Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

WORSHIP

The Greek word rendered "worship" in our English Bibles is proskuneo, which means to express extreme reverence or homage. Thus worship is expressing our appreciation for God. This article will look at worship on Sunday mornings.

The Mode of worship

We must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

To understand the meaning of worshiping in spirit, we note a few features of a spirit:-
  1. A spirit is not tangible/physical, but nevertheless, it is real. It is not supported by anything physical.
  2. A spirit is not the symbol or image of something else; it is the eternal, ultimate, deepest part of man
  3. The spirit of a man is that part of him that enables him to relate to God; it is different from his soul, the seat of his emotions.
  4. A spirit has no connection with sensuality.
  5. Each man has his own spirit, which is not a copy of that of someone else.
Thus worship in spirit has the following features:-
  1. It does not rely on physical props such as candles, decorated halls, etc.
  2. The people of Israel were asked to use an elaborate system of symbols in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, worship in spirit does not involve an elaborate use of symbols.
  3. It is not dependent on our emotions. If you worship God only when things go well, it means your worship is not in spirit.
  4. It has no sensuality. Beware of music, clothing or behavior that is sensuous. These may be appropriate elsewhere, but not in worship!
  5. Each Christian's worship should be unique, not a copy of the worship of someone else. There should be opportunity for each Christian to express his appreciation for God in his own words.
To worship in truth means to say the truth while worshiping. Thus, it is not appropriate to think: "I don't know if my song was theologically accurate; it's enough that I had a sincere heart". A truly sincere heart listen's to Christ's instructions about worshiping in truth.

The focus of worship on Sunday mornings

The focus of worship is God, but let's be more specific. A focus on God implies the following.

The focus should not be on us - our preferences. One song has about a dozen lines starting with "I just want to/I don't want to" - noble intentions no doubt, but Sunday morning is not the time to tell God and others what we want.

The focus should not be on us - our wretchedness. We certainly thank God for saving us from our former wretched state. But the focus should be on what God has done, not what we were. In the well known hymn Amazing Grace, the author John Newton rightly calls himself a wretch (he was not deceived into having self-esteem!) but the focus is on God's grace, not his wretchedness - good worship.

The focus should not be on us - our glory. In 1 Corinthians 11:3 we find that the head of the man represents Christ, and therefore, the man's head should be exposed (1 Corinthians 11:7). On the other hand, the woman's head and hair represent man and her glory, and so should be covered (1 Corinthians 1:11, 13). Note that Paul's reasoning has nothing to do with culture. The liberal Corinthian culture allowed women's heads to be uncovered, and Paul's Jewish culture demanded male heads to be covered.

There are many things other than female hair that can be flaunted (music, clothes, devices, jewelry, etc). If we flaunt things, we are ruining our Sunday morning.

The two great themes of scripture are creation and redemption. The Israelites were asked to worship on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8, Exodus 31:17) which was meant to commemorate creation. But the apostolic practice was to worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7), the day when the resurrection was revealed. Jesus asked us to remember his death and resurrection through the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:25). Thus, Old Testament worship focuses on creation (as you can also see from a cursory reading of Psalms), but New Testament worship should emphasize redemption. Since redemption is in view, and since this redemption was obtained at great cost and suffering of our beloved Lord, New Testament worship is solemn. The Passover meal included bitter herbs and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8); so it was not a "fun thing". Similarly, when we remember our passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), things are not hunky dory. 

Who worships on Sunday morning?

All true Christians are priests in a spiritual sense (1 Peter 2:9). This means that all ought to worship. There are no different roles prescribed for the leaders of the church and the rest of the congregation. In some churches, worship involves a stage with action going on, and an audience. Someone may be leading the music/singing, etc. and everyone else looks at them. The leaders are giving something to the people - or at least, claim to be leading the people in offering up their worship to God. But this contradicts 1 Peter 2:9. The "audience" is as much a priest as the "worship team" or "priest" and therefore it is wrong for the former to be "led" by the latter. Anyone should be able to suggest a song, or express his adoration to God in prayer. A seating arrangement with every one surrounding the table with bread and wine reflects the fact that all true Christians are equal worshiping priests, worshiping Christ, who is at the centre. The only legitimate difference in roles is the one actually prescribed by scripture: the women must worship silently (1 Corinthians 14:34) and the men audibly.

For the same reason, "liturgies" are wrong. There is no use in saying, "But I meant the words I recited!" God is not interested in you meaning the words that someone else has composed - that's like Israelites offering stale bread and old animals (Malachi 1:7-9). God the Father (who gave His Son for you) wants to know what YOU have to tell Him about Jesus Christ. The "sacrifice of praise ... fruit of our lips" (Hebrews 13:15) suggests something original that takes effort - in our own words. "Liturgy" is not the fruit of your lips. It is the fruit of some ancient person's lips. Joseph, who is a type (foreshadowing symbol) of Jesus Christ told his brothers: "You shall tell my father of my glory in Egypt" (Genesis 45:13). Do you think Joseph wanted ten of his brothers to recite what the eleventh expressed?
 
It is one thing for a "priest" to decide that such-and-such would be the "liturgy" that the "laity" will "recite" on a particular Sunday. It is a completely different thing for one of the church members to think, "This past week I've been thinking a lot about the greatness and uniqueness of the cross...look at this song" and then stand up and say, "Brothers and sisters, let us sing 'When I survey the wondrous cross...' and use it to focus our thoughts on the magnificent work that the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross of Calvary". Notice that although the hymn has been written by someone else, our church member deliberately chose this hymn out of hundreds of others on the basis of his original meditations on Christ.