First Baptist Church, Paris, Tennessee
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Hearing the Word of God, Part 1
Worshippers gather together for corporate worship not only to respond to God’s revelation but also to hear God’s Word. With this in mind, let us ask ourselves the following question: During what part/s of our worship services is God’s Word revealed? Perhaps you may respond, "during the preaching, of course!" And you would be exactly right; the sermon is one avenue through which we hear the Word proclaimed. In our article today we will discuss some of the other ways that God reveals himself to us in worship.
First, we must consider the reading of Scripture in worship. In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul instructs his readers: "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture . . ." This practice continued in the 2nd century as is clearly evidenced in this writing by Justin Martyr: "On the day which is called Sunday, all who live in the cities or in the countryside gather together in one place. And the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as there is time."
Given the clear precedent for the reading of Scripture in worship and the view of most Baptists that Scripture is the Word of God, it seems peculiar that in many Baptist worship services the reading of Scripture is limited to a few verses directly before the sermon. In stark contrast, groups such as Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, which traditionally have a lesser view of the Bible have a minimum of four public readings of Scripture in worship. Baptists must more consistently demonstrate Scripture’s importance in public worship.
Secondly, Christians should understand that God’s Word is often revealed in the music during worship. Such revelation is evident in 2 Chronicles as music is shown to have the power to lead worshipers into a sense of God’s presence. After the musicians offered praise to God, "the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God" (vv. 12-14).
Even more directly, the texts of the songs used in worship reveal God’s Word. Let us look for example at the second stanza of "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing":
Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
The depth of truth contained in this and many other hymns is staggering. Particularly powerful are the hymns and songs that quote Scripture directly such as the familiar, "I Know Whom I Have Believed."
While Scripture, sermons, and music are all excellent avenues through which God makes himself known to the church, there are others as well. Next week in our article we will take a closer look at these other ways that God is revealed in worship.