Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 23, 1956

Worship Of The Church

Bill Fling, Long Beach, California

"0 come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." (Psalm 95:7.)

These words apply to the church of the New Testament just as they applied to the Israelites of the Old Testament. The motives for the worshipping, bowing and kneeling are two-fold: (1) the sovereignty of God, our Maker, — "for he is our God," and (2) the blessings of the worshippers, "for ....we are the sheep of his hand." The Israelites were God's called out people before Christ, but now the Christians are God's called out people. We should realize and appreciate the blessings we enjoy, and show forth the praises of the Lord in reverent and solemn worship.

But the worship of the Almighty can not be just any form of worship. It must be proper and fitting if it is to be a tribute to the Maker of all the universe. But what would be proper and fitting in worship to God? Surely, he is the one to be pleased, and our religious whims or fancies may not be acceptable to him. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my ways, saith the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8.)

The only way, then, for us to know what God wants in worship is for him to tell us or reveal it to us. He revealed his will for the Israelites to Moses and the prophets. (Dent. 29:29.) But he has spoken to us today through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1:1, 2.) The New Testament then should inform us exactly what kind of worship is acceptable to the God of all the earth. Let us see.

In John 4:23, 24 Jesus gives us some important principles concerning the worship of the Father. "But the hour cometh, and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Notice that Jesus says the "true worshippers" — and that is the kind we want to be — will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. If we can understand precisely what this means and offer our worship accordingly, we will be pleasing the Father.

I. What is the meaning of worshipping in spirit? Other passages indicate that it means to worship with our own spirit or in our inner consciousness. Notice what this involves. Joshua 24:14 "Fear the Lord, and serve him in SINCERITY and in truth." 1 Samuel 12:24, "Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth WITH ALL YOUR HEART." Psalm 32: 2 "Blessed is the man .... in whose SPIRIT THERE IS NO GUILE." 1 Peter 3:4 ". . . a MEEK AND QUIET spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." From these scriptures, we learn that our ATTITUDE is important. We must not be rebellious, hypocritical, or indifferent. Some of the Corinthians, because of the wrong attitude, had worshipped unworthily, that is, in a manner not worthy of the Master's memorial supper. (1 Cor. 11:27-29.) To do this sacred act in an unworthy manner, according to Paul, is to eat and drink damnation to oneself.

Have you noticed that Jesus listed worship in spirit before worship in truth? This indicates that the attitude for worship must come FIRST. It would be useless to do exactly what God said if we had no spirit — no desire or hunger to praise and please him. It would be ritual without reverence — form without fervor.

The purpose of worship is to glorify God. He is the object of our devotions and it is he whom we strive to please. But there is a satisfying feeling in worshipping God in those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is the proper spirit that produces this "uplifted feeling." The publican "went down to his house justified" because he had the spirit of worship. He came to praise the Lord, the Pharisee came to praise himself. There has always been those who have had a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof.

But no matter how good our spirit may be in worship, it is not enough without Jesus' second requirement — truth. The frenzied pagans that bow before idols and scream to the moon certainly have fervor and zeal. Our acts of worship, the ritual and ceremonies, must come under the approval of God's word, the truth. (John 17:17.)

II. But what is the meaning of worshipping in Truth? It is to restrict our devotions to the things approved by Christ. All of God's word is truth, but in a special sense "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17.) And since God speaks to us today through him (Heb. 1:1, 2), we are to confine our acts of worship to "the doctrine of Christ." (2 John 9.) Now our question is; what acts of worship do we find in the New Testament that we may offer the Lord?

In the public assemblies of the church, we read of five different activities which may properly be called worship.

1. Teaching of God's word, the Gospel. Acts 20:7; 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:19.

2. Giving as God has prospered. 1. Cor. 16:2.

3. Praying. 1 Cor. 14:15; Phil. 4:6; Col. 3:17.

4. Singing. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15. You will notice that nothing is said of "playing on an instrument" or even singing with the accompaniment of one. Since the doctrine of Christ does not provide for them, we cannot "abide in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9) and use them.

5. Eating the Lord's Supper. Acts 20:7; 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16. The church of Jesus was to eat this memorial supper "in memory" of him "till he come." (1 Cor. 11:26.) It was observed in New Testament times only on the first day of the week, which was also the stipulated time for giving their contributions to the work of the Lord. '(Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2.) These Lord's Day assemblies, and other assemblies of the church were considered vital to the spiritual growth of the disciples — so much so they were commanded to be "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." (Heb. 10:25.)

The worship of the church, as we read of it in the New Testament is a pattern for us in the 20th Century. The church's worship then was designed by God to please God and it accomplished the desired purpose. If we can worship in spirit and truth as they did, we will not be vain worshippers but "true worshippers."

"For the Father seeketh such to worship him."