Often we wonder what we should do for God in worship. This is, of course, a most excellent question, but I would like to propose that there is an even more fundamental question. “How do we know what we should do in worship?” and/or “How do we know what God requires of us?” Once we grasp these fundamental questions, then I believe it will be much easier for us to understand what God requires of us and what we should then do for him in life and worship.
In order to see this hermeneutical principle, we must begin with the reality that God has spoken. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). God has spoken about those things he would have us to do. Divine speech brings about the regulative principle. Simply, “we cannot go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), but we are at liberty to pursue every opportunity to glorify God within the regulation of what is written. This principle has been recognized for centuries by individuals from many different backgrounds.
“Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have him to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish his authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. …Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits, that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke his anger against us.” (John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church).
Before we can discuss what we should do, we must consider how we can know what we should and may do. Once we understand how we can know what we must/may do, then it is much easier for us to operate for God’s glory within God’s regulations.
D. L. D.