Why We Use Liturgy in Worship: Part 1

Visitors to Coram Deo’s worship gathering will immediately recognize the use of liturgy in our worship. We follow a definite pattern every week. We employ scripted confessions, creeds, prayers, and professions of faith to structure to our worship. The question is: why? This series of posts seeks to answer that question for those new to this type of worship and also for those called to lead it.

Reason #1: Liturgy is Biblical

The first and most important reason we use liturgy in our worship is because liturgy is biblical.

In the Old Testament[1], worship followed a sequence of three offerings. The sin offering was given first, symbolically cleansing the people from sin. Next came the burnt offering, which was burned up entirely to signify the total dedication of the worshippers to God. Finally, a fellowship or peace offering was offered. Having been cleansed from sin and consecrated to God, the worshipper could now enjoy communion and friendship with God.

With the coming of Jesus, most of the Old Testament worship rituals – altars and animal sacrifices and burnt offerings – have been abrogated. But the basic pattern of approach to God – cleansing, consecration, and communion – remains the same. Consider how each of these elements is reiterated in the New Testament:

  • Covenant: We are in covenant with God, just like our forefathers were. But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
  • Cleansing/Confession: God still expects us to confess sin before approaching him in worship. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
  • Consecration: God commands us to set ourselves apart for his purposes. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Communion: Experiential communion with God – the renewing, refreshing experience of his presence and power – is still the ideal for gathered worship. And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

Since Christ has come, the external practices of worship have changed. But the biblical pattern of approach to God has not. God calls his people together to cleanse us of our sins, remind us of our covenant obligations, renew our fellowship with him, and send us back into his world as his representatives. And this order matters.

As a helpful analogy, think of a wedding. Every Christian wedding ceremony follows a particular order. The bride is escorted down the aisle by her father; she is given away to the groom; solemn vows are repeated; rings are given; the union is sealed with a kiss; and the minister pronounces the couple to be husband and wife. This order is intuitively obvious to all who are present – it’s just “the way it should be.” But why? Because a wedding is a covenant ceremony. And such ceremonies proceed according to a certain form, or ritual. There’s a “right order” to them. The same is true for a courtroom proceeding, a citizenship oath, or a home mortgage loan. And for a Christian worship service.

As Christians, we are God’s new covenant people. Our relationship with God is a covenantal relationship. And so we gather weekly to renew that covenant according to the pattern God gives us in Scripture.

[1] See Leviticus 9 for the clearest and most concise description of this pattern.


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