If you visit different churches, you will discover two different perspectives on church worship and gatherings. Neither of these terms below can be found in the Bible, so I will be careful to define things as clear as possible. I will do my best to present them both to you with respect to alternative viewpoints, and share what I see taught in the Bible.
Normative Principle– Most churches in our day have and practice this perspective. This understanding sees it this way: if something is not expressly forbidden by Scripture, it can be used in corporate worship since we have freedom in the gospel. This allows for the practices of tradition on one hand and innovation on the other during worship on the Lord’s day. Here are a few examples: Candle lighting, incense burning, performances, singing of non-Christian songs, flashy holiday decorations, giveaways, and anything else that is not found in the Bible yet is not forbidden by the Bible.
Regulative Principle– Not as many churches in our day practice the regulative principle, though there was a time where it was more common. This understanding sees it this way: If something is not commanded by scriptures, it should not be done in the worship service. This approach is known for its simplicity. This type of church will generally at least four main things every Sunday: singing praises to the Lord, prayer, devoting time to the public reading of scripture, and the preaching of God’s Word.
Which one of these do you think is best? What do you think is most effective in doing God’s work? Though not every Christian agrees on this, as a pastor I feel quite strongly that churches should practice the regulative principle (If defined as I have above and in Par 3). In other words, God’s word alone regulates our worship to Him. We should not add to or take away from anything that God has commanded us to do especially when we gather together as a church. I intend to touch on this just a little bit in my sermon this morning from 1 Samuel 13. You can listen to this sermon here.
Part 2 Is the Regulative Principle Biblical?
Part 3 How do we Apply the Regulative Principle?
I would like to encourage you to remember the three exhortations given in Hebrews 10:19-27
- Let us draw near to God (v. 22)
- Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23)
- Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (v. 24)
Notice that the author ends these commands by saying, while you obey these three things, don’t neglect to meet together but encourage one another (v. 25). All the commands start with “let us”. God did not intend for us to do these things alone but rather they are to be done together as the body, as the Church, as we meet together on Sundays and during the week.
When one turns to Jesus, they are united to him and in effect become united to every other person that is in Christ. Becoming part of a local church and obeying these three commands together with other Christians is a direct outworking of your salvation. It is evidence that you are truly in Christ. This becomes clear in the next verse. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (v. 26) We need one another in order to live out these commands as God intends.