Introduction: Hillsdale University student David Wagner researched
the history of the use of the pipe organ in church worship. Wagner
reports that Thomas Brattle, a New England Puritan, died in 1713. He
left his pipe organ to the church, but the church rejected the gift
“believing it improper to use musical instruments in worship.” Was
the decision by the Puritan church a refusal to conform to the
world, a determination not to compromise its worship of God?
Apparently, in 1713 there was controversy over what kind of music
constitutes proper worship! Three hundred years later, the same is
true. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible to find out what it
means to “compromise” in worship!

  1. Examples of Sinful Compromise

    1. Read 1 Kings 11:4-6. What happened to Solomon in his old

      1. I thought you were supposed to get wiser when you
        got older! What caused Solomon to slip? (Read 1
        Kings 11:1-2. God told His people not to marry women
        who followed other gods. Solomon disobeyed and it
        weakened his faith in the true God.)

    2. Read 1 Kings 11:7-8. What is at the heart of false
      worship? (Building an altar to a false god, and
      worshiping it.)

    3. Read 1 Kings 18:19-20. What was the worship conflict
      which brought Elijah and King Ahab into conflict? (You
      may need to read the greater context, but it was whether
      Baal, Asherah or Jehovah was the true God.)

    4. Read 1 Kings 19:14-18. This is dialog between God and
      Elijah. What was Elijah’s wrong conclusion? (He thought
      that he, alone, was true to God. It turned out that at
      least 7,000 had remained true to God.)

      1. What was God’s test for dividing those who were
        still worshiping Him from those who had sinfully
        compromised? (Whether they “bowed down” or “kissed”

        1. What does it mean to “kiss” Baal? (Bowing down
          would be a formal act of worship. Kissing Baal,
          would indicate an affection for him.)

  2. Examples of Godly Compromise

    1. Read Deuteronomy 4:1-4. What are the two errors that
      God’s followers can make in their effort to avoid Baal
      worship? (They can tell people that practices which are
      not sinful are sinful, and they can tell people that
      sinful practices are not sinful.)

      1. Is one practice worse than the other? (Apparently
        both are a violation of God’s will.)

      2. When I was in college I wore a beard (and still do).
        One Sabbath, when visiting my girlfriend’s church, I
        was asked to lead the church in prayer. I agreed,
        which meant I sat up front during the entire
        service. It turned out that the sermon was about
        the sin of wearing a beard. The preacher ended his
        sermon with something like, “Fidel Castro wears a
        beard, and we all know what he stands for.” I was
        thinking, “What about the depictions of Jesus
        wearing a beard?” Was the preacher sinning when he
        gave his sermon?

    2. Read Luke 16:1-7. Is the manager a good man or a bad man?
      Has the manager compromised his principles to live a
      better life? (He is clearly dishonest, preferring himself
      to his master.)

    3. Read Luke 16:8-9. Who is the master? (Jesus is telling
      this story. He puts Himself in the place of the master)

      1. What does Jesus see as good in this story of
        dishonesty and betrayal? (That the manager is
        shrewd. Jesus says that His followers need to be
        more shrewd.)

    4. Carefully study Luke 16:9. What do you think is “worldly
      wealth?” (It must be the things the world considers
      valuable: money, beauty, influence.)

      1. What does it mean to “gain friends for yourself?”
        (Since “eternal dwellings” must refer to heaven,
        Jesus is telling us to use the tools of the world to
        win people to the gospel.)

    5. Read Luke 16:10-12. How is this an appropriate conclusion
      to the story we just read? (This makes absolutely no
      sense at first. The story makes just the opposite point!
      But, if we look deeper, we see that Jesus is teaching us
      in this parable that we need to be as smart (shrewd) as
      the world in bringing the gospel to others – and we need
      to use worldly wealth to do it.)

      1. What do you think is Jesus’ definition of
        compromise? (We compromise the gospel when we do not
        use all of our available means to advance the
        kingdom of heaven. We are untrustworthy servants if
        we fail God in this!)

    6. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. The apostle Paul explains his
      approach to winning others to Jesus. Is he a compromiser?

      1. Is Paul a hypocrite, believing one thing and doing

      2. What do you think Paul means when he writes “to the
        Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews?”

      3. Read Galatians 2:11-13. Wait a minute! Paul condemns
        Peter for becoming “like a Jew, to win the Jews,”
        right? Isn’t that what Paul just wrote that we
        should do?

        1. What difference do you see here? How do you
          explain Paul’s rebuke of Peter? (Peter is not
          trying to win new converts, the “men from
          James” were already Christians. The problem
          seems to be that Peter’s compromise is hurting
          the new Gentile converts.)

        2. What rule for promoting the gospel would you
          draw from Paul’s argument for compromise and
          Peter’s compromise? (Paul seems to say that in
          different situations he adapts himself to the
          culture to win others to the gospel. Peter is
          merely offending existing Christians.)

  3. Uncompromising Compromise

    1. Read Romans 14:1-4. I’m a vegetarian, so my faith must be
      weak! Read again 1 Corinthians 9:20. You smile when I
      write that I’m a vegetarian. What would your reaction be
      if I wrote “I am under the law?” One seems to be a
      harmless disputable matter (except I’m healthier!), while
      the other seems a serious theological error. How far
      should we take our willingness to compromise?

    2. Read Romans 14:13-18. Would you call what Paul is
      advocating here a “compromise?”

      1. What is Paul’s standard for an uncompromising
        compromise? (Do not do anything that hinders someone
        coming to faith.)

    3. Let’s see if we can reach some conclusions about worship.
      We learned that Jesus calls us unfaithful servants if we
      do not use the tools of the world to advance the gospel.
      We learned that Paul advocates conforming to different
      cultural (and theological?) views to advance the gospel.
      We learned that God tells us it is sin to prohibit things
      He has not prohibited (or to allow things He prohibits).
      We also learned that when Solomon brought in the cultural
      gods of his foreign wives, he sinned. Tell me what
      rule(s) for worship you believe God requires?

      1. Let’s move you back in time 300 years and apply your
        rule. You are on the Puritan Church Board which
        just learned Thomas Brattle has given you his
        valuable pipe organ. How should you vote?

        1. What if I added the fact that a number of
          people who had no interest in the Puritan
          church would come to church if they could hear
          some entertaining pipe organ music?

    4. Friend, my view is that God’s unwavering rule for worship
      is not to worship false gods. His secondary rule is to
      use our common sense and wisdom to adapt to the culture
      to advance the gospel. His third rule is avoid insulting
      those whose faith is weak – those who confuse their
      cultural preferences with God’s law. To best follow all
      of these rules, my advice is to worship in a growing
      church (one that is advancing the gospel)which has a
      worship style you like.