The Reformation and Worship (from Prof. Mark Dalbey)

Many of you didn’t have the opportunity to attend Professor Mark Dalbey’s Reformation Lectures on worship delivered over three nights last week at Zion Bishan. Professor Dalbey was kind enough to give us a chapter from his book on this subject. Below is a very short section from this chapter.


In the New Covenant, Christ is presented as the perfect sacrifice and Passover lamb (Heb. 10:10–14; 1 Cor. 5:7); the new tabernacle and temple (John 1:14, 2:18–22); the great high priest (Heb. 4:14–16); and the one who opens the way and leads his people into the New Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22–24). Christ’s sacrificial death and work as mediator restore fellowship with God and true worship of him. The teaching of Jesus himself in John 4:19–26 reveals the heart of worship that pleases God. In a discussion of the proper place of worship, Jesus communicates to the Samaritan woman that the Father is seeking true worshipers—those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. Worshipers in spirit are those who worship from the depths of their hearts, with all of their affections completely set upon God. Worshipers in truth are those who follow all that God has revealed about how he desires to be worshiped.

Who worships this way? Only the God-man Jesus Christ worships the Father fully in spirit and in truth. True worship is, therefore, about the Gospel of Christ. The question of where one is to worship is no longer relevant. Even the question of how one is to worship is secondary. The primary question in worship is through whom? Only those who are joined to Christ by grace through faith can worship in spirit and truth and be the kind of worshipers whom the Father is seeking. Once again, true worship is about the Gospel of Christ; all of the details concerning how we worship are to serve the overarching and primary goal of worship—a holy God coming near to his sinful people with the all-sufficient grace of his Son’s redemptive work to restore those people into intimate fellowship with himself as true worshipers.

The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) serves the gospel purposes of corporate public worship by keeping the focus on the proper understanding of and biblical instruction regarding the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, and by revealing the absolute necessity of our union with him by grace through faith in order to worship God in the way that he desires. Additionally, the RPW serves the Gospel by revealing that God also regulates worship in his insistence that his Son be intimately and personally connected to every aspect of a corporate public worship service.

Hebrews 2:10–12 makes clear that Jesus Christ is the one who stands in the midst of the worshiping congregation declaring God’s name and singing God’s praise. As the uniquely qualified and now ascended God-man, Jesus is to be at the center of every element in every worship service in every local church where God, in a glorious dialogue, meets his redeemed and adopted children, of whom he is not ashamed.