Confession of faith in the triune God is an indispensable feature of the worship of the Church. Usually the Apostles’ Creed (in some churches the Nicene Creed is also employed) is the vehicle for the purpose of our common confession of faith. In the congregation of which I am a member this is followed by the singing of the Gloria Patri, whose familiar words read:\
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
I realize that the order of worship differs considerably in the various congregations. In this series of articles I am taking you to my own church. Whether your congregation in its Sabbath worship uses this hymn or not, I think, you will readily agree that it is a fitting and beautiful response to the Christian’s confession of faith.
Saving faith is a gift of God. It cannot be obtained in any other way. The Bible is very clear on this point:
For by grace have ye ben saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8,9) Similarly this is expressed in that beautiful hymn,
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me. It was not I that found, a Savior true; No, I was found of Thee.
The Danger of Routine Worship
Having expressed our faith in the triune God, it is with abounding thankfulness of heart that we bring glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Since this also belongs to the proper routine of church worship, the danger is always present that we shall take words upon our lips in an outward expression which, at least for a time, our hearts do not feel. God is terribly displeased with such dead, outward formalism! Hear what God said to Israel by the mouth of Isaiah,
Forasmuch as this people draw nigh unto me, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:13, 14 )
It is well that we remind one another of this great sin. Thoughtlessness in worship afflicts the best of us. And when I discover so many people who find little if any enjoyment in divine worship, I am quite sure that today there must be more than a few who do indeed honor God with their lips, hut have nevertheless removed their heart far from him.
“Glory Be to the Father”
Saving faith, God’s gift of grace, will itself remind us of the great things God has done for us. “Glory be to the Father…” To him, who from eternity had thoughts of peace concerning me. In his sovereign good pleasure he chose me, even while passing other thousands by. He chose me, though there was nothing in me which would make me more desirable than others. Glory be to the Father, who chose me in Christ Jesus from before tho foundation of the world. To him be all glory, who not only chose me, but sent his only begotten Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to bear the wrath of God against sin and earn for me the gift of eternal life.
“Glory Be to the Son”
Glory be to the Son, my Savior, Jesus the Christ!
How can I ever be thankful enough that he was willing to become poor that I might be rich? When I think of him, who came to offer his life as a ransom for mine, my thoughts turn to the words of the prophet,
For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…Sm-ely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2, 3a, 4, 5)
Glory be to the Son, for it was he who was forsaken of God that I might never be forsaken of him!
“And to the Holy Ghost”
Glory, too, to the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, who takes the riches of Christ and gives them unto me. To the Spirit of God, who left the glory of heaven to come to this earth and dwell in my heart. To the Spirit of Truth, the great teacher, who makes the Word of God plain to me so that I may behold the beauty of my God, and in the spiritual act of that beholding find rest for my soul To the life-giving Spirit, who regenerates me, and step by step makes me what I ought to be, in order that I may appear acceptable to God in the heavenly Zion. Glory be to the Spirit, who prays for and within me, even when I do not know how to pray.
The significance of this part of our church worship is not inconsiderable. For the knowledge that I am one with Christ and his redeemed Church and thus the possessor of saving faith, fills my heart with joy so that my mouth must speak of the loving kindness, the wisdom, the power and the righteousness of our triune God. In thiS sway we reach, at least in a measure, the purpose of our calling as God’s people. For God has formed a people unto himself precisely in order that they should speak of his glory.
I must confess to a sense of shame as I write these things. I would not give the impression that I reach such heights of worship experience consistently and perfectly. You will agree with me, however, that we should constantly strive toward these goals in our worship services. And if we keep the ideal of true, biblical worship in mind, prayerfully laboring to attain it, we will achieve progress. Our church worship will then provide us with nothing less than “foretaste of heaven,” where we with all the saints of God shall sing day and night, praising him for his loving kindness and tender mercy.
My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty how bright!
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light!