For some time now I have been trying to understand the mystery of character of worship and faith as seen in the majority of the visible church. If you really take the time to research the size of the world community that in some way, shape or purpose uses the name of Jesus or Christ one finds that it’s accounted as the largest “religious” affirming group. Larger than the combined Islamic world, and the combined “Eastern” religions. But with in the so called “Christian” world which is not even 1/3rd of the total population we see, a large segment that are Pentecostal/Charismatic.
I think I had never fully appreciated the extreme reach that this movement really has. Of those who in the world commonly associated with Christ 2.2 billion, once we back out the Catholic’s and Orthodox, a very large share of rest are Pentecostal….making up about as many worldwide as all the rest of the more historical faiths coming out of the reformation. I really had not grasp this reality.
At times I’ve attended a small church not too far from our town, and have noted that TURCWC is a true remnant and belongs to the small 20+K members of United Reformed Churches in North America, about the same size as the OPC. Our own church is affiliated with the EPC, which though not the latest Presbyterian version to spin off, has only about 120K members or so in size. So to see charts like this one I found…..it’s surprisingly how small a part we are. BTW Charismatics as defined here are similar but mostly from within the Roman Church. I had not realized these dominated so much.
And these are of course the visible churches. Only god measures the invisible church. With the world population now approaching 8 billion, we are small indeed, who follow a reformed Biblical faith and the Confessions and Catechisms.
I feel like I am part of very tiny minority…..
Anyway, enough on that mystery. Let’s take a few minutes with a selection of passage about how various people in God’s world handled God’s commandments andworship…
As you read think about how hard it is to actually be on the old or narrow path.
Mat 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. 17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
What are the first three commandments?
Exo 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying, Exo 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exo 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
And the greatest?
Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: Deu 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Deu 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: Deu 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deu 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. Deu 6:9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deu 6:10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, Deu 6:11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Deu 6:12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Deu 6:13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Deu 6:14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; Deu 6:15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. Deu 6:16 Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Deu 6:17 Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. Deu 6:18 And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Deu 6:19 To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken. Deu 6:20 And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? Deu 6:21 Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: Deu 6:22 And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: Deu 6:23 And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. Deu 6:24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. Deu 6:25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.
It doesn’t end with the Old Testament, Jesus affirms
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
From Exodus 32 we read this early account of how God’s people tried, on their own, to worship….
Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us
Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Exo 32:5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
Exo 32:6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
Exo 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: Exo 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. Exo 32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Exo 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
Jdg 2:11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: Jdg 2:12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. Jdg 2:13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. Jdg 2:14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Jdg 2:15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
Jdg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
And later we read…
1Ki 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 1Ki 12:29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 1Ki 12:30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 1Ki 12:31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 1Ki 12:32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 1Ki 12:33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.
In the New Testament there is much to see but here are two examples of the way of worship and the need for commandments….
Joh 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Joh 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Joh 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Joh 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. Joh 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. Joh 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Joh 4:25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Joh 4:26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
So is there a point? Clearly a lot of people in the world pursue some path of faith or religion. And equally clearly, even among God’s chosen people as described in the Bible it is easy and often to be on the wrong path. There is probably no better way to deal with this than following the Matthew 28 verses above. And for our part if we can agree on a valid and accurate account of scripture to do the hard work like those in Berea did:
Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.