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REFORMED

LITURGY

D.G.Vanderpyl
Foreword

Worship is of primary importance in the life of the Christian. Sadly the liturgy of
worship is often one of the most neglected practices in many a church. Few have been
taught the real meaning of each of the elements in corporate worship. Most of us wait
for the sermon as the main course in the liturgy, simply because we have not learned to
appreciate and understand the liturgical aspects of the worship of God.

This small booklet will, I trust, present some specific instructions the elements
which form the liturgy and help the worshipper to become a partner in the hour of
worship.

Worship has been defined as the activity of the new life of a believer in which,
recognising the fullness of the Godhead as it is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and
His mighty redemptive acts, he seeks, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to render to the
living God the glory, honour and submission which are His due.

There is a need for instruction in worship. Catechism classes and Bible Study
Groups have been most deficient in this matter. To experience genuine corporate
worship as a congregation, we need a good understanding of our liturgy as we move
from one element to another in the hour of worship.

My thanks go to Rev. D.J. van Garderen, Rev. G. H. Kleinjan and Mrs. M.


Versteeg for their valuable help and corrections, to Carl Beumelburg for his proof-
reading and to Bruce Hoyt for his many hours behind the computer doing layout of this
book. I acknowledge their work with much appreciation.

I dedicate this little volume to my children, grandchildren and others who worship the
Lord our God in spirit and in truth.

D.G. Vanderpyl
Hamilton 1989
Contents
Introduction........................................................................................................................
1. The Lords Day.............................................................................................................
Creation Ordinance.....................................................................................................................................
Works of Mercy and Necessity....................................................................................................................
Nature and Manner of Worship..................................................................................................................
Westminster Confession of Faith................................................................................................................
2. Principles of the Order of Worship.............................................................................
Nature and Manner of True Worship..........................................................................................................
A. Worship in Spirit....................................................................................................................................
B. Worship in Truth....................................................................................................................................
The Law of God.............................................................................................................................
The Second Commandment........................................................................................................................
The Fourth Commandment........................................................................................................................
Four Liturgical Elements............................................................................................................................
The Centrality of the Worship Service.......................................................................................................
A Dialogue..................................................................................................................................................
The Church Order.........................................................................................................................
Supervision of Public Worship....................................................................................................................
Orderly Liturgy...........................................................................................................................................
Corporate Worship......................................................................................................................................
1 The Word of God......................................................................................................................................
2 The History of the Church.......................................................................................................................
3 Faith of the Church..................................................................................................................................
4 The Contemporary Situation of Gods People.........................................................................................
3. The Liturgy in the Early Church................................................................................
The New Testament Period.........................................................................................................................
Places of worship........................................................................................................................................
Summary.....................................................................................................................................................
4. The Order of Worship..................................................................................................
Morning Worship Service...........................................................................................................................
Second Worship Service..............................................................................................................................
General........................................................................................................................................................
Two-fold Movement....................................................................................................................................
The Minister of the Word has a Double Task.............................................................................................
Alternative Order of Worship.....................................................................................................................
5. The Opening Elements.................................................................................................
The Organ Prelude......................................................................................................................................
The Prayer in the Session Room.................................................................................................................
The Handshake...........................................................................................................................................
The Silent Prayer........................................................................................................................................
The Call to Worship....................................................................................................................................
Invocation....................................................................................................................................................
The Votum...................................................................................................................................................
The Salutation.............................................................................................................................................
Morning Service..........................................................................................................................................
Second Service............................................................................................................................................
The Song of Praise......................................................................................................................................
The Invocation............................................................................................................................................
6. Public Confession of Sins.............................................................................................
The Morning Service.....................................................................................................................
The Reading of the Law..............................................................................................................................
The Law of God..........................................................................................................................................
The Summary of the Law...........................................................................................................................
Public Confession of Sins...........................................................................................................................
The Assurance of Pardon............................................................................................................................
Song of Praise and Thanksgiving...............................................................................................................
The Second Service........................................................................................................................
The Apostles Creed....................................................................................................................................
Structure of the Apostles Creed.................................................................................................................
7. Scripture and the Sacraments.....................................................................................
Public Reading of Scripture........................................................................................................................
The Administration of the Sacraments.......................................................................................................
Baptism..........................................................................................................................................
Infants.........................................................................................................................................................
Adults..........................................................................................................................................................
The Lords Supper.........................................................................................................................
Church Order..............................................................................................................................................
Supervision of the Lords Supper...............................................................................................................
Announcement for Visitors in the Church Bulletin...................................................................................
Invitation.....................................................................................................................................................
History and Tradition..................................................................................................................................
The Forms...................................................................................................................................................
The Frequency.............................................................................................................................................
8. Prayers and the Ministry of Mercy.............................................................................
The Intercessory or Congregational Prayer................................................................................................
Proof Texts..................................................................................................................................................
Official Selection of Prayers.......................................................................................................................
The Place of Prayers in the Order of Worship............................................................................................
Kneeling in Prayer......................................................................................................................................
The Ministry of Mercy (the collections).....................................................................................................
Scriptural Rules for Giving.........................................................................................................................
Giving According to Ability........................................................................................................................
Giving of Tithes..........................................................................................................................................
Other Scriptural Data..................................................................................................................................
Some Practical Issues..................................................................................................................................
Teaching the Young to Give........................................................................................................................
9. The Ministry of the Word............................................................................................
Brief prayer before the sermon...................................................................................................................
The Sermon.................................................................................................................................................
Defining the Sermon...................................................................................................................................
Scriptural Proof...........................................................................................................................................
Rules for Listening to a Sermon.................................................................................................................
Guidelines for Sermon Examination..........................................................................................................
The Amen at the end of the Sermon...........................................................................................................
Prayer after the Sermon..............................................................................................................................
10. The Closing..................................................................................................................
Closing Hymn.............................................................................................................................................
The Benediction..........................................................................................................................................
The Doxology..............................................................................................................................................
The Amen: it is true and certain.............................................................................................................
After Leaving the Assembly Of Gods People............................................................................................
11. Some Further Remarks..............................................................................................
Singing........................................................................................................................................................
Announcements...........................................................................................................................................
Announcements of Discipline.....................................................................................................................
Ordination of Office-bearers.......................................................................................................................
12. Catechism Preaching..................................................................................................
History of Catechism Preaching.................................................................................................................
The Purpose of Catechism Preaching.........................................................................................................
Synod of Dort Church Order on Catechism Preaching..............................................................................
Some Explanations.....................................................................................................................................
An Objection to Catechism Preaching.......................................................................................................
In Favour of Catechism Preaching.............................................................................................................
13. Conclusion...................................................................................................................
Introduction

When I was a boy, worship meant going to church, full stop. On the kitchen table
were four little piles of three copper coins plus two large King peppermints. My parents
would know who was not yet ready to go by the presence of ones little pile on that
table.

We climbed the stairs to the mezzanine floor on the left of the pulpit and settled in the
front row, leaning over the banister to watch the people of God down below. We
recognised friends and family in their hired pews and others patiently waiting for the red
light above the pulpit to switch to green five minutes before the service. Vacant pews
were then freed for those members who had no reserved seats and for visitors. In those
times the church derived some extra income by hiring out pews to families. The idea was
to ensure that (large) families were able to sit together for worship.

Our coins disappeared in the long handled deep collection bags. Sometimes we secretly
tried to hang on to the bags by catching the little tassel hanging from the bottom. The
deacon would give an angry look that said let go!

One peppermint was for the first half and the other for the second half of the sermon.
We used to sing a Psalm between the second and third points of the sermon.
Twice to church was routine. You did not argue. It was Get ready for church! and off
we went to join the throngs as we walked to the church building. Once I missed church;
Id spotted a live eel on the road just before turning the last corner. My mother sent me
home with the eel and conveniently, I did not male it back to church that morning.

At Catechism we learned why we went to church twice each Sunday. To keep the Lords
Day holy meant, as the catechism explains it in Q&A 103, regularly to attend the
assembly of Gods people to learn what Gods Word teaches, to participate in the
sacraments, to pray to God publicly and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

I must confess that for many years the Order of Worship meant very little to me. It was
the sermon that counted and thats what I came for. The preliminaries lasted far too long
in my opinion. In later years, I must confess, when I prepared a reading service, I
despatched the liturgical side of the hour of worship with very little thought about its
intent and purpose.

Not so long ago, some books on the beauty of our Reformed Liturgy came my way and
whetted my appetite. Worship now filled me with more reverence and wonder than ever
before. The order of Worship, of which I knew so little before now, began to take on
new meaning.

The great Synod of Dort(1618/19) recognised that the order of worship is of the utmost
importance. It decided that the liturgy shall be added to the public documents of the
church, because by its liturgy the church presents itself to the outside world as a re-
formed church.
Now and then it is fashionable to change (popularise) the order of worship to make it
more attractive to the worshippers and to lure outsiders into the sanctuary. And why
not? you might say.

Before we accept this type of thinking, let us take a good hard look at all the elements of
our liturgy. Doing that will prevent wholesale acceptance or even rejection of them, due
to ignorance of their true meaning. It will enable us to appreciate why and how certain
things are done.

A study of the meaning and practice of each element of public worship would help us to
better understand the character our Reformed liturgy.
1. The Lords Day

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us
encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Before discussing the liturgy in the worship of God, it is appropriate to begin by thinking
about the day set apart for worship.

The day of rest dates from the time of creation (Genesis 2:1-3). God rested on the
seventh day and He commanded us to do likewise. At Sinai the Lord God said,
Remember the Sabbath day... (Exodus 20:8). Even before they came to Mount Sinai,
the Israelites were told by God that there would be no manna on the seventh day
(Exodus 16:25). The fact of a weekly rest day had already been established before
Moses received the Law on the two stones at Sinai.

Creation Ordinance
In the creation God established a law of nature by which He prevents man from
destroying himself. By alternating day and night man is daily restored for new activities
by a proper rest.

Another law of nature which God established at the same time was that of one days rest
in seven. Violating this law results in injury to health, mentally, physically and spiritually.

The weekly rest-day influences the physical well-being and spiritual and mental welfare
of man. For well-being, there must be a rhythmic movement of work and rest in personal
living. Not only the body but also the soul cries out for a regular renewal of energy.

In the Fourth Commandment God remind us to keep the Sabbath Day holy. God says
that this is a Sabbath to the Lord and then commands us not to do any work. This
applies to every member of the family, the familys servants and even to the familys
cattle. It also extends to visitors. It applies to all those under their roof and inside their
gate.

Why does God require this rest of one day each week? God requires it because He
Himself rested and wants us to do so also. He especially blessed that one day in the
week and called it holy.

The Christian must see the Lords Day therefore as an oasis in the desert of this world; a
day for renewal and refreshing. Even the Saturday evening should be a time for
preparation for the Lords Day. All activities should cease early enough to prepare
hearts, minds and bodies for this day of worship and rest. We are inclined to attend
parties and stay up late Saturday night that we are too tired and drowsy really to do
honour to our Lord and King as we meet with Him for worship. (See Westminster
Confession of Faith, Ch 21, Par. 8.)
Works of Mercy and Necessity
There are still activities on the Lords Day from which we cannot altogether escape, such
as acts of mercy e.g. the work of doctors and nurses, works of necessity, e.g. policemen
and also works of piety, e.g. preaching.

Apart from that, however, there should be avoidance of anything that may hinder
worship on Sundays and prevent us from lifting up our hearts to the Lord. We should
regularly search ourselves in case anything has slipped into our lifestyle that is harming
our relationship with the Lord as individuals and also corporately as family and church.

Nature and Manner of Worship


There are two basic principles in establishing the order of worship:
1. Worship should be looked upon as a dialogue between God and His people. God
speaks to them and they answer him.
2. Worship must be regarded as an offering (Psalm 96:8) in which all believers are
priests (1 Peter 2:9) offering sacrifices acceptable to God (Peter 2:4,5).

Westminster Confession of Faith


The Westminster Confession of Faith states in Ch 21, Par. 7,8:
As it is the law of nature that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for
the worship of God; so in His Word, by a positive moral, and perpetual
commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day
in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy to unto Him: which, form the beginning
of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from
the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in
Scripture, is called the Lords Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world,
as the Christian Sabbath.

This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of
their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only
observe an holy rest, all the day, from their employments and recreations, but also
are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship,
and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

The French philosopher Voltaire once declared: If you want to destroy the Christian
religion successfully and effectually, then you must first destroy the Sunday as the Lords
Day.

According to the Church Father Origen, The distinctive mark, the badge, of the true and
faithful Christian is that he keeps the Lords Day holy.

Man cannot live by bread alone. The Lords Day enables us to rest in the Lord and
wait patiently for Him (Ps 37:7).
2. Principles of the Order of Worship

Nature and Manner of True Worship


God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
John 4:24.

A. Worship in Spirit
1. Worship must be in the Holy Spirit.
Our worship must be Spirit-guided; it is the Holy Spirit who must guide us all in the
truth. Phil. 3:3; John 16:13,14.
2. Worship must be a spiritual activity in contrast to an activity which is purely
intellectual or physical. It involves a persons thinking, feeling and will-power. True
spiritual worship is different from purely emotional worship. Emotional worship is based
more on feelings than on Gods Holy Word.

B. Worship in Truth
1. Our worship must be in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the truth, the way
and the life.
2. Worship in truth means to worship God in a manner thoroughly consistent with His
revelation of Himself in the Scriptures.
3. Worship in truth must be worship offered in a thoroughly truthful way. There can
be no pretence or insincerity in true worship. It must be based upon genuine faith in Him
and absolute confidence in His Word.

The Law of God

The Second Commandment


This Commandment deals with the manner of our worship of God:
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under
the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your
God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to
the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love
to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This commandment required Gods Old Testament people not to worship Him by way of
statues and images. They were to worship Him in a temple, a tabernacle (Exo. 25:40;
Heb. 8:5). The Israelites of the Old testament were provided with a beautiful liturgy
with choirs, music and antiphonal (alternate) singing by the congregation.

God calls His people to come and fellowship with him. He takes the initiative at all
times. He determines the shape and pattern of worship. In the Old Testament, details
were given where and how Gods people were to meet and serve Him ( Leviticus,
Numbers and Deutoronomy). But in the New testament, we see a change from the Old
testament pattern and directions.
There are no specific rules for corporate worship in the New Testament. And yet we
may not worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word. We are
commanded that everything ought to be done in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:40). The
Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman that a time is coming and has now come when
the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind
of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in
spirit and in truth.
(1) The worship of God is no longer bound to a particular time or place; (John
4:21 Gal. 4:10).
(2) Regulations for worship are not as detailed as they were in the Old
Testament. Gods people meet together for worship. Read Acts 1:14, 2:46;
20:7; 1 Cor 11:18; 14:23 and other passages. Gods people are admonished not
to forsake the worship services (Heb. 10:25).

The Fourth Commandment


The Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 38, explains what Gods will is for us in the fourth
commandment:
First,
that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that especially on
the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of Gods people to learn
what Gods Word teaches,
to participate in the sacraments,
to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.
Second,
that every day of my life I rest from evil ways,
let the Lord work in e through His Spirit,
and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.

Four Liturgical Elements


We recognise in this L.D. 38, Q&A 103, four liturgical elements, viz.:
a. To learn what Gods Word teaches;
b. To participate in the sacraments;
c. To pray to God publicly; and
d. To bring Christian offerings to the poor.

The Centrality of the Worship Service


Response to Gods call in not only on an individual basis but also corporate, as a
congregation.

We meet together to prepare ourselves for works of service and thus, as Gods people,
build up the body of Christ. Never underestimate the tremendous importance of
recognising the worship service as being central in the life-long walk with the Lord.
A Dialogue
In true worship there is a dialogue, an interchange between God and man, illustrating the
covenant between the Lord and His people. As we worship together, we see in the
liturgy elements that come from God and elements that come from us, His people.

From God: when He speaks His word and makes His will known to us (2 Tim. 4:1,2).
When He proclaims His grace, His forgiveness and gives us His blessing.

From us: when we sing and pray, listen, confess and give our tithes and offerings.

The heart of New Testament worship is Christs death and resurrection (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2)
and the continuing presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit within the worshipping
community (Rom.. 8:15, 16; 1 Cor. 12:3).

In the New Testament Worship we see:


1. The proclamation of the Christ-event,
2. The dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit
3. The prayers that are offered in the Name of Christ (John 14;13,14 15:16;
16:24,
26
4. The administration of baptism in the Name of the Triune God,
5. The celebration of the Lords Supper,
6. The giving of alms (I Cor. 16:1,2),
7. The praise in singing, and
8. The exercise of church discipline (I Cor. 5:1-5)

The Church Order


There is scope for freedom in the liturgy, but it must be a disciplined one for the sake of
edification (I Cor. 14:26).
The Reformed Churches regulates this under the heading:

Supervision of Public Worship


Art. 53
The session shall call the congregation for corporate worship ordinarily twice on the
Lords Day.
(Note: the congregation must heed such a call to obedience to their sessions authority
and attend twice on the Lords Day, unless there are difficulties in doing so.)
Worship services on days other than the Lords Day are left to the freedom of the
churches.

Art 54
The worship services shall be conducted under the supervision of the Sessions and shall
be in keeping with synodical regulations.

Art. 55
In reading services, only sermons approved by the sessions shall be used. (Preference is
usually given to the Word of Salvation sermons. These are published by the Reformed
Churches Publishing House in Australia.)
Art. 56
Ordinarily, at one of the services on each Lords day the Word shall be expounded as
summarised in the confessional standards. (See also Ch. 11.)

Art. 57
The Sacraments shall be administered by authority of the Sessions in a public worship
service with the use of the prescribed forms.

Art. 64
The Lords Supper shall be administered at least every three months.

Art. 66
In the worship services of the church only the 150 psalms and the collection of hymns for
church use, approved and adopted by synod, shall be sung. However, while the singing
of psalms in divine worship is a requirement, the use of approved hymns is left to the
freedom of the churches.

Orderly Liturgy
Adoration and praise are also important aspects of our public worship. We believe in
having a well planned structure, which assures an orderly run of our liturgy as we
worship Him as a congregation on the Lords day. We know what to expect next and
(most of us) feel comfortable about this.

However, this also has a negative side. It does not give room for some orderly
spontaneity as we celebrate Gods redemptive acts in our worship. As someone
remarked, our worship services have too much of a sameness, lameness and tameness.

The worship services shall be conducted under the supervision of the session...
( Church Order, Art.54). Regulating the order of worship is the concern of the session,
not any individual, whether he is the minister, a sermon-reader, or any one else; neither
can the church (session) do its own thing, e.g. to please the congregation.
God is not a God of disorder but of peace (I Cor. 14:33), but everything
should be done in a fitting and orderly way (I Cor. 14:40)

Corporate Worship
Corporate worship may be defined as what we say what we do when we stand together
before God, realising in high degree who He is, who we are and what He has done for
us. (R.G. Rayburn, O Come, Let Us Worship.)
I considering our corporate worship we must be mindful of four things, namely:
1. The Word of God,
2. The history of the Church,
3. The faith of the Church, and
4. The contemporary situation of Gods people.
1 The Word of God
Previous paragraphs already presented some Biblical criteria on the mode and form (or
lack of it) or our liturgy. It is good to be reminded of what one of our Confessions
states; the Westminster Confession of faith in Ch. 1, Par.. 7:
All things in Scripture are not alike in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet
those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for
salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or
other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary
means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

2 The History of the Church


We do not just worship as a group of believers on our own. We worship as part of the
Body of Christ. The Reformers of the 16th century returned to and used the historic
pattern of worship of the early church. The next chapter will introduce a historical
sketch of the liturgy of the early church.

3 Faith of the Church


Here we consider our confessional position. We worship as people with Reformed
convictions. Our mode of worship is affected by our theological understanding of the
liturgy. We desire to worship in a way that is most honouring to God as we meet in
Gods house on Sundays.

Some of these convictions are our understanding of the covenant, the centrality of
Scripture, the nature of the Sacraments, the sovereignty of God, the Christ-centred
character of our worship, the priesthood of all believers, the law and gospel relationship
and the place of singing.

4 The Contemporary Situation of Gods People


While points 1-3 above emphasise stability in our worship, this last point stresses the
need for some flexibility.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Ch. 1, Par. 6) states ... that there are some
circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common
to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and
Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be
observed.

It is interesting and helpful to read what John Calvin wrote on this subject in his
Institutes, IV.10.30:
(God) foresaw that this(i.e. detail in liturgy) depended upon the state of the
times, and He did not deem one form suitable for all ages, where we must take
refuge in those general rules which He has given, that whatever the necessity of
the Church will require for order and decorum should be tested against these.
Lastly, because He has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are
not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the customs of each nation
and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the Church will require) to change
and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones.
Indeed I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for
insufficient reason. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let
love be our guide, all will be safe.

Flexibility, yes! But all the same, the church must not throw caution to the wind.
Flexibility should be well clothed in a stable and orderly fashion to the glory of God and
for the edification of His people. (Acts of Synod 1985, reformed Churches of Australia,
Report 12, Liturgy pp.III-93ff.)
3. The Liturgy in the Early Church
How did the early church worship the Lord as they met together on the fist day of the
week?

One writer, Edward Backhouse, in his book Early Church (1899) wrote:
When the members of a synagogue were convinced that Jesus was the Christ,
there was nothing to interrupt the current of their former life; the old form could
still go on. The weekly commemoration of the resurrection supplemented but did
not supersede the ancient Sabbath. The reading of the life of Christ and the
letters of the apostles supplemented, but did not supersede, the ancient lessons
from the Prophets and the ancient singing of the Psalms.
The reading was followed by exposition and exhortation of a very simple character, those
who ministered being mindful to speak as oracles of God, in the strength supplied
from Him. The ministry was not confined to one reader or one expositor, or even to the
presbyters, the appointed teachers of the Church.

It was natural to adopt the Jewish traditions of the Temple and especially the synagogue
as the womb from which they further developed their liturgy. Examples can be found in
the New Testament in II Cor.1:3; Eph. 1:3 and in I Pet. 1:3 where the apostles begin
their introduction with Blessed be God etc. and the familiar response of Amen such
as in I Cor 14:16.

The New Testament Period


The Bible does not prescribe an order of worship; nevertheless God commands us to
worship Him. To meet with god is a foretaste of the Kingdom of god. The church of the
New Testament is a worshipping community of believing men and women.

The Acts of the Apostles describes the worship in various passages, such as 1:14; 2:42
46; 5:12,42; 13 1-3 and 20:7-12. See also I Cor. 10-14 for a description.

The New Testament situation brought new contents into the liturgy of the church. The
reality of the risen Lord and His imminent return affected the liturgy and helped its
development. For instance:
(a) Prayers were offered in the name of Jesus. Acts 4;24; Eph 5:20; Heb. 10:15.
(b) The introduction of the Lords Supper as a characteristic Christian liturgical act.
From the Passover it changed first to the Last Supper and finally became The Lords
Supper. I Cor. 10
(c) the shift from the Sabbath (Saturday)Day to the Lords (Sunday) Day (Rev. 1:10)
(d) Baptism as initiation into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12:12,13) as a
badge of Christian profession under the image of a seal.

Gradually, worship was standardised and stylised, both in structure and personnel, as can
be seen in the Didache *, A.D. 130-160 writings of 1 Clement (A.D. 96), Bishop of
Rome, Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in the first century.

*Didache, teaching: A small booklet, which had as its full title, The teaching of the Lord through the
Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles, and was published about 100 years after Christs death. It contains a
detailed description of the Lords Supper celebration and a prayer of thanksgiving after. It further
contains inistructuions to the general character of church practice of that time.
Places of worship
At first the disciples met in private homes or wherever a suitable room could be found.
Early Christians met at the cemetery of their dead, a secluded grove or a private room.
For the first two centuries there were no fixed places of worship.

Summary
The root elements of our present liturgy were gradually established in the years of the
early church.
These were divided into two parts:
1 Acts in which the preacher/teacher, from Gods side, gives the lead in His Name, such
as the benedictions, the ten Commandments, Scripture reading and the preaching of the
Word.
2 Acts in which, from mans side, the congregation responds, such as the votum, the
creed, singing the praises of the Lord in psalms and hymns, the congregational prayer,
the confession (which is followed by the assurance of pardon) and the offerings.

Also the administration of the sacrament of Baptism and the celebration of the Lords
Supper are what we may call a two-way activity.
4. The Order of Worship

Morning Worship Service


1. Call to Worship (e.g. Ps 92:1,2)
2. Silent Prayer
3. Opening
4. Public Confession of Sins
a. The reading of the Ten Commandments, Exo. 20:1-17 or Deut. 5:6-21
b. The summary, Matt 22:37-40
c. Public Confession of sins
d. Assurance of pardon
5. Song of thanksgiving, congregational singing
6. Scripture reading,
one or more passages relating to the sermon, often followed by singing
(7. Administration of Baptism)
8. Prayer and Intercession for all Christendom, confession of sins, prayer for
forgiveness, renewal, illumination and intercession
9. Collections
10. Congregational singing
11. Reading of the text for the sermon
12. Sermon, ministry of the Word, often followed by responsive song
13. Prayer, brief, after the sermon
(14. Celebration of Lords Supper)
15. Closing song
16. Benediction, Num. 6:24-26, II Cor. 13:14
17. Doxology, song

Second Worship Service


1. Silent Prayer
2. Call to Worship, Ps 92:1,2
3. Opening
Votum Psalm 124:8
Salutation, I Cor. 1:3, I Tim. 1:2, Rev. 1:4,5a
Song of Praise, congregational singing
4. Profession of Faith
a. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, followed by song
b Apostles Creed sung by the congregation
5. Scripture reading passage of Scripture relevant to the part of the Confession, or
Heidelberg Catechism to be explained, often followed by singing.
(6. Administration of Baptism or celebration of Lords Supper)
7. Prayer, for the opening of the Word and intercession
8. Collections
9. Prayer, brief, for the collection
10. Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism or Confession, the Lords Day explained
11. Sermon, ministry of the Word
12. Prayer, brief, of Thanksgiving
(13. Celebration of the Lords Supper)
14. Closing song
15. Benediction: II Cor. 13:14, Num. 6:24-26
General
There are historic reasons for the order of worship for morning and evening services
which have been followed by the majority of the Reformed Churches around the world.
Some churches have difficulty with a fixed order, unchanged from week to week and
want to introduce variations to sustain interest. One should be very cautious here so as
not to change for the sake of pleasing man rather than God.

What we see here then is the skeleton of our corporate worship. According to some
commentators, preparation of the liturgy for a meaningful hour of worship should take
almost as long as the sermon preparation. For instance the selection of a hymn after the
collection or a prayer is very important. In following chapter each of the elements will
be considered in more detail.

The reason why we call it a Reformed Order of Worship is that it has been like this
ever since the time of the Reformation, when the Reformers purified the liturgy from the
worshipping of saints and magical acts of Roman Catholic liturgy.

In the worship service we see an encounter between God and the congregation. God
meets with His people that have come together and the congregation meets with the
Triune God.

Two-fold Movement
a A movement from heaven to earth; God condescends and speaks to the congregation.
b A movement from earth to heaven when the congregation addresses the Lord in
singing, prayer etc.

The Minister of the Word has a Double Task


a He speaks in the name of God to the congregation;
b He speaks to God on behalf of the congregation.

The Heidelberg Catechism in the Lords Day 38 gives four parts of our worship:
1 Listening to Gods Word,
2 The use of the Sacraments,
3 The public calling upon the Lord,
4 The giving of Christian alms.

Alternative Order of Worship.


Rev. G. Van Dooren, in his book The Beauty of Reformed Liturgy, suggests the
following Order as the correct liturgical order:
Explanation
(A), denotes elements that come from the Lord to His people
(B), denotes elements that come, via the minister or without him, from the people and
are directed to their God in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
1. Opening
(B) Votum, Ps 124:8
(A) Salutation, I Cor. 1:3 or Rev. 1:4,5. N.B. in many churches this is preceded by (A)
Call to worship.
(B) song of Praise
2. Public Confession of Sins and Assurance
(A) The Ten Commandments, Exo. 20, or Deut.5 and summary
(B) Public confession of Sins
(A) Proclamation of Forgiving grace, the Assurance
(B) Song of thanksgiving
3. Ministry of the Word
(A) Public reading of the Scriptures
(B) Brief prayer for the opening of Scripture
(B) Prayer-song for a blessing
(A) Sermon
(B) Amen-song by congregation
4. Administration of the Sacraments
(N.B. This part is optional, there are services without sacraments, although not in the
Early Church; it should also be noted - and explained later - that to a certain extent the
sacraments belong to both groups (A) and (B).
(A) (B) Baptism, when called for
(A) (B) The Lords Supper as often as you do it.
5. Prayers and Intercessions
(B) in a.m. service for all the needs of Christendom
(B) in p.m. service Prayer after the catechism sermon
6. Ministry of Mercy
(B) to give Christian alms. In many churches, (B) presenting our sacrifice of love to
the Lord.
7. Closing
(B) Closing Psalm or Hymn
(A) Benediction , Num. 6:24-26, II Cor. 13:14

Rev. Van Dooren suggest the following as the correct Biblical order:
The opening elements.
The preaching of Gods Word first, preceded by a brief prayer in respect to this
preaching.
The congregations reaction and activities, such ass the congregational prayer of
intercession, offerings etc.

Two of the most important elements of our Reformed liturgy are the Scripture reading
and the preaching of Gods Word. Accordingly since they belong together, the reading of
Scripture and the preaching of Gods Word should follow each other uninterrupted; it
should not be separated by the congregational prayer, collection or singing of a
Psalm/hymn.

Jesus public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, (Luke 4), and Pauls opening of the
Scriptures in the Synagogue of Pisidian Antioch (Acts 3) show that the preaching
followed the Scripture reading.
5. The Opening Elements
To enter Gods House is not to be done with a casual attitude; there ought to be
preparation of hearts for worship. Anyone who attends a worship service and is not
concerned to prepare his own heart for this time of divine worship, should at least
exercise courtesy and consideration towards others who do wish to begin quietly and
reverently with their own meditation before the call of worship.

The Organ Prelude


A quiet organ prelude sets a suitable atmosphere for the preparation of heart and mind.
It must never be a showpiece, neither a musical recital. We must be careful not to let
music create certain feelings because of the danger of shallow emotionalism.

The Prayer in the Session Room


The elder who leads the minister to the pulpit leads the session in prayer just before the
service begins. It is thought that this practice came into being from the times of
persecution when church services were interrupted by the enemy and the elder prayed for
protection of Gods people as they worshipped Him. It is normally understood that this
prayer includes in the first pace a request for Gods blessing on the hour of worship, that
the congregation may be richly blessed by the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.
This time is also opportune for the session to bring requests and concerns that have risen
during the week to the throne of Grace. There is no need to be lengthy at this time as
the minister will present petitions before the Lord in the congregational prayer.

The Handshake
The elder on duty shakes hands with the minister before entering the pulpit; sometimes
he is nicknamed the shaker.

This ritual of the handshake originates from the time of the Reformation when
wandering, roving, preachers were everywhere, without being tied to a particular local
congregation. Before a minister entered the pulpit, the elders would take some time to
interview him; the handshake certified approval.

Mandate: The general explanation for the handshake is that the elder, on behalf of
session, gives the minister the mandate to preach, while at the end of the service his
handshake means approval of the sermon.

Objections: There are some objections to this explanation. It is argued that the mandate
to preach had been given in the letter of call and the ordination and thus does not need to
be repeated at every worship service.

Even supposing that this is the meaning of the handshake, it is difficult for an elder to
perform the ritual, and declare the preaching to be doctrinally sound without consulting
his colleagues, or in the event of the need for a refusal, not having to talk it over with
session.
The Silent Prayer
As the minister enters the pulpit, the organ playing ceases and before pronouncing the
votum, the minister asks the congregation for a moment of silent prayer. All silently
pray for a blessing on the hour of worship and the ministry of Gods holy Word.

In some churches, the minister will close this silent prayer with a voiced Amen. In
other churches, the organ softly plays the threefold Amen or an appropriate hymn, e.g.
Psalter Hymnal 489.

The Call to Worship


The minister, on behalf of God, calls the congregation to worship. The call is for a
united corporate worship by Gods people. This call to worship was not newly
introduced at the Reformation in the 16th century but had already been a custom since
ancient times.

In this Call to Worship, the Lord welcomes His people.


Appropriate quotes from the Book of Psalms have always been the norm. Popular
choices are:
Psalm 92:1,2:
It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim
your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.
Psalm 100:1,2:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him
with joyful songs.
Psalm 113:1,2:
Praise the Lord. Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the
name of the Lord be praised, both now and forever more.

There are many more passages to choose from.


Here follows a list from the Book of Psalms:
5:4,11 18;1-3A 22:26b-28 24:1-5 25:1-5
27:1-4 29:1,2 30:4 30:10-12 31:23,24
32:10,12 34:1-3 34:8-10 40:1-3 42:11
43:3,4 46:1-3 46:10,11 47:1,2 62:1,2
84:1-4 89:1,2 92:1,2 95:1,3 95:6,7a
96:1-4a 98:1,2 100 103:1-5 104:1,5
105:1-4 107:1,2 111:1,2 113:1-3 117
118:1-4 138:1,2 145:8-11 145:17-21 146:1,2
149:1,2,10 150:1,2,6

The bold printed examples are the more commonly used ones.
Other passages:
Isaiah 12;5,6; 40:28-31; 42:5,6,10a; 44:22,23; 55:6,7 61:10,11.
Jeremiah 33:2,3.
Daniel 2:20b-22.
Invocation
The invocation is used for the opening of the service; it consists of both the votum and
the salutation.
The Gloria Patri, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost as from
the earlier times, the common doxology. The latter part as it was in the beginning, is
now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen was added during the Arian
controversy. This has been used since the Council of Nicea A.D. 325.
It is quite fitting to use the Gloria Patri also immediately following the Apostles Creed.

The Votum
The worship service actually begins when the minister speaks these words:
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who makes heaven and earth. Ps 124:8; In the
name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Some ministers prefer to add the last line as part of the votum.
Another form commonly used in Reformed Churches is:
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that
therein is, and who will not forsake the work of His own hands, Amen.
The second half, added sometimes, comes from PS 146:6 (who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them) and Ps. 138:8 (forsake not the works of His own
hands).

The votum is not a prayer; it is a statement, a confession, a declaration by the minister or


whoever leads the service. He speaks on behalf of session and congregation and declares
that we may expect all help from the Lord God, the almighty Creator. But above all he
declares, on behalf of the congregation, that they have come together IN THE NAME
OF THE LORD. There is a total dependency here, in this opening of the worship
service, upon the Lord who made heaven and earth.

In the votum the minister speaks on behalf of the congregation to God. With the votum
we come before God to present ourselves. The congregation actually says: Lord, we
have come together in Your Name; will You be in our midst with Your help and
blessing?

The word votum originates in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass. In this liturgy
the priest had to perform all kinds of ceremonies before he could start his real work.
One of these ceremonies was the confession of his personal sins and a prayer for
forgiveness and cleansing. This prayer began with the words, Our help is in the name of
the Lord, while one of the assistants responded by saying, who made heaven and
earth. These words were then called the votum, which was in this setting nothing more
than a personal prayer of the priest before the celebration of the Mass. In our Reformed
order of worship the emphasis has moved from the personal confession of the priest to
the confession and prayer uttered by the minister on behalf of the congregation.

Historically, it is understood that Psalm 124, being part of the Songs of Ascents, or
Degrees, was sung by the Israelite pilgrims as they ascended Mt. Zion during the Temple
festivals of the Jewish year. They came to present themselves before the Lord God, to
worship Him, and to call upon His name. With it they declared that their only help was
in the name of the Lord God Almighty.
The Salutation
This is the second element of the opening in the Order of Worship. Immediately after the
votum, spoken by the minister on behalf of the congregation, the minister, lifting up his
hands, speaks now on behalf of the Lord our God to the congregation and pronounces
the well-known salutation or greeting.

Morning Service
In the morning service we hear the well-known words: Grace to you and peace from
God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (N.A.S.B. Translation). These words
are found as a salutation in Pauls letters to the churches. (See Rom... 1:7; I Cor. 1:3;
Gal. 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2 etc.)
In the communion of the Holy Spirit is often added to give it the Trinitarian
completeness.

Second Service
In the second service we may listen to the words:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was and who is to come, and from
the seven spirits that are around His throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful
witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the Kings of the earth. To Him
who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a
kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father- to Him be glory and power for ever
and ever! Amen. Rev. 1:4,5a.

With this salutation, the Lord proclaims His willingness to be present in the midst of the
congregation with His grace and peace.

If the hearer is an unbeliever, the salutation will return again to the one who gave it.
When Jesus sent out the seventy, he told them,
And whatever house you enter, first say, peace be to this house. And if a man of
peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you (Matt.
10).
It is intimated here that no blessing will be bestowed on that person; the words, peace
be to you are retracted.

But if the hearer is a believer ,a child of God, the salutation will be accepted in faith, by
the working of the Holy Spirit. The recipient of this salutation accepts this blessing each
time it is given, knowing that the grace of God will be his.

A final remark. The congregation need not close their eyes during the votum and
salutation (blessing). The minister presents the votum with open eyes and we, as the
congregation, should see his uplifted hands. These uplifted hands are to remind us of our
Lord and Saviour when He ascended up to heaven, lifting up His hands to bless the
apostles.
The Song of Praise
The third and last element in the opening part of our worship service is the first Psalm or
hymn.
The first Psalm or hymn should normally be a song of praise. It may relate to the sermon
or may not. The opening hymn must express the all-surpassing glory to God.
In our worship, the singing is one of the most important elements from the side of the
congregation. The whole congregation takes part in it, not just a choir. Remember, we
do not go to church for the preaching only, we go there to meet God and to worship Him
in His house.

The Invocation
The invocation may be included here after the first hymn. An invocation is a prayer in
which the presence and power of God are called forth in recognition of the fact that it is
only as the Holy Spirit Himself moves upon and in both the minister and the
congregation, that the desired end of the service will be realised.
An example is:
Almighty God, whose glory is above the heavens, praise waits for thee in Zion!
Out of thy great mercy thou has gathered us into Thy Church. Receive the
adoration of our hearts, and grant that we may so honour Thee, both in spirit and
in outward form, that Thy name be glorified through the worship of our lips and
hearts. Through Jesus Christ our Lord amen.
6. Public Confession of Sins

The Morning Service

The Reading of the Law


Assemble the people - men, women and children and the aliens living in your
towns - so that they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow
carefully all the words of this Law.
Deut. 31:12

The Law of God


The Ten Commandments are read from Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21 or
Leviticus 19.
Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 could be read on alternative weeks as there are two
versions on the fourth commandment which complement each other. Exodus 20 states
that we are commanded to keep the Sabbath Day holy: because God after creating the
heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them , rested on the seventh day;
therefor the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. In Deuteronomy 5 God
states the purpose of the Sabbath rest; to bring to remembrance His mighty acts of
redemption:
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought
you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefor the Lord
your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath Day.

The Summary of the Law


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second
one is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two
commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.
The summary in Matt. 22:37-40, also found in Mark 12:29-31 and in Luke 10:27 is a
combination of Deut.6:5, And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your might and of Lev. 19:18, ...you shall love your
neighbour as yourself...

The reading of Gods Law is something unique to the Reformed (Calvinistic ) Churches.
It was John Calvin who introduced the reading of the Law of God as a regular element in
worship. At fist the early churches of the reformation sang the Ten Commandments,
with the prayer of mercy (Kyrie). Lord , have mercy upon us, following after each
commandment.

It is interesting to see how the Heidelberg Catechism in L.D.2 expands the question,
How do you come to know your sin and misery? with the quote from Matt.22; and
states that we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbour, making it
impossible for us to live up perfectly to the Law of God. Also in L.D. 40 the
commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves is further defined and explained.

Gods Law is read during the morning service, before the first prayer. The Apostles
Creed is recited in the second service, in the afternoon or evening.
The Law of God may be seen as the Constitution of the Covenant which God imposed
upon His people. This element of the worship is one that comes from the Lord to His
people.
In some churches exhortations from the New Testament; e.g. Rom... 13-8-14; Eph 5:1-
14 and 6:10-20 are read instead of the Ten Commandments.

Public Confession of Sins


This is a corporate confession. The congregation, in answer to Gods Holy Law, now
confesses her guilt with a contrite spirit:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. I John 1:8,9.
Let us therefor pray:
Almighty God, we confess that we have sinned against Thee and our
neighbours. We have followed our selfish desires and ignored Thy holy will. We
have offended Thee in our thoughts, our words and in our deeds. We have not
acted in love towards our fellow men. Our guilt cries out against us. Be thou
merciful unto us, O God, and forgive us for the sake of our Saviours sacrifice.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(It is in order for the whole congregation to pray this prayer in unison.)

Responsive reading may be from Ps. 25, 40:11-13 or Ps. 51. Psalm 25 is an appropriate
one to sing at this point in the liturgical order of our worship.

The public confession of our sins element comes via the minister or without him, from
the congregation and is directed to God in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

In reply to the public confession of sins we receive Gods answer:

The Assurance of Pardon


Lift up your hearts and receive the sure promise of the Gospel:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and great in mercy. God so
loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in
Him should not perish but have everlasting life. To all who believe and repent,
this promise is most surely given. In the name of the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit.
or
To each one of us who confesses himself to be a sinner, humbling himself before
God and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, I declare this sure
promise: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us all our
sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Having received the assurance that our sins are forgiven, if we repent and believe, the
congregation may now proceed on this basis of reconciliation with a song of praise and
thanksgiving. But it must be remembered that it is not a pronouncement of absolution;
that is Roman Catholic practice. The minister does not by this absolve anyones sins.
God forgives and He alone. See some Scripture promises:
I John 1:9, Ps. 32:1-5, 85:1,2, 86:4, 103:1-3,4, Isa. 53 :10,11, Eph. 1:7.
Song of Praise and Thanksgiving
The Psalm or Hymn should be chosen with great care; it must give expression to our
gratitude for the great gift in Christ and our willingness and desire to obey Gods
commandments with our whole mind, body and soul. The song must express our total
dependency on Gods mercy.
An appropriate example is Ps 103: Bless the Lord o my soul. Who forgives all your
iniquity. Who redeems you form the pit. Or Ps. 119

The Second Service

The Apostles Creed


Let us unitedly affirm our Christian faith with the words of the Apostles Creed.

In the second service (afternoon or evening), the Apostles Creed takes the place of
reading of the ten Commandments. The congregation confesses its faith by reciting the
Apostles or Nicene Creed. This may be done either by the minister or recited or sung in
unison by the whole congregation. In either case it should be done solemnly with careful
to what is being confessed.

The term Creed is derived from the Latin credo; I believe. It signifies a confession
of faith. The creeds came into being in the first centuries of the Christian church when
circumstances such as persecutions and heresies forced Christians to declare themselves
by means of a brief confession of faith. (Schaff P.: Creeds of Christendom.)

Gods holy Word formed the basis of these creeds. Creeds are therefor subordinate to
the Bible, which is the supreme standard of faith.

The Apostles Creeds contains a summary of their teachings. It is kept simple, short,
comprehensive and orderly. It contains all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith
necessary to salvation, in the form of facts, in Scriptural language and in its most natural
form.

The Nicene Creed was formulated at the first ecumenical council, held at Nicea in A.D.
325, to oppose the Arian heresy which denied doctrines such as those concerning the
trinity and the Person of Christ.

Structure of the Apostles Creed


The following texts helped to structure the creed:
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Acts 8:37.

That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you are
justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture
says, Every one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame. Rom... 10:9-11.

Yet there is but one God, the father, from whom all things came and for whom we live;
and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through
whom we live. I Cor. 8:6.
No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. I Cor. 12:3.

It is written; I believed therefore I have spoken. With that same spirit of faith we
also believe and therefore speak. II Cor. 4:13.

There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were
called -one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all
and through all and in all. Eph. 4:4-6.

Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through the
sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His
blood. I Pet. 1:2.

The reading of Gods Law in the morning service and our confession of faith in the
evening service must always be seen as counterparts complementing each other.
7. Scripture and the Sacraments

Public Reading of Scripture


The public reading of the Scripture is the element in our worship in which the Lord God
speaks directly to us in His very own words.
In Gods holy Word we find the reason for it. Paul instructs Timothy thus: Until I
come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
I Tim. 4:13.
Reference may also be made to Luke 4:16ff. And Acts 13:14ff. Where Scripture reading
precedes the preaching of the Word.

The selected passages ought normally to be in harmony with the text for the sermon and
the sermon itself.
As a rule, it is best to choose one passage from the Old and one from the New
Testament. In the selection of the Scripture reading an attempt should be made to find a
redemptive-historical combination of passages. To be redemptive, it must look
forward to the freedom in which the redeemed stand, delivered from eternal death by
Christs ransom on the cross. It must also be historical, whereby the New Testament
reading presents evidence of fulfilment from the Old Testament reading.

For catechism preaching, the suggestion has been made that at least three passages
should be selected for reading, to emphasise the particular doctrine in the L.D. for
instruction on that Sunday.

Being Gods Holy Word, care should be given to the reading of it in the worship
services. The Scriptures should be read reverently, audibly and clearly. This part of the
service is not a time for training members of the congregation to read the Scriptures.
Scripture reading must be a blessing to all who hear it.
The members of the congregation should always be encouraged to open their Bibles to
accompany the reading of Gods Word. Ample time should be given to allow everybody,
including the young ones, to find the selected passages.

The Administration of the Sacraments


Church Order art. 57 states that:
The Sacraments shall be administered by the authority of the Session in a public
worship service, (ordinarily by a minister of the Word) with the use of the
prescribed forms.

The elements of the administration of the Holy Baptism and the Lords Supper have a
combination of both:
(A) those which come from the Lord to His people, the Lord acting, and
(B) those which come from the people to God in which the congregation
responds actively.

Read also:
Belgic Confession of Faith: Art. 33.
Heidelberg Catechism: Lords Day 25.
The Westminster Confession of Faith: Ch. 27.
Baptism

Infants
Art 58 of the Church Order states:
The covenant of God shall be sealed by Holy Baptism unto children of believers,
including children legally adopted by members of the congregation.
The session shall see to it that Baptism is requested and administered as soon as
feasible.

Parents bring their children to be baptised. They renew their profession of faith and
accept the parental responsibilities for a godly upbringing of their child(ren) as they
answer the following questions:
First, do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, accept the promises
of God; and affirm the truth of the Christian faith which is proclaimed in the Bible
and Confessed in this church of Christ.
Second, do you believe that your child, though sinful by nature, is received by
God in Christ as a member of His covenant, and therefore ought to be baptised?
Third, do you promise, in reliance on the Holy Spirit and with the help of the
Christian community, to do all in your power to instruct this child in the Christian
faith and to lead him by your example into the life of Christian discipleship.

Adults
Art. 59 of the Church Order reads in part:
Adults who have not been baptised, shall be admitted to communicant
membership upon profession of faith, with the use of the prescribed form...They
shall receive Holy baptism upon profession of faith.

Such adults shall answer the following questions before the congregation before being
baptised:
First, do you believe in the only true God distinct in three Persons, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit; who of nothing has made the heavens and the earth and all that is
in them and still upholds and governs them, so that nothing comes to pass, either
in heaven or on earth, without His divine will?
Second, Do you believe that you are conceived and born in sin and therefore a
child of wrath, by nature wholly incapable of doing any good and prone to all
evil; and that you, in thought, word and deed, have frequently transgressed the
commandments of the Lord; and do you sincerely repent of these your sins?
Third, do you believe that Jesus Christ, who is both true and eternal God and
very man, who assumed His human nature from the flesh and blood of the virgin
Mary, is given you of God as a Saviour; and that you by this faith receive
remission of sins in His blood and that you by the power of the Holy Spirit
became a member of Jesus Christ and of His Church?
Fourth, do you assent to all the articles of the Christian religion, as they are
taught here in this Christian church from the Word of God; do you purpose to
continue steadfastly in the same doctrine to the end of your life; and do you also
reject all heresies and errors conflicting with this doctrine; and promise that you
will persevere in the fellowship of this Christian church, not only in the hearing of
the divine Word, but also in the use of the holy supper?
Fifth, do you firmly resolve always to lead a Christian life, to forsake the world
and its evil lusts, as is becoming to the members of Christ and of His Church; and
to submit cheerfully to all Christian admonitions?

Read also:
Belgic Confession of Faith: Art.34, Holy Baptism.
Heidelberg Catechism: Lords Day 26,27.
The Westminster Confession of Faith: Ch. 29.

The Lords Supper

Church Order
Article 64 of the Church Order reads; The Lords Supper shall be administered at least
once every three months.

Supervision of the Lords Supper


The Elders have the responsibility to superintend (shepherd) the Church of Jesus Christ
to see that all things are done decently and in order.
See I Cor. 14:40 But everything be done in a fitting and orderly way. Check also
Acts 20:28-31; I Thes. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17 and I Pet. 5:1-4. These make the
requirements of a supervised observance of the Lords Supper abundantly clear.

Announcement for Visitors in the Church Bulletin


Each church has its own style of announcement in its news bulletin to explain the
fencing of the Lords table.

The church bulletin usually contains a note requesting visitors that are members of one of
our churches and others who confess Christ as their Lord and King, to see one of the
elders before the service. This is to make known their request to share the Lords table
with this congregation. They also need to answer some questions. For example, the
elders need to know from members if the Reformed churches if they are communicant
members in good standing (not under discipline in their own church), and in harmony
with the session and members of their own church. For others, the office-bearers need to
ascertain their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Such announcements need to begin with an explanation of what the Lords Supper is and
for whom it is. Next, it should remind the reader of I Cor. 11:27, requesting visitors to
inform the session of their desire to partake.

Invitation
The minister extends the invitation to the communicant members and those visitors who
have requested attendance, to come to the Table of the Lord, and he may say:
Hear now the gracious words of promise spoken by our Lord,
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and
ye shall find rest for you souls. Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast
out.

Beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord has prepared His table for all who love Him
and trust in Him for their salvation. All who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely
believe in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour and who desire to live in obedience to Him, are
now invited to come with gladness to the table of the Lord. Come then for all is ready.

The congregation as a whole takes full part in everything, the communicant members as
they eat and drink at the Lords table and the others as they carefully listen to the Word
of God and the Forms for the celebration of the Lords Supper.

History and Tradition


History and tradition have introduced at times certain peripheral extras which are not
required by Scripture:
(a) the preparatory sermon on the Sunday prior to the Lords Supper Sunday, followed
by
(b) the week or preparation, giving all an opportunity to put things right between
brothers and sisters before sharing the Lords Supper the following Sunday.
(c) the meditation in the evening worship service or even the following Sunday, reflecting
on the Lords Supper, examining oneself as a true believer in the death, burial and
resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each church has its own manner of celebrating the Lords Supper. Some churches
celebrate at tables and see as an act of obedience to rise from their pews, go forward and
sit down at the table. Others often large congregations, prefer to remain in their seats.
The bread and wine is brought to them by the office-bearers and all eat and drink in
unison.

In some churches all drink from a large cup which goes around the table; this is suitable
in small congregations, while in others the members drink from small individual cups.

In some of our churches the question of whether we should use wine or grape[ juice has
arisen. The general opinion is that Jesus used fermented wine and we should also. But
since the same word is used in the Bible for both fermented and unfermented drinks, we
must not be dogmatic about it. The important thing is not whether the wine is to be
fermented or unfrequented, the important thing is that the wine must be understood as a
symbol of the shed blood of Christ.

The Forms
The forms for the celebration of the Lords Supper are varied in size and content and are
found in the back of the Psalter Hymnal and other small booklets provided in some of
our churches.
The Frequency
the rule as established in Art. 64 of the Church Order, is to celebrate the Lords Supper
at least once every three months. The requirement here is that it must be celebrated at
least four times a year. But it does not stop any church from more frequent
administrations. Some churches have it bi-monthly others even on a monthly basis with
alternate morning and evening celebrations to allow at least to attend once every two
months. The as often in I Cor. 11:25,26 gives the Church this freedom.

Read also:
Belgic Confession of Faith: Art. 35.
Heidelberg Catechism: Lords Day 28,29 and 30.
The Westminster Confession of Faith: Ch. 29.
8. Prayers and the Ministry of Mercy

The Intercessory or Congregational Prayer


Sacrifice and thanks-offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, and call
upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.
Ps. 50:14, 15
In the ministry of prayer, the minister is the mouthpiece of the congregation before God.
The minister on behalf of the congregation, offers thanksgiving for all Gods benefits
bestowed upon His people, seeks His blessing on the ministry of the Word and the
coming of His Kingdom. He prays for the needs of all Christendom, prays for all those
in authority and intercedes before the Throne of grace for those who have asked for it.

Such congregational prayers need serious preparation. Besides the general needs as may
be found in the prayer models, it is not amiss to prepare an outline, a list of those things
relevant to the present needs of the congregation and the church at large. The prayer
must be done in such a manner that the whole congregation can participate in it step by
step and respond to it with a wholehearted Amen!.

Proof Texts
I Tim 2:1-6; requests, prayers intercessions, thanksgiving for kings and all those in
authority.
Col 4:2-4; devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, pray for open doors
for the message of salvation in Christ.
Eph. 6:18-20; pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,
pray for fearlessness.

Official Selection of Prayers


The Psalter Hymnal, from the Christian Reformed Church of North America, has a
special section on Christian prayers, often much disregarded or overlooked in the
worship services. These prayers and intercessions should also serve as a teaching model
for the members of the congregation. Heads of families, in particular, may find these
model prayers very helpful in leading their family worship.
A list of the prayers.:
General confession of sins and prayer before the sermon and on days of fasting and
prayer.
The needs for all Christendom, to be used after the first sermon
Public confession of sins and prayer before the sermon.
Prayer before the explanation of the catechism.
Prayer before meals.
Thanksgiving after meals.
Prayer for the sick and spiritually distressed.
Morning prayer.
Evening Prayer.
Opening prayer for the ecclesiastical assemblies.
Closing prayer for the ecclesiastical assemblies.
Opening prayer for the meeting of deacons.
The Place of Prayers in the Order of Worship
In the days of the Reformation, the first prayer of every church service contained a public
confession of sins and a petition concerning the preaching of the Word of God as well as
for the regeneration and renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
The second prayer, sometimes referred to as the long prayer, usually after the sermon,
would contain a thanksgiving for the gift of Gods Word and also the intercessory
prayers; the prayers for all the needs of Christendom. This was the sequence in the old
order of worship. Our present order places the congregational prayer before the sermon.

The minister must be careful not to use the time of prayer to pray at or preach to the
congregation. The congregation should also mentally participate, not just sit there and
listen to the prayer. Public prayers should be well prepared; this is no place for sloppy
habits

Kneeling in Prayer
Scripture confirms the physical posture for prayer. A number of texts may be used in
support.
Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Ps. 95:6.
Jesus Himself knelt down in prayer, Luke 22:41.
See also Rev. 1:17; 4:10; 5:8, 14; 7:11; 11:16.
See also:
Belgic Confession of Faith: Art. 26.
Heidelberg Catechism: L.D. 45-52.

The Ministry of Mercy (the collections)


One of the purposes of diligently attending the church of God is to give Christian alms.
This is mentioned in L.D. 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism as the fourth purpose of
church attendance. Church offerings are to be understood as offerings first of all as a
sacrifice of gratitude to God, giving back to Him from what He first gave us.

The origin of weekly collections in the church is found in I Cor. 16:1,2:


Now about the collection for Gods people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to
do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in
keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be
made.
The collections in the apostolic age and the early church were for the poor. Now we
call it the ministry of mercy. The deacons gather the funds to enable them to do this
work in Gods name. Gods word gives us some names for this act in our worship. II
Cor. 9:12 mentions it as the blessings of benevolence, the administration of service (Gr.
diakonia) and in Heb. 13:16 it is called sacrifices.

Todays collection includes besides the provision for the ministry of mercy, mission,
evangelism, church-buildings, ministers stipend, support for needy churches and many
other needs. Some churches have one main collection and some special ones at times for
particular purposes; others have one collection to cover all.

Some prefer the offering after the sermon as part of the response of the congregation. It
must be understood that giving of an offering is an act of worship in itself, a function
which cannot be left out. It should be done quickly and efficiently, not hurriedly with a
short and simple prayer of dedication. During the offering the organist may play an
appropriate musical item.

Scriptural Rules for Giving


Giving must be according to ability in an orderly systematic manner.
(a) According to income
Each of us must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord our God has
blessed us, Deut. 16:17.
(b) Without showing off, attracting attention
When we give to the needy do not let the left hand know what the right hand is
doing, Matt. 6:3.
(c) Freely
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out
demons. Freely we have received, freely give. Matt: 10:8.
(d) With simplicity
If it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of
others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if is
showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Rom... 12:8....
(e) Regularly, every week
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of
money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no
collections will have to be made. I Cor. 16:2.

Giving According to Ability


Then he shall sacrifice the doves or the young pigeons, which the person can afford.
Lev. 14:30.
According to their ability the gave to the treasury for this work, 61,000 drachmas of
gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. Ezra 2:69.
The disciples, each according to this ability, decided to provide help for the brothers
living in Judea. Acts 11:29.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not
according to what he does not have. II Cor. 8:12.

Giving of Tithes
The tithe was recognised and legislated in O.T. times to provide for the Levites because
of their priestly service and non-inheritance in Israel. The New Testament is all but silent
on tithing though Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical observance of it,
Luke 18:9-14. The principles of giving are clearly spelled out in I Cor. 16:1ff and II Cor.
8,9. These principles of Christian giving do not exclude the tithe as a convenient basis
for proportionate giving, neither should giving be limited to the tithe.

The following references express the Old Testament concept of tithing:


Gen. 14:20, Gen. 28:22, Lev. 27:30, II Chr. 31:5, Mal. 3:10.

Other Scriptural Data


Scriptural giving could also be explained as follows:
(a) How should we give
Joyfully, II Cor. 8:2 Sacrificially, II Cor. 8:2,3, Whole-heartedly, II Cor. 8:4
Readily without delay, II Cor. 8:10, Liberally, II Cor. 9:5,6,11, Purposefully II Cor. 9:7
Willingly, Exo. 25:2 I Chr. 29:9 Secretly, Luke 18:12, Matt. 6:2-4.
Honestly, Acts 5:;4 I Chr. 29:17 Phil 2:6-9 II Cor. 8:8,9.
(b) How much to give
1) According to Gods blessing and personal ability, Deut. 16:17 Ezra 2:69 Lev. 14:30
Acts 11:29.
2) Only the best is to be offered to God, Lev. 22:21 Mal. 1:6,7,8,14
(c) When to give and by what method
Frequently, Deut. 14:22 Neh. 10:35 I Cor 16:2
Regularly
Special gifts
(d) To whom to give
To the Lord, II Cor 8:1-5 Phil 4:15,18 Exo. 25:2
To those in need, Ps 68;5,10,18 Exo. 22:22 Deut. 15:7-10 Ps. 41:1 Luke 14:13,21 I
Tim. 5:3,4 James 1:27 II Cor. 8:1-14.
To the ministry at home and abroad, Num. 18:21 II Chr. 31:4 I Tim. 5:17,18 III John
5,6,8
To neighbours, Rom... 12:13 I Tim 3:2 Matt. 25:35
To the local church, Exo. 25:2 I Chr. 29 Exo. 36:5-7
(e) Why giving
Because Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord
Because God gave His Son
Because giving promotes spiritual healing
Because God command it
Because giving builds Gods Church and Kingdom.

Some Practical Issues


How many collections? Originally the collections were intended purely for the poor in
the church. The Catechism speaks of giving Christian alms.

In the past three collections were held each week. The first for the upkeep of the local
ministry and debt redemption; the second for a special purpose e.g. mission, evangelism;
and the third for the diaconate for distribution among the poor in the church.

Presently the purposes for the collections, in most churches, are included in the annual
budget and one weekly collection suffices all.

Teaching the Young to Give


Children should be taught how to give. Instead of the parent giving all on behalf of the
family, each member should give. A small share from their pocket money will teach them
at a young age to give to the Lord. It is the parents duty to educate their children that
the collection is a part of the total worship of God. A discussion at the time of family
worship, with appropriate Scripture readings, will be helpful for a better understanding.
9. The Ministry of the Word

Brief prayer before the sermon


The prayer for illumination is before the opening of the Scriptures. It is for the
enabling of the minister to bring Gods Word and the opening of the hearts of the
congregation to understand the Word, to help them to apply if to their daily lives. The
prayer is for the Holy Spirit to establish rapport between pulpit and pew and to make the
sermon meaningful to the hearers. This element comes from the congregation and is
directed to God.

The Sermon
Preaching is at the very heart of the life of the church and must occupy a central place in
worship. The sermon must be a ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Word bringing
the living Christ to the people.

The fourth Commandment of God requires remember the Sabbath day, to keep it
holy. Lords Day 38 of the Heidelberg catechism explains the requirement that ,
especially on the day of rest, I diligently attend the church of god to hear Gods Word.

Defining the Sermon


A sermon is the authorised proclamation to the people of God of some aspect of the
teaching of Gods Word with application to them according to their needs and
circumstances.
The preaching must always be a two-way exercise. It must have the element that comes
from the Lord to His people and must always have the response element from the people
to God. Listening is an activity. Hebrews 4:2 reads: For we also have had the gospel
preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them,
because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
When the Good News of salvation is preached, it meets with either acceptance or
rejection. If the preaching of the Word is received with faith it will be of spiritual benefit
to the hearers, if not it will be of no profit on account of a lack of faith. Preaching calls
for the minister to strive for heart contact with the congregation, leading them to accept
the Word in faith and obedience. It demands a Berean spirit, receiving the word with
great eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see whether these things are so, Acts 17:1.

Preaching the Word involves explaining, interpreting and applying it to Gods people.
This enables the congregation to realise their privileges and duties in their relationship
with Him and to be stimulated to lead a life of thankfulness to Him for saving them from
sins and misery.
Scriptural Proof
Romans 10:14-17
But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how
are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to
hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it
is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news! But
they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed
what he has heard from us? So faith comes from what is heard and what is
heard comes by preaching of Christ.
I Corinthians 14:26-33
What then shall we say brothers? When you come together, everyone has a
hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All
of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a
tongue, two -or at the most three- should speak, one at a time and someone must
interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church
and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak and the
others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to
someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For all of you can
prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The
spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God
of disorder but of peace.
I Timothy 4:13
Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching to teaching.

Also: Mark 16:20 Acts 20:27 I Cor 1:17,18 II Tim 4:2


For the results of preaching read I Cor 1:21

Rules for Listening to a Sermon


Be sure what the text of the sermon is and have the text open in the Bible as you listen.
Seek to determine what the main thrust of the argument of the sermon is.
Homiletics: the science of preparation and delivery of sermons - it is the working out of
the proposition for each sermon. The listener looks for the principal idea in the sermon.
Seek to determine what action is called for in the life of the listener, or what comfort
may be derived from the sermon.

Guidelines for Sermon Examination


Sermon content
The sermon content is to be evaluated on the basis of the following that :
There is accuracy of exegesis.
The outline carries the text.
The context, including the historical-redemptive, is taken into account.
The basic thrust is Christ centred.
The sermon is doctrinally sound.
The teaching is applied in a consistent manner with the teaching of the text...
The theme is developed in a coherent and logical manner.
Communication and presentation
The presentation must show evidence of the gifts of communication and is
edifying for worship.

Read: Canons of Dort, III/IV, section 17 and V, section 14.


Form of ordination of Ministers of the Word

The Amen at the end of the Sermon


In the Reformed Churches tradition the sermon is not complete without the Amen at the
conclusion.
II Cor. 1:20 reads, For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes;
wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
In Lords Day 52, the last question and answer explains the meaning of Amen, that it
shall truly and surely be; for my prayer is more certainly heard of God than I feel in my
heart that I desire these things of Him.
It has been suggested that the response to the sermon should come from the
congregation with a united Amen, either by voice or song.

Prayer after the Sermon.


After the sermon, the minister will usually offer a brief prayer of thanksgiving and a plea
that the message may fall on good soil and bring forth much fruit in the days ahead.
10. The Closing
The three final elements which form the completion of the worship service are the
closing hymn, the benediction and the doxology. The hymn and the doxology form the
elements which come from the congregation to God while the benediction is the element
by which God sends His people homewards with His blessing.

Closing Hymn
A Psalm or hymn is selected and should relate to the main message of the text. It should
be selected in view of Eph. 5:15-20, being imitators of God, living a spirit-filled life and
Col. 3:12-17, which presents us with a number of commitments for holy living. Songs of
thanksgiving for grace and bounty are also the place here and much appreciated.

The Benediction
The benediction is a word of blessing at the end of the church service. The salutation of
grace be unto you and peace at the beginning of the service also concludes the
worship service.

What is its significance? It is pronounced in the Name of the Triune God. Thus the
blessing of the Triune God has been laid upon us. Furthermore, it is a proclamation of
the promise of grace. This is clearly seen in the richest and most comprehensive of all
the benedictions in the New Testament, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... be with
you all.

The Old Testament benediction is from Num. 6:24-26 where Moses tells Aaron and his
sons how to bless the Israelites:
The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make His face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.
The New testament benediction is from II Cor. 13:14:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.

The benediction is a high point in the service. The promise is received that Gods
blessing, grace, peace and fellowship will accompany Gods people through all their
days. It must not be thought that there is magic in the benediction and an automatic
right to this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Listening to the benediction, Gods people
can plead that it will be fulfilled in their hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit.

It is not a time to prepare for departure by gathering Bible and hymnbook and doing
other things. It is a time to be reverent and submissive on receiving His blessing.
The Doxology
A doxology is a song of praise, a song in which the church voices her praises to the
Lord
In their letters to the churches the Apostles often ended with a doxology. Christ also
taught His people a doxology when He ended His prayer with For Thine is the
kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen. Matt 6:3.

The Psalter Hymnal has some fine selection to choose from:


No. 211, v. 23, from Ps 106 Blessed be the Lord our covenant God,
All praise to Him accord;
Let all the people say, Amen.
Praise ye , praise ye the Lord.

No. 309 and 310, Ps 150: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah,

No. 472, v, 7: Praise God from whom all blessings flow,


Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

No. 488: Now blessed be Jehovah God, the God of Israel.

No. 490 Praise ye the Lord, ye hosts above,


in yonder heavenly height.

No. 492: Glory be to the Father and to the Son


and to the Holy Ghost.

No. 493: Praise god from whom all blessings flow.

The Amen: it is true and certain


Every doxology must end with the word Amen. This forms the conclusion of and is
really the response to the doxology.
Then all the people said Amen and praised the LORD I Chr. 16:36, when David
brought the ark back to Jerusalem.
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God; and all the people answered Amen, Amen,
lifting up their hands. Neh. 8:6.

The Amen is also an expression of faith like the faith of Abraham who believed when he
received the promise, So shall your descendants be like those thousands of stars in the
sky. The Psalmist used the Amen and called for its use by worshippers as well, Ps
72:19;89:48 and 106:48. Martin Luther said, As your Amen is, so has your prayer
been. Little children in church often say Amen after a prayer and we smile; but would it
be out of place for the congregation corporately to conclude every prayer in the services
with an oral Amen in unison.
The Amen voices the certainty in Gods Word and His promises, more certain than
feeling the desire for that certainty. For no matter how many promises God has made,
they are Yes in Christ. And so through Him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of
God. II Cor. 1:20.

Many have the idea that the Amen means that the prayer is concluded. They should
change their thinking here.

After Leaving the Assembly Of Gods People


The chapter on the Lords Day, mentioned the need for due preparation on the Saturday
evening to prepare the body, mind and soul for the day of rest and worship.
The handshake at the end of the service should in a similar way prepare the members in
contemplation of the sermon. Is there discussion with others, and private meditation.
Are attitudes one of criticism or approval. Is there an eagerness, like the Bereans of old,
to search the Scriptures to see whether what was heard from the pulpit was true and find
the application for daily living.
Training is required to expand and extend the sermon with times of meditation,
discussion and witnessing for the Lord. The church bulletin could well be an aid in that t
direction with a print-out of the text, outline of the sermon and a few thoughts and
questions to ponder during the week.
11. Some Further Remarks
At the completion of the study on all the elements which together form the liturgy of the
Reformed mode of worship, there are still some details which need attention.

Singing
According to Jewish tradition, the Book of Psalms is seen as the response to the Book of
the Law, the five books of Moses. The Psalms are a devout reaction to the Covenant
which the Lord gave to His people Israel as found in the first five books of Moses.

Psalm 1, introducing the whole Book of Psalms is called the Psalm of the Two Ways
and poetically reacts to the promises and curses of the Covenant. It begins with:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked or stand in the way
of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on
His law he meditates day and night.

The singing of Psalms should be dominant in the worship services, as required in the
Church Order, Art. 66:
In the worship services of the church only the 150 Psalms and the collection of
Hymns for church use, approved and adopted by Synod, shall be sung. However,
while the singing of Psalms is a requirement, the use of approved hymns is left to
the freedom of the churches.

The Psalms express faith, joy and trust in the Lord of the Covenant. Praise in singing
should be God-centred at all times. The danger of hymns is that many of them reflect
subjective and individualistic trends, often centred in man in his pious experiences. Thus
the church should show all due care and be wary in its selection of hymns.

Announcements
Announcements should always be limited to an absolute minimum. They should be
limited to those activities or communications which belong in the realm of Kingdom
work.
Announcements which fall into the category of normal church activities should be made
before the commencement of the worship service, never after the service. The
assembling of Gods people is not an opportunity for all sorts of announcements and
speeches to promote certain causes and certainly not after the benediction has been
given. It would be an anti-climax to the message of Gods Word and make it null and
void to many hearts and minds. The impressions of the worship service, including the
application of the Word and the sermon should remain uppermost in the hearts and minds
of the worshippers.

Certain announcements may be made during the service and preferably before the
collection. These may include the approval by the congregation of elected office-bearers,
acceptance of new members, departures to other congregations and the like.
Announcements which affect the ecclesiastical issues are fitting for inclusion in the
worship service. But the general rule should be to exclude as much as possible the
insertion of announcements, these do not belong in worship.
Announcements of Discipline
Announcements of discipline or excommunication should take place before the first
prayer of public confession of sins.

Ordination of Office-bearers
Ordinations usually take place after the sermon, especially if the minister wishes to
deliver a special sermon on the subject of office-bearers.
12. Catechism Preaching
The Church Order Art. 56 states that Ordinarily, at one of the services on each Lords
Day, the Word shall be expounded as summarised in the Confessional Standards. The
original reading was more specific. It designated the Heidelberg Catechism as the
confessional standard to be used for that purpose.

The reason for the change was that objections came from some churches to Synod 1974
to remove the compulsory nature of the article, as having no scriptural warrant to bind
the conscience of the minister. Others wished to remove the limitations of the
Heidelberg Catechism by expanding the inclusion of all the confessions. Hence the
present reading.

History of Catechism Preaching


Catechism preaching has a long history.

The Jews - Four Fundamentals


After the exile into captivity, Jewish young people were taught the four fundamentals in
their synagogues. These were:
1. The Creed, a combination of biblical statements under the heading Hear O Israel, the
LORD our God is one Lord.
2. The Law, as in the Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 34-44.
3. Prayer, called the eighteen prayer, because it has eighteen petitions.
4. The Sacraments, the Passover, other festivals and temple liturgy.

The early Church


The early Church accepted the same pattern in its preaching and teaching and continued
this pattern right through the Middle Ages till the Reformation in the 16th Century. The
Four Fundamentals of the Jews now became:
1. The Apostles Creed
2. The New Testament Sacraments
3. The Ten Commandments
4. The Lords Prayer

The Reformation
The Reformation introduced countless catechism. Philip Schaff published three volumes
of The Creeds of Christendom in 1877, giving a complete history of the creeds in Vol. I,
a presentation of Greek and Latin Creeds in Vol. II, and a complete list of Evangelical
Creeds in Vol. III. Most of them are no longer used.
The Heidelberg Catechism was built around these original Four Fundamentals. After the
introduction in L.D. 2-6, the order was as follows:
1. The Apostles Creed, L.D. 7-22
2. The Sacraments, L.D. 25-31
3. The Ten Commandments, L.D. 34-44
4. The Lords Prayer, L.D. 45-52
The Purpose of Catechism Preaching
(a) Young peoples teaching guide. It is a teaching guide for young people in the church.
For that reason it is put in the form of questions and answers.
(b) Preaching programme. It is a programme for preaching at one of the services on the
Lords Days. The whole of the catechism is divided into fifty-two sections.

Synod of Dort Church Order on Catechism Preaching


Catechism preaching has always been the concern of Reformed churches. The Synod of
Dort, 1571, treated catechism preaching ass top-priority and placed it as item 2 on the
agenda. The Synod of Dort, 1618-19, completed the church order article on catechism
preaching. Many churches still have this original reading in their curt orders:
The ministers, everywhere, shall on Sundays, ordinarily in the afternoon service,
briefly explain the sum of Christian Doctrine, comprehended in the Catechism, so
that as much as possible, the explanation shall be annually completed according
to the division of the Catechism itself.

Some Explanations
The text is the Christian Doctrine as found in Gods Word and comprehended in the
Catechism as a skeleton.

Ordinarily in the Afternoon


Ordinarily means, according to the rule, and not as some wish to understand it, as a
rule. The latter allows a freedom to act or not to act at ones own p[pleasure, which
was never the intention.

Briefly Explain
It would take hours if the minister had to explain everything in detail, e.g. the Triune
God or sanctification. However in being brief, he must do justice to the completeness
and fullness of the particular doctrine.

The Sum of Christian Doctrine


The sum-total has to be preached, that is the fullness, the completeness of the doctrine of
the Lords Day under discussion for that Sunday. To find the sum, the minister must go
right through the whole Bible to make the exegesis complete in all its fullness. He must
support his sermon teaching with proof-texts.

Comprehended
The sum of Christian doctrine has been comprehended, that is only the skeleton of the
fullness of that specific Christian doctrine has been presented in the catechism. After all,
it is the Scriptures which really present the particular doctrine in all its fullness.

As much as possible
Every attempt should be made to complete as much as possible the whole of the
Heidelberg Catechism, the 52 Lords Days in one year. In reality this is not so easy,
considering feast-days, ministers holidays etc. These will always upset the system.

An Objection to Catechism Preaching


Catechism preaching is not preaching from the Bible. The misunderstanding here is that
catechism preaching is thought to be preaching about or on the Catechism. The
argument is that no one may bind himself to such an obligation. The Word must be
preached and no subordinate creed or confession may be put on a level with the Word of
God.

In Favour of Catechism Preaching


While the congregation listens to the exposition of one particular text in its fullness in the
morning service for its edification; the second service is used for teaching one specific
doctrine, the sum of which is comprehended by the Church in its Creeds and
Confessions.

Catechism preaching teaches the unity of Gods Word and helps to strengthen the
convictions of the congregation in what they believe to be the truth in Gods Word.

Catechism preaching teaches the congregation sound doctrine. Paul tell Titus and
timothy, I Tim. 6:10, to Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless
chatter and contradiction of what is falsely called knowledge. II Tim. 1:14 tells us
Guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit Who dwells within
us.

Catechism preaching equips the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the
Body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of
God. Eph. 4:11-16.
13. Conclusion
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.
Ps. 122:1

There is very little by way of synodical regulations concerning the principles and
elements concerning the order of worship. Most of the regulations pertain to the Church
Order, the Confessional Standards and the Liturgical Forms. Certain principles have
been adopted for the future regarding changes to Ecumenical Creeds, reformed
Confessions, Liturgical Forms and Psalms and hymns, Acts of Synod, 1983 & 1986.

While the responsibility of supervision over the worship services rests with local
sessions, provision in the Church Order indicates a shared responsibility with other
churches by way of synodical regulations, Art. 54, Church Order.

At one time a liturgical committee urged the study of greater participation of the
congregation in public worship, whilst retaining the essential elements of the service.
But the churches were advised to consider their liturgy in the light of local circumstances
and needs and to consult one another on these matters through Presbytery and if
necessary Synod, Acts of Synod 1971 & 1974. That has been the only official
pronouncement on the order of worship. The current status has been established by
tradition over the years.

The understanding of the principles and elements of liturgy in the churches as presented
in this booklet, will hopefully assist members of the congregation in a true participation
in worship.

An article by J. Van Wageningen, Trowel and Sword, June 1983, summarised as follows:
(a) we worship not as a group of individuals, but as a congregation, as the body of Christ
by faith;
(b) as a congregation, we meet with God in Jesus Christ who comes to us through the
reading and preaching of His Word. And we participate by listening with a humble and
believing heart;
(c) as a congregation we lift up our hearts to God and address Him in our communal
singing and in the prayers in which we join all together;
(d) as a congregation we offer our gifts of gratitude to the Lord and receive His blessing.

And so may we worship as a church, an activity by which we enter into communion and
fellowship with God, an activity of fellowship with fellow believers, redeemed to serve
Him with our whole lives. It is in the assembly of the congregation, as we worship in
unity of heart, mind and spirit, that the fellowship God seeks with His people is realised.
Understanding the implications of the order of worship will help to appreciate more fully
the beauty of worship.

Let us therefore consider all this in worship as we meet together at the appointed times
and places when the Head of the Church calls us to worship.