I was chatting with a friend on the way home from church today, talking about things such as the primacy of the Word, and the nature of worship music, when I made the point that I thought sung congregational worship* should be primarily gospel-centric. While I was quick to assure my friend that this doesn’t mean the exclusion of other themes, I argued that our congregational singing should be weighted towards gospel themes. Having thought a bit more about that, I’m think I would actually put it differently and say that our congregational sung worship ought to be primarily Christocentric. Over the next couple of posts I’d like to flesh out this idea a little more (recognising that I’m a total layman – so please, theologically minded readers chime in!).
There are two broad points that I want to explore, which are:
- Sung congregational worship is a part of a holistic life of worship.
- Sung congregational worship is a part of a broader Word ministry.
What about these two premises means that Christian sung worship will primarily focuses on, or weighted towards, Christ?
I suppose we might say that our worship ought to be thoroughly Trinitarian, (true enough!) but I would suggest that trinitarian worship is inevitably going to have a focus on the person and work of Christ, the one through whom the Father enacts his will (from creation to new creation), and to whom the Holy Spirit unveils and focuses our eyes, the one who shows us who God is.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
(Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)
In the next post we’ll look at the first premise.
* I like to make the point that what is often simply called ‘worship’ is actually only one part of, or expression of worship, namely, it’s sung worship, and congregational (i.e. done together as a congregation). I will elaborate on that in these posts.