Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 14, 1954
NUMBER 35, PAGE 11-12b

Worship -- Some Basic Principles

Jack Meyer, Birmingham, Alabama

In our introduction, let us briefly notice the Old Testament picture of the theme of worship. In the Old Testament, the word suggesting worship, and used more than any other word on that subject, signifies "to bow down," "to prostrate," as in Exodus 4:31. The idea of "to serve" is also in many of the Old Testament passages, as in 2 Kings 10:23 and Daniel 3:28. The principle of reverence is involved, and the context will disclose whether the passage indicates merely a respect for an honored man or an attitude of sacredness toward God. Divine guidance is also an Old Testament essential, as in Genesis 24:26-27. Making and keeping of a covenant with the only God is in the Old Testament description, as in Exodus 34:12-16. Sacrifice also goes along with Old Testament worship, as in 1 Samuel 1:3. As you trace the doctrine of worship all through the Bible, you will find that these principles accompany the act of worship and are essentially bound up in the exercise.

With the foregoing basic approach to the subject, we now pursue our study under separate and major heads.

First, there must be the correct object of our worship. "For though there be that are called gods .... yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him." (1 Cor. 8:5-6) Since "there is.... one God," (Eph. 4:4-6) it is not surprising that the Bible says to "worship God." (Rev. 22:9) To worship an angel, any other supposed personal god, any person, or any worldly pleasure is to defy the foregoing scriptures, and veto the value of any worship offered to the only God, the God of the Bible.

Second, there must be the correct law, or standard, of worship. Jesus Christ said: "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) That is final. It is clear. Man is, then, not left to his own devices. The average man of America thinks that how he worships makes no difference, if he is honest and doing the best that he can. But Christ laid down a formula, by which man must be governed. In John 17:17 Jesus said: "Thy word is truth." The Divine Son of God thus defined truth as God's word. So, to worship in truth is to worship in, or according to, God's Word. Our bodies are to be offered to God as "holy, acceptable to God." (Rom. 12:1) That does not say: "Acceptable to each human being." That worship, or service, is to be "well pleasing to God." (Heb. 12:28) Even denominations are teaching people today that the form, manner, or way of worship is not essential, if the one who worships is sincere. But that doctrine is flatly contradictory to the passages of the Bible here quoted, plus many others. So, in your worship, it will avail nothing to consult your own pleasures. It is necessary to consult God's wishes.

God has made known His will in the Bible. From Exodus 20 until Christ died on the cross, He governed His people through the Law of Moses. It was abolished on the cross. (Col. 2:14) God intended it only as a temporary law, took it out of the way, and gave us the new covenant of Christ (Heb. 9:15), given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles as He guided them into "all truth" (John 16:13), by which last will and testament He governs people now (Heb. 9:15-17), which is the gospel that saves those who believe and obey it (Rom. 1:16-17; 2 Thess. 1:8), which is

recorded in the New Testament in words supplied by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:12-13) That is where God gives us the law for how we are to worship now. We do not, then, go back to the Old Testament for our specific laws, but obtain our correct law, or standard, of worship in the New Testament. The Old Testament is an inspired history of how God dealt with people in that day, but the New Testament contains the law by which He governs us.

Third, there must be the correct spirit of worship. "Fervent in spirit; serving the Lord," is the Divine directive in Romans 12:11. "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:27) Paul was there condemning the wrong thoughts, spirit, or attitude in that specific act of worship. But God would not refuse to accept a worship on one point if it was the wrong attitude, but accept the wrong attitude on another. Worship is worship. Here is a scripture showing the Divine displeasure at one who worships in form but not in sincere thought.

Right here many denominations get into profound confusion. They confuse the sacredness of the act of worship with the sacredness of the place. They tell you that, when you "enter the sanctuary," you should stop all talking, meditate, worship, "for," many of them say, "you are in the house of God." They do not know that the house of God is not a building, but the body of Christ, the church, composed of people — not just when they are assembled for worship. (1 Tim. 3:14-15) You may come into an auditorium, and sensibly converse and visit with people until the worship service begins, for that place is not sacred. But, when the worship service begins, then you should worship, for the act of worship certainly is sacred. People often make laws where God has made none.

Fourth, there must be the correct form. Stilted formalism is not a New Testament principle of worship. Nor is any set "order." But certain specific acts are required, and how they are done is also specified. For example, the Lord's Supper is commanded (1 Cor. 11:3 — 27) as a monument to Christ's death, and the pattern calls for its observance "on the first day of the week." (Acts 20:7) Preaching was in the service of the early church (Acts 20:7), but that preaching would be proper only as regulated by New Testament teaching. Prayer was in the New Testament assembly worship (1 Cor. 14:15 and 23), as was also singing. It would be sinful to pray in worship contrary to God's law, and it would be equally sinful to have any music except what the Lord specified. (1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Peter 4:11; Heb. 8:5) Financial contribution was commanded on the first day of the week. (1 Cor. 16:2) Whatever the New Testament commanded as to any of these acts of worship, the worship must be according to that pattern, else it is vain. (Matt. 15:9)

Fifth, there must be the correct motives. A recognition of God as the creator and giver of all that is good in life is basic. (Acts 17:24-28; James 1:17) All worship must, therefore, be offered from motives of gratitude and love. The love required in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 would certainly include love to God. Just as the desire to worship is natural to the human being, the loving worship of God out of a grateful heart is natural for one who fairly considers what God has done for mankind. Material blessings flow from him. He likewise makes available all spiritual blessings in Christ. (Eph. 1:3) It is true that "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4), and to worship Him from whom ALL blessings flow.