Over the next few posts, amongst other things, I hope to discuss in detail the various parts of an Old School Presbyterian (OSP) Worship Service. I’ll include here a sample order of worship from an OSP church, and as we discuss the various parts I’ll make them into hyperlinks that will take you directly to the pages on which they are discussed.
The first thing to remember about Old School Presbyterian worship is that it should be biblical. Old School Presbyterians believe that when it comes to worship the Lord our God teaches us the way in which we are to worship Him in His Word. The Bible, therefore, is an entirely sufficient guide for everything in our faith, life, and practice and we do not need to add anything of our own, nor should we. Therefore our worship should not include elements of our own devising whether we thought of them a few minutes ago, or if they have been around for thousands of years. When it comes to the parts of our worship service, if it isn’t commanded or prescribed by God in His Word, it’s forbidden.
The ordinary elements of worship given to us in the Bible are: prayer; the reading of the scriptures; the sound preaching and attentive hearing of the Word, in obedience to God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in the heart; public confession of our faith; the collection; the due administration and right receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ and the benediction. There are also occasional elements of worship given to us in the Bible, which should occur in our worship at appropriate times and special occasions, these are: religious oaths and vows, solemn fasting, and thanksgiving to God for his providential blessings.
The next thing to remember is that OSP worship is simple. New Testament worship is spiritual rather than carnal or sensual. In that sense it differs even from Old Testament worship of which A.A. Hodge remarked, “that dispensation was so encumbered with ceremonies as to be comparatively carnal; the present dispensation is spiritual“, and as the Westminster Divines put it the elements of New Testament worship are “fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory” and yet in them the gospel is “held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy.” The attempt therefore to replace revelation with symbolism and to create a highly sensual form of worship service, as is the case with the Catholic Mass, is fundamentally misguided and takes it cues not from the New Testament era of worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) but the types and shadows of the Old Testament, which have been superseded. What we might ask, do we really think was lacking in the simple worship of the Apostolic church, and why do we think we can improve upon it?
With the above in mind, here is a sample order of worship from an OSP church:
Call to Worship – Psalm 100
Confession of Sins and Invocation of God’s Presence
Doxology & Prayer of Thanksgiving
Prayer for Illumination
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration
Singing of a Hymn
[Please note that announcements should be either before or after worship, rather than being included in the service itself]