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What is liturgy? Does the Bible say anything about liturgy or liturgical worship?

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Liturgy is the common term used for a church service that follows a traditional pattern of worship. Liturgy is practiced in Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, along with some mainstream Protestant church groups. What does the Bible teach about participating in liturgical worship?

Liturgy itself is simply a pattern or order of worship. It is neither good nor bad by itself. Instead, any particular liturgy must be evaluated for two key elements. First, is the content of the liturgy biblical? For example, a liturgy that includes prayers to the saints is beyond the teachings of the Bible that teaches prayer is only to be made to God. Any liturgy that includes teachings inconsistent with the Bible is to be rejected.

The second concern relates to the priority given to liturgy. Is the particular pattern of worship being given greater importance than is being given to God or to God's Word? If so, this should be of concern. A particular liturgy can greatly honor God, but it can also be used in place of true worship of God.

Of course, a time of worship together in church is also meant to be understood. Up until the mid-twentieth century, Catholic masses were still conducted in Latin. Those attending had little understanding of what took place. This does not reflect God's desire for the church's times of worship. First Corinthians 14:26 notes, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." The goal of worshiping together is to build one another up in the faith. To do so, the content of the worship should be both biblical and understandable.

A final note should also be made about the church in which the liturgy is used. Some church traditions use a liturgy, yet the church's doctrines are far from biblical. Their statement of faith does not accept the inspiration of Scripture, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and may see Christ as something other than divine. If so, no matter the liturgy, such a church would not be a place in which a Bible-believing Christian would want to participate.

In summary, using a liturgy in worship is neither good nor bad. A liturgy's content should be evaluated to determine whether it is biblical, traditions should not be given priority over Scripture, and one should also evaluate the church in which the liturgy takes place. A liturgical service can certainly be used to honor God in worship when its content reflects the great truths of Scripture and is done in a way that honors God.

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