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Episode 11 - Practicing Worship


Date: July 11, 2018
Run Time: 12:03
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guest: Dr. John M. Frame
From the Series: Practicing Theology in the Christian Life

Program Notes

What is the "regulative principle" of worship and how do we make good use of it? How do we determine what our worship should look like? Dr. John Frame helps us walk through these questions as we talk about:

  • The role of music and the use of instruments in corporate worship
  • The marks of a true church
  • The service of gifted women and non-ordained men in public worship

Dr. John Frame is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary. He was a founding faculty member at Westminster Seminary California, where he taught for more than 20 years, and is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Dr. Frame is a prolific writer, having authored numerous books and articles and contributed to several theological reference volumes. Most notably, his book, The Doctrine of God won the 2003 Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and his A History of Western Philosophy and Theology won a 2017 Christian Book Award. Dr. Frame is the Host of Third Mill’s series, Making Biblical Decisions.

Podcast Transcript

EPISODE 11: Practicing Worship
Guest: Dr. John Frame

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

Welcome back everyone to 4 the World, the weekly podcast of Third Millennium Ministries. I'm your host Dr. Greg Perry, and again it's my privilege to talk today with Dr. John Frame. Dr. Frame has taught theology for over thirty years and written several books. You'll find some links to some really important and valuable resources on the notes for our program on our website or wherever you find your podcast.


Dr. Frame, we've been talking about the practice of theology. Last week we got into a little bit about ethics and how it relates to theology and even delved a little bit into the sticky problem of healthcare and the rising cost of healthcare. This week we want to turn our attention to the practices of the church's worship. Recently my wife and I were worshiping with you and your wife locally, and I got to hear you play the piano during the time of communion. I know you're an accomplished pianist, and yet not everyone in the Reformed tradition has always thought that we should use instruments in corporate worship. Again, going back to this idea of applying Scripture to all areas of life, how should we evaluate the use of instruments, the role of music, which is a big issue in corporate worship these days? How shall we go about thinking about that theologically?

Dr. Frame: Well, Greg, the principle in Reformed worship is sola scriptura; that is, Scripture is our one standard, and if we want to justify anything we're doing in worship, we need to go to the Bible. There are different arguments and debates as to how to use the Bible in coming to those conclusions. But so far as instruments are concerned, if you go to look at the temple of David and Solomon in the Old Testament, you find all kinds of instruments being used. Look at the headings of the Psalms and you find references to stringed instruments and references to trumpets and percussion, I think. All kinds of things. Loud shouting, loud-sounding cymbals. And so I think that's a sufficient precedent for the use of instruments in worship. Now, in the New Testament we have something that's a little different. There is no temple, so to speak, and there's no reference to the use of instruments in Christian worship following the resurrection of Christ. There is reference to instruments in the book of Revelation as we look forward to the heavenly worship.

I think of Augustine — or it's sort of attributed to Augustine; I don't think this is exactly what he said in his commentary on Psalm 73 — but it's usually said that Augustine wrote that when we sing we pray twice. And so, it's interesting that when we're using music we're actually doing some things in worship that are modeled in the New Testament. I think of Acts 2, I think of Colossians 3, and "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," but also that we're praying sometimes when we're singing, or sometimes we're teaching one another or instructing one another. So the role of music, could you say a little bit more about that?

Dr. Frame: Yeah, a hymn is both words and something more than words. It's words because it conveys the truth of God, and we see that in the Psalms. But when you sing the Psalm rather than just say it, you're expressing feeling, you're expressing volume, you're expressing emphasis at various points. There are all sorts of dimensions of meaning that a tune adds to the words that you speak.


What are the elements of Christian worship and witness that mark a true church? What are some of the things that we should be considering in the word in our situation and in ourselves as we think about becoming part of a church body?

Dr. Frame: Well, the Reformers said that a true church exists wherever the word is truly preached, the sacraments faithfully administered, and where discipline is carried out so as to ensure that the first two marks continue and are reliable. So, I think that that gives you at least an outline to start considering. Of course, in most areas there are many churches that fit those criteria, so you do need to give some attention to things like: How will my children fit into the church? What kind of training programs do they have for young people? What are my own spiritual gifts? And what can I add to the ministry of the church? And how can they help to train me up in doing those things that God has called me to do? What is the impact of the church in the community? How are they regarded in the community? Do they have an evangelistic thrust, are they outward facing? Those are some of the questions that I think we need to ask.


In your Doctrine of Christian Life book, which is your ethics book, you talked about roles for gifted women and unordained men in the corporate worship and missional life of the church. What are the scriptural limits and freedoms that we should be observing about the service of gifted women in public worship?

Dr. Frame: Well, there are two passages in the New Testament which are often discussed in this regard. One is in 1 Corinthians 14 where it talks about women being silent during a particular part of the worship service. And also in 1 Timothy 2 which talks about how women should not rule over men in the congregation. From my study I have come to the conclusion that the main takeaway we have from these passages is that women should not be appointed to be elders or to be the chief rulers, the ruling office within the church. Some people go beyond that and say that women should never speak in the context of public worship. Now that is, I think, a wrong conclusion. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul is very clear that women have the ability to pray and to prophesy aloud in the congregation.

It's interesting, isn't it, that Paul does not make any gender distinctions when it comes to the distribution of the gifts, that all of these gives, speaking gifts included, are distributed through the body as the Spirit sees fit. And you've noted the distinction in Reformed theology between the general teaching office — I think Paul says in Romans 15, "instruct one another" (Rom 15:14), and Colossians 3 we're to exhort and encourage one another and instruct one another — but then there's this particular teaching office that you're talking about. Could you say a little about this distinction between the general teaching office where everyone is to encourage and instruct one another, and then also the role of the particular teaching office of the elder?

Dr. Frame: Yes, every Christian comes to trust in Christ on the basis of the gospel, so every Christian has an application of the gospel to his own life. And we are called to share this; fathers with children, mothers with children, fathers and mothers with one another, members of the congregation. In Colossians 3, which you referred to, speaks of even when we're singing we're teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Well, certainly the men and the women are singing together, and the men are teaching and admonishing the women, and the women are teaching and admonishing the men at the same time. So this should be our usual conversation. We ought to very quickly go to the Scriptures and edify one another when we just talk one another before and after church. So, that's the general office. Now, in the course of this, some people stick out as being particularly gifted in doing this, and the church recognizes that and chooses these people who are particularly gifted and who meet the biblical criteria, who understand the gospel well, and they appoint them to be teachers in the church in an official capacity. And that's what we call the "teaching eldership," giving gentle and loving guidance to a congregation. I think that kind of rule is something that Paul says that the women should not participate in, but nevertheless they still have this gift of teaching and admonishing that all believers have.

We thank you for continuing the conversation. We're going to come back next week to talk about the witness of the local church. So thank you again for continuing our series, Dr. Frame.

Dr. Frame: Thank you, Greg.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. Production assistance is provided by Stephanie Mathis. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by the new book Christianity Considered, written by Dr. John Frame, available now on Amazon Smile. Please remember to select Third Millennium Ministries as your charitable organization on Amazon Smile. And thank you for subscribing to 4 the World.