on worship will have a high view of preaching, and little time for the personality-driven, theologically void, superficially practical, monologues that pass for preaching today.
We are to pray the Bible. The Father's house “is a house of prayer” said Jesus (Matthew 21:13). But pastoral prayer has almost disappeared in many churches. Our preachers need to once again pray prayers full of the language and thought of Scripture.
We are to sing the Bible (Psalm 98:1, Revelation 5:9, Matthew 26:30, Nehemiah 12:27, 46; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). What we mean by “sing the Bible” is that our singing ought to be biblical, shot through with the language, categories, and theology of the Bible. It ought to reflect the themes and proportion of the Bible, as well as its substance and weightiness. Nothing trite or trendy. “Our songs should be rich with biblical and theological content. The current divisions over music are at the heart of our worship wars. Yet some principles should be easy enough to identify. First, what does a Christian worship song look like? Answer, it looks like a Psalm. The Psalms provide the model for Christian hymnody. If the songs we sing in worship look like Psalms, they will develop themes over many lines with minimal repetition. They will be rich in theological and experiential content. They will tell us much about God, man, sin, salvation, and the Christian life. They will express the whole range of human experience and emotion. Second, what does a Christian worship song sound like? Many are quick to point out that God has not given us a book of tunes. No, but He has given us a book of lyrics (the Psalms) and their form will do much to determine the kinds of tunes that will be used. Put simply, the tunes will be suited to the words. They will be sophisticated enough to carry substantial content over several lines and stanzas. They will use minimal repetition. They will be appropriate to the emotional mood of the Psalm or Bible-based Christian hymn. Sing the Bible.” (Terry Johnson)
This guide to worship is written by the minister and provided to the congregation and our visitors in order (1) to assist them in their worship by explaining why we do what we do in worship and (2) to provide them background on the various elements of the service.
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