Biblical Worship 4: Key Words and Documents

Biblical Worship 4: Key Documents and Words

The last three installments of this series about worship defended, defined, and demonstrated the principle that the Bible regulates worship. This week the topic is the way our confession and catechisms formulate the Biblical doctrine.

There are four documents which make up the church statements on the principles from scripture. These are The Directory for the Publick Worship of God, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The word Publick is spelled with a letter k because this is an historic older English document.  These work like an answer-key. They interpret the way we at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church interpret scripture on the topic of worship.

The ministers who gathered at the Westminster Assembly began by publishing the Directory for public worship, followed by the Confession of Faith, followed by the Larger and then Shorter Catechisms. This gives us multiple points of view on the subject. The directory for public worship spells out how in practice worship should be conducted based on the principle of “Divine institution” (See the edition from the Free Church of Scotland, p. 374)

Instituted means that the worship practices in the Directory were initiated and shaped by God in the Bible. Instituted is the key word. This word continues to show up throughout the Westminster Standards. To define the word, it helps to put it in the dramatic context of scripture. Remember when the Lord gave Moses and Israel specific instructions on how to build, move, and practice the tabernacle worship, and Moses was told, “See to it that you make it according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain” (Exo 25:40). That is God’s work of institution. God gives the practice, pattern, instruction, and meaning to all the worship due to his name.

The same principle applies in Westminster Confession 21.1, “The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself.” The same holds true in Larger Catechism. In 108 it relates that the positive application of the second commandment (on idols) is “Keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in His word” 109, which applied the second commandment to worship saying that one form of idolatry is “opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.”

The way God gave worship to us is important because this shapes the relationship we have with Him on His terms. In this way, what God told Moses is a model for how God’s people should study worship, “See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you.”