Worship is not unique to the Christian church. The fact that people do not naturally worship God does not mean that they are devoid of the inclination or need to worship. The Hindu is compelled to worship in the form of rituals and rites toward statues, paintings, and animals that represent their many gods. In like manner, the animists of Indonesia offer worship to nature, and perceived spirits of the dead. Of course, the western world offers worship at the feet of materialism, self, and celebrity. The Christian must be one who offers worship to God that is guided by what God has revealed about Himself, and what He has revealed about our responsibility toward Him in Scripture.
To understand the implications of offering worship one must understand what worship is. One must answer what worship is in regard to Christianity. Sadly, many Christians do not have a biblical understanding of why worship is so important to live lives in the service of God. The worshiper’s understanding of worship directly affects the way church will be done. Ultimately, the way church is done affects the way in which the unbeliever sees the church, and ultimately it will affect the way in which the individual views God in relation to themselves.
There are many different churches with many different styles of worship in the world today. Many western churches have taken the lead on fundamentally changing their worship identity. While these changes have not all been bad, the idea that an orderly worship service stifles the Spirit is becoming more and more prevalent. The apostle Paul did not think that order in the church was a bad thing (1Cor. 14:40; 16:1). God is the God of order, and if true worship is going to happen, it must happen in an orderly fashion.
Worship from the believer should be seen as coming face to face with God in the depths of the soul. It is important to remember that Jesus put great emphasis on worshiping God in a spiritual sense; “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24). This does not mean that worship is simple spirituality, but it is a relationship with God. The result of this relationship is an outpouring of love, adoration, and affection directed to the only One who deserves it. It is important to remember that our worship does not define God, but the believer worships because of who God is.
One of the first questions that children learn to answer in Sunday school catechism is “What is the sole purpose of man?” The answer, of course, is “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This question and answer formula informs churched children, from a young age, that God alone is worthy of worship, and that man was created for this very purpose. With corporate or religious worship in mind, the purpose of Christian worship is to give glory to the only living God.
One might ask, “Shouldn’t worship be an organic expression of love toward God?” To answer this question, we must look to the beginning, the law of our creation as Nehemiah Coxe put it so long ago. The worship of the most high and only true God is a part of His created order. We often think about and speak out against the baser human lusts and activities as being against the God ordained order of things, and this is true. However, when we fail in our worship, we are going against the Created order of God.
The very light of nature conveys to us the glory and splendor of the work of God’s hand. Psalm 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.
The apostle Paul speaks to the fact that all men have been given evidence of the glory of God through creation. Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
“Thou shalt have no other god before me,” is the first command of the Decalogue and it is the theme of the whole of God’s moral law revealed in the whole of Scripture. Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. Isaiah 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.
In His revelation to us of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus reveals to us our created purpose in His rebuke of Satan in Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ “
The angelic host understand very well what our created purpose is as shown in Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
The English word worship originally began as the compound word weorthscipe, which literally brought the middle English words “worth” and “ship” together. The Old English word scipe meant “shape” or “quality,” so worth-ship is the quality of being worthy. The word worship denotes the worthiness of an individual to receive honor in accordance with that individual’s worth.
Our Creator, the most high God is most worthy of all our praise, adoration, service, and honor. He alone is sovereign over all and our worship is to be given to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Savior instructed us in John 5:23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
The Lord also instructed us to progress the gospel of grace in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The gospel of the Lord Jesus is the redemption of man to the glory of the Triune Godhead. Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ means that by the grace of God through faith, we now are able to worship the only true and living God in Spirit and in Truth. Outside of the divine mediation of Christ Jesus, any religious worship we may provide is unacceptable before God. However, our worship of God is made acceptable to Him through His Son. This is very clear in the Lord’s teaching. Remember His exchange with the woman at the well? John 4:21-24
In John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Scripture is clear, and we need to understand that true Christian worship cannot happen outside of Christ Jesus, because it is in Him and through Him that we have any ability to acceptably come before the Father in praise and adoration. Salvation is key.
We are to worship the Godhead. We are to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However we cannot worship in Spirit and in Truth outside of the Divine intervention of The Lord. Any form of worship outside of Christ is like attempting to cover the smell of a rotting corpse with perfume, it makes it worse. Why is this? It is because any worship that comes from the unregenerate heart is always going to be idolatrous in nature.
Let us now address the “how” of worship. The “how” of worship is no small thing. There is an ever-growing trend within the evangelical church that would have us understand that the motive for worship is the only thing that matters to God. Nothing could be further from the truth as we find that God has established and instituted the righteous worship of Himself by His people. In fact, the mark of His people as holy is evidenced by the way in which they worship Him. Understand that I, nor does Scripture underestimate the motivation of the heart. However, Scripture is very clear on the difference between the normative forms of worship we see even today, and the regulative worship evidenced throughout redemptive history.
The New Testament uses two words when talking about worship. The first is the word is prŏskunĕō, and the second is lĕitŏurgia. The Greek word prŏskunĕō literally means to prostrate one’s self. This definition gives the idea that the worship of God should be done with great humility while submitting to His will. The word that is used to describe the order, or structure of a corporate worship service, is liturgy. This word comes from the Greek word lĕitŏurgia, which means “ministry” or “service.” In the New Testament, lĕitŏurgia is used in reference to the worship of the church and the ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:2; Heb. 8:6).
In the Old Testament book of the Psalms, the reader is pointed to the unworthiness of humanity in the light of the Glory of God. The Psalmist states, “Out of the depths have I cried to You, O Lord” (Psalm 130:1) denoting his own unworthiness and giving the reader the image of one who is lowly before the holy God. It is evident from this passage of scripture that humility, a humble spirit, is necessary for one to worship God.
This can also be exemplified through New Testament scripture, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1Peter 5:6). Through scripture, it can be seen that the physical act of worship before God must be accompanied by spiritual prostration. Our worship of God must evidence our deep reverence and love for the One Who has created us and saved us. The question we must constantly ask is whether or not our worship reveals spiritual prostration before God through Christ Jesus.
Normative worship is guided by cultural norms in which the people of God find themselves, and for our culture that means that it is steeped in emotional experiences. This can be seen in the majority of evangelical services even today. Order of Service, music, congregational participation, lighting, etc. is all geared toward the participants experiencing the gospel through emotion. The driving motivation is to make the unchurched feel at home so that they might be able to be persuaded that Church can be a positive thing in their lives.
Remember when Israel began to adhere to a normative form of worship? They began to include cultural aspects to the true worship of God. Hosea is a perfect example of a prophet decrying the fact that no longer did Israel or Judah claim Yahweh as the only one that they followed, but they incorporated foreign gods and idols into their worship, feasts, and festivities.
Thinking back to the woman at the well, the Samaritans’ worship very much fit their culture and yet the Lord said that they did not know what they worshiped. The issue was not that they were avoiding the worship of God, but that they were not worshiping Him according to the way that He had prescribed because they didn’t know Him in the first place.
God has regulated, to His people, the way in which we are to worship. For the Old Testament people of God, worship was highly regulated. The sacrificial system, the feasts, the special days, what the priests wore, and even what they were to do was part of a very intricate system that was ordained by God. Of course, we know that Jesus Christ the Lord is the fulfillment of this system, but that does not negate the fact that God has given us instruction concerning how it is that we are to worship. Motivation is not the only part of our worship. True worship is also positional, it contains actions motivated by the regenerate heart, and it is based in Scripture.
Taking Old Testament Israel as an example, I submit to you that the way in which we worship, the “how,” is extremely important. It is true, as we find in the book of Hebrews, that the Lord has fulfilled the forms of worship prescribed to Israel, but God has given us clear instruction for how we as His people in Christ are to worship. While the exact order of service is not given, we do see clear instruction when it comes to what is to be included in our worship. When it comes to worshiping God in Spirit and in truth, our corporate worship must include prayer, the public reading of God’s word, preaching, and the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
It is through prayer that we give the Lord thanks and rejoice in Him for all that He is done. Prayer is the action of one who is expressing faith in God and His ability to do all that He has promised to do. It is an expression of humble worship before the God of their Salvation. Colossians 4:2-3 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains.
The reading of Scripture, entering to the revealed word of God is to be a part of our worship. It engages the heart and the mind of all those who desire to better know the God of their salvation. 1Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Worshiping in Spirit and in truth requires that we engage in the preaching and hearing of God’s word. 2Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
May it be that our western brothers and sisters in Christ return to a biblical understanding on the seriousness and intentionality with which we as the people of God in Christ Jesus are to enter into the worship of our Creator.