The Regulative Principle of Worship

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

Deut. 4:2

“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Mark 7:7

“Nadab and Abihu… offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not.   And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord… the Lord spake, saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.'”

Lev. 10:1-3 

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Order of Contents

Simple Definition
Westminster Confession
Where to Start?
Articles
Booklet
Quote
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A Simple Definition of The Regulative Principle of Worship:

Is the Biblical teaching of how we are to worship God.  We are to worship God only in the way that He says: by Scripture alone.  Scripture tells us what worship pleases God.  If scripture does not prescribe it, it is forbidden.  God is holy and is not to by worshipped by the imaginations of men.

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The Westminster Confession of Faith

“The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.¹  But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.²”

¹ Rom. 1:20. Acts 17:24. Ps. 119:68. Jer. 10:7. Ps. 31:23. Ps. 18:3. Rom. 10:12. Ps. 62:8. Josh. 24:14. Mark 12:33.
² Deut. 12:32. Matt. 15:9. Acts 17:25. Matt. 4:9,10. Deut. 4:15-20. Exod. 20:4-6. Col. 2:23.

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Where to Start?

Article

Williamson, G.I. – The Scriptural Regulative Principle of Worship  n.d.  37 paragraphs, with two appendices 13 paragraphs long together

This is the best introduction to the Regulative Principle of Worship (R.P.W.).  Williamson briefly exposits all the major Biblical passages that teach the R.P.W., including 10 from the O.T. and 7 from the N.T.  The first appendix looks at how the historic, reformed church applied this Biblical principle of worship to particular acts of worship.  The second appendix addresses the loose interpretation of the R.P.W. that is common today. 

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Book

Schwertley, Brian – Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship  Buy  2000, 71 pages, with two appendices

This is the best full scale defense of the Regulative Principle of Worship.  Schwertley proves it from scripture in extensive detail, corrects modern misinterpretations of it, and persuasively argues against other views of worship.

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Articles

1800’s

Binnie, William – Who May Appoint Ordinances?  p. 53, 7 pages, from his The Church

Binnie was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

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Contemporary

Coldwell, Chris – Where Did the Term ‘Regulative Principle of Worship’ Come From?  2014, 30 paragraphs, this is a post at the Puritan Board, the third one down on the page.

Coldwell documents the idea of the Regulative Principle of Worship from 30 primary sources since the Reformation, though the popularization of the term appears to have been most concretely popularized by John Murray’s 1946, OPC Minority Report on Psalm Singing.  

Isbell, Sherman – Hear Ye Him, no date, 30 paragrahs

Isbell examines the New Testament evidence for the Regulative Principle of Worship

Schwertley, Brian – A Biblical Analysis of John Frame’s Worship in Spirit and in Truth: The Neo-Presbyterian Challenge to Confessional Presbyterian
Orthodoxy, 2000, 36 pages

This is an excellent dissection and refutation of the modern, loose views of the Regulative Principle of Worship common today

Smith, Frank & Chris Coldwell – ‘The Regulative Principle of Worship: Sixty Years in Reformed Literature’ in The Confessional Presbyterian, vol. 2  Here is the 4 page Introduction.

Smith, Frank & David C. Lachman – Reframing Presbyterian Worship: A Critical Survey of the Worship Views of John M. Frame and R. J. Gore  2005  35 pp.  in The Confessional Presbyterian, vol. 1

Williamson, G.I. – The Regulative Principle of Worship  2001, 12 pages

This is a short condensation of Williamson’s longer article above.

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Booklet

Silversides, David – The Worship of God: the Importance of Purity of Worship, the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and How Should Our Churches Worship Today,  Buy  1997, 71 pages

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Quote

William Cunningham

The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 1989 reprint) p. 36.

Men, under the pretense of curing the defects and shortcomings, the nakedness and bareness, attaching to ecclesiastical arrangements as set before us in the New Testament, have been constantly proposing innovations and improvements in government and worship.  The question is, How ought these proposals to have been received?  Our answer is, There is a great general scriptural principle which shuts them all out.  We refuse even to enter into the consideration of what is alleged in support of them.  It is enough for us that they have no positive sanction from Scripture. 

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