The Church Part 6: Gospel Community as a Means of Grace

“Means of grace” are the things in which God uses to grow us in grace and sanctify us together with the rest of the church.  The means of grace within gospel community (the church) are vast and vital to the Christian life.  Many in the past have seen baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and sometimes prayer as the only official means of grace within the church, but there are several others that should also be considered.  These include the teaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer for one another, worship, church discipline, giving, spiritual gifts, fellowship, evangelism, and personal ministry to individuals.  Many of these things can be done alone, but when they are done in the context of a local church they come with increased blessing and benefits.

The teaching of the Word builds up the body and draws the members deeper in their walk with the Lord.  Baptism is the public sign of the gospel and how it has transformed the new believer’s life and often results in substantial spiritual growth and encouragement in the church.  The Lord’s Supper is similar in that it pictures the gospel and the nourishment that the gospel brings to the one with saving faith.  Prayer for one another not only builds up those who are participating, but it also accomplishes powerful things in the body.  Worship brings much glory to God and like the preaching of the Word brings about sanctification in the believers who worships in spirit and in truth.  Church discipline, though it can seem like the opposite of a means of grace, when it is done properly can unify the church, protect it from impurity, and lead to the repentance of a straying brother or a false convert.   The financial giving of the church body also blesses the church and brings God’s blessing on those who are cheerful givers.  Spiritual gifts by their very nature build up the body along with the fellowship of the church.  Evangelism brings about the blessing of adding more worshipers bringing the church to see God’s power and grace better.  Finally, as members care for one another in personal ministry while using their spiritual gifts, the church will be built up in love leading to added blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Church Part 5: Worship

Though the entire life of the Christians should be considered worship, the scriptures most often use worship to refer to the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices and hearts.  This activity is primarily done in the context of the church and this is why it is addressed here while looking at the doctrine of the church (though the life of a christian is a life of daily worship).  As a matter of fact, one of the primary reason why God redeems and gathers his people is that they may know and worship him (Ex. 7:16). Is that not amazing?  We are saved for the sake of worship!  Worship is the direct outworking of what we personally and corporately were created to do (Isa. 43:6-7, Eph. 1:12).   The purpose of worship is to call attention to God and for us to praise him as he deserves for who he is.

Joy from Worship

There are several results to genuine worship.  We first of all delight in God as he delights in us.  The Psalms are so full of this reality that the presence of God is where joy is and as we worship God, we enter his presences and his is glorified in our amazement in him.  This brings delight to both us and him.  Furthermore, we draw near to God in worship and he draws near to us.  When we worship, Hebrews 12:18-24 says that we are not alone as we sing.  We are worshiping with those who have gone before us, the “spirits of just men made perfect and to Jesus”.  Moreover, as we draw near to God, his presence blesses us in joy and song.  This also is an aspect of him ministering to us.  Even though worship is ultimately about God, we are built up by it as the church. Doing worship is also the will of God and has eternal value as it is spiritual in nature.

How Do We Worship?

The final aspect of worship that needs to be addressed relates to how to enter into spiritual worship.  Jesus tells a Samaritan woman at a well that true worshipers of God will worship him in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).  This means that worshiping is not a heartless action or duty but a heartfelt reality that is expressed physically.  Furthermore, the words we sing must be full of “truth.”   Pastor Wayne Grudem says “Unless our spirits are worshiping God we are not truly worshiping him” (Systematic Theology p. 1011).  Worship is our response to the Glory of God.  As Hebrews 12:28-29 says, we worship God because he is a consuming fire.  Worship is simply our heartfelt response to who God is, and it is the only rightful one at that.  In light of this we need to approach worship rightfully, preparing for it through prayer and repentance, that we might worship God in spirit and in truth.

Singing Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs

What do you think was the hymnal of the early church?  Clearly they did not have our “Baptist hymnals” and were clearly uninformed about any worship song that we sing today.  This does not mean we are in the dark though as to the worship of the early church. We have several texts that gives us a window into the worship of the first century apostolic christian church.

Ephesians 5:18-21 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:14–17 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In both of these texts we see Paul is calling the church to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with joy and thankfulness to God.  There is some debate about exactly what we should consider “songs” and “spiritual songs” and what the difference would have been but there is little question as to what the psalms were; namely the book of Psalms in the OT.

So why does it matter?  Why am I writing about this?

  1. God calls us, and gives us the privilege to worship him.  No matter the form of music or where it comes from, God has made us to worship him- what an honor we have.
  2. Musical worship is not simplistic.  In other words, we must not say that God is only pleased with this specific type of song, only this rhythm, or only that instrument, or none at all.  He calls his church to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Not simply one and not the other.  All of them are pleasing to God
  3. The church would benefit from singing the Psalms.  This is easier said than done, especially since most Psalms are hard to sing and most churches have not even considered this.  This is something we should look into and consider if we want to take seriously God’s call in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:14-17.
  4. Worship is centered on the local church.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with worship bands and Christian artists.  Both have done great things for the Lord and His church.  I would also encourage private times of worship with yourself and even you family.  These are good things that we must do.  We must also see though that worship in the NT is undivided from a congregation.  We need to envision worship and the local church and inseparable.  Worship on earth is a community empowered work, much like it is in heaven.  Yes, worship on your own every day, but just as importantly, never neglect worship with your local church family.

This article is quite brief so many things were not addressed on this topic, but I hope this was helpful for you.  Below I have posted some recommended worship, including Psalms, Hymns, and worship songs.  Enjoy.

Psalms:

Psalm 62 

Psalm 42 

Psalm 104 

Psalm 119 

Psalm 113 

Psalm 43 

Hymns:

Spiritual Songs:

 

The I AM Gives Himself Up

We have before us in John 18 a glorious paradox.  The one who is by nature God and boldly claims the divine name of I AM, delivers himself up to be killed.  We can clearly see in the text that Jesus did not have to be arrested.  He is after all the sovereign Lord of the universe.  Jesus chose to give himself up so that sinners like us can be saved through repentance and faith.  Think about this for a minute.  The one who in Isaiah 48:12 said, “I am he; I am the first and I am the last.  My hand laid the foundation of the earth and my right hand spread out the heavens when I call to them they stand forth together,” he is the one who was willingly delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.  There are several application points that I see in the text.

  1. We are called to humility. Though Jesus is very bold in the way he delivers himself up, he also does it humbly especially considering the fact that he is in his vary nature God.
  2. We are called to service & sacrifice. At the point of his arrest, Jesus was not serving himself but rather his father and his people.  Just as Jesus sacrificed himself, so also we are called to sacrifice our lives to God and to others.
  3. We are called to worship. I think this is the main point of the passage. Jesus is not some cool guy that we like to talk about.  He is our God and we are called to fall down and worship him.