This weeks' focus picks up where we left off on Sunday morning: The Sunday gathering on the Lord's Day.
The example of the NT church is that they met on Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and they referred to it as “the Lord’s Day.” To come together on the Lord’s Day wasn’t a convenient add-on to living the Christian life. It was one of the essential activities of the Christian:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24–25)
The Regulative Principle
When we meet on the Lord’s Day, what kinds of things are we supposed to do? Here we stand solidly on the shoulders of Presbyterians and what they call the Regulative Principle: We do in our corporate gatherings what God commands.
Here’s the Westminster Confession on this idea:
The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture (WCF 21:1).
This is the essence of what is called the "Regulative Principle," the idea that we worship only in ways specifically commanded in Scripture. This provides the "non-negotiables" of our corporate worship.
When things aren’t specifically “prescribed in the Holy Spirit” the WCF wisely says we turn to “Christian prudence” (1:6).
The Lord's Supper
As an example, it’s “prescribed” to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). We drink the cup and eat the bread in remembrance of the redemption of Christ.
But how often and in what manner involves a lot of “Christian prudence.” Some traditions do it weekly or more, others annually.
Well, what else is prescribed in the Holy Scripture that we ought to do at our Sunday gathering?
Preaching the Word
A priority in the NT (and OT) is the preaching and teaching of God's Word:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1–2)
Paul is emphatic here, basically calling heaven and earth as witnesses as he exhorts the young Timothy to preach the Word. There are a lot of things we could preach on a Sunday, but above all these we must be devoted to the preaching of God's Word.
We do this to build one another up, to be equipped for the mission God has for us, and to see the lost saved. When God's Word is preached, people get saved.
Prayer for All People
Next, we pray:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2:1–2)
This is why prayer fills so many spots on a Sunday morning: In the pre-service prayer meeting at 9:15, prayers from the prophecy microphone, during the offering, during the sermon, with the prayer team after the service. God's people must be a praying people!
God's people are also...to sing:
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:18–20)
Isn't it interesting that here songs are both “addressing one another” AND “to the Lord with your heart.” Our songs are directed to one another to encourage us in our Christian pilgrimage, and they're directed to the ultimate object of all our praise, God himself.
An important area where God's Word speaks and we want to adhere to the Regulative Principle closely is in the area of spiritual gifts:
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy….What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Cor 14:1, 26)
This is a less common idea when it comes to the Regulative Principle. Remember what WCF 21:1 said, “prescribed in the Holy Scripture.” 1 Cor 14 is one of the most important chapters in the whole Bible on the Lord’s Day gathering because that’s what it’s about. There aren’t many topics where we get a whole chapter of Scripture.
Greet with Affection
Next, we are to greet one another with sincere affection:
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. (1 Thess 5:26)
In the 1st century they had some masculine, appropriate version of a greeting with a kiss. Some European cultures continue that pattern.
Well, it's not common in Wake County. Especially with COVID-19 on the loose. Will the handshake even survive?
The point for us here is that being Christians in the same church gives us a tight, family relationship. We are “brothers and sisters” with Christ the “firstborn” and God as our “Father.” There should be a true love and affection for one another. And so we greet one another warmly.
In fact, we’re so excited about the life God has given us, we want others to share in it also. So we warmly greet all those who visit with us on a Sunday, too.
A Special Blessing
There is a special blessing when God's people are together. It's no accident that when the tabernacle with Moses was completed in Exod 40 and Israel was gathered before it, the glory of God filled it.
And when the Solomon’s temple was finished and he prayed at its inauguration with all Israel gathered before it, the glory of God filled it. And when the fledgling church was gathered in Jerusalem at prayer, the Spirit of God was poured out on the Day of Pentecost.
These times when God’s people were gathered in his presence and according to his will, God showed up powerfully. It’s true these were unique times in salvation history. But they’re also reminders that God places a special blessing on the church when they gather for worship on the Lord’s Day.
It will be sweet to be together again after our COVID exile. Till then, take care.
See you next time.