The Regulative Principle of Worship

 Why worship should include some things and exclude other things.
How should we worship God?


Most people know what their own church does in regards to worship.  Some are even aware that other churches may do worship differently.  Unfortunately, far too many believers have no idea why any and everything can't be a part of their corporate worship.  All they know for sure is that the likes and dislikes of their local gathering, or perhaps that of their leadership, is the final arbiter as too what happens at their local church.  Sometimes tradition alone is the loudest voice.  The subjective nature of many of these benchmarks often leaves open the possibility that things could change.  So why not throw out ______? Or why not add in ______?   Those who hold to the authority and sufficiency of God's Word have always looked to the Bible to provide Divine wisdom on this subject.1  Thus a biblically based Regulative Principle of Worship has been called upon, providing a means to evaluate any proposed changes or additions.

The Regulative Principle - Defined 

The regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.  This means that our corporate worship should include: reading Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13); preaching Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2); singing Scriptures and the themes of Scriptures  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16); prayers (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1); the two ordinances of the church, baptism and the Lord's Supper (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Colossians 2:11-12). In addition, occasional elements such as solemn fasts (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:20; Acts 13:3); thanksgivings (1 Timothy 2:1; 4:3-4) and feasts (Jude 12) may be added. 

The Regulative Principle - In Weekly Practice

To limit corporate worship of the church to these things is to assure that worship is orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40) and that all that is done is known to be pleasing to God (Romans 12:2).  Other things may be personal acts of worship before the Lord, outside of corporate worship, but these are those that have been shown to be proper for the church together.  Within these things there is still much freedom and variation (such as length, amount of singing, number of people speaking, etc.).  Yet, it saves the church from adding in foolishness (such as having the congregation pat a sacred rock each Sunday as a reminder that Jesus is our Rock)2.

The Regulative Principle - In the Practice of Holidays

The regulative principle does not reject special days of remembrance as a corporate body, especially of that which God has done.  If the church, beyond the regular celebration of the Lord's Supper, takes a day for special remembrance of the same (often called Easter), it is not in violation of this principle.  Likewise, in the freedom the church is given to select a day for thanksgiving (and perhaps feasting), choosing a day to remember the Incarnation (often called Christmas) is also not a violation of this principle.   Notwithstanding, this in no way provides the church mandate, or right, to bind individuals to celebrate such festivals as personal or family mandates or as necessary acts of private worship (Colossians 2:16). 

End Notes

1.  Scriptures establish that God alone is to be worshipped. (Exodus 34:14 also Jeremiah 25:6; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22-8-9).  Secondly, scriptures show that God is to be worshipped in the manner He has prescribed.  (Deuteronomy 12:4 also see Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Colossians 2:21-23; Hebrews 12:28).

2. This scenario is a variation of what ancient Israel did during the Exodus.  It's really no different that substituting a golden cow for Yahweh.  (Exodus 32:2-6).  Even small changes to what God dictated were considered a great offense to Him (Leviticus 10:1-3).

(c) 2014 Brent MacDonald, LTM.