Anthony W. Brooks
I wanted to react and respond to a recent sermon on worship that was preached at a church I attended over five years ago. This may seem like I am getting personal to you, and you are right. The personal aspect of this post will become apparent. Many of the themes of this sermon are the very reason why I am no longer a member of this church. The sermon was good and true on a majority of its parts. There were some points that gave me pause and two points that I was in flat disagreement with. But on almost every level it was a sermon that John Knox himself would be proud of.
My history with the First Baptist Church of Judson is a rocky one. I did not leave the church on good terms. And my friendship with their pastor, a friendship that spanned thirteen years, was all but forgotten. It was a sad departure. But when I listened to this sermon I was confused and delighted all at the same time. I heard echoes of Reformed and even Calvinist thought in the words of the pastor. In its construction it was an overview of Psalm 95. Pastor Smith broke it into three main sections: verses 1-5, 6, and 7-11. The themes touched on the attitude of worship, the sovereignty of God, the frequency of worship, and Gods invitation to worship.
The reason this was so shocking is that these are all points that are expressly focused on in my own communion, the OPC. In the Orthodox Presbyterian Church we often concern ourselves with these exact questions and resolve them in every service. For instance we don’t just preach the necessity of an invitation to worship but we have one at the beginning of the service every Sunday and Sunday night. One of the most used “call to worship” passages is Psalm 103:1-22 or “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul” which is read in its entirety at the beginning of the service. This is preceded by a time where the congregation is instructed to prepare their hearts for worship by praying and confessing. And it is followed by the singing of a doxological hymn. All aimed at the preparation of the people for worship.
Other things aren’t as subtle such as the sovereignty of God. This is a doctrine that is held very close to the hearts of OPC members. This is because from the foundation of the Protestant movement, the same movement that birthed both the Baptist and Presbyterian churches, this doctrine was essential to understanding the part of men and God in salvation. That from the foundation of the world God would have a plan in place to save fallen man. This plan would remain unaltered and would succeed in bringing about new heavens and a new earth. Take Daniel 4:34ff:
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
-Daniel 4:34-35 KJV
This verse is very clear. When it comes to God’s will he does what he wants and we are nothing. In Nebuchadnezzar’s words free will goes out the window. Sure we have freedom. This isn’t a puppet show. But we have freedom within the borders of our depravity. The only way we please God is by walking in the good works that He has prepared beforehand for us, Ephesians 2:10.
In the sermon Pastor Smith said a true thing that was related to this topic. God’s sovereignty is absolute because he knows the future and this is the reason why we should worship him. True enough, right? I wanted more detail on this point. What is the nature of this foreknowledge? Does God know all possible futures? Or is this a more active type of foreknowledge? The word sovereignty was used a lot but not dug into much. It was more of a point heading. I know that the readers here who listened to the sermon would like to know this as well. Where does he stand on this point? I left the church over this point and would like to know where it’s pastor now stands. Maybe we think more alike than we thought? Maybe?
Soli Deo Gloria!