Updated: Oct 29
Key Points from this interesting and insightful book:
Overall, this is an intriguing text dealing specifically with one of the major issues facing Bible churches today…that of worship. Although not exclusively dealing with the subject of music, much of the work is dedicated to dealing with the area of musical expression in worship. With the onslaught of the new genre of worship, popularly called “contemporary worship,” many Bible-believing churches find it difficult to maintain their traditional formats and appeal to the present generation of worshippers. This book lays out a number of historical and scriptural arguments in support of traditional worship, better titled “biblical worship.” It also exposes many of the errors, shortfalls, and weaknesses of the modern worship scene.
Key Point 1 - Worship is Spiritual
Biblical worship is a product of the spirit of a redeemed human being. In other words, it is primarily a spiritual experience. Jesus himself stated that “they that worship the Father, must worship him in spirit and in truth. Aesthetic worshippers believe that things that are beautiful, artistic, or skillfully executed should be offered up as an expression of worship to God. This philosophy teaches that worship needs a ‘physical’ dimension. Worship is not the exercise of our gifts, but the expression of our hearts.
Key Point 2 - Worship is Rational
Biblical worship is, throughout the Bible, recognized to be a rational experience in contrast to a merely emotional one. Rational worship passes through the understanding. Again, according to Jesus, worship is to be “in spirit and in truth.” The truth side of this issue means that worship must be right, in accordance with that which is biblically accurate. Ecstatic worship on the other hand seeks merely a religious emotional experience and really doesn’t care if this is achieved within a biblical framework or not.
Key Point 3 - Worship is Reverent
Biblical worship is a sacred entity. This means that it is to be separate, distinct, and by all means holy. The flair and flavor of the world has no place in the worship of a thrice-holy God. The word profane means to treat holy things with irreverence or disregard. The contemporary religious worship scene is often found treating the sanctified things of God in this manner, by appealing to the world as the "bait" to capture the attention of people. Both the Old and New Testaments teach the purity and separation of God’s people from the world.
Reverence is a necessary attitude in relation to God and holy things. It is one of the first principles of worship. Reverence, on many levels, has become distasteful to the average man and woman. Hebrews 12:28, and 29 teach us that reverence and godly fear are exactly what God demands of his children. Without it (and grace), we cannot serve God acceptably. I Timothy 4:7-9 is another valuable passage dealing with reverence.
1 Timothy 4:7–9
7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
The word godliness in this passage means reverence or respect (2). It teaches us that piety towards God is globally profitable in terms of our overall lives. We must have the right demeanor towards God.
Key Point 4 - Truth Is Conveyed Through Words
Jesus said that true worshippers must worship the Father “in spirit and in truth.” Truth is conveyed in words. There is an interesting passage in Revelations (chapters 4 and 5) that shows a worship scene in Heaven. It is remarkable to note how this worship is carried out. The principle being taught is that worship is a spirit-based experience that manifests itself in words.
8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Worship comes from a heart of love and adoration but it manifests itself in words of praise.
Key Point 5 - Hymns Should Follow Biblical Precedent
The standards for worthy hymns are as follows?
It should reflect the example and method of the Psalms (The Hymnbook of the Old Testament. Hymns should imitate the topics, and the balance of worship components – for example, of all the Psalms, 61% focus on God or themes outside of oneself: 39% focus on personal matters).
Hymns must edify the worshipper.
Hymns will be reverent.
Good hymns will be doctrinally clear.
Worthy hymns will avoid over-ornamental lines, and be clear in expression.
Good hymns will have orderly structure and sensible rhyming.
Worthy hymns will not become wilfully detached from reality. They will avoid mystical statements. They will use biblical imagery and language.
Key Point 6 - Three Historical Battles to Understand in the Controversy Over Worship.
Chapter fourteen deals with “Three Battles For the Soul of Evangelicalism.” They are:
First, the effort that began years ago to bring Catholics and evangelicals together (largely influenced by Billy Graham). This led to a blurring of doctrinal and salvation themes;
Second, Charismatic practices have been sweeping through both the Catholic and the Evangelical ranks (which further broke down legitimate barriers to ecclesiastical separation); and
Third, the new worship revolution. This last battle has been far more destructive than the previous two, and it seems that there is no end to the degradation of worship nor to the degrading influences that it is engendering.
Key Point Seven - The Dangers of "New Worship"
Three points are urged in the final pages of this book that I think are worthy to be emphasized. They encapsulate the concepts of the dangers of new worship.
The adoption of new worship can break down the sense of separation from the world that the Bible speaks so much about. This will leave Christians as helpless spiritual cripples in an increasingly secular culture.
The adoption of new worship is actually a very divisive practice. The process of its implementation often splits churches. It also causes division in another way. Doctrinally sound Churches feel compelled to stand apart from fellowships that have adopted the principles of new worship.
The adoption of new worship significantly changes the character of churches. Where will churches that have adopted carnal principles in worship be five, ten, or twenty years from now? Is there really any end in sight to the limits to which these churches will go to attract and keep a crowd?
The significance of this book generally, I feel, is that it adds one more voice to the growing chorus of voices standing in opposition to the new style of worship agenda. Most observant and thoughtful Christians can remember when they were first exposed to this new approach to worship. For me, I remember a local Southern Baptist Church that was the first in the community to implement this new approach. I do not remember much opposition to it at the time (except in Independent Baptist circles). Most people just thought it was an odd passing fancy. Gradually, the phenomenon took greater and greater hold in many other churches as they saw crowds gathering where this method was employed. May God forgive Bible believers for not taking a more definite stand in the early days of this heretical approach. May God help us to wisely and compassionately take a stand today!
(1) Masters, Peter. 2002. Worship in the Melting Pot. London, Eng.: Wakeman Trust.
(2) William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1161.