New Horizons

Helps for Worship #7: The Salutation

William Shishko

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:3, etc.)

The order of worship, as presented in the bulletin, often uses unusual words, like salutation, invocation, and benediction. All of these terms have a biblical basis. By understanding them, you will have a better experience of corporate worship.

Many churches do not have a salutation at the beginning of worship. Believers gather on Sunday. They are called to worship God. They sing. They pray. They listen to the Word of God read and preached. At best, they think of God as speaking to them.

The Bible's view of worship is far grander than this!

All of the New Testament letters written to churches (i.e., written to be read in churches during a gathering for worship) begin with a greeting (formally known as a salutation), such as the one given at the head of this article. God himself greets his gathered people through the minister. The greeting not only indicates that God himself is with them, but also demonstrates that God is with them under the promise of his grace. Just as the divine presence dwelt with the covenant people in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 26:8), and just as Jesus promised that "where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20 NKJV), so now God himself is present in every gathered assembly of the New Testament temple, the church.

This ought to revolutionize our view of worship! Corporate worship is, first of all, a gathering of God with his people! He is really with us by the Holy Spirit! He reminds us that he is with us by his greeting! He is really with us to minister to us (which is why the one who leads worship is called a "minister"). We must believe that God himself is with us as we gather for worship, and we are encouraged to fully involve ourselves in what is to come because his greeting is a promise of grace and a statement that God intends peace—i.e., the fullness of the blessings of redemption—to those who respond in repentance and faith.

For Reflection

  1. Would it bother you if your Lord's Day worship did not begin with a salutation? Why or why not?
  2. How is your worship made different because you know that God is with you? How should this affect your concentration? Your singing? Your prayers?

The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.

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