The regulative principle is simply the assertion that we must worship God in the way that he has revealed himself and the way he has commanded us to worship Him in His word. We need to worship God according to Scripture. Our worship needs to be directed by Scripture. The form and the content of our worship needs to be in accord with the Bible, informed by the Bible, and warranted by the Bible. It needs to be founded in the Scriptures. That is an emphasis that is so important today.
We live in a subjective age where people’s preferences are often the most significant, single, and identifying aspect of how we ought to worship: what kind of music you like, what kind of instrumentation you like, what kind of setting you like. If we understand that you can only know God as he reveals himself and that how you worship forms your understanding of God, then we understand that how you worship really matters in terms of who it is that you are worshipping.We need to worship God according to Scripture. Our worship needs to be directed by Scripture.
You do not set the terms on which you engage with God. God sets those terms. God determines how you come to him. As Jesus Christ put it, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” So that means, for instance, that worship is radically christological. You cannot worship God without coming to God through Jesus Christ. The form and the content of our worship services ought to show that.
God has to make the way for you. Again, how does he do that? God does that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Christ he deals with our sin that causes us to be under his just condemnation and to be separated from him. Through Christ he draws us to himself, saying, “Come. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Understanding the dynamics that God proposes the terms and God makes the way possible for us to worship Him is vital to understanding worship. If you think that you can worship in any kind of way and assume that as long as your heart is right that nothing else matters, you do not understand how radically word-centered worship needs to be. The regulative principle is simply designed to make sure that our worship is radically word-centered.