The Bible says, “Worship God,” and it is the responsibility of Christians to discern from the written Word what God wants us to do to express that worship and how He wants us to express it. By precept, approved example, and necessary inference, the New Testament reveals the will of God in this matter. Any departure from that which is therein revealed becomes an apostasy. Consequently, each item of apostasy that will be mentioned in this article is indeed a departure from authorized practice. These items constitute departure because (1) authorized activity is omitted, (2) unauthorized activity is added, or (3) scriptural activity is done in a wrong way.
Apostasy is a failure to follow apostolic directives, either by omission or commission. Let us consider apostasies in public expressions of worship by assembled Christians.
Historically, the body of Christ drifted toward denominationalism via departures in organization and doctrine, but the step-by-step changes in principles and processes of worship also are observed among the most sincere and devoted. After great strides toward restoration of first century religion and after some of the most significant evangelistic fruitfulness in modern history, the great emphasis upon a “revealed religion” became contaminated by the following departures in worship:
In the nineteenth century the Melodian and then the Organ were introduced in Kentucky and Missouri over much protest, but in just a few decades, pianos became common and stringed instruments, orchestras, etc. were gradually brought in as well.
During those same decades, the congregational singing was often gradually supplemented by solos, choirs and recitals. The trend was not only toward non-involvement of the majority of the assemblies but also toward a display of musical refinement unrelated to spiritual worship.
Among God’s people, in this twentieth century, there has been considered trend toward formalism and ritualism, especially regarding the Lord’s supper; thus, (1) there is a tendency to make it a criteria for forgiveness, and (2) there is a trend that minimizes the “togetherness” that was an obvious characteristic of the observance of the Lord’s supper in the days of the apostles (Acts 20:7 ff; 1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 20; 14:23).
The observance of the Lord’s supper throughout the week and the taking of collections at any time are other departures among some brethren, and even many who do not practice this will not militantly oppose such.
Most every congregation of the Lord’s church has taken on the tradition of denominational midweek bible studies. In these gatherings the church has allowed a direct commandment of Jesus Christ to be broken. Women are allowed not only to speak in the assembly, but also to teach as well (1 Cor 14:33-40 f: 1 Tim 2:11-15). This tradition was subsequently allowed to occur in Sunday worship as well. Is it any wonder that some liberally minded have added onto this by allowing women to wait on tables, give announcements, lead singing, lead prayer, and now preaching to the full assembly. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump!” (Gal 5:9)
Conclusion: That there is a continuing and ever-present necessity for restoration to New Testament principles of worship can hardly be denied. There must be a constant call, “Back to the Bible,” in every generation and even in every decade.
Let us look with genuine honesty at our own attitudes and activities that have to do with our worship. The New Testament completely provides for our every necessity even in worship, and we have the solemn obligation of discerning the message of God therein revealed. Sincerity must be recognized for its worth as an essential quality of worship, but it must also be recognized for its worthlessness for authority. Zeal must be identified as an important quality for fruitfulness, but it must also be identified as the culprit that will destroy our scriptural worship if that zeal is not bridled.
As we worship God by expressing the homage in our hearts in the, study of the Word, in singing praises, in prayers, in the remembrance of the Lord’s supper, and in giving of our material means, I personally urge that we keep a very close watch of not going beyond that which was written (1 Cor 4:6). Let us therefore seek even more diligently to be approved of God by worshiping God in spirit and in truth (2 Tim 2:15 f; Jn 4:23,24). Let us speak the very words of God, not adding to or taking from the scripture (1 Pet 4:11 f; Rev 22:18,19). If we do this, we will not only reestablish the new testament church, we will also remain there until Shiloh come! (Gen 49:10).