Worship, RPW, and Sabbath

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Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
After reading Sam Waldron's defense of the Regulative Principle in Going Beyond the Five Points, some confusion has ensued. I've heard or seen people define worship in such a way as to distinguish between Specific and General Worship. Specific being solely Corporate Worship and General Worship being framed in a Romans 12:1 or 1 Corinthians 10:31 sort of way where all of life is "worship" in the sense that all of life flows from a life of faith and love toward the Lord. My question that then arises is on the Sabbath, when the day is set apart for the public, family, and individual worship of the church, what keeps the private exercises of worship from being anything that the believer finds "worshipful" whether thats playing sports or watching T.V.? Is it solely the command of Isaiah 58 that regulates that our private and family "worship" is to be God-centered activities such as fellowship with believers, Scripture and other theological reading, singing, praying and so on and not other acts of this "general" worship?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Adam, it's a good question. The formulation of the fourth commandment gives more than a hint about this. The question becomes "what does it mean to keep it holy?" Holy means set apart. Set apart from what? According to the commandment, set apart from the normal things one does on the other days of the week (a general rule that has two exceptions: works of mercy and works of necessity, as per Christ's example and teaching). The fourth commandment, therefore, tells us that the day is to be about the specific worship of God, not "the worshipful way we can do ordinary things." The historical situation of the Israelites confirms this interpretation, as they were completely unable to worship God specifically, but were tied to work 24/7. Presumably they could have done their work, even slave-work, in a worshipful way, but this was not sufficient.

Scripture, then, tells us that activities that are conducive to the specific worship are appropriate for the Sabbath. I have always held that there are gray areas in terms of activities that are conducive to worship. The Scripture does not spell out every possible situation. One person's conscience, for instance, might not be able to allow a thing that another person's conscience allows him to do. The most important question we can ask about a given activity, then, is whether it is conducive to the public and private worship of God. And, by private, I don't mean the "worshipful way we do ordinary things," but rather our meditation on God's Word, prayer, acts of mercy and necessity, delight in fellowship with other believers, etc. I think Isaiah 58 is very important in determining these things, but, as I have pointed out, the fourth commandment itself is just as important.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes that's helpful! I guess where I'm getting hung up on is how to make a distinction in worship when the regulative principle applies to public worship yet family/individual worship is distinct from normal weekly routine.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Hm, could you expand your statements a bit? I'm having a spot of difficulty in knowing what your specific point is.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Specific being solely Corporate Worship
Specific worship does not refer solely to corporate worship. It is referring to a time set apart to draw near to God for specific acts of devotion, e.g., prayer, praise, etc. https://www.puritanboard.com/thread...e-between-specific-and-generic-worship.31388/


John Murray, “Worship,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 1, p. 165 (source):

"When we are thinking of worship we must distinguish between the generic and the specific. The generic is the devotion we owe to God in the whole of life. God is sovereign, he is Lord, having sovereignty over us and propriety in us, and therefore, in all that we do we owe subjection to him, devotion to his revealed will, obedience to his commandments. There is no area of life where the injunction does not apply: ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’ (I Cor. 10:31). In view of the lordship of Christ as Mediator all of life comes under his dominion. ‘Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ’ (Col. 3:23, 24).

The specific is the exercise of worship in the specialized sense — prayer, thanksgiving, reading the Word, preaching, singing God’s praises, administering the sacraments. Some of these may be exercised in private, all of them in the public worship of God, which is God’s instituted communal worship in the assembly of the saints. There are exercises of worship that should be attached to other functions or may be properly attached to other functions. Food is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, and in partaking of food we ought to ask God’s blessing. But a meal is not a part of the instituted worship in the assemblies of the saints. Compare also marriage, the burial of the dead, the convening of political assemblies etc."
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry for any confusing statements. But I think Raymond is getting to the heart of definition I've been seeking which is if I'm reading correctly that by definition peculiar worship extends to any exercise of drawing nigh to God through God's means (The Word, Prayer, Singing, etc.) whether it is corporately or privately.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Also what would become of theological reading (i.e. Some Owen), catechism/confession, memorization? Would they be included as specific worship (and thereby permissable on the Sabbath which is my view) on account of the fact that they testify to scripture?
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
I'm reading correctly that by definition peculiar worship extends to any exercise of drawing nigh to God through God's means (The Word, Prayer, Singing, etc.) whether it is corporately or privately.
This is correct for true specific worship, but one should view specific worship as any exercise of drawing nigh unto God to worship him (otherwise, it is impossible to specifically worship God falsely); true specific worship is one that draws nigh to God by God's means; false specific worship is when one does so not using God's means.

Theological reading and memorization are forms of meditation, and meditation is both commanded and has approved precedent (e.g., Psalm 1 or Psalm 119). I do not know whether meditation should be viewed as specific worship itself. It is certainly a religious exercise and a private act of devotion. Perhaps it is best to view it as Mr. Keister says: conducive to specific worship. We can see such things are lawful on the Lord's day because if we are not thinking our own thoughts or speaking our own words, we will want to be thinking the Lord's thoughts and the Lord's words.


Catechism might fall under "meditation," but I am not sure. I would tend to view it more as instruction, but then, such instruction worked into the soul forces meditation. Certainly, without proper instruction, we will not know the God whom we are supposed to be specifically worshipping or be able to specifically worship God as well as we might otherwise. I suppose then, it too would be viewed as conducive to worship.
 
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Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the answers! It seems to be coming together more as I think about how Scripture paints Worship in light of specific and general worship.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Just been thinking about it and how would the regulative principle apply to private worship? It seems as though most treatments of the RPW have specific reference to public worship so I'm trying to see how it would apply?
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
The RPW technically does not apply to private worship. The RPW refers to the regulation of office bearers' authority in relation to the church's worship. Liberty of conscience will also come into play here and when there are gatherings for worship with more than one person. Some will also say (based on a study of "worship" in the Bible) that "worship" technically only happens in the public worship ceremony.

However, the Second Commandment applies to all actions of specific devotion in all spheres. If one wishes to draw near to God in private for performance of specific acts of devotion, they will need to do so by the means he has appointed.

Such is my understanding of the matter, elaborated on more here (see also user "MW"'s comments in the thread) and here.
 
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Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Would it be accurate to almost describe a threefold distinction in worship where worship can be conceived as most generally doing all things to glory and in service to God, next any act of devotion between God and the individual specifically whether that's through the Word, Prayer, Singing, and most specifically the corporate worship of God's people where the RPW regulates worship. The first general meaning being generic worship whereas the other two are conceived of as specific instances of direct communion between God and his people?
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Would it not be better to reserve the word "Worship" for the solemn, regulated assembly of God's people on His day, thus avoiding confusion (and the completely meaningless phrase "all of life is worship")? Though you may (and should) live the rest of the time doing everything as unto the Lord, and praying often, and reading your Bible, and singing Psalms in the shower (if you're a shower singer), and speaking of God's law to your children morning and night, it need not be considered worship proper, but just a normal Christian life.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Would it be accurate to almost describe a threefold distinction in worship where worship can be conceived as most generally doing all things to glory and in service to God, next any act of devotion between God and the individual specifically whether that's through the Word, Prayer, Singing, and most specifically the corporate worship of God's people where the RPW regulates worship. The first general meaning being generic worship whereas the other two are conceived of as specific instances of direct communion between God and his people?
I think you're on the right track, but I don't know if I would call it a threefold distinction. It may be better to say there are two kinds of worship and various spheres of activity in which worship might take place. The way I see it, the categories would break into two: generic worship and specific worship. And then there are traditionally three main spheres in which specific acts of devotion might occur: public, family, or individual. Alternatively, one might distinguish between public worship and private worship (since what is not public could be considered private). Because time is set aside for specific acts of devotion by the family or individual, these periods of time are called "family worship" and "individual worship" in analogy with public worship (during which time is set aside to perform specific acts of devotion publicly). Each specific act of devotion in each sphere must follow the rule of not worshipping God in a way he has not commanded, but only the public worship would technically be regulated by the RPW: one could include other activities, e.g., catechism or reading a commentary, within the period of time that has been labeled "family worship" or "individual worship."

Would it not be better to reserve the word "Worship" for the solemn, regulated assembly of God's people on His day, thus avoiding confusion (and the completely meaningless phrase "all of life is worship")?
I think applying the term "worship" to other spheres has some use (and God's people could solemnly worship God on other days too). "Family worship" is a concept ingrained in the Reformed tradition and is useful to describe what is going on. "Private worship" or "individual worship" also is a useful shorthand, which in part labels a period of time, in contrast to a specific act of devotion being attached to some other action (e.g., prayer before or after meals). Specific acts of devotion do involve the individual or individuals bowing to God to honor him.
 
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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
This has probably been linked before somewhere on PB, but James Durham gives excellent reasoning as to why God's people would worship him in specific, set-apart acts as individuals and as families each day.

One helpful thing to remember (and something to point out to the "all life is worship" person) is that an act of worship is a period of time one sets apart to God in which all other activities stop. That's why all of life is not worship and reading through a godly book or catechism might not even be worship. One simple test is whether or not you would answer your phone if it unexpectedly rang. If the answer is yes, what you are doing is probably not an act of worship.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
I think this might be helpful:

The worship of God is commonly by Divines, distinguished into Mediate and Immediate; the Mediate worship, is that which tends to the honor of God, but by and through men, whom first it doth concern; the Immediate, is that which nextly and directly is tendered unto God himself, who wrote the ten commandments upon two tables of stone; four in one, and six in another; and our blessed Savior hath summed up the Decalogue under these two heads: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. This is the first and great commandment; the sum of the first table. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hands all the Law and the Prophets.

The mediate worship, (improperly called worship; for it is rather service than worship, Servitium, than Cultus) is contained in the six commandments of the second table; which contain the several heads of all that duty, which we owe towards our neighbor; In the performance whereof, we are said to serve God, while we do our service to men. For as we do, or must, by love serve one another. So the apostle says of servants, that by serving their masters, they serve the Lord Christ. But this we lightly tough, as little to our purpose.

The Immediate worship, is that which we must look at; and that we say, is briefly summed up in the four commandments of the first table; which are, by the confession of all, the general rules of all religion. Thus one says, the duties of holiness, as contra-distinct unto righteousness, are perfectly contained in the four commandments of the first table, which are so many distinct predicaments of all true piety. Thus far therefore, we are all agreed. But to distinguish these four commandments aright according to their proper object, we find it not so easy, seeing several men have gone their several ways; yet this is also further confessed, that although the duties of piety, may be comprehended within divers several precepts , yet there is still to be observed some peculiar and distinct consideration, which puts them formally under such or such a precept. And this consideration is of great consequence, in this our present business, viz. to distinguish the formal object, or subject of every of the four commandments of the first table; which being clears, will bring no small light, to judge of, and to conclude the controversies now depending. For the effecting whereof, divers men have gone their several ways. We purpose not to follow them now, but to propound only that which seems to us most fair and natural, that we may with all due expedition, come to the business we have in mind.

(Cawdrey, Daniel, and Herbert Palmer. Sabbatum Redivivum or The Christian Sabbath Vindicated. 1651. Web.)

The bigger quotation can be found here:

Sabbatum Redivivum
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
You might also try the appropriate sections of James Bannerman's Church of Christ and Giradeau's Discretionary Power of the Church for the "regulative" side of things. I recall Thornwell talking about a "Constitutive Principle," which I heard was the old name for the RPW. You could also investigate various commentaries on the 2nd and 4th commandments, and of course, the Westminster Standards (including the Directories for Public and for Family worship). It also looks like finding John Murray's writing on worship might be useful. I know William Young also wrote something about the 2nd commandment and its relationship to worship, along with something on worship itself; they should be floating about online. Michael Bushell's Songs of Zion also has some discussion on worship (although it is part of a different topic), but I'm not sure he covers much more than what has already been said and recommended.
 
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