Give Me a Fire and a Hammer: The Scriptures in Worship

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29)

One of the weaknesses in modern worship is the inadequate treatment of Scripture in the worship service. Despite Protestants paying lip service to the Bible and talking about the Bible the role the Scriptures have in worship is surprisingly minimal. We are like the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:29-30. We decorate the Bible, write papers about it, extol it over other books, but don’t read it or obey it. This neglect is seen in our worship services, which are largely void of Scripture, except for the sermon text. For all the faults of our fathers in the faith, they made sure the service was filled with the Bible. Almost all churches read at least one section from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament every week. Many read three or four sections, depending upon the church tradition. The Westminster Directory for Public Worship suggests a chapter from the Old and from the New Testament every week with a Psalm as well.

Besides reading of the Scriptures, there were two other ways the Bible permeated the worship services of our ancestors. First, the psalms were sung. In this way the church was memorizing key parts of Scripture. Second, the prayers from the pulpit were filled with Scripture. So even when the congregants were listening to the prayers, they were hearing God’s Word.

At Christ Church we try to fill our service with God’s Word. We have two Scripture readings, one section from the Old Testament and one section from the New Testament. It would be great to add more, but for now that is sufficient. Besides this we also sing psalms. Many of these we have memorized. The elders fill their prayers with Scriptures, praying God’s Word back to him and teaching God’s people in the meantime. There are numerous other places where Scripture is read as well. We have a call to worship that is Scripture. We have a call to confession, which is Scripture. We have a promise of forgiveness following the confession of our sins, which is taken from Scripture. Finally, we have a commission and benediction at the end of the service that is also Scripture. Here is how the Scriptures were used this past Sunday.

Call to Worship: Psalm 149
Call to Confession: Romans 6:12-14
Response to Call to Confession: Psalm 32:5
Confession of Sin: Adapted from Daniel 9
Promise of Forgiveness: Romans 6:20-23
Old Testament Reading: I Chronicles 17:1-15
New Testament Reading: Luke 1:26-33
Commission: Isaiah 49:6
Benediction: Psalm 115:14-15
We also sang Psalm 1.