A theology of worship is necessary for churches to re-think how their theology informs their architecture, furniture, room layout, the administration of the sacraments and church government. Everything we do is an image of something, either consciously or unknowingly. Edward Donnelly explains that for the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland, their theology guides their design of church buildings, so that the pulpit is central, to signify that the Word of God rules over everything. Beneath the pulpit and in permanent full view before the congregation is the Lord’s Table, with the communion plate, the communion cup, and the baptismal bowl. Michael Horton similarly observes that worship is not neutral and he writes:
The Reformation, in its recovery of the preached Word, gave a fresh visual prominence to the pulpit. Along with the font (baptism) and the table or altar (the Lord’s Supper), the high pulpit stood over the people as the minister himself stood under the Word that he preached.
These are some of the visual aids that the Westminster Confession of Faith permits, while excluding others.
The Westminster Larger Catechism expounds the Second Commandment, as expressly forbidding any ‘monuments of idolatry’ and it condemns the worship of images as false worship, describing them as ‘not instituted by God himself’. It condemns ‘the making [of] any representation of God’ or ‘of all or any of the Three Persons’. Donald G. Bloesch explains that the ‘Christian faith is founded on God’s self-revelation in his Word’ and he warns that it is an ‘incontrovertible fact that an image [Ex. 20:4–6; Ps. 78:58; Is. 40:18] invariably gives a false picture of God because it is necessarily limited in what it can denote’.
The Westminster Directory of Public Worship connects the Trinity to Christ as mediator but this idea needs to be further sharpened, advanced and moved further in this direction. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarises the regulative principle for worship:
The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.
Seven facets of public worship are gleaned from the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and it is our intention to encourage these elements in the Church of God.They are:
The Christian Sabbath
A Clear Call to Worship the Triune God in the name of God's mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ
The public reading of Scriptures
Congregational Singing (of which the singing of Psalms is singularly encouraged in the writings of the Westminster Confession).
Preaching Pure Doctrine, Pastorally.
The Right Administration of Baptism and the Lord's Supper
A Closing Benediction
Let us all pray for a recovery of biblical worship in the Church of God!