Gathering To Rehearse the Gospel–Bryan Chapell

by Rick Pidcock

Thursday morning’s general session was led by Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, and author of the books Christ-centered Preaching, and Christ-centered Worship.

The topic for his session was “Gathering to Rehearse the Gospel.”  He began by saying that when the gospel is honored, God’s people are united.

Dr. Chapell’s text was taken from Isaiah 6:1-8, which says,

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Dr. Chapell shared a very compelling example of Bach wanting the gospel to shape his music.  In one case, Bach started with strings and flutes in G Major (one sharp) to signify the Shepherds.  Then the key changed to D Major (Two sharps) to signify the angels.  And then it progressed downward to G Major (one sharp) for the Shepherds, C Major (no sharps) for the Manger scene, and A minor to signify the Creator God emptying Himself.

Dr. Chapell’s point was that the message of the gospel should shape your music.  So he asked, “Does the contours of your worship fit the contours of the gospel?”

1. God begins with the glory of God.

Marks of God’s Glory

The first mark of God’s glory that Dr. Chapell pointed out from the text was the sovereign revelation of Who God is.  The prophet Isaiah stated, “I saw the Lord.”

The second mark of God’s glory in this passage is the separate, holy nature of God.  Holiness means that God is untouched by the taint of the world.  Dr. Chapell did a very thorough job of opening our eyes to the wonder of God’s holy nature that is set apart from the values and system of the world.

Measure of God’s Glory

Dr. Chapell pointed out that even the angels could not bear the holiness of God.  Words could not contain the holiness of God.  As long as He sits on the throne, His holiness will endure.  And He will sit on the throne forever.  We see God’s holiness as a tempest in a temple that shakes the earth, and brings a prophet to his knees.

Effects of God’s Glory

Isaiah was devastated and ruined at the sight of God’s holiness.  He could not join in the angels song because he was not worthy.  And in fact, there is no one that can stand in God’s holiness.  None are worthy to sing of the holiness of God.  And as a result, worship that is concerned with God’s glory leads people to humility before Him.

Dr. Chapell said,

“Glory revealed leads to humility by necessity.  Worship that prioritizes God begins with God.  If we do not see our sin for the horror that it is, then we do not see God’s glory for how great it is.”

Then Dr. Chapell made the most profound statement that I have heard this entire conference.  He said,

“The great glory is holiness transcendent.  But the greater glory is holiness transferred.”

2. Glory leads to grace.

The Marks of Grace

The mark of grace in this text is that the infinite becomes intimate.  Isaiah said that a seraphim “flew to me and touched me.” Dr. Chapell said,

“The Bible is not a parade of pageantry, but rather a march of intimacy as God comes closer and closer throughout history to His people, and then by His Spirit, to dwell within them.”

The Measure of Grace

The same glory that drove the angels away was enough to bring us into His presence, and then infuse His presence into us by grace.  Dr. Chapell explained that what we see taking place in this passage is “The sweet burning of a divine kiss by the work of the altar touching your lips, making them pure, and allowing you to sing with the angels, ‘holy, holy, holy.”  And as a result, the worshiper is made ready to serve.

The Effects of Grace

Very simply, grace leads to mission.  God is telling us, “You’ve seen the glory.  You have the grace.  Now live it.”

Our mission is to praise Him forever and call others to praise Him forever, even before the hosts of heaven.  And this is what the believing heart longs to do.

Dr. Chapell then explained how Bach, who had musically through the key of A-minor reflected the humility of God being brought low, then began to walk back up through the keys, adding glory upon glory, as the Shepherds spread the news of the gospel, uniting heaven and earth once more.



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