The following book is reviewed by Prof. Cory Griess, professor of Practical Theology and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of First PRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Jonty Rhodes. Reformed Worship. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2023. ISBN: 9781629959078. Hard cover. Price: $15.99. 152 pages.

Reformed church worship is not necessarily the same as worship in a Reformed church.

Given the fact that we live in a day and age when the superficial reigns, even in the worship of some Reformed churches, and the expectation is that one’s own desires take the role of worship leader, it is important that God’s people continue to hear sermons and read books about Reformed worship. This is especially true if the material is given in such a way that it not only discusses the negative—what ought we not do, but the positive—what ought we do, and why is it marvelous that it is so? After all, the regulative principle is not first of all, What may we not do in worship? It is relentlessly positive: What is commanded!? And why has the good God who loves His children commanded it?

This little book takes this kind of approach, and in so doing leaves the Reformed heart wanting to meet with its God in biblical worship on the Lord’s Day. I commend Jonty Rhodes’s work to God’s people. The book is short, faithful, and fresh. Here is a man who understands the scriptural principles of Reformed worship and also loves them, urging the church to embrace the beauty of them.

Rhodes organizes his book around six “P’s.” The first is the promise of worship, which is the glorious truth that we meet with God in public corporate worship. Here, a simple definition of worship naturally arises: “Worship is the right response to meeting God.”

The second “P” is the purpose of worship. The purpose of worship is to give God the honor He is due as our God and Father. He is the One who has given us all things in the covenant, and our fitting response is to acknowledge Him in a way that extols Him for who He is and what He has done for us. However, Rhodes reminds us, God does not lack anything in Himself. The purpose of worship is not to give God what He needs from us. Rather, when we give Him what is His due, He is pleased, and we are blessed.

The principle is next. The reference is to the regulative principle, which Rhodes handles well, drawing out of Scripture things new and old. Since God is the Author of our entire salvation in His covenant, He is Author and Director of the great public meeting of the covenant. Rhodes proves the principle from Scripture and then makes a significant point: God promises that He will meet us in the elements He has commanded for public, corporate worship. It is not as though God cannot meet with His people another way, but He has told us He will surely meet with us in these ordained means. If so, why would we attempt to meet with Him through other means?

The power and pillars of worship are chapter four’s references to the Word of God in the hands of the Spirit as the power God uses to come close to us and bring us close to Him, and the elements of worship that are ordained by God to carry that Word. Rhodes rightly distinguishes elements from circumstances in this chapter.

Finally, Reformed Worship gives instruction on the pattern of worship. Here, the book explains how the worship service is carried out as a dialogue between God and His people. This dialogue has a gospel hue to it, shaped by the fact that our relationship to God is one where He has saved sinners to Himself. Because of this (and because it is historically Reformed) Rhodes gives the corporate confession of sin and assurance of pardon as part of the Reformed worship service. We ought to give more thought to restoring this historically Reformed practice in our own worship services.

Rhodes does little to prove the dialogical nature of worship scripturally. As one of the most significant realities about corporate worship, this is a regrettable weakness of the book. When Rhodes describes the gospel-shaped structure of worship from the Old Testament, there is an implied proof for the dialogue of worship. However, much more could and should be done to show this principle is tied to the nature of the covenant and therefore is found throughout Scripture.

The book ends with helpful Q&As on various significant topics including the question of exclusive psalmody. As is typical in a book intended for a broad audience, Rhodes does not take a position, but gives both sides of the argument while commending the Psalms for worship. Happily, questions that are common in our day, like, “Shouldn’t we be creative in worship?” and “Isn’t all of life worship?” are asked and helpfully answered.

The book should speak well to those new to Reformed worship as well as to those who have known it all their lives but who need to recapture the joy of what God has ordained.