Worship By Faith (3 of 3)
If Justification By Faith is the heart of the gospel, and Sanctification By Faith is its lifeblood, then Worship by Faith explains the reality of our fellowship with God.
You see, Sanctification by faith also carries important implications for how we approach worship. Historically, the Reformed tradition has placed a great emphasis on allowing Scripture to define our practice. We must never believe, however, that “getting it right” in terms of form and practice makes our worship acceptable to God. Like justification and sanctification, true worship flows from faith.
For example, when an unbeliever participates in worship – even if he has the best voice and sings with all his might, even if he pays attention and takes notes during the sermon, even if he tries to personally apply the principles he is hearing – none of this is worship because it does not stem from faith. Apart from faith, our most righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Is 64:6), for "apart from faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6). This is just as true for believers as it is for unbelievers.
This concept is made explicit in Heb 9, where Christ’s work of atonement (9:13-14) is presented as the new covenant counterpart to the OT rules and regulations for worship in the temple (9:1-5). The author of Hebrews sees the concept of “worship” as intimately connected with the concept of “atonement.” By accomplishing the latter Christ simultaneously perfects the former. As the mediator of the new covenant (9:15), his blood purifies the instruments of worship (9:21) and the consciences of the worshippers (9:9). Thus it is only through faith in Christ that our worship can be pleasing to God.
Consequently, while we strive to worship according to the precepts set forth in Scripture, we also recognize that we will inevitably fail to conform to God’s standards – Scripture is sometimes difficult to understand and not all passages are equally clear; more frequently sin impairs our judgment. Whatever the reasons, we must continually remind ourselves that our worship is perfected by our faith in Christ; there is no room for pride on our part.
Similarly, we should be slow to judge or condemn others whose practice does not conform with our own. Worship by faith should encourage charity, not separation.
The churches we plant will not die because we misunderstand a particular issue of doctrine, or misapply an element of worship; our churches will die when we fail to understand the gospel – that we are justified by faith, sanctified by faith, and that our worship is made pleasing in faith.
Worship by faith in Christ is a fruit of the gospel.
These three principles then - Justification by Faith (JBF), Sanctification by Faith (SBF), and Worship by Faith (WBF), when viewed together in light of What the Church is All About - all have huge ramifications for how we think about faith and ministry in the local church. We'll start fleshing some of these things out in the coming months...