The Lord’s Service: The Edification of the Believer (3)

“Thou art great, Lord, and greatly to be praised. Great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, who is part of what Thou hast created, desires to praise Thee. Yes, even though he carries his mortality wherever he goes, as the proof of his sin and the testimony of Thy justice, man desires to praise Thee. For Thou hast stirred up his heart, so that he takes pleasure in praising Thee. Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

(Augustine, Confessions 1.1)

Last week we looked at how God and His glory are the primary focus of Christian worship. In particular we considered how the Reformed tradition puts especial emphasis on this vertical orientation of worship. Today we consider the benefits of the Lord’s service for the worshippers themselves.

If our worship is true worship, then we will “get” a lot out of it. Although we must reject the today’s man centered approach to worship which judges the value of worship on the basis of what one gets from it, this does not mean that worship does not have to be edifying to the worshippers. That worship is edifying does not mean that it gives us a deep emotional experience or that it fulfills what we think our “needs” are. Rather, to be edified is to be built up in our faith so that we grow in holiness and love for God. Thus, while Reformed worship is above all concerned with glorifying God, it is not a one way street. There are two outstanding reasons for this. For one, worship is covenantal.[1] Worship involves the gathering together of God’s covenant people in communion with one another and with God. In worship the people gather as a congregation to partake of the deep covenant friendship with God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

It is important to notice that there is no conditional or contractual element in worship. It is not as if we must bring to God our worship and praise before He will condescend to fellowship with us. God does not commune with us in covenant fellowship because we have upheld our end of the bargain in worship. God has established His covenant with us and by His grace brings us into communion with Him. Therefore our worship is covenantal because it is founded solely on the grace of God in Christ. We worship because we are already members of the covenant people; God has made us such.

Such true worship of God must and does build up the worshippers spiritually. The worshippers receive great and enriching blessings from God when they come together worship Him in spirit and in truth. The beautiful reality is that God has inseparably joined that which is our chief end to that which is the most fulfilling for us. The true worship of God not only ascribes to Him the glory due unto His name, but through such worship God also provides the spiritual nourishment and edification which the worshippers so desperately need. This brings us to the second main reason why true worship is edifying, namely, it is through worship that God furnishes His people with grace.

From this God given grace we receive the nourishment and edification that comes through God’s appointed means of grace: the preaching of the word and the holy sacraments. By these ordained means, means which are, mind you, only available within the church institute, God feeds us with the spiritual food which is necessary for spiritual life. For this reason we ought to go to the House of God with anticipation and readiness to receive the good gifts of God for the people of God. We ought to go to church with the expectation that our hungry souls will be satisfied with the spiritual food that will sustain us in our spiritual life, regardless of whether or not our emotions are aroused. When our worship is truly focused on God, when God is the center of the service and the focus of all our adoration, we will surely receive these great benefits of God’s grace. Thus we must always keep our focus in worship where it ought to be: on God and His glory. Our edification is God’s work, not ours. And He will surely carry it out if we take care to worship Him in the way that is pleasing to Him.

Justin Smidstra

[1] Reformed Worship, a short booklet published by the RFPA consisting of essays written by three of our men provides a nice, accessible, clear, and succinct explanation of our worship. For those who have not it, and are interested in matters regarding Reformed worship, I would highly recommend it.

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