Thursday, January 14, 2016

Biblical Worship and the Place of Congregational Singing

Acts 2:42: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

I wish that Christians today could see that the main elements of the worship service are all found in this verse. There are just four elements of the worship service that are given to us and should guide the way we worship together:

1) God's Word ("the apostles' teaching"). In the worship service Jesus speaks to us through the written Word and preached word.
2) Prayer ("the prayers"). We respond to the Lord's word in prayer. Prayer is the hand of faith that receives the word of Christ.
3) The Lord's Supper ("the breaking of bread"). Christ not only instructs us when we gather through the written and preached word, but he also gives us his life in the visible word of bread and wine.
4) Fellowship ("the fellowship"). In the service there is an element of fellowship that takes place. This is seen most clearly in the passing of peace, but in other ways as well, such as when we eat together.

Did you notice what is missing in this worship service? Singing! Why is congregational singing not mentioned as vital for our gathering together?

The answer is that congregational singing best fits under the category of prayer---our response of faith to the Word we have heard.(1) The word comes down to us from Christ in heaven, and our prayers ascend upwards to Him in response.

If this is true, then we need to make some changes in how we pray through song in our churches! Our songs must begin to resemble prayers---biblical prayers that petition God with humility rather than singing about our own piety! Then we will begin to be more faithful to the biblical pattern of worship we are given in Acts 2:42, which is a Word and meal pattern, interspersed with much prayer, and does not exclude fellowship.

May the Lord open our eyes to see and our hearts to desire acceptable and biblical worship. Amen


(1) The one time singing is mentioned in Acts, it is closely associated with prayer (Acts 16:25). Prayer is a broad category that includes praise, petition, thanksgiving, exhortation, teaching, confession, etc.

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