Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | January 24, 2014

Regulative Principle of Worship

Today’s devotion comes from Exodus 26:15-30. Here is a link to this Scripture –

I quote verse 30.

“Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” Exodus 26:30.


Today’s Scripture covers God’s commands for the boards and sockets of the tabernacle. Again, as with the other parts of the tabernacle, God’s commands are very precise.

The precise nature of God’s commands summarized in verse 30 should lead us to consider how God wants us to worship him.

We live in a day and age when many churches think that they can worship God any way that they want. They want freedom to worship God as they please. But, God is not pleased with such worship.

Reformed Doctrine teaches the “Regulative Principle of Worship”. Here is an article on it titled “The Regulative Principle of Worship (1)” by Griess Cory, in “O Come Let Us Worship” Volume 88/2012 Issue: 14, 4/15/2012 of the Standard Bearer, a publication of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.

Here is a link to the article – –

I quote the following part of this article:

“When John Calvin was asked to give his opinion regarding what were the most important issues in the Reformation of the church in the sixteenth century, he said this: “If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, a knowledge first of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained.”1

So important is right worship, that to Calvin it was a more significant issue in the church even than the doctrines of salvation. This is so because salvation is a means to the end of worship. The church exists for worship. The church trains her members and their children so that there is worship. The church does mis­sions so that there might be worship where there was not worship before. Indeed, the chief end of man is to worship.

For this reason we have taken up a series on three great principles regarding the public corporate worship of the church. So far we have seen that public worship is a covenantal assembly gathered to meet with God. We have seen that God carries out that meeting as a dialogue between Himself and His people. Now we see that God is the one who in His sovereignty regu­lates what takes place in that covenantal assembly. He decides what brings Him glory and what will bring us into the experience of the covenant of grace. This is the regulative principle of worship.

The regulative principle of worship is the principle that God in His Word tells us how to worship Him. What God commands in worship must be done, and what He does not command in worship is forbidden. This principle arises first of all out of the second com­mandment. In the first commandment God commands us whom to worship—“no other gods but Me” In the second commandment God speaks to us about how to worship Him. Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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.”

Negatively, the second commandment tells us we are not to worship Him by graven images. Israel was tempted by this. When they made the golden calf, they weren’t thinking that the actual calf was their god; rather they were attempting to worship Jehovah as represented by that calf. The issue was the mode and manner of worship. The calf was not a new god; it was a new way to worship Jehovah God.

God says in the second command, “I will not be wor­shiped that way.” The Heidelberg Catechism expands the application of the principle that God speaks to how He will be worshiped. The Heidelberg says it is not up to the imaginations of men how God will be worshiped, but rather He will be worshiped in no other way than He has commanded in His Word. He is the sovereign God and He determines how He will be worshiped.

We can state that positively as well. “Worship Me,” God is saying in the second commandment. “And worship me, the way I desire to be worshiped.” That’s the regulative principle—worship God in the way He wants; He’s the one being worshiped, after all. It’s for Him. Give Him what He desires. This is the question we are asking when we speak of the regulative principle of worship: what does God want in the worship of His name? When we come for this covenantal dialogue, what exactly does He want to take place? What are the elements of this dialogue that God requires? May we add different elements to the covenantal meeting?

When people deal with these issues concerning wor­ship, they often begin by asking the wrong question. Some begin by asking, “What will be the most appeal­ing to people? What will allow people to showcase their individual talents the best and make them feel most special? What will be the elements that are most like the culture around us? What will be the most fun for us?” Or on the other side of the coin, sometimes the first question people ask is, “What are our favorite songs from childhood? Or what have we always done?” But none of these questions address the essence of it.

The question first of all is, how does God desire to be worshiped? What does His Word say about the public worship of His name? In worship God speaks to us, and we respond in love for Him. He is the audience, not us. Therefore the question is, what does He desire from us? What will please Him? What brings Him more glory? …”


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