Term Paper: Worship of God and Discipline

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¶ … Worship of God and Discipline of the Churches of the New Testament, John Owen attempts to explain the set-up of a Christian Church. He does this by explaining how a church should be organized. Furthermore, he discusses the roles that people in the Church, both office-bearers and members, should take. He does this in a question and answer format. In addition, to support his answers, Owen cites scripture. Therefore, Owen's work can best be described as a catechism or explication of Christianity.

The first question that Owen poses is, "What doth God require of us in our dependence on him, that he may be glorified by us, and we accepted with him?" Owen's answer to this question is, "That we worship him in and by the ways of his own appointment." Owen believes that the worship of God is natural because of the nature of God and the nature of man. God's nature means that anyone who knows God must worship him. Furthermore, man was created so that he could honor God in the manner commanded by God.

The next question that Owen poses is "By what means do we come to know that God will thus be worshipped?' Owen answers, "That God is to be worshipped, and that according to his own will and appointment, is a principal branch of the law of our creation written in our hearts, the sense whereof is renewed in the second commandment; but the ways and means of that worship depend merely on God's sovereign pleasure and institution. According to Owen, the worship of God requires some outward solemn worship. Furthermore, this worship needs to be done by societies as well as individuals. This type of outward worship is required by the first commandment. Furthermore, God is to be worshipped in the way and by the means that he himself appointed and approved.

The third question Owen asks is "How, then, are these ways and means of the worship of God made known unto us?" The answer Owen gives is, "In and by the written word only, which contains a full and perfect revelation of the will of God as to his whole worship and all the concernments of it." God granted His word unto the church, so that the church could be instructed in His mind and will. He has made this revelation in the Scripture. Furthermore, Owen asserts that Christians should neither add to nor subtract from the revelations in the scripture.

Owen's fourth question is "Have these ways and means been always the same from the beginning? Owen's response is that "No; but God hath altered and changed them at sundry seasons, according to the counsel of his own will, so as he saw necessary for his own glory and the edification of his church." Owen explains that God could always change the requirements of his external worship. The initial mode of worship, after sin entered the world, was sacrifices, where men offered onto Go the principal good things that He had given them. God added circumcision, Passover, and the laws from Mount Sinai.

Owen's fifth question follows naturally from his answer to the fourth question. Owen asks "Is there any farther alteration to be expected in or of those institutions and ordinances or worship which are revealed and appointed in the gospel?" Owen's answer is, "No; the last complete revelation of the will of God being made by the Son, who is Lord of all, his commands and institutions are to be observed inviolably unto the end of the world, without alteration, diminution, or addition." Owens explanation is that the coming of Christ ended the law of the Old Testament. Christ was the fulfillment of God's promise.

The sixth question Owen asks is, "May not such an estate of faith and perfection in obedience be attained in this life, as wherein believers may be freed from all obligation unto the observation of gospel institutions?" The answer he give is that, "No; for the ordinances and institutions of the gospel being inseparably annexed unto the evangelical administration of the covenant of grace, they may not be left unobserved, disused, or omitted, whilst we are to walk before God in that covenant, without contempt of the covenant itself, as also of the wisdom and authority of Jesus Christ." God has made the covenant of grace the only way to attain grace. Therefore, people cannot omit or desert those institutions. No one can plead an exemption from the obligation of the law of God.

Owen's seventh question is, "What are the chief things that we ought to aim at in our observation of the institutions of Christ in the gospel?" The answer he provides is, "To sanctify the name of God; to own and avow our professed subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ; to build up ourselves in our most holy faith; and, to testify and confirm our mutual love, as we are believers." One must consider the ends of God's institutions, in order to faithfully observe them. Observing the institutions for a false end dishonours God. Owen discusses how some, especially the Papists, have abused the institutions by requiring only the outward observance of the institutions.

The eighth question is, "How may we sanctify the name of God in the use of gospel institutions?" His answer is, "By a holy reverence of his sovereign authority appointing of them; a holy regard unto his special presence in them; faith in his promises annexed to them; delight in his will, wisdom, love, and grace, manifested in them; constancy and perseverance in obedience unto him in their due observation." Whatever one does to worship God must be done in such a way that God be sanctified. People must submit their souls and consciences unto God's authority. Furthermore, God has promised his special presence in and with his instituted ordinances of old. God has made promises of special grace to those whom attend Him.

The ninth question Owen poses is "How do we in our observation profess our subjection unto the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel?" Owens answer is that, "In that being all of them, first appointed by him as the head, lawgiver, and king of his church; and, secondly, made by him the ensigns and tokens of his kingdom and subjects; in their due observation principally consists that profession of him and his name which he so often calleth us unto, and so indispensably requireth at our hands." According to Owen, it is a Christian's duty to profess Christ's name.

Owen's tenth question is, "How do we in and by them build up ourselves in our most holy faith?" His response is, "By the exercise of that communion with God in Christ Jesus which, in their due observation, he graciously invites and admits us unto, for the increase of his grace in us, and the testification of his love and good-will towards us." According to Owen, institutionalized worship's purpose is to increase the grace of God and testify as to God's good will.

The eleventh question posed by Owen is, "How are mutual love and communion among believers testified and confirmed in their observation?" Owen's response is, "In that they are appointed by the Lord Christ for that end, and in their own nature, as attended unto in their assemblies, are in an especial manner suited onto that purpose." Owen explains that there is one Father. Furthermore, humans all had the power to become the sons of God, by believing in Christ. This would make them children of the same family, with God as the Father and Christ as the older brother.

Owen's twelfth question is, "What is principally to be attended unto by us in the manner of the celebration of the worship of God, and observation of the institutions and ordinances of the gospel?" Owen's answer was, "That we observe and do all whatsoever the Lord Christ hath commanded us to observe, in the way that he hath prescribed; and that we add nothing unto or in the observation of them that is of man's invention or appointment." Owen explains that not only is the Scripture the only means of God's revelation, but also that the Church has three duties. The first duty is to observe and do all that Jesus has commanded. The second duty is to worship in the manner described by Christ. The third duty is to make sure that nothing is practiced in the worship of God that has not been sanctioned by Christ.

Owen's thirteenth question is, "Are not some institutions of the New Testament ceased as to any obligation unto their observation, and therefore now rightly disused?" Owen's answer is, "Some symbolical tokens of moral duties, occasionally used, only for present instruction in those duties, are mentioned in the gospel, without any intention to oblige believers unto the formal constant use and repetition of them; and some temporary appointments relating unto gifts in the church, bestowed only for a season on the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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