Is the RWP a mark of the true church?

Status
Not open for further replies.

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Help me out here. We all believe that there is a proper way to worship and that God himself has prescribed certain elements that make up our corporate worship. We vary greatly on what those elements should be.

Some of us will not go to a church because it is not EP or because it prohibits paedo-baptism. Many avoid churches that have P & W teams. Some will not fellowship unless real wine is used in the Lord's Supper.

When I explain the marks of a true church to somebody I tell them to look for 1. the Gospel, 2. the sacraments (baptism & communion), and 3. church discipline. Luther listed seven marks and Calvin listed two.

My questions are asked purely for my own education.

Where does the RWP fit into the marks of the true church?

Is the RWP a matter of polity and it stands apart from the marks or is it included in one of the visible marks?

Can a church be a true church that is in violation of the RWP?

If I am directing a new believer to find a true church, how long of a list do I give them. It can get very complicated and daunting if I include every conviction I have.
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
The marks of a true church should not be taken beyond the 3 that are usually named. However, I do think it is important to distinguish between a true church and a sound church. A sound church will be a true church, and even an unsound church can be a true church, but an unsound church while true cannot be sound! dizzy yet?

Both of our confessions (WCF and LBCF) agree that true churches will have some mixture of error, and can do so while remaining a true church. So I would point someone to the marks of a sound church. There are several good articles available online that help with these marks. Here are a few:

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church - by Mark Dever
The Character of a Healthy Church - by John MacArthur
Marks of a Healthy Church - by Lig Duncan
Seven Marks of a Sound Church - by Phillip Way

Many more can be found here:
Monergism.com on The Church

Phillip

[Edited on 9-27-05 by pastorway]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
The Westminster Confession says this about the church:

IV. This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

Purity of worship may fall under the government of the church or the preaching of sound doctrine, but either way it is a matter of great importance. The RPW is but an extension of the second commandment which prohibits worshipping God except in the ways which he has ordained. Moreover, churches that adhere to the Westminster Standards are obligated constitutionally to worship according to the RPW.

Pure worship is not of the essence (esse) of a true church, but considering that the function of the church is to glorify God on earth it is clearly a matter of the bene esse of the church. The efforts of the Westminster Assembly and the teachings of Calvin's Institutes and Puritan writings make clear how important the subject of pure worship was to them. A church may have good preaching, good government and faithful administration of the sacraments (at least outwardly) but if it worships God according to vain traditions or from a dead spirituality then its esse is not bene, it is unsound. A church that routinely breaks the second commandment and contravenes its Westminster standards in worship is in trouble. God has a controversy with those who worship God according to the precepts of men rather than his word (cf. Nadab and Abihu). Good intentions are not enough in worship.

It must be remembered that no church is entirely pure when it comes to the marks of a true church, and that includes worship (considered as an aspect of government and sound doctrine). Even those which maintain the ordinances of worship commanded in Scripture may do so with cold and dead hearts (see Isaiah 1). But is also said of those who add traditions to the pure ordinances of worship that their worship is vain hypocrisy (again with reference to Isaiah): "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15.8-9)

Calvin wrote extensively on how prone we are to idolatry and will worship. Every Christian has an idol-making factory in his heart. It is not surprising then that churches -- even the most Reformed -- are prone to deviate from pure worship. But deviations from pure worship do not automatically lead to removal of the candlestick. Yet, hopefully, we all desire to be part of a church which adheres to the motto: semper reformanda. It should be motto of individual Christians as well as churches of Christ, and -- consistent with man's chief end which is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever -- we ought to make purity of worship of primary importance.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Good thoughts all. The question struck me while I was listening to Pastor Farrel's series on ecclesiology from the monergism.com site. I wanted to hear how we puritans ("we ought to make purity of worship of primary importance. " - Andrew) would synthesize the marks with the RWP. Thanks for your inputs.

In practice it still sounds to me like we would make our puritan motto the 4th mark. A true church makes purity of worship its primary importance.
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
important, yes, but if we did go so far as to make it a fourth mark for a true church, which of our churches, if any, have absolutely pure (no error) worship? We cannot even agree on this board what constitutes pure worship!

There would be no discernable true church!

:eek:



[Edited on 9-27-05 by pastorway]
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
According to Calvin, it is the most important thing.

This is what I was going to point out. According to the Belgic Confession, Article 29 the marks by which the true Church is known are these:

"If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin."

At the same time, the Reformers were involved in the worship wars of their days. We think that the matters that we discuss are important but for them it was of the utmost importance.

In his tract entitled "The Necessity of Reforming the Church" Calvin notes two things that must be heeded: 1) justification and 2) worship. Let me submit that the first has to do with the preaching of the gospel, and the second has to do with the preaching of the gospel AND the pure administration of the sacraments.

So even if we were to say that worship is not directly cited as being one of the marks of a true church, I still believe it is incumbent upon us to seek the purest worship as possible while maintaining those marks. If our worship fails to uphold the gospel of grace and the sacraments as instituted by God's church, we have failed the test that the marks have laid down (or at least until reformation takes place).

[Edited on 9-27-2005 by poimen]
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
In a broad sense, I would say pure worship is THE mark of a true church because it reveals everything else that body believes, likely. How they view God, the sacraments, the gospel, revelation, inspiration, Scriptural authority, etc. etc. etc...
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
"We think that the matters that we discuss are important but for them it was of the utmost importance."

In the words of Michael Servitus, "I'm smoking more now but enjoying it less!"
:bigsmile:
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
In a broad sense, I would say pure worship is THE mark of a true church because it reveals everything else that body believes, likely. How they view God, the sacraments, the gospel, revelation, inspiration, Scriptural authority, etc. etc. etc...

The question is HOW pure? :chained:
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by pastorway
again, we are confusing true with sound.

Phillip

I'm not sure I agree with that. If a church does not worship God, how can they be a church (true OR sound)? "Good intentions" don't count in anything related to God, including worship. God's Word is the measure of good intentions. (For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4:12)
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
Originally posted by pastorway
again, we are confusing true with sound.

Phillip

I'm not sure I agree with that. If a church does not worship God, how can they be a church (true OR sound)? "Good intentions" don't count in anything related to God, including worship. God's Word is the measure of good intentions. (For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4:12)

In a broad sense, yes a church must worship God in order to be a TRUE church. But that is exactly what the three marks are! They are the "bare minimum" of what is needed to constitute a church. Preaching and the administration of the sacraments are no doubt elements of worship.

That being said, the RPW (as important as it is) is an extension of the three marks, and betters the church. A knowledge of it is not necessary for the definition of a church In my humble opinion.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top