elder observed: “The single most important activity of the Christian
life ... is faithful and spiritual worship” (Layton).
Another brother wrote that Christian worship is remembrance,
presence, and future (Willis).
Another writer exhorts us to have worship assemblies that are
holy, helpful, [and harm-warming] (Root).
Today's sermon will address the subject of
Christian worship, and it is divided into eight parts: definitions
of worship, foundations for worship, differences in worship, examples of
the worship assembly, attitudes towards the worship assembly, purposes
of the worship assembly, activities during the worship assembly, and
suggestions for the worship assembly (you can add this last one to the
back of your bulletin).
look first at some definitions of worship.
Our English word comes from two parts: the first syllable means
“worthy” and the second syllable means “a quality.”
Worship means that its object has a quality that is worthy, so to
worship God is to acknowledge that He has an excellence that is worthy!
Of course, the Greeks were a little more precise, they had five
words that dealt with worship. The
first word meant to bend the knee towards, the key idea is submitting.
The second word meant to kiss the hand towards, and the key idea
is adoring. The third word
meant to gain wages for a service, and the key idea is serving.
The fourth word meant offering gifts, and the key idea is giving.
The fifth word meant to announce something, and the key idea is
affirming (Bromily PEB). So
when we worship God, we are: realizing our lowliness, adoring His
greatness, serving His will, giving our energies, and affirming truths
about Him. Not one of these
five definitions should be elevated in importance over the rest; they
all together help to define worship.
let's look at some foundations for our worship of God.
First of all, God's nature determines how He is worshiped.
Jesus affirms in John 4:24 that God is a spirit, and He must be
worshiped in spirit (or spiritually, in any physical place) and in truth
(genuinely). John affirms
that God is light (1 John 1:5), so our worship must be done in
righteousness. John also
affirms that God is love (1 John 4:8), so our worship must be done with
love for Him and for one another. Peter
affirms that God is holy (1 Peter 1:16), so our worship should come from
lives of holiness. The book
of Hebrews affirms that God is living (10:31), so our worship should be
with a faith that believes He continues to be active.
Secondly, Jesus' work determines how God is worshiped.
We know that Jesus' blood established a new covenant, sanctified
a new people, and opened a new way to approach God (Hebrews 9-10).
Because of Jesus' work, we can approach God not only with
lowliness but also with boldness (Hebrews 4:16).
let's look at some differences between pagan, Jewish, and synagogue
worship and Christian worship. Pagan
worship in the ancient world meant: a temple with a statue, an altar,
the sacrifice of an animal, and a priesthood.
Now Jewish worship included the same elements, except there was
no statue of God. The
temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish nation.
The synagogue worship probably began during the time of the
exile. Ten Jewish male
worshipers could establish a synagogue, and no priest or sacrifice was
required. Its elements of
worship included; a summons to worshipers and their response with a
blessing, the singing of psalms, affirmations of God's love for Israel,
formalized prayers, readings from the law and the prophets with a sermon
on how to understand and apply those passages, and sometime alms were
given for the poor. This
order of these activities was pretty fixed.
In Christian worship, we see these differences.
First of all, the “essential elements of both pagan and Old
Testament worship—[an altar], a sacrifice, and a priesthood—were
seen as being fulfilled in Jesus” (Ferguson).
All worship is done with reference to Christ as the center point
(therefore, a worship centered in an earthly temple with an altar, an
animal sacrifice, and a priest has been removed and is no longer
required). Aren’t were
thankful for that! Secondly,
Christian worship puts no emphasis on the place of worship; wherever
believers gathered became a place of worship.
Thirdly, the church was seen metaphorically as the new temple
which was filled with God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Fourthly, Christian worship appears to be much more spontaneous
than that of the previous types. It
is certainly closer to the type of worship in the synagogue than to that
of the temple. Spontaneous,
however, should not be equated with “loosey-goosey” and “anything
goes” because Paul told the Corinthians that all the activities during
their worship assemblies should be done decently and orderly (1
Corinthians 14:40). The
order in which Christians did their worship activities seems more
let's look at some examples or proofs of the worship assembly.
“The word worship in the New Testament covers all the Christian
life as well as the Christian assembly (Ferguson).
Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that presenting our bodies as living
sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, is our reasonable service or
spiritual worship. This
teaching, however, does not make the assembly for worship less important
but serves to make the Christian existence sacred or holy in all its
expression. Our worship to
God happens everyday and is not just limited to the times we are in this
building. Private worship
is important but so is the communal worship that takes place when we
assemble. In fact, there
are several expressions in the New Testament that emphasize the
importance of the worship assembly: believers often “came together”
(1 Corinthians 11:17 and 14:26), they “gathered together” (Acts
11:26 and 20:7), they “assembled” (Acts 12:12), and they came
together “in the same place” (Acts 2:47).
Although translations differ some in how they word these
expressions, all these passages show that the early Christians were
together in meetings and that those meetings were important to them.
You see, “Christianity is not a private religious experience”
(Ferguson). As someone has
said: “There are no Lone Ranger Christians.”
The assembly of Christians is a part of their total service to
God. To be a church means
that we must assemble. A
church may have poor programs and other weaknesses and still survive,
but a church that does not meet together for worship will not survive.
The assembly allows the church to show its true nature—it is a
redeemed community, separated from the world, reconciled to God and one
another, a body of believers with a life of its own which looks back to
God's historical acts and looks forward to Jesus' coming again.
Sure, you can technically worship by yourself under a tree by the
lake, but you cannot do that and be the church.
When a member willingly does not come to the worship assembly,
that person is not erring against an institution but is sinning against
his brothers and sisters to whom we all owe our mutual edification and
fellowship. We all need
each other. Paul says in 1
Corinthians 12, that each member of the body is indispensable!
From the New Testament, we see churches that are mentioned in at
least 15 named places. Lastly,
although the places for the assemblies varied, there was a specific time
for the worship assembly. Acts
20:7 tells us that the disciples came together on the first day of the
week to break bread or partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, met with His
disciples after His resurrection on Sunday, and the church was
established on Sunday, it became the day of the worship assembly.
So we’ve seen expressions about, specific places for, and a
special day of the worship assembly.
These are examples or proofs of the worship assembly.
let’s examine some attitudes towards the worship assembly.
Some improper attitudes towards worship are seeing it as a
bargaining chip, a spectators' sport, a formal ritual, or a spiritual
high. The bargaining chip
attitude sees worship as a means to force God’s hand or to bribe God
into blessing the worshiper. We
are not really doing God any favor by approaching Him in this
egotistical manner. The
spectators' sport attitude sees worship as a performance where those
participating up front during the worship are on the stage and the
worshipers are the audience who give approval or disapproval of those
performing. In true
worship, however, God is the audience, and all of us are the actors.
The formal ritual attitude sees worship as a checklist of acts to
be routinely followed as a legal requirement of law-keeping.
If worship is not motivated by love, then it cannot be forced by
law (Jividen). One elder
has rightly observed, “Rigid order, unfailing in its sameness, and
worship by rote and ritual cannot transform human hearts; moreover, the
only difference between some worship services and some funeral services
is the smell of the flowers” (Layton). The spiritual high attitude
sees worship as an experience that must stimulate moods and create
emotional excitement in order to make a person feel emotionally awed,
uplifted, and recharged! To
come for worship to be impacted usually means that a person is very
passive and very shallow in their commitment to others.
Another elder has correctly observed, “Worship is secularized
[or made worldly] when the focus shits to the enhancement [or
entertainment] of the worshipers” (Ferguson).
Proper attitudes towards worship are: purity, humility,
thanksgiving, joy, unity, and expectancy.
Purity—We saw in our survey of the prophets that God did not
want the Israelites’ worship if they were living immoral lives and
treating others dishonestly and unfairly.
Jesus admonished us to be reconciled to our brother before coming
to worship (Matthew 5:23-24). Let
us lift up our worship with holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8)!
Humility—“Before the Creator of all things, we as His
creatures can only be humble and recognize our dependent condition.
It is only by God’s mercy that we live, and move, and have our
very being (Acts 17:28). Thanksgiving—“But
thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57). “As
you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him …
abounding in [what you have been taught] with thanksgiving”
(Colossians 2:6-7). Let us
approach God with hearts full of gratitude!
are joyful because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), and our
lives have been transformed for the better (Romans 12:1-2)!
Let us render joyful praise for all the blessings that God has so
richly lavished upon us! Unity—No
more racial barriers, no more social barriers, no more gender
barriers—all people can be united in Christ and worship Him with one
voice (Romans 15:6)! Expectancy—“Now
may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that
you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans
15:13)! Hope is desire plus
expectancy. We come to
worship with anticipation that God will work and lives will be changed
for the better! Proper
attitudes towards worship are: purity, humility, thanksgiving, joy,
unity, and expectancy.
let’s look at the purposes of the worship assembly.
Not everything acceptable in other contexts has a place in the
worship assembly. Paul said
to the members at Corinth that meals to satisfy their hunger could be
eaten “at home” while THE meal to satisfy their souls, the Lord’s
Supper, should be eaten after they had all assembled together (1
Corinthians 11:17-34). Some
specific purposes of the worship assembly are: glorifying God,
manifesting the church, edifying one another, expressing fellowship,
impressing unbelievers, and commemorating and proclaiming salvation.
Glorifying God means adoring God, exalting God, and reflecting
His character in our assemblies (Ephesians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33).
Manifesting the church means that when we gather together for
worship, we show forth that the assembly is really being the church by
meeting and by doing distinctive activities associated with the worship
assembly. Hopefully, our
meeting together will shape our character and make visible our unity
(Gal. 3:26-28). “The most
extensive discussion of the worship assembly in the New Testament is
found in 1 Corinthians 14,” and here we find that seven time Paul uses
edify or build up as the purpose of worship (Ferguson).
In this context, edification comes through teaching, and
learning, and understanding. Everything
done in the worship assembly should contribute to building up the
members. 1 Corinthians
14:26 simply states: “Let all things be done for edification.”
The worship assembly should promote the ‘body’ life or
fellowship of the church (Acts 2:42).
Also Hebrews 10:25 states that meeting together was a time for
“stirring up love and good works and encouraging one another.”
Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 of unbelievers who will be
at the worship assemblies and who can be properly impressed towards
becoming Christians through the orderly activities during the worship
assembly. During the
worship assembly, we commemorate the sacrifice for salvation through the
Lord’s Supper and we proclaim the offer of salvation through
preaching, singing, and baptism (1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and Romans
10:17). Some specific
purposes of the worship assembly are: glorifying God, manifesting the
church, edifying one another, expressing fellowship, properly impressing
unbelievers, and commemorating and proclaiming salvation.
let’s quickly look at some of the activities during the worship
assembly. Those acts are
partaking of the Lord's Supper, praying, singing, giving, preaching and
reading the Scriptures. Someone
has rightly observed that the Lord's Supper was the central act of the
weekly assemblies in the early church.
During the partaking of the Lord's Supper, we look inward to
examine ourselves, we look outward to our redeemed brothers and sisters,
we look backward to the cross, and we look forward to Jesus' coming
again (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The
New Testament gives at least four examples of prayer in a worship
assembly (Acts 4:23-32 and 12:12, 1 Corithians 14:14-15; 1 Timothy
2:1-2). According to the
last passage, men are to lead these prayers, voicing corporate concerns
and making affirmations of truth about God.
Singing was an activity in the worship assembly (1 Corinthians
14:15; Colossians 3:16). Through
singing, we confess our faith, preach Christ, strengthen one another,
express our emotions, and show our unity.
A brother has noted: “Musical instruments occur in the New
Testament as part of everyday life and as illustrations (Matthew 9:23
and 1 Corinthians 13:1), but they are never mentioned as part of the
worship assemblies” (Ferguson). Another
brother has rightly noted that in contrast to the many reference to
musical instruments for Jewish
worship, the silence to any references for Christian worship is
deafening (LaGard-Smith)! The early church was a giving church (Acts
4:34-35 and 11:29-30). Congregational
giving is described as an act of fellowship and spiritual sacrifice
(Philippians 4:15-18). The
goal of preaching and reading Scriptures is “to present every man [or
person] perfect [or mature] in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: “... give attention to
[public] reading, to exhorting, and to doctrine [or teaching]” (1
Timothy 4:13). We assemble
to hear God's Word. The
activities of the worship assembly are: partaking of the Lord's Supper,
praying, singing, giving, preaching and reading the Scriptures.
here are three suggestions for our worship assemblies.
First of all, dress for greatness!
Once at York College, we had a congressman who come to our
campus, and most of the students at our chapel were dressed very neatly.
Why? They wanted to
show their respect to this great politician and former football coach.
Now if we respect God and consider Him great, let's dress neatly
and modestly as well. Dress
for greatness! Secondly, do
your part! Many of us have
been assigned ways that we can help with the worship assembly.
Please, take your assignments seriously and do your part.
If you can't do it, then please find someone else to cover for
you. Doing your part will
make our worship assembly a great blessing.
Lastly, make it heavenly. If
heaven is the main dish, then our worship assemblies are the appetizers.
There will be no races, no ages, no economic levels, no social
positions, no snide remarks in heaven.
Well, why can't we try to look beyond these things in our worship
assemblies as well? May
love, cheerfulness, encouragement, and gentleness pervade our worship
assemblies! Let's try to
make them as heavenly as possible!
By the way, if you have some more suggestions for improving our
worship assemblies, please communicate them.
A church leader said, “I wish a fourth of our members would perk up, another fourth would cheer up, another fourth would grow up, another fourth would ‘fess up, and all would never give up!” (modified Layton). Let us not worship in vain (Matthew 15:9), nor in ignorance (Acts 17:22-23), nor with self-imposed innovations (Colossians 2:23), but let us worship with reverence, godly respect, and brotherly impartiality (Hebrews 12:28; James 2:1-13)! One brother proposes that our motto for worship should be: “Biblical in teaching, conservative in practice, and liberal in love.” “O worship the King, all glorious above, and gratefully sing His wonderful love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender! How firm to the end! Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!” So when we worship God, we are: realizing our lowliness, adoring His greatness, serving His will, giving our energies, and affirming truths about Him for truly His excellence is worthy! Will you make this splendid God your Lord and begin worshiping Him at every worship assembly or will you repent if you have forsaken the assembly for some time and need to restart? If so, won't you let your request be made known ...