August 24, 2008 Q & A

Are "Public Worship" and "Corporate Worship" the same?


Both the OPC and the PCA use the term Public worship in their Book of Church Order. However, occasionally I have heard of Corporate worship. I also found some theologians such as R.B Kuiper (The Glorious Body of Christ) and Edmund Clowney using Corporate worship in their writings.

When we designate the Lord's day worship service, I would want to know whether these two terms are interchangeable or to be used discretionary. What then is the main difference of these two terms?

Thank you for your help.


It is my opinion that the two designations that you asked about (Public Worship and Corporate Worship) are virtually synonymous.

At the time of the writing of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the worship of God by the congregation of God's people was always (as far as I can determine) referred to simply as "public worship." The use of the other designation (corporate worship) by such theologians as R. B. Kuiper and Edmund Clowney was probably chosen to avoid possible connotations of the word "public" that are not desired, and to focus on the fact that the specific worship these men were concerned with in what they were writing is the worship of the assembled congregation of the Lord's people. That is also precisely what the older writers were thinking of when they spoke of "public worship."

I hope this brief answer is of help to you.



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