Another vital truth which each local assembly is obligated to maintain and practice is the presidency of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). This means that the Holy Spirit is the Representative of Christ in the church on earth. He is the One Who should be allowed to lead the people of God in prayer, praise and worship. He should have liberty to speak through servants of His own choosing according to the spiritual needs of God's people.
In I Cor. 14:26, we have a picture of a meeting of the early church in which there was this freedom of the Spirit. "How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
When the Spirit is thus free to lead, there will be spontaneity in teaching, preaching, worship and intercession.
Most of us realize that the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been greatly quenched by the introduction of ritual and liturgy. The use of printed prayers, of stereotyped messages for certain days of the "church calendar," of a prescribed order of service that must be followed without deviation-these things fetter the Holy Spirit in the meetings of the local church.
But we must guard against more subtle ways of quenching Him. For instance, we must guard against manmade rules in our worship meetings. In some places, there is an unwritten law that there must be no ministry before the breaking of bread. Or that the meeting must not go beyond a certain time. Or that in worshipping we must not dwell on our own sins or unworthiness. Or that we must sit or stand when praying or singing. All such rules quench the spirit of spontaneous worship and lead to formalism.
We often make a man an offender for a word. Perhaps a young believer will express thanks to God for dying for him. Must he be rebuked for this? We all know that God, the Father did not die. And doubtless the young believer knows it too. But in the self-consciousness of taking part publicly, he is apt to express himself poorly. Should he be made ashamed of his first, faltering act of public worship? Is it not better to hear his sincere though faulty adoration than not to hear it at all?
Generally speaking we believe that the Holy Spirit will guide the worship of His people along a certain theme. But suppose a brother gives out a hymn that seems to be quite unrelated to this theme. Must he be embarrassed for this? Is it not better to sing the hymn and pray that as he matures sufficiently to discern the theme in the meeting, he will do so without losing any of his warmth and affection for the Lord?
Which reminds us of a certain preacher who was asked, "What would you do if some brother gave out a hymn that was obviously not in the Spirit?" He replied, "I'd sing it in the Spirit."
As we seek to give the Holy Spirit His proper place in the assembly, let us beware of rules that quench Him and that kill spontaneity and unaffected worship.