Similar to “Christ Our Redeemer” I adapted Colossians 1:12-23 into a liturgical, corporate recitation for our church. I titled this “Christ Our King”. Our congregation has only been using this for about two years now, but it flows nicely and works well. The first two sentence are to be said by the minister, with the rest being recited by the congregation. You can find a copy of it below.
Let us give thanks to the Father, who has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son.
In Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
By him all things were created:
Things in heaven and on earth,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
preeminent in all things.
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
to reconcile all things to himself in Christ
things visible and invisible, whether on earth or in heaven
things visible and invisible, making peace by the blood of his cross
And we, once sinners, estranged and hostile,
Jesus has now reconciled in his body by his death,
to present us holy and blameless and righteous before him,
if we continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast,
not moved from the hope of this gospel.
A few years back I identified a gap in Reformed liturgy: a lack of well-designed, corporate recitation that rehearses redemptive history with a focus on the saving work of Christ. Sure, some churches would recite the Westminster or Heidelberg catechisms, but those confessions were not crafted to be recited in the same way as the Apostles’ Creed. After considerable conversation with a number of pastors and theologians, I completed a draft of something that worked well. The problem I ran into was its title; something that is corporately recited is generally called a creed, but labeling it “The Redemption Creed” provoked dislike of the whole project from my friends and counselors.
So, when I introduced the recitation into my current congregation, I changed the title to “Christ Our Redeemer” without any other genre modifiers. In the Reformed tradition there are no prescriptions on corporate recitations of faith, so it does not function as a usurpation of either our church’s doctrine or the primacy of the Catholic creeds. It is part of the rotation of the confessions of faith our church makes before we come to the Lord’s Supper. And it works well: the rhythm and structure are conducive to corporate recitation, it’s a good length, and it reflects the core of the Orthodox Protestant tradition on redemption. You can find a copy of it below.
This an extended a theological essay that was written for my church last year. It is actually a substantially abridged version of an original (4k vs. 11k words) that was used as a conversation partner among LPC’s elders. The longer version had more exegetical and historical work, as well as engagement with the EPC’s Book of Worship (which I’ll probably post separately at a later date) and deeper analysis of the missional dimension of tithes and offertories.
How should the church think about money, especially when it comes to acts of giving in worship and honoring God with our resources? These are two inter-related questions: How should the church collect money? and What is God’s expectation for giving? What follows is a sketch of the biblical summary on these topics along with historical considerations. It concludes with principles for Langhorne Presbyterian Church’s practice.
Tithes and Offerings in the Old Testament
In the Mosaic law there were broadly three categories of tithes: the tithes to support the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 18:21, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 2 Chronicles 31:3-5); the tithes for the celebrations at Israel’s festivals (Deuteronomy 12:6ff, 16:13-17; and tithes for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-13). Each of these kinds of tithes had a variation in the frequency in their collection. Notably the tithe to the Levites was explicitly premised on Israel living in the promised land (Deuteronomy 12:19, 26:1-4).
A common misconception is that tithing equated to 10% of an Israelite’s income. However, “Some [scholars] think the Israelites gave 14 tithes over seven years; others believe they gave 12. Regardless, when we add the required tithes together, the amount certainly exceeded 10 percent. In fact, the number was probably somewhere around 20 percent per year….
Our church just finished a month-long sermon series on the church and worship, and this was the definition of worship we used:
“Worship is the fitting and delightful response of God’s people to him, our Creator and Redeemer, for what he has done, for his glory in creation and redemption, through Christ, by the power and direction of Jesus himself through his Holy Spirit.”
It relies on the definitions provided by Gibson (Reformational and dogmatic) and Block (biblical-theological) in this wonderful little list.
Through its 1986 position paper on the Holy Spirit, the EPC affirms that the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in the New Testament are valid for the church today. The EPC is self-consciously charismatic, though expressly not Pentecostal. Along with the ordination of women, the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the other issue the EPC points to as a “non-essential” where there can be disagreement among its churches. Yet, even in the position paper there are limitations placed on what the EPC teaches to be valid expressions of spiritual gifts. It holds that the new birth of Christians and baptism of the Holy Spirit are the same thing (thus ruling out baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace) and that the manifestation of specific spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, is unnecessary for salvation. In short, there are boundaries on the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC.
Beyond the explicit statements in the position paper, the Westminster Confession (WCF) and Catechisms also speak to the subject. While the modern charismatic movement has its origins in the early 20th century, the Reformers addressed many of the same topics as they encountered them in Roman Catholicism and the mystic evangelicalism of their day. Calvin’s Institutes famously begins by contrasting the false miracles of Rome with the sufficiency of scripture. The Westminster Standards have much to say on the subject of charismatic gifts, and though they are most compatible with a cessationist view on the miraculous gifts, there is a degree of freedom for charismatic expression. My intent is not to evaluate exegetical arguments or to provide historical criticism, but to examine the ways that the Westminster Standards bound the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC…