Corporate Worship - Part 2
Corporate Worship – Part 2
Last month I wrote about the topic of corporate worship. In case you missed it, I defined corporate worship in my own words as the gathering of a local body of Christ-followers on a Sunday, a gathering prescribed by God and for the worship of God. I then went on to explain that our corporate worship each week is modeled after and informed and shaped by the Bible, which gives us plentiful insight into what our corporate worship services should look like. The model, or flow, of our corporate gatherings has a name – liturgy – which simply means our order and content of worship. I also explained in short that while our liturgy may look different to some degree from one church to another, the core of it is the same, and that it should reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ in every way. It is this structure, or liturgy, that I want to take us now in depth over the next three months’ articles.
As I said also last month, each Sunday when we gather, we sing, we pray, we hear from God’s Word, we confess our sin, we observe the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, we fellowship and encourage one another, and we praise and thank our great God and Savior, Jesus for His death and resurrection for our salvation. Each of these elements are garnered from Scripture and are found historically throughout the church’s practice of corporate worship going back to the early church. Traditionally, these elements have been organized in such a way that best reflects the gospel or re-tells the story of salvation, beginning with adoration, or praise, of our triune God. The second element is generally some form of corporate confession of sin. While there are multiple biblical examples of this model, let’s take a look at one of my favorites, Isaiah chapter 6. Notice how the narrative begins by praising and exalting God…
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” (vv. 1-4)
The opening few verses of this chapter tells of Isaiah’s encounter with the living God. It is a glorious picture! But notice that it doesn’t start with a focus on Isaiah or what he thinks about God, but rather it begins by describing the character and nature of God, even down to how the angels worshiped him and the ground shook! Every aspect of our worship, both personal and corporate, must begin with a focus on God, on his greatness, and on his character. If we miss this crucial first step in corporate worship, all else we do will be lacking. Remember the second element of worship that typically follows adoration of God is confession, and confession makes no sense unless we encounter a holy, perfect God. Isaiah 6 continues, “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” (v. 5)
Each Sunday when we come to worship together, we don’t have the vision Isaiah had, but we do encounter the same God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And, like Isaiah, we are sinners, too, and need to repent before we move onto any other element of corporate worship. This act of corporate confession has sadly fallen out of practice formally in many evangelical churches over the last several decades, and therefore may be the most unfamiliar to you personally. At Trinity, we as a staff agree it is a biblical priority, and, while it may look somewhat different from week to week, which is actually a good thing, it helps us to worship more faithfully to how God has commanded us to worship Him in His Word.
Now, a common question is this: since we are forgiven, do we really need to confess our sin like this every single week? Absolutely! Our status as redeemed children of God does not mean we don’t sin anymore. In fact, a vibrant walk with the Lord is one where confession and repentance of sin is a daily act, much less weekly, not in order to be saved over and over, but in order to live a life of repentance, one that doesn’t just repent once, but lives in a “spirit of repentance” lifelong, if you will. And as we’ll see next month, our confession is not despairing like Isaiah’s, but hopeful, for we know that forgiveness always comes when we ask God for it. Adoration. Confession. Our corporate worship begins here, but it doesn’t end here. Our liturgy must have these elements if we are to be faithful to God’s Word and let it inform and shape our corporate worship.
See you Sunday.
In Christ alone,