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Principles of Worship

Worship has been defined as "reverent devotion and allegiance pledged to God." It usually is extended to include the rites or ceremonies by which our devotion and allegiance are expressed. Our English word worship is basically the same word as worth. Worship is really "worthship" and denotes that God is worthy of receiving the praise and honor we bring to Him. From the Old and the New Testaments we glean that corporate worship is mandatory for God's people (Heb. 10:25). It is to be marked by a sense of the presence of the Lord (Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 5:4). Its main elements are prayer and praise (Psa. 105:1-4; Eph. 5:19; Acts 2:42), the reading of the Word of God (Luke 4:16-17), the preaching of the Word (Luke 4:18-20; Acts 13:5; 2 Tim. 4:1-2), and the administration of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-24). This worship is to be spiritual and sincere (John 4:24). It is not to degenerate into a mere mechanical, ritualistic, or liturgical form (Matt. 15:8).

THE CENTRAL ACT OF WORSHIP: PREACHING

This we seek to maintain. In line with historical Protestantism and, more importantly, in line with the emphasis of the New Testament, we hold that the faithful preaching of Christ is the central part of Christian worship. Paul said, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17). This is not to undervalue baptism, but it is to establish the primacy of preaching in Christian worship. That is why in our services the preaching is central.

THE BIBLE WE USE IN OUR SERVICES

In carrying on this preaching ministry the Free Presbyterian Church has, throughout its history, used the Authorized (often called the "King James") Version of the Scriptures. We wish to avoid the confusion that arises from the use of many different translations and paraphrases in church services. We believe the Authorized Version is unrivaled as a translation of the Scriptures and that, unlike most modern translations, it reflects the authentic, historic Hebrew and Greek texts that God "immediately inspired, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.8).

THE BIBLE SETS THE STANDARD

We believe that the best way to achieve a biblical experience of worship is to be governed as to the content of our worship by the Word of God. This is called the regulative principle of worship. Some churches, notably the Lutheran and Anglican communions, have adopted what is known as the normative principle, which states that if an activity or form is not forbidden in Scripture, it is acceptable. The regulative principle, on the other hand, would admit only what Scripture authorizes. Presbyterians have historically held that the only way to worship God is the way He has commanded or set forth in His Word. This is a sound basis for worship as long as we allow that such things as can be proved permissible by reference to some general principles of Scripture, even when they are not expressly commanded, are to be justly included in Christian worship. Some extreme upholders of the regulative principle have opposed the introduction of weekly prayer meetings, Bible classes, and Sunday schools.

OUR MUSIC

You will find in all of our churches a great love for singing to the Lord. Not only because God has called upon His people to "enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise" (Psa. 100:4), but because He has put a "new song" in our mouths to magnify His greatness and His goodness (Psa. 40:3). We believe the Bible clearly directs us to use music that will reflect the majesty and glory of our God and of the gospel message.

The music we use in our worship (whether vocal or instrumental) clearly reveals that we are "new creatures in Christ," that old things have passed away and all things have become new. The devil has his own music, which the world--wittingly or unwittingly--employs to honor him. But we believe that this kind of music has no place in the life of the Church, which is not to be "conformed to this world," but "transformed" into the image of Christ (Rom. 12:2). We reject the modern-day notion that says in order to reach the world with the gospel, we need to use the world's music. We therefore refuse to use Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and any style of music that, in our estimation, not only denigrates Christ and His gospel, but also reflects the spirit of the world, a spirit that is given over to entertainment instead of to the worship of God and the edification of the saints.

As a consequence, we make good use of the oldest hymnbook of the Church--the Psalms--as well as the great old hymns of the faith, which are so rich in doctrine and Christ-honoring music. The Lord has "put a difference" between His people and the world (Ex. 11:7), a difference we want to be seen in our praise and worship of the Triune God.

THE KEY TO TRUE WORSHIP

We seek to avoid both the deadness of the fixed liturgical form of some churches and the distracting disorder of others. The key to true worship is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We seek to maintain the liberty to sense and follow the leading of the Spirit, to express the spontaneity and joy of a living relationship with Christ, to convey the solemnity of appearing in the presence of the God of heaven, and to impress upon all present the majesty and mercy of God and the great issues of eternity. We enjoy meeting with one another. Fellowship is a part of worship (Acts 2:42), but most of all we come together to meet with our Lord.

THE LORD'S TABLE

That fellowship with the Lord is especially sweet at the Lord's Table. In Presbyterian church history, the communion season has often been the time God has chosen to visit His people with revival.

In the Free Presbyterian Church, each session (i.e., board of elders) has the right to determine the frequency of observing the Lord's Supper. We adhere strictly to what is the historical Protestant view of the ordinance. We repudiate the Romish notion of transubstantiation and Luther's idea of consubstantiation. There is no change in the physical elements. There is no bodily presence of Christ. Neither is the Supper a sacrifice for sin. It is a blessed memorial in which Christ's "death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace" (The Shorter Catechism, 96). Thus for us a communion service is no mere "add-on" or afterthought to another service. It is a solemn privilege to remember Christ, and as we do so we earnestly crave the manifestation of His glory to the reviving of our souls.

It is the Lord's Table to which we come. It is not a denominational table. All who credibly profess salvation in Christ, are seeking to maintain a pure testimony, and are not currently under discipline for sin in their local church are welcome to participate in services that for many of us are a foretaste of heaven. Here we view our Saviour in symbols that point us to the day when we will see Him face to face.

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