Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

December 9, 2007

Has God really said?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 2:12 pm

I’m late checking in here with my next installment. The debate has come and gone. I may touch on that later but this is the promised installment that provides scriptural support for the RPW.

I noticed from some quarters the notion that the RPW is merely one opinion among several options. This position is an inevitable result of fallen man trying to interpret scripture. I’m not really all that comfortable with the idea of us creatures bringing judgments against scripture. Ideally, scripture should be the one bringing judgments against us. It should be the one interpreting us, our thoughts, and our deeds.

Nevertheless, I promised a defense of the RPW so here it is. The first word in the acronym is ‘regulative’. To me, having to defend the idea that God regulates worship is somewhat crazy. Of course he makes rules. That’s what the covenant lord does. We as covenant servants don’t make rules. We are called to obey them. The second word in the acronym is ‘principle’. I don’t much like this word here because it seems to imply the idea that we can’t really find any actual rules so we are going to have to settle for a principle that we, if we’re lucky, can cobble together from scripture. Of course, the third word in the acronym is ‘worship’. The weakness here is that it seems to suggest that we need to be reminded that God’s rights of rule making extend to worship, as if somehow this is an afterthought. Maybe it was not really God’s primary consideration in his rule making and we have to extend his rights to regulate things into the domain of worship.

The fundamental texts that the whole notion of RPW hang on are these:

Genesis 3:1-7 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Here we see that our primary sin is adding to or subtracting from the word of God. This is our tendency. God adds to this with later clear rules in this regard:

Deuteronomy 4:1-3 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor.”

See Numbers 25 to note that the context for these words is formal corporate worship as performed by God’s chosen people.

As if to remind us that this is no mere principle that somehow expired in the Church age, the spirit gives us this as well:

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

So here we find the exact bookend matching the one in Genesis 3. Do not add or subtract from the word of God. There is continuity across the ages irrespective of the discontinuities that do obtain as the Israelite theocracy was dissolved and the mysteries of the bride of Christ – the church – take full flower in history prior to the consummation.

I have considered that the prescriptions provided in Hebrews “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence [boldness] to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, . . . .” might suggest that rules for worship are laid aside. (It’s the old “we are under grace not under law argument). But I maintain that this verse in no way alters the terms – rules – of worship but changes the basis upon which we may approach God. We are confident that even though God is still a consuming fire (v.27) we no longer have to remain outside of his presence depending on the high priest alone to make the yearly entrance behind the curtain. This is made clear by the writer’s reference to the rules and punishments for laying aside the laws of Moses (v. 28).

The new and living way may be thought of by some to refer to new “ways” of worship. But that is not what it means. The word “way” is odos – the Greek for road or path or journey. It is in fact a covenantal term referring to the covenantal practice of following after our covenant Lord. It was inaugurated in Genesis 15 where the theophanic presence of Christ the Lord made his way between the pieces of the slain animals. As covenant servants we are obligated to make our way following in his footsteps in covenant allegiance and obedience to the great suzerain. This is now an actual possibility for us in the new covenant, whereas before it was possible – typologically – only for the high priest.

That’s enough for now. My next installment will take up some of the thorny questions that do arise when discussing this important matter.

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