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Many Christians continue to debate over the question of which form of worship is best, traditional or contemporary. And, as some point out, what is traditional today may once have been considered contemporary when compared to some of the worship forms described in the Bible.

For example, a reading of the Scriptures reveals a variety of instruments used in worship. Psalm 33:1-3 says: “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.” Psalm 150 speaks of praising the Lord with trumpet, lute, harp, timbrel, dance, flutes (translated as organs in the King James Version but not referring to the more-modern pipe organ with multiple pipes), loud cymbals and clashing cymbals.

If we truly wish to speak of traditional worship, we might wish to look at the worship described in the Bible. And, if we look at the hymnal of the Old Testament Church, the Book of Psalms, we see directives for singing the psalms accompanied by music played on a variety of instruments. For example, Psalm 4 includes the instructions for the psalm to be sung with accompanying stringed instruments, Psalm 5 was to be played with flutes and Psalm 6 was to be accompanied by stringed instruments and an eight-stringed harp. Psalms 8, 81 and 84 were to be played on “the instrument of Gath” (Gath was a pagan city in Philistia, and I can just imagine that some might have complained about the use of such a “pagan” instrument in Israel’s worship).

Old Testament worship included choirs and singers, as well as those who played stringed instruments, harps and cymbals (1 Chronicles 25). 2 Chronicles 5:12-13 describes Israel’s worship at the temple: “And the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets – indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever….’”

We read of worship in Israel under Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29:25ff.: “And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets. The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah commanded them to offer the burnt offering on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord also began, with the trumpets and with the instruments of David king of Israel. So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had finished offering, the king and all who were present with him bowed and worshiped. Moreover King Hezekiah and the leaders commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped.”

And so we see that traditional worship in Old Testament times included singing of the psalms and a variety of songs of praise accompanied by a wide-array of musical instruments and musicians — all to give glory to the Lord God for His mercy and goodness shown to His people.

And what about New Testament worship? Again, no organs or specific liturgical forms are commanded. In fact, the first Christians continued to worship and teach God’s Word at the temple, with the Lord’s Supper (or the breaking of bread) observed from house to house. Acts 2:42,46-47 (following the baptism of 3,000 souls on Pentecost) tells us: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers … So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

And where did the Apostle Paul go first to preach that Jesus was the Messiah and Savior who had died for the sins of all and risen again? He went to the synagogues and preached there until the Gospel was rejected (read of his missionary travels in the Book of Acts). And the New Testament churches were organized in much the same way as the Jewish synagogues, with the reading of Scriptures, teaching from the Scriptures, prophecies, prayers and psalms of praise. Elders were appointed to teach God’s Word and to oversee what others taught and shared in the services (cf. Titus 1:5ff.; 1 Timothy 3:1ff.; Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1ff.; Hebrews 13:17).

Perhaps the most detailed descriptions of church meetings in the New Testament are provided in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 14:26 says: “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification….” While the pastor or elders certainly read the Scriptures and taught the people from the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 1:9), it was also clear that other men were allowed to share with the congregation of believers truths and applications of God’s Word and psalms of praise. In fact, Christians are commanded: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). Instructions for the observance of the Lord’s Supper and for the gathering of offerings can also be found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) describes the Christian worship service in his First Apology, saying that on Sunday, the day of Christ’s resurrection, Christians gathered together, the writings of the apostles and prophets were read, the president of the assembly gave instruction and exhorted the believers to live in accord with the Scriptures just read, all rose and prayed together and, when the prayers were complete, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist was observed and administered to those who believed the truths confessed and taught in the church and who were baptized, and offerings were gathered to care for those who were orphans or widows or sick or in need for other cause. Also of note is Justin Martyr’s writing about the teaching that Christ gives His true flesh and blood through the consecrated bread and wine.

Until Constantine, in the early 300s, Christianity was subject to persecution and worship was restricted and probably less formal. Following Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, a number of liturgies began to emerge, leading up to the more formalized liturgies used by the churches in both the East and the West for centuries, and still used today in many liturgical churches.

There is certainly a richness in the ancient liturgies which should not be overlooked or discarded. The liturgies include elements of Old Testament worship at the temple and emphasize man’s sinfulness and unworthiness before God and God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ — Biblical truths often overlooked in more contemporary styles. And, if a person takes the time to truly consider what is said and proclaimed in the liturgies, they are rich in worshipful theology.

At the same time, those who are quick to condemn all modern forms of worship and use of instruments and styles different from what is now called traditional ought to consider that stringed instruments, flutes, horns and even drums and cymbals were used in Old Testament worship and the singing of the psalms.

Which is the right way to worship? While some would argue for the use of the liturgies used in the churches for centuries and others would argue for the more contemporary styles of our day, the real answer to the question goes back to Jesus’ words in John 4:23-24 “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” True worship is not vain repetitions or the recitation of certain orders or forms (Matthew 6:7); it is true and sincere worship which flows from the heart of one who trusts in Christ as His Savior, and it is worship motivated by the Holy Spirit of God.

Therefore, if worship is in accord with Scripture — the words and message being in agreement with the Bible’s teaching — and is genuine worship prompted by the Spirit of God, it is true worship whether offered up in an ancient liturgy accompanied by a pipe organ, a new song accompanied by a praise band or songs of praise sung a capella. But, at the same time, if Scriptural words of praise do not flow sincerely from a heart which trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation, they are only empty words, vain repetitions and a misuse of God’s holy name.

God has not prescribed a specific form of worship but desires our sincere worship and praise and gives us the freedom to choose how best to express our thanks and praise for all He has done and continues to do for us for Jesus’ sake. Therefore, let your praise be Scriptural, genuine and true!

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“​​21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. … 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” John 8:21,24

What a terrible thing to die in your sins — to die and stand before the holy Judge of all, still bearing the uncleanness and guilt of your sins! Yet, this is what was soon to happen to a great many of the Jews in Jesus’ day. Jesus warned them, “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21).

Because so many of His Jewish hearers saw no need to repent of their sinful ways and trust in Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, they would die in their sins and face the eternal wrath and condemnation of God. Where Jesus was going — to be glorified at the right hand of God the Father in heaven (cf. John 14:1ff.; Eph. 2:20f.) — they would not be able to come! Instead, they faced a Christless eternity and the everlasting torments of hell!

Again, Jesus warned them, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

And Jesus’ words still ring out today! Many are headed to an eternity of everlasting punishment for their sins because, unless one repents and turns to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who was lifted up upon the cross to suffer and die for all and bear the full punishment for our sins and the sins of the whole world, he will die in his sins and come before the holy God in his own uncleanness and guilt to be judged and condemned to hell forever!

And, it is foolish to depend on our own works and lives because the Bible tells us in Isaiah 64:6 that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.“ Therefore, as Jesus said, those who do not repent and place their faith in Christ and His cross die in their sins.

What about you? Will you die in the guilt of your sins and face the eternal wrath of an angry God? Or, will you, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus and receive His full and complete forgiveness for all your sins and enjoy the everlasting blessings of life in heaven with Him?

The Bible tells us: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jesus has already died and paid in full the penalty for your sins. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (v.3,4). And His resurrection on the third day is proof that God accepted His death as full payment for the sins of all in order that those who trust in Him can be justified and have God’s pardon and forgiveness (cf. Rom. 4:23 — 5:2)!

Again, Jesus said in John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

So, why die in your sins and be condemned of God? Trust in Jesus Christ and His blood shed for you on the cross and be saved!

O dearest Jesus, have mercy upon our wayward hearts and draw us to You that we might not enter into eternity bearing the guilt of our sins and standing condemned, but having instead forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20

Some in Jesus’ day misunderstood and thought that Jesus was trying to throw out all that is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures because He offered forgiveness and life through faith in His name.

Unfortunately, some today assume that Jesus’ teaching does away with the Old Testament and makes these Scriptures obsolete and unnecessary for Christians. Many even believe and teach that one can be a Christian and disregard some or all of what the Bible teaches. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

It is as Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jesus, the long-promised Messiah and Savior, came to fulfill all that is taught in the Old Testament, not to destroy it. Not the smallest letter (jot) of the Law or the smallest part of a letter (tittle) in the Scriptures will pass away until all is fulfilled.

Thus, Jesus went on to say: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Thus, it is a grave offense to break even the smallest commandment in the Scriptures and teach others so. Those who do so will be least or excluded entirely from God’s kingdom (cf. Ex. 20:1-17; Rom. 6:1ff.).

And, as a study of the Scriptures will reveal, the righteousness which God demands is far greater than the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It far exceeds the righteousness of the churchgoers of our day who depend on their own righteous works and deeds.

The Scriptures demand perfect righteousness of heart, soul and mind. Jesus said later in His Sermon on the Mount: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And God says in Leviticus 19:2: “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (cf. Matt. 5:21ff.; 5:27ff.; 5:33ff.; 5:38ff; 5:43ff).

The Scriptures demand a holy life in thought, word and deed — righteousness which we do not have and cannot attain by our own attempts to keep God’s Law. Instead of being righteous by keeping the law, the law condemns us. We read in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (cf. Rom. 3:9-20).

But Jesus came to keep every commandment of the Scriptures perfectly for us. He regarded the Scriptures as the very Word of God and was obedient in thoughts, desires, words and actions to every teaching of the Law and the Prophets! He fulfilled all and regarded all as absolute truth. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Scriptures for us.

Jesus also, as prophesied by the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament Scriptures), took our place under God’s Law and took the guilt and punishment of our sins upon Himself, that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in Him and His blood shed for us upon the cross. In Isaiah 53:6, we read: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And these same Scriptures declare to us Christ’s full atonement for our sins and the acceptance and pardon of a merciful God for Jesus’ sake. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2; cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 3:21-28; 4:3-8; 4:23ff.). The Scriptures offer to us the imputed, perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus that we might stand in God’s judgment through faith in Jesus’ name.

And, the Bible assures us that all who trust in Christ will be saved. Jesus said in John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Those who trust in Jesus will not be condemned but have eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 3:16-18; Mark 16:16)!

Dear LORD Jesus, holy Son of God and true man, our Savior, thank You for fulfilling for us the perfect righteousness taught and demanded in the Holy Scriptures, and thank You for bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for all our sins and then rising again to grant us forgiveness and life — perfect righteousness — through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.]

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“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” 1 Cor. 4:1-2

St. Paul and all who are called by God through the Church to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are ministers and servants of Christ, and they are stewards of the mysteries of God. To them the saving Word of God has been entrusted, and they are to use that Word to extend and build up the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. As servants of Christ and stewards of God’s Word, they are required to be faithful — not to men but to Christ and His Word!

Elsewhere, St. Paul writes: “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4; cf. Gal. 1:1,9ff.).

St. Paul was faithful to his Lord Jesus Christ. He was unwilling to compromise the Gospel for the sake of temporal peace and tranquility; and he traveled throughout the Roman Empire, sometimes enduring great hardship, so that others could hear of Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross (cf. Gal. 1:6ff.; 2 Cor. 11:22ff.; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Where the preaching of God’s Word was rejected, St. Paul shook off the dust from his feet and moved on; but, where the Gospel was received in faith, Paul continued on there, nurturing and building up the believers with the Word of God (Acts 13:44-51; 18:1-11).

Called pastors today are also servants of Jesus Christ, entrusted with the precious and saving Gospel. As a minister of Christ and a steward of God’s Word, a pastor is to be faithful, not to men, but to God, who called and placed him into this office. Pastors are to shepherd and feed the Church of Jesus Christ with the pure and sincere Word of God, and to administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:5; Jer. 23:28). It is as St. Paul says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (v. 2). What matters is not how men judge a pastor’s faithfulness but whether or not he is judged faithful by his Lord (cf. v. 3-4).

As believers and members of Christ’s Church, we also share in this stewardship of God’s mysteries. We have been entrusted with the saving Word of God and the task of using that Word to disciple all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). We are to send men to preach the Gospel in all the world (cf. Mark 16:15-16), forgiving the sins of penitent sinners and retaining the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (cf. John 20:23). And, as servants of Jesus Christ, we are accountable unto Him for this stewardship.

Have we been faithful to God’s Word? Have we faithfully used the Word entrusted to us to carry out this great work for our Lord and Savior? Or, have we compromised the Word or hid it among us (cf. Luke 19:10-27)?

As we consider our own failures as servants of Christ and stewards of His mysteries, we can be thankful that our Savior was faithful in that task entrusted to Him of His Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ did not fail or come short in accomplishing the redemption of our souls! He fulfilled perfectly in our stead all that God’s holy law demands of us, and He paid in full the just punishment for our sins and the sins of the whole world when He suffered and died upon the cross (cf. Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27; 9:11-14,27-28; 10:19ff.). Through faith in our crucified and risen Savior, we have forgiveness for our sins and the assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven!

Again, the Bible says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

And, as forgiven children of God, we use the time He has entrusted to us in this world to be His faithful servants and stewards of His saving Word.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us for any laziness or unfaithfulness on our part; and move us to be good stewards of Thy Word, sharing its sacred truths with people everywhere, that they too might know Thee as the only true God and their only Savior from sin and the everlasting punishments of hell. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:11 (read 1 Corinthians 3)

The well-known hymn verse by Samuel Stone reads: “The Church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ, her Lord; She is His new creation By water and the Word. From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died” (The Lutheran Hymnal, #473).

The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon no other foundation than Jesus Christ and His cross. He created His Church by dying on the cross and making atonement for the sins of the world and then sending out His disciples with the good news of forgiveness of sins and life eternal through faith in His name.

As believers in Christ and members of His Church, we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). The “foundation of the apostles and prophets” is none other than their teaching, which is recorded for us in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

And what is their teaching? It is Christ and His cross! It is the teaching that we are sinners who have come short of God’s holy demands but that we have been redeemed by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. It is the teaching that through faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we sinners have forgiveness for all our sins and everlasting life in heaven.

In John 3:14-16, Jesus said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Are other foundations ever laid? Most certainly! But, when other foundations are laid, and Christ and His cross are no longer the foundation and chief cornerstone, those who are built upon those other foundations are not Christian and their assemblies are not the Church of Jesus Christ in that place. Rather, their assemblies are cults — man-made organizations which lead only to destruction!

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). And, the Bible also says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Apart from Christ and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, there is no salvation for sinners like you and me! No works which we can do, no religious acts or ceremonies of man, nothing but the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Jesus Christ in our stead can save us from the wrath of God which we deserve on account of our sins. That is why it is so foolish for man to build upon any other foundation but Christ and His Word.

This is why St. Paul says to the church in Corinth: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11).

St. Paul preached “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2; cf. 1:23-24). He taught that all of us “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” but that all who believe are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24; Cf. v. 19-28).

St. Paul also taught that we receive this salvation in Christ through faith and not by any merit or work of our own. When we simply believe that in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His cross we sinners obtain pardon and have forgiveness of God, God’s forgiveness becomes our own and we have eternal life in heaven (cf. Rom. 3:28; 5:1-2; Gal. 2:16).

This is the foundation he, by the gracious working of God, has laid. And, this is the only foundation upon which the Church of Jesus Christ can be built and upon which we can rest securely and be saved!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we might trust in Thee alone for our salvation and build upon Thee and Thy cross as the chief cornerstone of all our teaching. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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