A Walk Through the Directory For Public Worship

OPC Book of Church Order (2011 Edition) The Directory for the Public Worship of God has a long history and important place in confessional Presbyterian churches.  In one form or another, the DPW has been around as long as the Westminster Standards (c. 1646).  The DPW does not at all have the same status as Holy Scripture and it is not part of the Westminster Standards, but it is very much based on Scripture and applies the Standards to the church’s life of worship.  The DPW is a very helpful resource when it comes to the topic of Reformed liturgy.

You can find a good modern-day example of the DPW in the OPC’s Book of Church Order.  Below is the outline of the DPW along with a few excerpts.

1) The Sanctification of the Lord’s Day.  “…It is the sacred duty and high privilege of God’s people everywhere to convene for public worship on the Lord’s Day.  God has expressly enjoined them in his holy Word not to forsake the assembling of themselves together.”

2) The Principles of Public Worship.  “Since the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the principles of public worship must be derived from the Bible, and from no other source.”

3) The Usual Parts of Public Worship.  “As a service of public worship is in its essence a meeting of God and his people, the parts of the service are of two kinds: those which are performed on behalf of God, and those which are performed by the congregation.”

4) The Celebration of the Sacraments. “…In ordinary circumstances [the two sacraments] are properly administered only in a gathering of the congregation for the public worship of God, baptism signifying solemn admission into the visible church, and the Lord’s Supper constituting the communion of believers with Christ and with each other as members of his mystical body.”

5) Public Profession of Faith in Christ.  “In order to aid those who contemplate making public profession of faith in Christ to understand the implication of this significant act and to perform it intelligently, the pastor shall conduct classes in Christian doctrine both for the covenant youth and for any others who may manifest an interest in the way of salvation.”

6) Ordinations and Installations.   “The Word of God clearly teaches that the office of minister was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ [Eph. 4.11]. …The office of ruling elder is based upon the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who provided for his church officers who should rule in his name. …The office of deacon is based upon the solicitude and love of Christ for his own people.”

Again, if you want a brief biblical and confessional explanation of historic Reformed worship and liturgy, you’ll have to read the DPW.  The above outline and quotes can be found in The Book of Church Order, 119-133.

rev. shane lems

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