Elements of Corporate Worship (Edmund Clowney)

Corporate Worship

The following is taken from “Presbyterian Worship” by Edmund Clowney in Worship: Adoration and Action (page 117), edited by D.A. Carson. Although some may skibble over certain aspects of this composition, Clowney provides a succinct summary of the elements of corporate worship according to the New Testament’s testimony. (I have reformatted his collection into a bulleted list.) He states, “The New Testament indicates, by precept and example [emphasis mine], what the elements of [corporate] worship are.” According to Clowney, they are the following.

  • Corporate prayer is offered (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim 2:1; 1 Cor 14:16).
  • Scripture is read (1 Tim 4:13; 1 Thes 5:27; 2 Thes 3:14; Col 4:15-16; 2 Pet 3:15-16.
  • Scripture is expounded in preaching (1 Tim 4:13; cf. Lk 4:20; 2 Tim 3:15-17; 4:2).
  • There is a direct shift from the synagogue to the gathering of the church (Acts 18:7, 11; cf. 19:8-10) [I would also want to note James 2:2 and its use of “synagogue”].
  • The teaching of the word is also linked with table fellowship (Acts 2:42; 20:7; cf. vv. 20, 25, 28).
  • The songs of the new covenant people both praise God and encourage one another (Eph 5:19; Col 3:15; 1 Cor 14:15, 26; cf. 1 Tim 3:16; Rev 5:9-13; 11:17f; 15:3-4.
  • Giving to the poor is recognized as a spiritual service to God and a Christian form of “sacrifice” (2 Cor 9:11-15; Phil 4:18; Heb 13:16).
  • The reception and distribution of gifts is related to the office of the deacon (Acts 6:1-6; Rom 12:8, 13; cf. Rom 16:1-2; 2 Cor 8:19-21; Acts 20:4; 1 Cor 16:1-4). and to the gathering of believers (Acts 2:42; 5:2; 1 Cor 16:2).
  • The faith is publicly confessed (1 Tim 6:12; 1 Pet 3:21; Heb 13:15; cf. 1 Cor 15:1-3.
  • The people receive God’s blessing (2 Cor 13:14; Lk 24:50; cf. Num 6:22-27).
  • The holy kiss of salutation is commanded (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thes 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14).
  • The people respond to praise and prayer with the saying of “Amen” (1 Cor 14:16; Rev 5:14; cf. Rom 1:25; 9:5; Eph 3:21, etc.)
  • The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are explicitly provided.
  • Confession is linked with baptism (1 Pet 3:21).
  • A prayer of thanksgiving is linked with the breaking of break (1 Cor 11:24).

Now, how about some of those skibbles? Or, if you think something’s missing from this list, I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below.

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