Biblical worship may be described as having four aspects, which are taught in the first four of the Ten Commandments. Jesus summarized these four commandments as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).
The first commandment is “You shall have no other God’s before me” (Ex. 20:3; cf. Deut. 5:7). Here we see the proper object of worship: the one true and living God. We confess, “Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone” (WCF 21.2).
The second commandment is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:4-5a; cf. Deut. 5:8-9a). Here we see the proper means of worship. God alone teaches us how he should be worshiped. We confess, “The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (WCF 21.1).
The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7; cf. Deut. 5:11). Here we see the proper manner of worship. The author of Hebrews writes of this saying, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). Worship is not a common and casual occasion. It is a sacred and solemn one. Therefore, the manner of our worship should be one of reverence and awe, being careful not to take the name of the LORD in vain.
The fourth commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8; cf. Deut. 5:12). Here we see the proper time for regular exercises of public and private worship. God has commanded that one day in seven be set apart for this reason. In the Old Testament that day was Saturday. In the New Testament it is Sunday. We confess, “As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath” (WCF 21.7)
So we see in the first four commandments the proper object, means, manner, and time of worship. In other words, God answers these questions for us: (1) What should we worship? (i.e. object) (2) How should we worship? (i.e. means and manner) and (3) When should we worship? (i.e. time)
In further unfolding the teaching of the second commandment we believe God prescribes particular elements of worship in Holy Scripture (cf. Directory of Worship II). These elements include the call to worship, the public reading of God’s Word, the preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments (i.e. baptism and the Lord’s Supper), blessings, public prayer, congregational singing, public confession of faith, and the bringing of offerings.
We believe that God blesses and is pleased with worship that is regulated by his Word and that such worship should be pleasing to those to whom he has given a hunger for his Word and a love for his majesty and glory. This is how God is glorified among his people and how Jesus Christ nourishes and cherishes his bride unto eternal life (Eph. 5:29).