This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Genesis 4:5 ‘But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Genesis 4:5

‘But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.’ 

    What is the ‘Regulative Principle’? Derek Thomas recently offered this definition. His claim is, that, “Put simply, the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.” He continues, asserting that, “On the surface, it is difficult to see why anyone who values the authority of Scripture would find such a principle objectionable. Is not the whole of life to be lived according to the rule of Scripture?”

Historically speaking, the ‘Regulative principle of worship’ has been something of a battle-cry in what some have unhappily termed as, ‘worship wars.’ These worship wars, have come and gone over many generations. In other words, they surface and re-surface again and again. The contestants have generally been those of two different, and not surprisingly opposing, camps. While there are certainly many who would place themselves somewhere in between, nonetheless, the major contestants may be generally placed in one of two differing camps. Opposing those who hold to the ‘regulative principle of worship,’ which, according to Frank Smith, in his recent work, entitled Worship in the Presence of God, defined this regulative principle in the following manner.’ Referring to it as, the Puritan regulative principle of worship’ he stated that this principle “teaches that with regard to worship whatever is commanded in Scripture is required, and that whatever is not commanded is forbidden.” These are words, and statements, largely from a Presbyterian perspective and may not, necessarily, be helpful for us non-Presbyterians. But, in order to try and understand their views, we insert their perspectives. Yet, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith speaks along these same lines. Its’ statement regarding the worship of God is as follows, “

“The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good, and doth 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. 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 imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestion of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.” G. I. Williamson has helpfully written, that “This view is simple to state, but it has not proved simple to practice. And this is because of the sinfulness of the human heart which ever tends to think along the lines of the wicked Israelites of old who said, ‘We will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart’ (Jer. 18:12). Thus a rival principle has won a wide following, not only among Roman Catholics and Lutherans, but even among those who claim the Reformed Faith. This view is that true worship need not be only that which God has commanded, but it may also be that which he has not commanded, provided it be not expressly forbidden in the Word.”

There are several examples, some more prominent than others, in the Word of God, demonstrating this principle. It is freely acknowledged that there is no place in the Word where we may actually find the terminology, Regulative Principle. This, of course, is equally true of the Trinity; neither is this term, trinity, to be found in any place in our bibles. Yet we may find instances of it being; nonetheless. 

Likely, the most prominent or, at least the most frequently cited example, of this principle; is the case of Nadab and Abihu. We find this in Leviticus 10:1-3:

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that Jehovah spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

Whatever the ‘strange fire’ consisted of is not stated, but what is extremely as well as pointedly stated, is that it was not that “which He had commanded them. In other words, they had no “Thus saith the Lord” to support their actions, or behavior. What the strange fire was, was not commanded them by Jehovah. It was therefore a thing from their own wills; it may well be, just what Paul calls ‘will-worship in Col. 2:23. It was not according to the will of God, but rather from their own wills.

    Another case is that of Uzzah, 2 Samuel 6:6-7, where we may read of this:

    And when they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzzah; and he smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

Many may immediately demur and cry out, ‘Uzzah was trying to help; to prevent the ark of God from falling off, or over.’ Or to put it colloquially, he was only trying to help, or, he meant well. But he violated a direction of Jehovah Himself; Num. 4:15: 

And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the furniture of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch the sanctuary [the holy things], lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting.

Surely, Uzzah meant well; we have no problem presuming that to be the true case. But at the same time, it must be said this is one the chief arguments that people offer for ‘doing their own thing’ in the worship of the Living God.’ It will be argued, that ‘God looks on the heart,’ He knows our intentions are good. Yes, indeed, God looks on the heart. That was His reminder to Samuel, when He pointed him to David. But the other point is that David was His choice; not Samuel’s.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church 


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