Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Conversation of Worship - Ordinances

The fourth way that God speaks to us is through the ordinances. The ordinances are symbols of God’s saving truth, and are ways in which the church proclaims the message of God to others. Baptism, the initial confession of Christ as Lord and Savior, and Communion, the remembrance of Christ’s death and our participation in it are acts of proclamation of the gospel through signs. In carrying these out, we instruct hearers and participants of the saving truths of the gospel and the implications that it has for life.


These four practices—public reading of Scripture, preaching, singing, and the ordinances—are the ways that God speaks to us and they are necessary for biblical worship since biblical worship can never take place until the worshipper has heard from God. While the musical forms or the preaching styles may vary, the voice of God is heard where the truth of Scripture is properly handled and proclaimed with the goal of giving hearers greater understanding and calling them to submission to the lordship of Christ.

Horton points to the historical record that revival of proclamation in teaching and preaching leads to a revival of genuine worship.

Every great revival of worship, including the creation of new hymns and more faithful as well as understandable liturgies, has come on the heels of a great reformation of church proclamation and teaching. When God’s people understand who God is, who they are in his presence, and what is happening to them when they come into his presence, not only their minds but their hearts are transformed. These great periods always involve two things that seem contradictory at first: a massive clash with the world and a worldly church, and a renewed sense of the immense relevance of forgotten truths and practices in a new setting.[1]

This speaking from God has to take the primary or foundational role in biblical worship. It is absolutely indispensable for a vibrant, healthy, and challenging worship service.

[1] Horton, A Better Way, p. 14. Incidentally, Horton’s comments seem to intimate a distinction between worship and preaching.

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