Reformed Worship: Word and Symbol

God’s communication to Israel was chiefly verbal, which, we understand, is of central importance in the history of faith and in the life of the church. We have a high view of the importance of God’s verbal communication with us. This is why, in Protestantism, we put such an emphasis on the role and place of the Bible. We call the Bible the verbum Dei, the “Word of God,” or the vox Dei, the “voice of God.” We consider the verbal communication of God so important to Christianity that throughout history in most Protestant churches the focal point of the sanctuary has been the pulpit, because it is from that position, from that piece of furniture, that the Word of God is proclaimed.

…Like the Reformers, we must never underestimate the importance of the verbal element of worship, the preaching of the Word of God. But we must not forget that God, when He outlined His pattern for worship in the Old Testament, also mandated visible signs, tangible acts of drama that are not isolated from the Word or contrary to the Word but are married to the Word. That is why, for example, in most Christian churches, you are not allowed to celebrate the sacrament without some preaching to indicate that Word and sacrament go together. The Word is expressed verbally, and then that verbal expression is supported, corroborated, and reinforced by the drama of the signs and of the symbols.

taste-of-heaven-sproulThis is another post following our Sunday discussion groups this year at our home church (Faith PRC), which we hosted last evening for the last time this season. We are continuing a study of R.C. Sproul’s book on worship. It was originally published under the title A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity (Reformation Trust, 2006 – the copy I have), but has been newly published under the title How Then Shall We Worship? (David C. Cook, 2013, the Kindle version of which I also have). The above quotation is taken from chapter 5, “Symbolism in Worship” (pp.59-66).