Kevin DeYoung offers a great primer on the regulative principle of worship and how it creates freedom. The regulative principle, while it can be stated in various forms (and the differences have practical consequences!), simply means that the worship we offer to God should be determined by God through His word. The Bible regulates or rules Christian worship. Makes sense, right?
However, before Kevin gets to the freedom this simple but important idea has, he gives us a much-needed warning regarding the regulative principle:
The regulative principles says, “Let’s worship God as he wants to be worshiped.” At its worst, this principle leads to constant friction and suspicion between believers. Christians beat each other up trying to discern exactly where the offering should go in the service or precisely which kinds of instruments have scriptural warrant. When we expect the New Testament to give a levitical lay out of theone liturgy that pleases God, we are asking the Bible a question it didn’t mean to answer. It is possible for the regulative principle to become a religion unto itself.
That certainly is possible and some people have the scars to show it. However, it seems to me that the vast majority of Christians and churches have the opposite problem: They’ve never even heard of ‘the regulative principle’ and as a consequence they lack the freedom it brings. More often churches tear themselves apart over preferences and ideas not found in the Bible, not over those elements in worship required by the Bible.
So, we need to heed the warning while embracing the freedom the regulative principle brings. Kevin outlines five ways the regulative principle creates freedom for congregations that use it:
1. Freedom from cultural captivity.
2. Freedom from constant battles over preferences.
3. Freedom of conscience.
4. Freedom to be cross cultural.
5. Freedom to focus on the center.
Consider the entire post here. For a more in-depth treatment you might read Ryken, Thomas, and Duncan (eds.), Give God Praise: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice. The first three chapters present the biblical foundation and case for regulating worship by the Scripture. This section is worth the price of the book.