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Preaching and the Ordinances as Worship

Do you want to better understand your local church and your Sunday worship service?

by Andrew Davis on October 26, 2021

"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."  -1 Corinthians 11:26  
"So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.  He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law… They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read." - Nehemiah 8:2-3, 8  

God has ordained several distinctive avenues or means of grace for His people to enjoy in corporate worship, but the long history of misunderstanding and misuse of these “ordinances” (some call them “sacraments”) has left some Christians unclear and uncertain about them. These ordinances we recognize as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Some evangelical churches so minimize the Lord’s Supper as to make it practically disappear… giving it on Sunday evenings only once a quarter or less. In an effort to distance themselves from the Roman Catholic misuse of the Lord’s Supper, some Protestants went too far the other way. We need to reclaim and re-emphasize these at their appropriate level in our church life.

The basic overall pattern of worship is “Revelation-Response”, that we cannot worship unless God reveals Himself. And God’s primary means of self-revelation is His written word. Expositional preaching (letting the scriptural text control the message, even down to its details) has the great benefit of carrying to the people of God a larger and more comprehensive vision of God than does topical preaching. As we simply submit our methodology and more importantly our minds to “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), we find our souls deeply nourished and strengthened, and our minds are filled with a weekly feast of new and old treasures. This is the “Revelation” that then the Spirit uses to draw forth our “Response”—powerful worship in the form of joy, conviction, wonder, tears, resolutions, prayers, thanksgiving.

Having established the faithful preaching of the word and faith-filled listening to it as the primary avenue of corporate worship, we turn to the ordinances. We discover that the Lord’s Supper was, in the first fifteen centuries of the Christian church, a central feature of corporate worship, never neglected. When the Reformers began to question the doctrine of transubstantiation (the idea that the bread and wine become actually in fact the body and blood of Christ), some went so far as to minimize the Lord’s Supper altogether as a “mere memorial.” We advocate a different view, in which God has covenanted with His people to be especially and powerfully active by the Spirit when the Lord’s Supper is rightly observed and celebrated. We give the following series of “looks” as the basis of right preparation and participation in the Lord’s Supper:

We look upward to God in thanksgiving

We look backward to Christ’s death and our own faith in Christ

We look inward to our sinfulness and need for confession

We look around to our brothers and sisters in Christ, for we are one Body

We look outward to a lost world not yet partaking in the Lord’s death

We look forward to Christ’s return and the eternal Kingdom of the Father

Each of these are supported by specific texts of Scripture associated with the Lord’s Supper.  And this is a powerful avenue of God’s grace to us and our worship of Him.

"This is the 'Revelation' that then the Spirit uses to draw forth our 'Response'—powerful worship in the form of joy, conviction, wonder, tears, resolutions, prayers, thanksgiving."

Finally, turning to baptism, it is a powerful avenue of God’s grace to us and our worship of Him. When we, as believers, submit to water baptism, we are proclaiming to the world the internal transformation that Christ has wrought in us by faith in His finished work on the cross. When anyone makes that proclamation in the simple, humble act of immersion in water, the onlooking Christians have an opportunity to thank God for His saving work in the world, in that person’s life, and specifically in their own lives. They also have the opportunity to renew again their commitment to walk in newness of life in obedience to Christ, our Savior.

Thus expository preaching, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism are powerful avenues of grace in corporate worship. Make the most of them in your own worship of God!

Tags: worship, means of grace within the church, baptism and the lord's supper