Regulative Principle Doctrine

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Coram Deo

Puritan Board Junior
Again Debating with the Pastor Friend regarding the regulative principle and he said the following...

"the regulative principle is very apparent in the Mosaic Law and replete with audio-visuals (Nadab and Abiuh, Uzzah, etc.) but when G.I.Williamson and you get to the NT the arguments are so severely lacking I would not even include them."


"It seems that the regulative principle was part of the warp and woof of Old Covenant Worship. But when we come to the NT there is a screaming silence of the regulative principle. (and you can't use Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees and Scribes b/c they were still under the law.)

Is his dispensationalism showing through? How would you respond? Will I know have to go deep into Covenant Theology with him? What are your thoughts?


Puritan Board Senior
Very much dispensational in my opinion. God is immutable.

Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship


What About the Regulative Principle in the New Testament?

For those in love with their human traditions (that they have added to God’s ordained worship), an obvious way to circumvent the clear meaning of the Old Testament passages discussed would be to assert that the regulative principle was meant only for an immature old covenant church. It is asserted that because the old covenant people of God did not have the Spirit of God in the same manner or fullness as new covenant believers, God had to prescribe all their worship ordinances in minute detail. But with the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost: “The Church, it may be said, has passed from childhood to years of maturity where it can exercise discretion and liberty in determining its own worship.”39 This argument (although common) is fallacious—for the New Testament teaches the exact same principle of worship as does the Old Testament. Christ held strictly to the regulative principle before and after His resurrection and the apostle Paul adhered strictly to the regulative principle many years after Pentecost.

1. Jesus and the Regulative Principle

“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition’” (Matt. 15:1-3)?

The Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of the Jewish people. They believed that they had the liberty to add to the commandments of God. The law of God did contain various ceremonial washings to signify the unclean becoming clean. The Pharisees simply added other washings to emphasize and perfect the law of Moses. There is no express commandment forbidding these ceremonial additions except the regulative principle (e.g., Deut. 4:2; 12:31). These additions have no warrant from the word of God.

Jesus Christ is the champion of the regulative principle. He strongly rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for adding to God’s law. What happens when sinful men add rules and regulations to God’s law? Eventually manmade tradition replaces or sets aside God’s law. “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). The ancient Christian church added its own rules and ceremonies to the worship of God and degenerated into the pagan and idolatrous Roman Catholic church. If we do not draw the line regarding worship where God draws the line, then, as history proves, the church will eventually degenerate into little better than a bizarre pagan cult. Christ’s rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees applies today to virtually every (so called) branch of the Christian church. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). Calvin says: “Christ has faithfully and accurately given the meaning, that in vain is God worshiped, when the will of men is substituted in the room of doctrine. By these words, all kinds of will-worship (ethelogescheia), as Paul calls it (Col. 2:23), are plainly condemned. For, as we have said, since God chooses to be worshiped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised. As soon as men allow themselves to wander beyond the limits of the Word of God, the more labour and anxiety they display in worshipping him, the heavier is the condemnation which they draw down upon themselves; for by such inventions religion is dishonored.”40

2. The Great Commission

After Jesus Christ’s resurrection He gave orders to His church to disciple all nations: “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Note that Christ gave the church a very limited authority. Only those things taught in the word of God are to be taught to the nations. Therefore, whatever the church teaches by way of doctrine, church government and worship must come from the Bible alone. The church does not have the authority to make up its own doctrine or worship or government. William Young writes: “The charter of the New Testament Church at this point is expressed in identical terms as those of the Mosaic economy which we have seen so expressly to exclude the inventions of men from the worship of God. No addition to or subtraction from Christ’s commands may be allowed in the New Testament any more than with respect to the commands given on Mount Sinai in the Old.... We have no more right to alter that divinely instituted pattern of ordinances for the New Testament Church than Nadab and Abihu, Saul, Jeroboam, or any others in the Old.... The will of God, not the will of man, is the rule of the worship of the New Testament Church.”41

“The apostles obeyed Christ and taught the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). One can search carefully in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation for divine authorization for many of today’s church practices (e.g., holy days such as Christmas, the liturgical calendar, the use of musical instruments in worship, the use of uninspired human songs in worship, music soloists, choirs, etc.), but there is no biblical warrant at all. Most pastors and teachers are not just teaching what Christ commanded but are also teaching many human traditions. Christians who want to honor Christ as the only King and head of the church must refuse to observe these man-made additions to what our Lord commanded.”42

3. Paul Condemns Will Worship

Paul in his epistle to the Colossians concurs with both the Old Testament’s and Christ’s teaching on worship. Paul condemns those who seek to impose Judaical food laws and holy days upon the church (Col. 2:16). (Because the ceremonial laws were shadows that pointed to the substance—Jesus Christ—they are done away with.) They are no longer authorized and therefore forbidden. Paul’s warning regarding human philosophy is the backdrop of his condemnation of false worship and manmade laws (legalism) in the same chapter. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Paul condemns manmade doctrines and commandments. “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why as though living in the world do you subject yourself to regulations—Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23). Paul says that any human addition to what God has commanded is self-imposed religion, or as the King James version says, “will worship.” The Greek word used by Paul (ethelothreskeia) signifies worship that originates from man’s own will. “This is worship not enjoined by God, but springing out of man’s own ingenuity—unauthorized devotion.... The worship referred to is unsolicited and unaccepted. It is superstition....”43 “The gist is that these ordinances are forms of worship or religious service chosen by man (according to the will of man), not means chosen by God. This is the essence of corrupt worship, when men seek to establish their own forms of religious service. We might call it free-will worship, since the advocates of man-made worship are claiming that men possess the right (or freedom) to institute acceptable means to worship God.”44 Furthermore, Paul says that adding to God’s word is a show of “false humility.” It is “will-worship” religion instead of God’s will religion. Manmade laws take away the liberty we have in Christ. God’s moral law is perfect. It does not need additions. Manmade rules and regulations are “not in any honor” to the believer.

God has given His church a Psalm book and a holy day (the Lord’s day). Can man improve upon the worship and service that God has instituted? Of course not. It is the height of arrogance and stupidity to think that sinful men can improve upon God’s ordinances. “It is provoking God, because it reflects much upon His honor, as if He were not wise enough to appoint the manner of His own worship. He hates all strange fire to be offered in His temple (Lev. 10:11). A ceremony may in time lead to a crucifix. Those who contend for the cross in baptism, why not have the oil, salt and cream as well.”45
Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God


Puritan Board Junior

It is not only Dispensational in nature, but Libertarian as well. Opponents of the RPW do not realize that what they are saying is that there should be no Biblical regulations on worship. That we should be able to do whatever we want, and that God is forced to accept it as long as it is sincere.

Is it lawful to have plays in worship, or to worship God naked? The moment they start to "regulate" worship to certain items, then they are showing their hypocrisy. The regulative principle forbids their own personal peeves, and that is why they don't like it. They want to justify their own innovations in worship thinking that God will hear them because of their sincerity.




Puritanboard Librarian
:up: to AV and CH. When I think of the Biblical basis for the the RPW, I think of Ex. 20.4-6; Deut. 4.2; Deut. 12.32; Lev. 10.1-3; Matt. 15.1-11; John 4.23-24; Col. 2.20-23;, Old Testament and New (some of these texts are also cited by the Westminster Divines in support of this proposition at WCF 21.1). But truly, more than a few "mere" prooftexts, this doctrine permeates scripture from Genesis to Revelation as Doug Comin has shown (see his book on the subject here). We are studying Ezra at my church currently and my pastor has preached on the RPW from Ezra 2-3. It's fundamental to the true worship of God in all times and in all contexts. The RPW flows from the second commandment and the second commandment is still binding today. God ordains how he will be worshipped, and we may never add to or subtract from that. Be sure to also read Dr. McMahon's article on the subject here, among many other resources on the subject.

Coram Deo

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you very much gentleman... All of this has been helpful... I just got done typing up a very long email along with Schwertley's article and sent it to my friend who is a pastor......

Here is a little background into this debate... This pastor is brand new right out of Master's Seminary. He just got installed as the head pastor at a Macarthur like church here on the Eastern Shore as the other pastor is stepping down for retirement. The church's worship has been very much like Rivivalistic worship tent style with hymns like "In the garden". I have come to know this pastor over the past 5 to 6 months through some friend who go to the church. His preaching is really good except when he brings alittle dispensationalism into his sermons :p. His sermons are not wishy washy but the worship IS. Anyway, He has never heard of the Regulative Principle, nor even Exclusive Psalmody. He had no idea of worship problems out there with regards to the regulative principle. So I introduced it to him in hopes that he might study and accept it. The church is only 30 mins from us compared to what we have been driving an hour and 25 mins to church. He already likes the idea of bring in Psalms from the Psalter into worship but he is unsure of Exclusive Psalmody.. It is in the right direction.... He never even heard of or seen a Psalter before I brought one to him. I have also been discussing with him the Lord's Supper, its meaning, its elements, and its frequency.

I have made a good friendship with this guy and he seems to be very studious and loves to debate....

I have given him
Al Martin Sermon on Recovering Biblical worship
G.I Williamson's 4 set sermons on Exclusive Psalmody
A paper I wrote on the regulative principle

I also recommended to him to buy to which he did and is reading
With Reverance and Awe by D.G. Hart

And he said he will buy
Given for you by Mathison


Dallas Cowboys' #1 Fan
Very much dispensational in my opinion. God is immutable.
Alright, I agree that his view is dispensational. I know because I've been there. But let's please not just throw out a pithy statement like "God is immutable." Of course God is immutable. And yet we don't still have to go to Jerusalem 3 times a year, wear priestly garments, offer up bulls and goats, and circumcise our sons on the 8th day. There are obviously some things about the worship of God that changed. The argument at hand is "what things and why?"

I believe in the RPW. I think you need to go into detail with him about why some things change and why some things don't. Why shouldn't we use skits in the worship of God? Why not liturgical dance? These are questions that most modern folks don't even contemplate. But for those who do, it is best to have a good answer.
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