50. God’s Institution of Public Worship

  1. The living and true God, our triune Creator, has instituted the worship of Himself by all people everywhere in spirit and in truth.
    1. Because man’s chief end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever, all of life is to be worshipful. Nevertheless, worship itself consists primarily in specific acts of communion with God.
    2. Only those people whose hearts have been made new through God’s grace by the work of the Holy Spirit can truly worship God.
    3. While believers are to worship in secret as individuals and in private as families, they are also to worship as churches in assemblies of public worship, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected or forsaken. Public worship occurs when God, by His Word and Spirit, through the lawful government of the church, calls His people to assemble to worship Him together.
  2. In His Word, God has specially appointed one day in seven as a Sabbath to be kept holy to Him. It is the duty of every one to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, the Sabbath was the last day of the week, marking the completion of six days of work, anticipating eternal rest in the coming Messiah. By raising Christ from the dead on the first day of the week, God sanctified that day. And from the time of the apostles, the church, accordingly, has kept the first day of the week holy as the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, and as the day on which it is to assemble for worship. Now each weekly cycle begins with the people of God resting in Christ in the worship of His name, followed by six days of work. The Lord’s Day thus both depicts that the Christian’s rest has already begun in Christ, and anticipates the eternal rest of His sons and daughters in the new heaven and the new earth.
  3. God’s covenant people are to devote the entire Lord’s Day as holy to the Lord.
    1. In order to sanctify the day, it is necessary for them to prepare for its approach. They should attend to their ordinary affairs beforehand, so that they may not be hindered from setting the Sabbath apart to God.
    2. It is advisable for each individual and family to prepare for communion with God in His public ordinances. Therefore, they ought to do this by reading the Scriptures, by holy meditation, and by prayer, especially for God’s blessing on the ministry of the Word and sacraments.
    3. They are then to observe a holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts concerning their everyday employment and recreations, and to devote themselves to delighting in the public and private exercises of communion with God and His people, in showing mercy and doing good in His name, and in works of necessity.
    4. They shall so order works of necessity on that day that they do not improperly detain others from the public worship of God, nor otherwise hinder them from sanctifying the Sabbath.
  4. The Lord’s Day is a day of holy convocation, the day on which the Lord calls His people to assemble for public worship. Although it is fitting and proper that the members of Christ’s church assemble for worship on other occasions also, which are left to the discretion of particular sessions, the Lord calls the whole congregation of each local church to the sacred duty and high privilege of assembling for public worship each Lord’s Day. He expressly commands His people to draw near to Him, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together. Therefore, both worship and fellowship are necessary on the Lord’s Day.


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