By Nathan White
Regarding the recent discussion involving the Regulative Principle of Worship, I ask you to briefly note the following passage and consider my comments below:
Mark 7:1-13 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Note the following observations from this text, regarding the RPW:
- There is such a thing as vain/useless worship, even when the worshiper is sincere: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’
- The commandment of God is abandoned when man-made traditions are embraced: ‘You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.’
- The Word of God is made void by implementing tradition: ‘thus making void the word of God by your tradition’.
- The washing of hands was never condemned by the law, much like drama and other modern forms of ‘worship’ are never condemned in scripture, as they are all certainly seemingly harmless acts, but embracing traditions which are beyond the bounds of scripture, as if they are worship and/or obedience, is in actuality replacing and superseding scripture, which is vain, useless, and condeming worship.
- The Old Testament law is specifically referenced by Jesus as binding on worship, just as we can now look to Deut 12:29-31 as binding/instructive on our principles of worship: ‘For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’’
- The Pharisees claimed to be obeying the commandment to honor father and mother, and would never deny it’s truthfulness, but by setting up their tradition they undermined it completely.
Brethren, as we have spent several posts outlining, the Regulative Principle of Worship is not a legalistic, arbitrary, and binding set of rules aimed at ruining the worship experience, but it is rather a firm conviction, based on an abundant of Old and New Testament texts, which keep us fallen creatures to falling into error, heaping up condemnation, and erecting idols in our worship of the Living God. Let us magnify Christ by preaching and proclaiming His word; let us not nullify it by setting up our seemingly harmful traditions in place of Christ.