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
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.
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
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
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.