Allow me to get on a soapbox for just a moment. Like my man Propaganda once said, “allow me to deal with some in-house issues.”
Mark Dever often tells a particular story where he was giving a talk on Puritanism in an English church (I hope I get it right). I believe it was during a time of Q&A when he was asked about a big metal structure that was attached to the pulpit. Dever told the crowd that the big metal thing was in fact an hourglass holder. What a strange deal, huh? Pastor Mark went ahead to say that the congregations often gifted their pastor with a an hourglass. The preacher would only get one, maybe two turns of the hourglass before they had to give up the pulpit for the day. Each turn then would last an hour. So we are talking at least one and possibly two hours worth of preaching (pause and take up your jaw). It is at this point in the talk when Dr. Dever hears an audible gasp from the crowd. “But!,” a woman exclaims, “what time did that leave for worship?”
That is a big problem. At some point along the way worship became synonymous with music. This is what the women in the above story was getting at. You hear the same sentiment echoed all the time. There is a time of worship, followed by a sermon. Worship is reserved for singing the bridge of Oceans until you pass out (maybe in the Spirit). I have been guilty of this as well. Often times, I would rather just hear the music than listen to a sermon from the Bible. But this is wrong.
Romans 12 teaches us a bit about worship. The “therefore” at the beginning of the chapter likely refers to the deeps of Romans 1-11. The doctrines of total depravity, justification, propitiation, larger atonement theories, the glory of God, sanctification, indwelling sin, foreknowledge, predestination, glorification, election and reprobation have been proclaimed so far in this book. It is in view of that that Paul entreats the Romans to give their bodies as a living sacrifice. Our worship is reactionary. We behold God and our hearts respond in affection in view of the glories of God. In light of these things, since we have seen and savored all God is for us in Christ, we worship. Notice here that there is no mention of songs. Songs are a great expression of our worship. Music is the handmaiden of theology, as Luther once said so well. I love great hymns and even the good songs from today’s artists. But these songs are to function as a part of the teaching ministry in the church. The word drives our worship and so it should be with our song.
Worship is our life. Our affections matter. This comes by renewing our minds by the Word of God (Romans 12:2). We become what we worship. Our lives should have a doxological bent, so that in all we do we are worshipping, stirring our affections for Christ. Our aim is to see who Christ for the purpose of our soul resting satisfied in God. In our satisfaction, God is pleased to display His sufficiency. All worship finds it’s end in the glory of God.
This is even so in glory. Revelation 5 is a picture of worship, a picture of the ransomed from all nations satisfied by the Lamb who was slain. Forever, our worship will be beholding the glory of this Lion/Lamb to the end of the glory of the Father. I’m sure we will sing. I hope we do. In fact, we have a new song. But our worship will only be expressed by song (along with other things) but the song itself is not worship. It is an important difference and can change the way we view worship, both personal and corporate.
soli deo gloria