Six Principles of Reformed Worship
Reformed worship is governed by several Biblical principles including the following.
First, Reformed worship is according to Scripture. Scripture is the rule of worship as well as the rule of faith. And Scripture regulates worship prescriptively not merely proscriptively. Thus, whatever is not commanded in Scripture is forbidden as an ordinance of worship (cf. WCF 21:1; WLC 108, 109; WSC 50, 51). This principle is often called the regulative principle.
Second, Reformed worship is God-centered. The purpose of worship is to glorify God. In worship, we ascribe to him the glory due his name and give thanks to him for his wondrous works of creation and redemption (cf. Ps. 26, 29, 136). Since that is its highest purpose, it must not be used as a means for attaining some other end. Worship must be God-centered (theocentric) and not man-centered (anthropocentric).
Third, Reformed worship is offered through the merit and mediation of Christ. “Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone” (WCF 21:2). Worship is “covenantal communion between God and his people in his public ordinances.”
Fourth, Reformed worship is spiritual. Worship is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is the direct result of the renovating work of the Spirit in our hearts. It is by the Spirit that we invoke God as “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) and confess that “Jesus is Lord” (1Cor. 12:3). Worship does not originate with us and is not performed by us in our own strength.
Fifth, Reformed worship is covenantal. Worship is covenantal communion with God in his public ordinances. “An assembly of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s children with each other, but is, before all else, a meeting of the triune God with his covenant people.” When we gather for worship, God meets with us and communes with us, and we with him.
Sixth, Reformed worship is edifying and orderly. In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul states two principles that govern the worship of the church: (a) the principle of edification (v. 26) and (b) the principle of good-order (v. 40). Paul demonstrates how these governing principles regulate the church’s worship by applying them to various activities that the Corinthians were doing in their assemblies… Worship builds up the body of Christ and reflects the orderly nature of the God we serve.
For further reflection, see Reverence or Joy in Worship?