This is what I wrote for Dr. Ware's Systematic Theology 2 class for our second Scripture Meditation Paper. For the purposes of a blog title, I'm gonna call it "A New Kind of Worship." Although I don't think there's anything new about what it proposes! Enjoy.
A New Kind of WorshipFor this paper we were required to read and meditate on Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 1:1-34; and Hebrews 10. It is my opinion after meditation and prayer that these passages present to us a clear and unified picture of how we are to present the Gospel. Isaiah gives us the promise, John gives us the realization of the promise, and Hebrews is the preaching of the promise. Throughout my meditations, it became a constant thought in my mind that our church services should be focused with almost total if not total exclusivity on these aspects of worship.
The Giving of the Promise
The giving of the promise is the major event of any worship service. Without it there is no vision for the realization and preaching of that promise. As pastors, we should ask ourselves: "What is the promise of God in this passage that I am preparing to preach? How does that promise point to Christ?" That promise must point to the reality of Christ and Him crucified. We must be able to connect our preaching to Jesus, whatever our passage or topic.
The promise must be clearly articulated at the beginning of worship. We can do this from the start by having Scripture reading from the message that clearly articulates the promise to be proclaimed. All of our songs in worship should focus around this promise. Without this focus from the outset, our congregation cannot be mindful of what is to come. Our congregation cannot meditate throughout worship time and prepare themselves to receive the promise and learn from it.
The Realization of the Promise
How do we realize the promise? I have come to believe that we realize the promise of Christ by partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is not to say we realize Christ's promise in ways similar to Roman Catholics or Lutherans. No, I affirm strongly that the Eucharist is a symbolic representation of Christ's body and blood. But what is actually happening in the Eucharist? Christ commands us to partake of it in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19), and as such we are first and foremost remembering what Christ has done for us in fulfillment of the promise. But the promise has been fulfilled. How does the Eucharist give us access to that fulfillment?
I believe the Eucharist functions for believers in the same manner as the filling of the Holy Spirit. It is a time of sanctification for the believer. When we partake of the Lord's Supper with a prepared heart - one that is in the fear of the Lord, repentant, and trusting wholly on Christ - we realize Christ's forgiveness of past and present sins and the continual transformation of our minds in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
John expresses the concept I have arrived at here by naming Jesus the light that gives life to men. By His light, we become children of God, born of God's will through Christ Jesus, our sins taken away. The Eucharist reminds us of what Christ's light has done for us and points us ever to His light for our current forgiveness and hope of our final righteousness in heaven. Thus the Lord's Supper is spiritually powerful; something actually happens when we partake of it properly - we are sanctified. This is another reason why we must not profane the Lord's Supper.
This leads me to the inescapable conclusion that we are to partake of the Lord's Supper every week. Every Sunday that we come together we must partake of the Eucharist in obedience to the command of Scripture to do this as often as we come together. In this way, if we are constantly renewing our minds weekly by the realization of the promise, our people can potentially be more spiritually minded and more apt to meditate upon their spiritual condition in preparation for worship.
The Preaching of the Promise
Hebrews 10 gives us a very clear exposition of the purpose of the Isaiah passage and the realization of Isaiah's promise in John 1. The promise, having been given and fulfilled, now must be explained so that faith can come through the hearing of that promise. The listeners (readers, in this case) are exhorted now to claim the promise of Christ's finished work by faith, and not to let go of that promise nor forsake it by sinning deliberately.
Indeed, this is a serious responsibility these three passages conclude with in Hebrews. The promise must be clearly and forcefully preached. Those to whom it has been given must be exhorted to hold fast to Christ, to put their trust more and more fully in Him day by day. Those to whom it has not been given are warned that their rejection of the promise is damning. This is also in my mind a clear example that we do not know who those are who will accept or reject the promise, so the exhortation and warning must be preached to all. They are two sides of the same coin.
This aspect of worship is the focal point of any service. Without the preaching of the promise, we have no need for a promise to be given nor for a promise to be realized. Romans 10:14-17 makes it very clear to us that unless the promise is preached, none will be saved. Unless the promise is preached, none will be sanctified as well.
The overarching theme of my meditations on these passages is that there is a great need to overhaul our worship around these three aspects. We must give the promise through our singing and the reading of Scripture. We must realize the promise by partaking of the Lord's supper in every service. And finally, we must preach the promise as the focal point of every worship time.