Wednesday 10 April 2013

Purity + Simplicity = Puritanism

The New Testament pattern of worship was marked by simplicity, purity and reverence. This is the whole theme of the Book of Hebrews. It seems that church history, in my opinion, records constant attempts by man to move away from this apostolic pattern, followed by the work of the Holy Spirit to recover this worship pattern of simplicity—purity—reverence. This was what the puritans strove for, it was a biblical pattern and yet fallen man always finds simplicity hard to live with. Why? It is the result of sin.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his Second letter: "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ" 2 Cor. 11:3, ESV. The NKJV translation illuminates this passage further: "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ". Paul's concern was that the church may be deceived and led astray, as Eve was, from God's principle for sincerity, purity and simplicity. We are not to be unaware of Satan's schemes therefore as Paul also warned the Corinthians in his second letter to them, 2:11 "so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs".

The Fall of man precipitated by the serpent undermining the authority of God's command, followed by a direct contradiction of God's threat upon disobedience, as recorded in Genesis Chapter 3. The serpent said to Eve:

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 3:1.

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 3:4-5.

Satan undermined the authority of God's command, the threat of disobedience, he inserted doubt and unbelief, and yet there were no arguments, it was subtle. His tactics were subtle, they were deceptive, they were cunning. Listen to how Eve responded in Genesis 3:6 "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate".

A visual appeal to the forbidden fruit is an important aspect of the Fall for us to bear in mind: "The woman saw that the tree was good ... it was a delight to the eyes". Mankind ever since the Fall has easily been misled to a visual religion and this has also affected Christianity. The Puritans recovered a biblical vision of simplicity in public worship, public worship without gimmicks, without our visual senses being pandered to, a worship focussed on the invisible God. This is a vision to be contended for in every generation.

The Westminster Confession of Faith summarises these elements of worship which are: "The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God" 21:5.

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