Glory Forever

Glory Forever

by Bob Burridge ©2012
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107
(watch the video)

Sometimes people are not able to deliver what they promise. They might have the best of intentions, but things come up that keep them from following through. We all have to handle the unexpected and deal with things that break down. Sadly, there are also times when people never intend to fulfill their promises.

It hurts when that happens with family and friends. No one likes to be forgotten when someone says they will come by and pick you up to give you a ride. It’s discouraging if someone was going to get something for you at the store, but came home without it.

It can become a more serious problem when national or world leaders fail to deliver on their promises. Voters are commonly skeptical of political campaign promises and commercials. When trust is violated or little is done to accomplish important things, people suffer. Even international treaties, agreements, and sanctions have little impact if they are not enforced responsibly. It makes terrorists and rogue nations more bold in their oppression and attacks. Broken promises or protections that never come cause doubt and mistrust.

It’s one thing to say what you want to do, what ought to be done, or even what you plan to do. However, it is another thing completely to make those things actually happen. We need to be careful not to assume that God’s promises are unreliable that way. God can do all he promises, and he never fails to do so. This is why we pray with great confidence.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107 is, “The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen, teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”

Some modern translations do not
include this last part of verse 13.

There isn’t a museum or vault where the actual original copies of the Bible books are kept. In God’s wise providence, we no longer have them. There were no printing presses or copy machines at the time of their writing so each copy was done by hand. Very quickly the books of the New Testament spread to Asia Minor, Europe, Asia, and Africa. We have over 5,000 ancient manuscripts that preserve the New Testament text. Some papyrus fragments date back to the first century, about the time of the original writing.

By comparing the copies from different ages and from different parts of the world, the copying errors can be confidently identified and eliminated. Dr. B. B. Warfield counted that about 95% of the variations in the copies are just isolated errors. Most are just misspellings, or a word left out or sometimes duplicated.

Once in a while a marginal note by a commentator was copied into the text of one or two manuscripts. Sometimes in regions like Alexandria exiled heretics tampered with the text in a few places. However, it is not difficult to recognize these changes by comparing with the other copies.

This last part of Matthew 6:13 is found in almost all the Greek texts known. It is found in manuscripts from all regions, including the carefully preserved Byzantine copies. These words are quoted by some of the early church writers so we know they cannot be a late addition.

These words are missing from one old copy from Alexandria, and another from Europe. It is also missing from 6 later copies probably made from the earlier one in Alexandria. A few early translations into Latin and Syriac change the text around some or add words. However, of the thousands of copies available, there is unanimity that these words belong there.

Some modern commentators and translators, based upon this rather thin evidence, leave the words out. Many scholars, myself included, find no reason to doubt their authenticity.

Can we be sure that these are the faithful and true words of God? There is a way to authenticate the truth of these words without having to base our decision upon the study of ancient manuscripts. This is not the only prayer in the Bible where these words occur. They are also found in the prayer of King David in 1 Chronicles 29. Most of the Lord’s prayer seems to be based upon this prayer of David. In verses 10-13 we see all the support we need to pray with confidence, “thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”. David’s prayer goes this way, “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.”

These ideas and words are also found in other portions of Scripture. Paul wrote them in 2 Timothy 4:18, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

The same things are said about God in Psalm 145:11-13, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

These things are obviously true about God, so it is no surprise they appear in these inspired prayers. It makes sense that Jesus would include them in this model prayer he gave us too. It is a proper thing to include in our prayers as well.

This closing doxology is a fitting
end to this model for prayer.

The Lord had just given seven petitions, things we should pray for regularly.

  1. that God’s name will be hallowed, treated with holy awe and respect.
  2. that his Kingdom will advance displaying his Sovereign rule and power.
  3. that God’s revealed will should be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  4. that your daily needs will be provided by God who controls all things.
  5. that you will be forgiven for your sins through the work of Jesus Christ.
  6. that you will not be taken in by temptation to satisfy your needs immorally.
  7. that you will be delivered from the evil one, who wants to see you fail.

The model prayer concludes with confidence that God can deliver on the things we ask him to do. His is the Kingdom where he rules all things. His is the power and the glory. These eternal qualities can never fail, they have no end.

These qualities speak to God’s abilities. If God truly rules as King with infinite power, then there is the wonderful and glorious hope that cannot possibly fail to accomplish all the Creator’s holy will. Our petitions are not in vain. They come to a God who redeems and loves his children. He directly made and sovereignly rules over all things, even over those who defiantly dare to be evil.

We call this type of expression used in these concluding words of the prayer a “doxology”. Literally, it means they are words of glory. They remind us of the wonders of our Lord. David’s prayer honors God in his greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty. It says that he is the source of all riches and honor that any other creature might enjoy. He reigns as King with all power and might.

There are no accidents, no changes in his plans. He is our Sovereign God. He is the one who can actually do what you need him to do, and what he says, he will do. He is not just a theological idea. He is the one and only Living, Sovereign Lord.

God’s Majesty and Glory continue forever.

As it says in the Shorter Catechism, God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. His kingship, power and glory are as eternal as he is. It is his Nature. It is what he is.

God has no beginning, and will have no end. Through all eternity he remains the same. Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

God’s people have often responded
to his glory by saying, “Amen.”

This is an ancient custom that continues today. When David had the recaptured Ark of the Covenant brought back to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, he wrote a dedication Psalm which is recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. It ends this way, ” ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting!’ And all the people said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. ” When true and good things were said about God, his people showed their agreement by saying “Amen”.

“Amen” is a Hebrew word, amaen (אמן). It means “to confirm, to support, to be firm, to be sure, to be true.” The Greek New Testament writings used this same word, amaen (αμην) but wrote it in their own alphabet. We have brought this Hebrew word into English language unchanged except for the pronunciation.

Since God is truth, amen is often used as a name for God. Deuteronomy 7:9 uses a form of this word when it says the “Faithful God” hael hane-eman (האל הנאמן). Isaiah 65:16 twice speaks of the “God of Truth”, “the God of Amen,” Elohae-amaen (אלהי אמן). In Revelation 3:14 Jesus Christ is called “the Amen,” ho amaen (ὁ αμην).

When you put “Amen” at the end of your prayers, it keeps this same basic meaning. Not all prayers in the Bible end with an “Amen,” but when it is there, it wraps up the prayer by saying the word “truth.”

When you close your prayer that way, you are saying that everything in your prayer is offered sincerely and is true. It is all the honest hope and desire of your heart. It means you are confident that the promises your prayer rests upon are true. They must be because God’s word is a solid and certain foundation, and God cannot lie.

When you consider all the things you should ask for in prayer, all 7 petitions in this model Jesus gave us, and agree that the God you pray to is the all powerful and eternal King, and affirm that in Christ he loves you and redeemed you with an infinitely great price, you speak an amazing truth! God can deliver on all the things you are told to pray for. Prayer should be a thankful time of confidently resting your concerns upon God himself.

Use this prayer as a daily guide.

With confidence bring every need and praise to the Creator all through the day. Make sure you, your children and friends know this model prayer by heart. Make this model prayer a pattern to follow whenever you speak with your Redeemer. It should be a part of everything you do throughout every day. Prayer should be more regular than eating. Three meals a day is enough for basic nourishment, but it is not enough for prayer.

Start the day talking to the one who brought you through the night and who has planned the day ahead. Pray in humble thanksgiving every time you receive his provisions of food, your paycheck, or meet a new friend. Bring your needs to him and those of any others God brings to your mind. Your intercession makes you part of the means by which God powerfully fulfills his promises in the lives of others.

Have family times of worship which include prayer for one another. Teach your children to pray. End the day thanking God for every opportunity, for being your loving Shepherd through the rough times, and for every skill and ability you were called upon to use that day.

Since God ordained prayer as a means by which he unfolds his providential care and plan, it is tragic that some neglect this important duty. They leave it to others.

Are you sometimes too busy to engage in what really makes a difference? Do you not believe that God can and will deliver on the promises he made? Has Satan and your fallen heart pulled the wool over your eyes once again? Never let the evil one have little victories in your life.

Make it a point to pray for your prayer life. Use this awesome model our Lord gave you, expand upon it, fill it out with specifics. Engage the enemy with a power he cannot resist or overcome. Be an active advancer of the Kingdom of Grace right now here on earth.

When you finish your prayer, rest back and consider the certainty behind it all because God is All Mighty! Then, really meaning it, think or say a good hearty, “Amen!”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Hats for Women in Worship?

Heads, Hats, and Hair

(questions about 1 Corinthians 11)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Some teachings of the Bible are completely at odds with what we see being commonly accepted in our world today. The domestic roles God assigned to men and women are often the target of attack. At one extreme, male headship is perverted into dictatorship, and female subjection into slavery. At the other extreme, the idea of any kind of male headship in the home is rejected altogether.

The entire biblical family structure faces challenges that threaten our homes and loved ones. The aborting of our unborn children has been permitted by law in our country for several decades. Open sexual practices empty marriage of its once valued intimacy. Unmarried couples are led to believe that it is normal and healthy to engage in sexual activity without the bond of marriage. Some in same-gender relationships want to call what they have “marriage”. They are not content with just being tolerated. They want to force everyone else to accept their definitions and views, and to reject what the Bible says about marriage.

In warfare one of the basic goals is to disrupt the enemy’s command structure. If no one is effectively in charge, there can be no coordinated supplies, attacks, or defenses. The unifying principles that direct an army will be abandoned, and individual soldiers will begin to look out for themselves. They forget the larger reasons they are there.

It makes sense that the spiritual enemies of God would attack the organization of God’s Kingdom. The family structure is so basic that it becomes a natural target. The husband-wife roles are the foundation of the family. It is no surprise that the duties God assigns to men and women would be attacked.

There is a full-court press going on to make godliness appear to be a blight upon society. Those who believe what the Bible says about men, women, and marriage are portrayed as bigots and enemies of our culture.

These are not entirely new attacks. God’s ways have been the target of evil from the beginning of time. In the ancient city of Corinth a pagan culture and an influence of confused Judaism were clashing with Christian principles. There was confusion about how the new believers should adjust their lives to deal biblically with the way things were believed and done around them while living in a city dominated by unbelievers.

The Apostle Paul wrote his First letter to the Corinthians to explain God’s principles to them. He did not just teach detached ideas and theories. He was committed to clarifying God’s ways and how they lead us to live as lights to this sin darkened world day by day. In chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians he takes up one of these issues.

Paul set an example by personally
honoring and obeying the teachings of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

Some put this verse as the conclusion to chapter 10. It is actually a nice transition. Paul’s point is that he has tried to be an example of the principles he taught.

Chapter 11 does not introduce a totally different idea. In chapter 10 he warned that believers should consider how others perceive their actions. He said there is nothing morally wrong with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. However, clearly the worship of idols is evil. In situations where others consider the meat to be sacred in some Pagan sense, we should not eat it so that others would not think we are honoring their idols. In Chapter 11 he shows how this fundamental principle applies in another situation.

First, he reminded them how much
he appreciated their allegiance.

1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.”

He was pleased that they continued to follow the traditions he taught them. The Bible mentions both good and bad traditions. A tradition is some accepted practice that is passed on to preserve some idea or principle. Good traditions help us to stay within God’s boundaries, and to remember God’s truths. Bad traditions create misleading boundaries, and promote false ideas.

There was a clash of traditions concerning
the principle of headship in the home.

1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

God organized the family to teach about his nature and about the church he would redeem. In the Trinity, all three persons are perfectly equal in power and glory. Yet there is an orderliness in the Trinity. The Father sends the Son to redeem his people, and the Son is subject to the Father. Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to carry out certain works. There is subordination without inferiority or superiority – equals who carry out different works.

God established a similar relationship for the family. He made the male to be head of the wife and of the home. He created the female to be in supportive subjection to the man’s headship, subordination without inferiority or superiority – equals who carry out different works.

Paul gives more detail about that home organization in Ephesians 5:22-33. There it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,”

In that chapter it is clear that male headship is not to be self-serving. Male headship in the home is to represent Christ’s headship of the church. Therefore it is not to abuse the wife, to get his own way, or to be dictatorial. His role is to lead in a way that lovingly gives himself for his wife’s benefit and enrichment. His headship is to reflect Christ’s care of his church.

There is no superiority implied in male headship. Christ is equal with God the Father in substance and glory. Yet he was sent to carry out the work of redeeming his Father’s children. So also men and woman are equal in substance and worth. Yet the male is responsible for guiding the family, providing for it, and protecting it. He is to help his wife and family grow in Christ so they can enjoy God’s blessing to the fullest.

There was a danger that threatened this relationship in the Corinthian worship.

Male headship was represented in Corinth
by head coverings for the women.

1 Corinthians 11:4-7
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

The situation here has to do with what goes on in the public worship of the church. This becomes more clear later in this letter when Paul explains what it is to pray and prophesy.

Evidently, there was a tradition in the Corinthian culture about head coverings. They had come to represent submission to some human authority. If men covered their heads while praying or prophesying in worship, they disgraced their headship by implying they were in subjection to those they should be leading. When women covered their heads it showed their respect of the authority of their husbands. If she prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered she disgraced her husband’s headship. It was as if she was rejecting God’s order. This was a good tradition to the degree that it promoted a biblical truth.

In that culture, the women may as well shave their heads, if they worship with their heads uncovered. Chrysostom, a first-century writer said that a woman caught committing adultery had her head shaved as to mark her as a prostitute for rejecting her husband’s headship.

The Bible does not mention this custom in any other place than here in this letter to Corinth. John Calvin warned that we should not be “so hide-bound” that people would condemn the Pastors in his time who wore skull caps when preaching. But he agreed that the principle it represented in Corinth is a good one. It should be respected when it shows a wife’s subjection to her husband while in worship.

The principle in this context is like not eating meat that was once sacrificed to idols in the previous chapter. God never commanded it as a universal moral tradition. However, in situations where our practices would generally communicate an unbiblical attitude, we should avoid offense and follow the good customs.

Paul’s reasoning in verse 7 is a little hard to follow because of the technical terms he uses. Mankind in general was made in the Image of God, both male and female. They both are to make good use of their abilities and resources. Together they produce families, and make up the church of God on earth. But that is not what Paul was referring to here. The Greek wording he uses here are a little different that that which is used in the more general context of bearing God’s image as his creatures.

He is saying in this context that the male was created to be a reflection of God’s authority in caring for us. The female was made to be a reflection of the authority God gave to her husband.

This basic principle of headship
was established at creation.

1 Corinthians 11:8-12
8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man.
9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.
12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

When God made the animals, he made them male and female at the same time. With humans he made only the man first, then made woman from him to be his helper. Unlike the animals, humans were made to specially represent God in the world. From the beginning, the differences in male and female would not be only for producing children. They were to reveal God’s grace and show his love for those he would redeem.

Before he made Eve, God let Adam come to realize that he was incomplete by himself. His wife was made to be a fit helper for him in carrying out his responsibilities in the garden.

There was no inequality or inferiority. They complemented one another, were needed by one another, and were mutually important to one another. However, they would have different roles in reflecting God’s glory, and in fulfilling his plan.

Verse 10 has some confusing expressions in it. literally it says: “Therefore, the woman ought to have authority on the head because of the angels”

In Corinth at that time, the head covering represented submission to her husband’s God-given authority over her. The part about the angels is harder to understand. God has not given us much information here. This particular issue never comes up in any other place in the Bible.

The word the Bible uses for “angels”, angelos (αγγελος), is the word that was commonly used at that time for all types of “messengers”. It was used for human messengers as well as for spirit beings. In war chronicles it often mentioned “angels” (messengers) carrying messages from the generals to the troops on the front lines.

One theory is that this refers to the spirit beings who serve God in various ways. The Bible says that God’s angels are observers of the church on earth. However, it is not clear how this is a reason for women to wear head coverings in Corinth during worship. It would not be helpful here to go over all the strange imagined theories about angels lusting for women.

Some think this means that uncovered female heads were somehow offensive to church Pastors as messengers of God to represent him to the church. However, that does not seem to fit with the message of this passage very well.

More likely it means that if the spirit messengers of God saw the woman rejecting this symbol of subjection, the angles would be the instruments to bring it before God for his judgment for confusing and obscuring creation’s authority structure.

Whatever it meant, the Corinthians would have understood this expression. Paul’s point is clear: The women members of the Corinthian church should show their respect for the authority God gave to their husbands. They were obligated to make sure their submission was communicated to others. This meant respecting what the traditions of their own culture meant.

Paul sets out the reasoning behind his warning:

1 Corinthians 11:13-16
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

The Apostle repeats the moral issue and asks them to make a judgment based upon certain facts. They should consider nature itself which teaches that hair length implies something. The word for “nature” here refers to inherent properties that characterize something.

The Greek word Paul uses for “nature” is phusis (φυσις). The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek Lexicon defines it as, “a natural endowment or condition, natural characteristics or disposition, the natural order of things, a product of nature .. creature”.

There was a broad usage of the term at the time of Paul’s writing. It was often used for things that seem “natural” to people, their disposition toward things as commonly accepted. We use the term that way when we say, “that just doesn’t seem natural”. Paul could not mean God’s creation order. That would be contrary to both our observations, and other biblical mandates.

In cultures where the hair is never cut or removed, men tend to have much more hair covering their bodies than do women. Both grow very long hair on their heads. The average human hair growth rate on the head is 0.44 mm/day. It tends to slow down some as we get older and is a little faster in women than men. However, the slight differences in rate are hardly a compelling and obvious argument.

The context here and in chapter 10 has to do with traditions and what is natural in their culture. We know from coins and statues that men cut their hair short in that Greek-Roman culture. The women let their hair grow long showing their distinction as females. We need to be aware of cultural symbols that represent things to those who live in that setting.

Back in verse 9 Paul referred to the creation order. In the physical sense, male headship was established because God made Adam first. Here in verse 14 he seems to direct their attention to what is accepted as “natural” in their culture. The creation order of male headship was in a sense being preserved by a good Corinthian tradition. In most societies men and women have different hair styles that preserve their distinction. The idea that there should be no difference between the roles of men and women goes against what even pagan cultures have generally recognized by their practices. However society may depict it at the time, we should promote the role of male headship.

Paul adds that if someone wants to argue the point, they have no customary support.

We need to be careful here not to confuse Paul’s applications with the principles themselves. He is not teaching dietary laws for Christians in chapter 10, and he is not teaching dress codes and hair styles for Christians in chapter 11.

The point he is making continues the basic principle discussed in the previous chapter. There is nothing morally right or wrong about hair length in and of itself. God required men to let their hair grow uncut under certain vows (Numbers 6:5). Crowns on the heads of kings represented their authority, not submission to other men. The Old Testament Priests were required to wear special hats while performing acts of worship. God would not command such things it they were inherently immoral or decidedly feminine.

At this time in Corinth, hats in worship showed submission to human authority. Long hair also represented the feminine role of women among God’s people.

The point here is not to command certain outward symbolisms. It is to show the importance of what was represented by them.

Though the customs here are hard to clarify,
the principle taught is not confusing at all.

Our lives should reflect and communicate respect for the creation order of things. Our freedom in Christ is not only bound by God’s universal and direct commandments. It is also bound by what appears to support sinful ideas or unbiblical teachings. Extremes in style often represent rebellion against rightful authority.

To a limited degree, young people often like to show that they question some of the meaningless traditions to which people cling. They often adopt outrageous hair styles, trendy clothes, and their own kinds of slang expressions to develop their own culture and traditions. The next generations will probably question and replace those which are made popular today. In the 50’s there were leather jackets, long sideburns and ducktails, saddle shoes, and poodle skirts. Those who wore them were often thought of as in rebellion. For some, it was true. Most were just following trends. In the late 60’s there were tie-dyed fabrics, uncut hair, sandals, and granny dresses. In the 70’s it was bell bottoms, platform shoes and big afro hair styles. Today the extremes go from urban baggy clothes, to gothic black cassocks.

Christians of all ages need to be careful that while they accept or reject cultural traditions, that they are not giving the appearance of rejecting good principles which are based upon God’s priorities and ways. It is one thing to want to be stylish, but we should be aware of what our styles say to others.

For Corinthian women to worship with their heads uncovered, would have shown a rejection of one of God’s basic principles. For teens to dress outrageously intending to show rejection of their parent’s authority, or of God’s morality, would also be very wrong and sinful. For most today hats and hair length are just matters of style and personal preference.

It is important to maintain and promote biblical principles in our daily lives. We should never appear to reject them by adopting styles or practices that are perceived as contrary to them. We need to know what styles and customs communicate to other believers and to the watching world. While we know to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing, we need to be careful that as sheep we don’t go around looking like the wolves.

How different our churches, homes, and communities would be if men cared for women as they ought — not to demean them but to respect them, and if women respected the responsibility God gives the men — not to covet their calling, or to take over headship in our homes, or in the ordained offices of our churches.

When we accept God’s order and our own place in it, and the responsibilities God gives others, the kingdom of Christ, our homes, and our communities would be far better places, and God’s truth would be better communicated to a confused and lost world.

As for the matter of women wearing hats in worship today, I would suggest that it is a practice generally understood in the proper biblical sense of 1 Corinthians 11. It is not required by that passage or by any other portion of God’s word. It is allowable as long as it does not become a distraction to worship by head-wear that would draw undue attention to itself, and as long as it does not become a matter of spiritual pride. There are no grounds in Scripture for judging those with or without hats as being more or less spiritual than the others who are there with humble hearts to honor our God.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Raising Hands in Worship and Praise?

Raising Hands in Worship and Praise?

by Bob Burridge ©2011

(This article is based upon our online discussion from November 17, 2011)

We have many kinds of worship styles all claiming to be biblical.

The elements of worship are limited by Scripture to those activities God prescribes. His revelation to us is the only way we could know what pleases him in our times of gathered worship. This is what we call the Prescriptive Regulative Principle of Worship. (For a more detailed study of this we direct you to the article, “The Regulative Principle of Worship” in our on-line Syllabus.)

How the prescribed elements of worship are implemented should always support the revealed focus of worship. Its primary purpose is to express our appreciation for the revealed nature and work of God as preserved for us in his inspired word. We honor him as our Creator, Redeemer, Comforter, and King.

There are some differences in how God deals with his people in different periods of redemptive history. What was expected in the time before the finished work of the Messiah is obviously going to be different after his work was completed. There is however a unity in the general tenor and purpose of what God prescribes for worship in ever era of human history.

Differences also arise because an expression of humble praise in one culture might have a different meaning in another cultural setting. God used the languages common to the cultures historically when he gave his inspired word. We would expect that God’s revelation through the elements of worship would likewise adjust to communicate to the people engaged in the worship.

The conduct of worshipers varies as cultural norms differ. Music is strongly influenced by our cultural upbringing and by our historical heritage. Some display their emotions differently and to different degrees. How we show honor toward someone differs too. There are different outward expressions of submission and respect in Monarchies with royal families, Republics, Democracies, and so forth.

Culture is a big influence upon what people see as acceptable in worship. That does not make what is acceptable to us to be right in the eyes of God. In this article we take up one of the practices which differs from church to church in our present era. The raising of hands in worship is a growingly accepted practice outside the traditional charismatic groups where in recent centuries it was commonly practiced with a particular meaning attached.

Several Scripture passages are often cited
to support the practice of raising hands in worship.

There are very few references to this practice in the biblical record prior to the times of the Kings of Israel. The hand [the Hebrew word caph (כף)] is often used figuratively of coming under the authority of some authority, as being given over into the hands of a certain nation or people (Judges 6:1). Abram in his comments to the king of Sodom said that he raised his hand to Jehovah.

Genesis 14:22, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth”

It is not clear what was meant here. We do not know if the raising of the hands by Abram was an expression of praise, supplication, submission, or simply a raising of the hand to express his faithfulness to God as we would today in making a solemn pledge. It was a gesture understood at that time by both Abram and the king of Sodom.

In the time of Moses the lifting up of hands seems to have been an expression of coming to God to ask for divine care and help. In the context it is associated with prayer, or an approach to God.

Exodus 9:27-29, “And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.’ So Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.’ ”

Exodus 9:33, “So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth.”

By the time of the Kings and Prophets hand raising is a more commonly mentioned practice. It is noted by several historians that hands were raised by pagan nations then as they approached their deities in prayer and supplication. It seems to have signified a reaching out to receive something requested. It appears to have that significance among God’s people as well. It is not a suggested practice in any instructive portion of the Bible, but it is reported as something acceptably practiced and understood in the particular cultures of that time.

1 Kings 8:22, “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven;

2 Chronicles 6:12-13, “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands (for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven);”

Psalms 134:2, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.”

Psalms 63:4, “Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.”

Isaiah 1:15,”When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.”

Lamentations 3:41, “Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.”

In the New Testament under the new form of the Covenant, and in the First Century culture of the Jews and early church, it is not mentioned often. There is one reference in Paul’s first letter to Timothy that is often quoted in relation to this practice. The mandate there is not to lift up hands, but that hands lifted up in prayer should be holy.

1 Timothy 2:8, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;”

Some Comments by Commentators

Several commentators cite references in pagan records of reaching out to God with outstretched hands. This is an understandable gesture based upon how people beg for things when they have a need. We see the universality of this when foreign envoys reach out their hands to God for mercy or surrender in Psalm 68:31, “Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.”

Several commentators and Jewish scholars interpret this practice as away of showing our purity to God by figuratively offering up hands which are washed so that no dirt or stains remain. The focus was upon presenting one’s self as innocent and undefiled to receive from the Lord. For those truly redeemed it was their profession of a righteousness that is not their own, but given them by grace through their hope in the coming promised Messiah.

The Rabbis had developed complex rules about raising hands in prayer and in worship. It was said that, “it is forbidden a man to lift up his hands above, except in prayer, and in blessings to his Lord, and supplications, …”

The highly respected medieval Jewish philosopher Moses ben Maimon (known as Maimonides) wrote, “cleanness of hands, how is it done? a man must wash his hands up to the elbow, and after that pray; if a man is on a journey, and the time of prayer is come, and he has no water, if there is between him and water four miles, which are eight thousand cubits, he may go to the place of water, and wash, and after that pray. If there is between him more than that, he may rub his hands, and pray. But if the place of water is behind him, he is not obliged to go back but a mile; but if he has passed from the water more than that, he is not obliged to return, but he rubs his hands and prays; they do not make clean for prayer but the hands only, in the rest of prayers, except the morning prayer; but before the morning prayer a man washes his face, his hands and feet, and after that prays.”

In John Gill’s commentary on 1 Timothy 2:8 he states, “The apostle alludes to a custom of the Jews, who always used to wash their hands before prayer;”

In the Notes of Albert Barnes he states that the lifting up holy hands means, “… hands that are not defiled by sin, and that have not been employed for any purpose of iniquity. The idea is, that when men approach God they should do it in a pure and holy manner.”

Adam Clarke reminds us that “it was a common custom, not only among the Jews, but also among the heathens, to lift up or spread out their arms and hands in prayer. It is properly the action of entreaty and request; and seems to be an effort to embrace the assistance requested.” He then adds an interesting conjecture that, “the apostle probably alludes to the Jewish custom of laying their hands on the head of the animal which they brought for a sin-offering, confessing their sins, and then giving up the life of the animal as an expiation for the sins thus confessed. … This shows us how Christians should pray. They should come to the altar; set God before their eyes; humble themselves for their sins; bring as a sacrifice the Lamb of God; lay their hands on this sacrifice; and by faith offer it to God in their souls’ behalf, expecting salvation through his meritorious death alone.”

Today, some see hand raising as evidence
of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the worshiper.

There is no passage of Scripture to support that interpretation. There is no question that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to stir us to appreciate the awesome work of our Creator who is also our Redeemer and Good Shepherd. No where in the Bible is the raising of hands presented as an evidence of such a special work in an individual.

Outward displays of this sort, even when motivated by a sincere love for the Lord, should never stir us to see someone as spiritually more mature or blessed than others. On the other hand, we should not look upon those who raise their hands as spiritually immature or seekers of personal attention. Arrogance is a sin which can work on both sides of this issue.

What does this practice communicate
to people in various contexts?

What we do communicates things to those within a particular cultural setting. Not all common gestures or greetings mean the same to everybody. Raising hands in ancient times was to show attention to, submission to, and dependence upon some deity or authority figure. This was understood by pagans as well as by God’s people in those ancient settings. In our present array of cultures it is not a common expression of those same intentions. Within certain religious sub-cultures it continues to have that meaning. We need to be aware of how those around us understand our words and actions.

I remember going on a missions trip to the outer islands of the Bahamas back in the late 1960s. Before we had contact with the people who lived there we had orientation lessons to help us understand the way they interpreted gestures and idioms. Little things we do by our cultural up-bringing had offensive connotations to them. We had to be very careful that we didn’t miscommunicate unintentionally and insult the people we were there to help.

What is appropriate in some places my not convey what we are thinking to those around us. When our mission is to represent the truth God has communicated to us in his word, we need to know these distinctives.

While hand raising in prayer is obviously presented in a positive way in the Bible, it is no where commanded or recommended. It is an optional practice which should be used with great caution. It is not required and should not be practiced if this gesture does not express for us what it did in those ancient times.

In conclusion we suggest the following practical guidelines concerning hand-raising during worship:

  • Where it is practiced and understood in a humble God honoring way, it is an acceptable option.
  • Where it is not seen as a humble honoring of God, offense and confusion should be avoided.
  • Where it is perceived as a pagan practice, or understood as a sign of special spiritual sensitivity or status, it should be avoided.

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The Worship of an Invisible God

The Worship of an Invisible God

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 49-52)
or watch the video
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Have you ever tried to put together one of those thousand piece jig-saw puzzles without first seeing the picture of what it is supposed to look like when finished? Some of them are so detailed that even when you have seen the picture on the cover it is not easy to find the piece you want.

Sometimes you honestly believe the piece you are looking for cannot possibly be there. Then when you finally find it, and it fits in, you have one of those “Ahhhh” moments. You see that you missed it because you were expecting it to look different than it really was.

Many times I have tried to talk people through setting things up on their computers over the phone. They do not know what they were looking for, and what to do with things when they find them. Some did not know what the ALT key was for, and had no idea what CTRL meant.

While trying to talk them through the steps, they were trying to do things that made no sense to them. As long as they did exactly what they were told, and asked before they did something they were unsure of, we usually got the job done with few problems.

God’s world is vastly more complex and further beyond our full understanding than jig-saw puzzles or home computers. God has lovingly told us what we need to know as we rely upon his grace, and to try learn to do what is right. However, we do not have the whole picture yet in this life. We have to be very careful not to let our own theories and values keep us from seeing what God is telling us in his word.

Our assignment is to fulfill what we were created to be and redeemed to be. Our primary responsibility is to show the glory of our Creator in our lives. To be effective, the Holy Spirit works on Redeemed hearts by means of God’s word.

We need to listen carefully to what God says, and to follow his instructions exactly. We do not have the full picture yet, and we do not completely understand it all in this life. We need to care about the principles God tells us to live by.

The second of the Ten Commandments cautions us about how we worship God.

The 49th question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism points to the Second of the Ten Commandments. The answer quotes from Exodus 20:4-6.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

The word translated “graven image” or “carved image” is the Hebrew word pesel (פסל). It was used to describe any image we make of something. It primarily applies to things carved or chizzled, but it was not limited to that in the way it was used.

The expression “any likeness” expands upon what God is forbidding so there will be no mistake about what he means to include. The word “likeness” is the Hebrew word temunah (תמונה). It is the common word used even today in modern Israel for “picture”. Most imagine that this is another of those “easy commandments”. Since we do not have stone, gold, or wooden idols as part of our culture today, they assume this commandment is outdated and mostly irrelevant to them.

However, there is an important and eternal moral principle summarized here: We need to honor God in ways that are pleasing to him. Questions 50-52 of the Shorter Catechism clarify this main point.

Question 50. What is required in the second commandment?
Answer. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word.
Question 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
Question 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Answer. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Jesus said that God is Spirit, therefore he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. The original word for spirit both in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek is the same word used for breath or wind. It is something you cannot physically see, but it is clearly evidenced and felt.

God is only honored when we worship him as the invisible, but all present Creator. How this should be done is beyond what we can figure out on our own, so we need to worship him only in ways he prescribes for us. That is why it is unwise to speculate or to add inventive ideas to worship.

The Bible tells us what elements belong in our worship as a Christian church.

  • There should be prayer offered on behalf of the congregation
  • the reading and teaching of God’s word in the Scriptures
  • the celebrating of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper
  • the reciting of confessions of our Christian faith together as a congregation
  • worshipful music sung to God’s glory
  • the collecting of God’s tithes and our offerings
  • the pronouncing of benedictions by the minister
  • occasionally vows such as those taken for membership and ordination

All these have to be governed by God’s directions in his word, not by our own imaginations.

    There are clear examples in the Bible where some ignored God’s rules for worship.

  • Nadab & Abihu used fire in worship in ways God did not command. They were struck dead by God for what they did.
  • Uzzah touched the Ark of God in a way not prescribed. He died on the spot. King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for intruding into the priest’s job of lighting the incense.
  • King Saul lost God’s blessing upon his kingship for impatiently offering God’s sacrifice when he should have waited for the Priest to arrive to do it.
  • 3,000 were struck dead for worshiping Jehovah by making a Golden Calf at Sinai.

In the Middle Ages the Golden Calf mentality was brought into the church. They brought in rituals and ceremonies from the era of the ancient temple. They added incense, incantations, fancy priestly garments, altars and idols into worship. There were statues, paintings and embroidered pictures of Jesus. Later, pictures of Mary and of the Saints were brought in for veneration as well.

Of course they said they were not bowing to these images to worship them. They were just visual aids in worship. However, that’s what Israel said when they made the golden calf at Sinai.

In more recent times, some openly reject the Second Commandment. Those in the extreme say that it was only intended for Israel and does not apply anymore. That goes directly against the teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 5:17-18 he said that he did not come to end the law, but to bring it to fulfillment. He said in verse 18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

As sure as heaven and earth still stand today, all of God’s moral principles continue as always. While Jesus fulfilled the law as our representative, and met the penalties of the law in our place, the moral principles which are the stamp of the Creator upon his creation continue as long as there is a heaven and an earth.

Others have defined the commandment so that not all images of God are forbidden. The desire to rightly understand what is forbidden and what is not, challenges us to examine the Scriptures carefully and without assumptions about what we expect to find there.

The Reformer John Calvin once wrote, “the first business of an interpreter is to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.”

God provided us with all the physical things we need
for learning about him, and for worship:

Creation itself declares his glory day and night. He made humans to be the image-bearers of his moral nature. He furnished the ancient Tabernacle and Temple with things to prefigure the coming work of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus ordained the elements of the Lord’s Supper to represent him in worship.

None of these are man’s designs. God gave them to us, and we are to use them exactly as he instructed. We dare not add to them, or modify them thinking we have the full picture of all they represent.

The Larger Catechism summarizes the Bible’s teaching in question 109. There it forbids, “… the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; …”

God did not tell us to make statues or pictures to help us in worship. Not only does that undermine God’s spirit nature, it also distorts the truth about who God is. Besides, it is always foolishly speculative to try to draw, carve, or in any way depict something we have never seen.

Pictures of Jesus have been a source of controversy among sincere believers in him as Savior and God. These pictures of his human nature necessarily add ideas to God’s word, since God did not preserve what he looks like. Statues, mosaics and drawings were common when the Bible was written, but God chose not to give us an image of the human form of Jesus.

If you asked the average person if they knew what Jesus looked like, they would likely say, “yes”. Either they would describe him looking like the actor’s portrayal in one of the recent movies, or as the gentle-faced, light skinned man with long flowing blond hair shown in many older paintings.

These images only depict what someone thinks Jesus looked like. But how can we guess at what a perfectly sinless human’s facial expressions would be when he suffered? or was challenged by unbelief? when he expressed his perfect love and compassion to redeemed sinners? Did he usually have a serious look? a far off pensive stare? a constant smile? or was there always a deep look of pity in his eyes? Was he energetic when he spoke, or was he generally soft spoken?

Actors and film directors who dare to think they’re able to portray him have to add their guesses about what this perfect man was like. To do that, they need to go far beyond the information given to us in Scripture.

The danger is that these images linger in our minds, and shape our impression of perfection. We should resist the temptation to depict him in ways he has not prescribed. That would be a violation of this moral principle laid out for us in the Second Commandment. It would be cause for celebration in the kingdom of evil.

The Bible is our only source of information about Jesus. Beyond that we would be adding dangerous speculations that imply things we cannot yet know.

Of course we know that Jesus had a real human body, but we do not know what it looked like. When those who honor the Second Commandment make up Sunday School material, they keep drawings like that abstracted. They avoid showing his facial features or expressions. They draw a simple form of a man doing the things the Bible says he did. When we make T-shirts and posters with the face of what we think Jesus looked like, we do as the middle ages church did – we bring the Golden Calf mentality into the church.

The sin of the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai
illustrates the danger of making images of God.

This first great national sin of Israel took place right after God’s law was given on Mount Sinai. It was not a civil crime like treason, a wave of thefts, or massive murders. It was a sin against the proper worship of God. 3,000 were executed by God showing the seriousness of this moral principle.

How we worship is not seen as a very serious moral issue by most people. Obviously God took it very seriously.

It is amazing that so many churches today take great pride in being innovative in worship. They advertise that they introduce new things and explore new ground.

The story of what happened at the foot of Mount Sinai shows how dangerous this is. Moses was called back up into the Mountain to receive more information from God. Before he went, Exodus 24:3 tells us about Israel’s promised obedience to God. “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do.’ ”

After Moses went back up into the mountain for 40 days, the people grew impatient and came to Aaron with a strange request. In Exodus 32:1 they said, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; …”

They probably did not actually mean that Aaron should make up an actual new god or set of gods. They wanted him to make a representation of God, one they could see and touch. That is the way life was back in pagan Egypt.

So the people brought the gold from their jewelry to use in making this idol. Exodus 32:4 tells us what Aaron did with these offerings, “And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

It was probably a wooden calf covered with the gold he had melted down. They did not see it as Apis, one of the Egyptian deities. They didn’t imagine they had created a new god altogether. Here and in verse 5 Aaron clearly identified it as Jehovah, the God of Moses.

So why did they make it in the form of a calf? God himself had chosen the calf, the young bulls, to represent him in the sacrifices. The sacrifices represented the future Messiah who would die in their place. They were not intending to replace Jehovah, only to represent him in a familiar form.

So Aaron built an altar in honor of the completed calf and in verse 5 he said, “tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah.” It was not called a feast to a new god, or a god they remembered from back in Egypt. It was a feast to Jehovah. The next day they brought their offerings to sacrifice to their new image.

While Moses was up in the Mountain receiving instructions about proper worship, Israel was down below with their creative innovations violating its most basic principle.

When Moses came down to them carrying the tablets of the law, he saw the disgraceful festival. That day 3,000 were executed for their part in this horrible rebellion.

That is how serious proper worship is to God. Satan must have been very pleased that God’s people tried to reduce God from his pure spirit nature, into a physical form.

That same fallen corruption still lurks in human hearts today. The things he tells us to do in worship are corrupted and replaced.

In our era after the Cross of Jesus, animals are no longer sacrificed to represent the coming Messiah. So people make images of the Messiah himself to satisfy that longing for a physical object to worship. Ancient Israel could say, “The Messiah was represented in real physical calves, so why not make an image of one to help us think of him?” Today some say, “The Messiah had a real physical human body, so why not make an image of that to help us think of him?”

It is not just a minor matter of differences of opinion. It appears to be a violation of the Second Commandment which some dismiss as an old worn out rule.

The usual arguments claim that they do not worship through the pictures they make of Jesus. But that is troubling in another way. Do they believe they are looking at a picture of Jesus Christ, their God and Savior, but it does not stir any worshipful response in them? none at all? There’s no sense of awe? no desire to praise him as they look upon what they think is him? When Jesus is brought to mind it should stir us to worship. There’s the danger.

Another excuse is that children need to see images to learn about God and Jesus. That is obviously not God’s opinion, and he is the one who made the children. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 God tells us to teach our children by presenting God’s word to them. They had art back then: statues, carvings, and drawings, but God’s method was to speak of him – in the home, everywhere we go, all day long.

This commandment specifically mentions the danger to the children.

Exodus 20:5-6, “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

We damage our children by bringing them up with images of an imagined Jesus,or by implying to them by our attitudes and practices that how we worship God is something we can modify on our own. It is a danger that distorts the child’s view of God, and of his rules for worship.

When it says that God is Jealous, it does not mean it in the envious sense. It means that God is protective of his honor and glory. He is concerned to the utmost that his purpose in creation would be fulfilled. He made all things to portray his nature and truth so that it brings him glory. Distortions of his nature and truth go against the whole purpose of creation.

Some are troubled by the mention here of the punishing of children for the sins of their fathers. However, that is because the consequences of sin are usually misunderstood.

Children raised in wickedness are generally trained in the evil ways of those who raise them. Most of them will follow in those ways for a long time, maybe the rest of their lives. It may take many generations for children to shake off wrong traditions handed down in families. That is the other side of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This brings us to the blessing side of keeping this commandment. God shows great mercy to the obedient. This includes the merciful blessings attached to proper obedient worship. They who obey, along with their children, will be enriched by the good attitudes and habits they see and become accustomed to in the home. Paul reminded Timothy how blessed he was growing up in a Godly home (2 Timothy 1:5).

This all seems very odd in our modern world.

Today images of the Second Person of the Trinity are common and promoted. Even those who love the Bible alone as their source of truth about God, go beyond what God directly prescribes for worship. They speculate about things God has not made known. They provide unauthorized visible aids to worship and inspiration.

To know God as spirit requires a renewed soul informed by God’s word. Aside from that work of grace, the human heart is blind and seeks other things. Without the change that comes by resting in the Christ of Scripture, worship will be distorted.

Long ago St. Augustine was challenged by a pagan man who proudly showed him his idol. The man said, “here is my god, where is yours?” Augustine answered this way, “I cannot show you my God. Not because there is no God to show, but because you have no eyes to see him.”

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than pictures, God gave us the thousand words — actually a lot more words than that. In the Bible we have a whole library about him, and his wonderful works.

God has communicated into our physical world all we need to know about him. That is what ought to guide us as we think of him, and approach him in prayer and worship.

The principle summarized in this Commandment is eternal.

There could never be a time when it is acceptable to make unauthorized visible images of God. He is always Spirit, and Jesus himself directed us to worship him in spirit and in truth. It was not a rule only for Old Israel in the time of Moses.

His word is our only faithful guide about how we should think of God and worship him. It is the picture that shows us how the pieces of the puzzle should fit together.
When we follow God’s prescriptions carefully, adding nothing, subtracting nothing, and loving all of it — it is recognized as the valuable treasure it truly is. Our God will be honored only in the way he said he should be. If that is our guide for faith and practice, we along with our children will be blessed for many generations to come.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

We Need to Worship

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 10: We Need to Worship

God made everything to display all that he is. Psalm 19 directs us to see God’s wonders and glory in all he created. When we see how wonderful God is we should thank him and worship him. The Bible tells us how we should worship.

The words translated as “worship” in the Bible mean to bow down to someone, to show reverence, submission, and respect. Literally bowing down was how this honor was shown in those ancient times. This is brought out clearly when Psalm 95:6 says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”

In other cultures, and particularly in the world of this age, actual bowing to the ground is not how we display that. Often this respect and submission is simplay a bowing of the head or no outward body positions at all. The attitude in our heart is the most central and important part of worship.

Our worship must always honor the one true God and him alone. This is one of the imporant ways where we can show how much we love and respect our Creator, Savior, and Lord over all that is. This is what the first four of the Ten Commandments teach us.

We show how much we honor God by doing things in worship that his written word tells us please him. When we worship we should sincerely pray to God. We should repentantly and humbly admit our sins. We should openly confess our trust in all God has made known to us in his word. We should sing about the wonderful things he is, has promised, and done. We are told to attentively read his word, and listen to lessons from those called to be our teachers and Pastors in the church.

When we gather for worship as a church we come together as a congregation to take part in the Sacraments. When we see someone baptized we should remember that we who were baptized must renew our trust in Jesus as our Savior and that we are part of the covenant family of Christ. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper together we should keep our thoughts centered on God’s grace in shedding his blood on the cross where our Savior’s body was offered as a sacrifice for our own sins. We should humbly receive the blessings promised to us when the leader of worship pronounces the benediction at the end of our times of gathered worship.

Worship on our own, as a family, or as a gathered church, should send us forth to faithfully live for our Heavenly Father, to bear the title “Christian” responsibly as lights shining in our sin darkened world, and to daily care for and encourage one another as God’s children. God promises special blessings to his people when they worship him in these ways. It helps us to be spiritually healthy.

We can worship God at any time by praying to him, singing his praises, and thinking about the wonderful things God tells us in the Bible. 1 Chronicles 16:29, Psalm 29:2, and Psalm 96:9 all say, “worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!”

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Lesson 11: We Need to Help Other Believers
Index of all our lessons on Bible Basics

The Elements of Regulated Worship

The Elements of Regulated Worship

by Bob Burridge © 2011

Along with our continual worship of God personally, in our families, and in our communities, there is a special worship that is connected with the calling together of the body of believers under the oversight of Elders. The proper elements of this convocational worship are limited by God’s prescription.

Our own imaginations should never be our guide in approaching God. We must come into his special presence only as guided by his word. The Bible is not silent about what should be done when we gather as a church on the Lord’s Day. In parts one and two of lesson four our Syllabus reviews the principles and elements God tells us honor him.

Today the first part of lesson four has bee posted. Tomorrow we plan to post the second part. Together they cover the full scope of public worship following the summary in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Lessons 4a and 4b can be found under Unit 5 of our Syllabus.

The first part of this lesson sets the groundwork for regulating our worship. It then covers the following elements God has prescribed for his worship:

  • The Call to Worship
  • Prayer (including a discussion of praying for “unpardonable sin”)

The second part of this lesson covers the remaining elements God has prescribed for his worship:

  • The Reading and Preaching of God’s Word
  • The Singing of Psalms
  • Due Administration and Receiving of the Sacraments
  • Other Elements of Proper Worship
  • Religious Oaths and Vows
  • Confessions of Faith
  • Solemn Fastings and Thanksgivings
  • The Gathering of God’s Tithe and Our Offerings
  • Benedictions
  • The Places of Worship

Regulating Worship (Lesson Intro)

Regulating Worship – Lesson

Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Today we have published Lesson 3 to Unit 5 of our on-line Syllabus on Reformed Theology. The topic is “The Regulative Principle of Worship.” This is the first installment of a series of lessons dealing with chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

All believers in Christ regulate their worship according to some principles drawn from God’s word. No one would include openly sinful things to be done imagining it to be worshipful. The “Proscriptive” form of regulated worship allows for anything to be included in worship that is not prohibited by direct biblical reference. The problem with the Proscriptive approach is that it assumes that worship can be anything we imagine it to be as long as it isn’t sinful.

The Reformers questioned that approach. In it’s place they called worshipers to a more careful examination of Scripture. The view that emerged as a result of their work is called the “Prescriptive” form or regulated worship. Only God can know how he is to be properly worshiped.

Our family has often done theme parties to celebrate birthdays for our children and grandchildren. We use decorations that fit with the things they are currently interested in. I’m sure they would be disappointed if instead I designed their party around things only I was interested in at the time. Similarly, the things that may seem honoring to God to us, may not be fit for the worship of our perfectly holy Creator-Redeemer.

The Bible shows us how worship is to be conducted. It tells us by direct statement and example what specific elements are proper for the gathering of a congregation on the Sabbath Day. It also shows us how God has been angred and offended by the inovations of well intended people who approached him their own way instead of the way he had prescribed.

This lesson in our Syllabus begins a study of the biblical principles that regulate worship. The next few lessons will expand upon that in more depth. View the lesson here.

The Name of Jesus

The Truth About Christmas

by Bob Burridge ©2010

This article concludes a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.

Part 13 The Name of Jesus

When God’s angel spoke to Mary to tell her about the child she would bear he said in Luke 1:30-33, “… Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

The name for her baby wasn’t explained to her at this time. The name “Jesus” in the original Greek text is iaesous (Ιησους). But this was Luke’s translation for the Greek readers. The angel probably would have addressed Mary in Aramaic or Hebrew. He would have used the name Yeshua (ישע). That’s a shortened form for Yehoshua. Literally the name means “Yahveh (Jehovah) saves / helps”.

We are used to many biblical names beginning with the letter “J” (Jesus, Joseph, Jehovah, Jeremiah, and so on). There is no “J” in either the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or in the Greek of the New Testament. English tends to turn the Hebrew “Y” sound into a “J”. In German the letter “J” has the sound of our English letter “Y”, so the early European translations kept the letter “J”. Eventually it lost the original “Y” sound. So we say the Name of God is Jehovah, but in Hebrew it is originally Yahveh (יהבה). This is why we say “Jesus” in English instead of “Yesus,” or the Aramaic “Yeshua” (ישע), or “Iaesous” (Ιησους) as it would read in Luke’s Greek version.

Jesus was a common name among the Jews at that time. Historical records show that there were others at that time named Jesus. There are even others by that name in the Bible.

When the angel appeared to Joseph he more directly explained the significance of the name. In Matthew 1:21 the angel said to him, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Salvation implies that there is some danger from which to be saved or delivered. It wasn’t the danger of Roman oppression as so many Jews had come to believe. It was a more important danger, one more horrible than any persecution or personal depression. Jesus would deliver his people from the cause of all mankind’s sufferings: He would save them from sin itself!

The root of all our horrors, of all our struggles, and of all our problems is the corruption and depravity we inherit as a race from Adam, our representative in Eden.

This is the Christmas message: It’s not about decorations and gifts. It’s not even about days off and family dinners. It’s about the one real solution for all of man’s problems which all come from sin. Jesus came to save us from the guilt and disabilities that come from sin itself.

We learn more about Jesus by the titles he was given when the angel spoke to Mary about her son in Luke 1:32-33, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Mary’s son would be great. He wouldn’t simply grow up to be another citizen of Nazareth. He was destined for greatness in the eyes of God. It would not even be the kind of greatness known to other outstanding humans remembered in the record of the history of the world.

He will be called Son of the Most High. What an astounding title! Others are called sons of the Most High God too, but the expanding information of the angel spirals upward to amazing heights. This was obviously a special title unlike the normal honor every covenant child bears. Otherwise the angel wouldn’t have said it as he did.

This Son of God will reign forever in the kingly office promised to David. This was the peak of the mountain of information Mary was hearing. The lost and suppressed kingship of David’s throne would be revived in her son. A much longed for promise would be fulfilled in him.

Every Jew knew the words the angel referred to. The prophet Nathan said long ago to the great King David, in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”

Then again in verse 16 Nathan concluded the promise to David, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”

We could add to the angel’s words those titles given to our Savior by the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Jesus is also called the Christ. The word “Christ” is from the New Testament Greek term christos (Χριστος), which means “anointed”. It translates the Hebrew word Mashiakh (משיח), which also means one who is “anointed” or “set aside for special office”. We usually see this Hebrew word translated as “Messiah”.

In the revealed order of God’s law, prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed when they took up their office. Sometimes it was done by ceremonies common to their contemporary culture. At other times they were set aside by the simple declaration of some one who had the authority to appoint them to their office.

As the promised Redeemer, Jesus came to be Prophet, Priest, and King. All others who were anointed to serve in these offices were part of how God would reveal the special authority of our Savior. He was the one anointed from all eternity to reveal more fully the plan of God to redeem his people, to make the one true sacrifice for sin, and to rule forever as King over the Kingdom of God.

This is the one whose birth we celebrate on this day we set aside called “Christmas.”

As we exchange gifts we should remember the greatest gift ever given, the gift purchased by the humble life and death of Jesus Christ.

He took the place of all who repentantly trust in him alone for what he accomplished during his mission to earth over 2000 years ago. He bore the just penalty they deserve for their sins, and he gives them his righteousness to make them acceptable to live joyfully forever in fellowship with the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all that is. He truly deserves our worship, our devotion, our service.

To learn more about our Wonderful Savior you need to be a careful student of the Word of God preserved for us supernaturally in the book we call the Bible. To help you in that study we invite you to study through our on-line Syllabus as it reviews the many teachings of God’s word. Let us know how we can help you grow in your appreciation of this amazing gift of God.

The Worship of the Wise Men

The Truth About Christmas

by Bob Burridge ©2010

This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.

Part 12 The Worship of the Wise Men

It was only after the wise men left Jerusalem that they were guided by a star. It led them to the very house where our Lord was living.

When they arrived, Matthew 2:11 tells us what they did, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

The word used here for house shows that he was no longer lying in a manger in a shed. The word in the original Greek text is oikia (οικια). It was the common word for a simple family residence. Mary and Joseph were staying in a regular home by this time.

As we saw in the previous article, Jesus was probably about one year old by the time the wise men from the East arrived. The census crowds would have left by then so there would have been space available with relatives who lived in Bethlehem. It is also possible that Joseph was able to do some carpentry and earn enough money to buy a house, or perhaps to build one himself.

The Magoi worshiped Jesus when they found him. By the work of God’s grace on their hearts they recognized him for who he really was. This little toddler, no longer an infant, was the Promised Redeemer. The hope of all the ages was being fulfilled before their eyes.

Like these wise men, the Eastern Magoi, we need to put the worship of Jesus Christ above everything else in our lives. They left their comfortable homes and honored positions in life to make an 800 mile trek to find and worship the new born King of the Jews, the Messiah. They freely gave valuable treasures they could have used to improve their life-style. They could have bought more luxuries, fine clothes, or feasted on lavish meals. But they understood a higher responsibility than serving their own personal comforts.

They humbly submitted themselves to a higher King than the one they served back in the East. They found a better and more self-satisfying investment for their riches than saving up for toys, luxuries, or adventures.

The thing we need to focus on most in or lives is our worship of Christ. Give him your time and resources to see that his work is carried out here on earth. Obey his moral principles, regardless of luring temptations. Be devoted to Sabbath worship with the congregation of which you’re a part. Make sure that your behavior at home, at school, at work, and in the community reflects your gratitude for this greatest gift ever given, ever imagined.

Jesus Christ is the one sought by the truly wise. He’s the one enjoyed by those who trust in him and in all he taught. He’s the Good Shepherd and Lord of all.

Next Study: The Name of Jesus