What Is Worship? Acts 2c
Stephen Caswell © 2001
God Is Critic
Most people think of the church as a drama, Dr. James Kennedy said, with the minister as the chief actor, God as the prompter, and the laity as the critic. What is actually the case is that the congregation is the chief actor, the minister is the prompter, and God is the critic.
What is Worship? Some people believe it is a very mystical experience. Others feel that worship is an emotional experience. Some people believe that one must jump up and down and become physically involved to worship God. Yet, what is the meaning of the word worship? The English word worship is a shortened version of the word worthship. It means to give God what He is worth.
In the Bible this involves reverence and is often represented by the act of one bowing low to the ground or prostrating one's self on the ground. The worshipper would do this when they presented their offering or sacrifice. When God appeared to people in the Old Testament they usually fell on their faces before Him. This is still very appropriate when we worship God. In the New Testament worship conveys the idea of a priestly service to God. This is right since all believers are priests. True worship involves giving God what He is worth. Here is a description that I found regarding worship.
Definitions Of Worship
The worship of the Church, then, consists of individual, corporate, public, and private service for God which is generated by a reverence for and submission to Him who is totally worthy.
The Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We will look at the subject of worship under three categories. Firstly, Worship Reveals Devotion To God, Secondly, Worship Requires A Daily Experience With God, Thirdly, Corporate Worship Unites Us In Exaltation To God
Firstly Worship Reveals Devotion To God
The first thing we must realize that true worship is not centered on physical things. It involves our devotion to the Lord. True worship takes place when we acknowledge God's greatness and allow Him to have His rightful place in our lives. This kind of devotion doesn't need a particular place to show its expression. It requires the right attitude of heart and commitment of the will. Jesus taught the woman of Samaria this important lesson.
John 4:19-20, 23-24 The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. But Jesus said the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
a. In Spirit
Not Physical - The first thing that Jesus emphasized was that true worship is spiritual not physical. Too much attention is placed on physical things for worship. Many highlight buildings and places, special robes, crosses and censers, circumcision or sprinkling. They concentrate on what they can see, touch or smell. The early Church didn't have buildings like we do today. They met together in the woods or at the riverside. They met together in homes and sometimes at the temple. The place wasn't the important thing. The important thing was that they worshipped in spirit because God is Spirit. Philippians 3:2-3 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
Not A Ritual - By emphasizing the spiritual Christ was denying rituals. People so easily become obsessed with rituals. Some make the sign of the cross or say the rosary. Some people follow a code of rules for their conduct. Others pray a liturgy so often that they don't need their minds anymore when they pray. But Jesus said not to worship this way. He wants worship that is individual, reverent and thoughtful. God is pleased when we do things differently. He doesn't want robots that worship Him by remote control. That kind of worship requires no thought or preparation. It is cold and lifeless and God hates it.
Not Impersonal - True worship is person to person. The individual is very much involved in true worship. God doesn't want one or two to worship while the rest watch on as spectators. He wants us all to be involved. He wants us to meditate on what is said; To say amen when we agree. To pray throughout the services. To sing with our hearts and voices. Worship in the spirit is very personal. God hates worship that becomes a spectator event.
b. In Truth
God's Word Is Final - The second element of worship is truth. We must worship God according to the truth. He is not pleased if we worship Him in the wrong way. Nadab and Abihu lost their lives for not reverencing God when they served in the tabernacle. God has revealed Himself to us through the word. When Christians don't follow His will for exercising spiritual gifts God is displeased. He has ordained that things be done decently and in order. The Lord is not pleased when we worship Him differently to the manner He has prescribed.
God Hates Pretense - This means that the character of true worship must be genuine and without pretense. God hates insincere worship. When we sing praises to God do we really mean them. Mark 7:6-7 Jesus answered and said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me. Vain worship is giving lip service only to God. God has called us to serve Him and when we don't our worship is vain. When we stand up and sing take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee, do we mean it? Do we follow through with our commitment? Do we use all that we have for God's service? Or do we forget about it after we step outside the Church building? God hates pretense. He wants us to worship Him in truth.
God knows if our commitment to Him is strong or weak. If God is worthy of our worship do we honor Him with our gifts and offerings. God hates it when we give Him the leftovers. Malachi 1:7-11 You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, In what way have we defiled You? By saying, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts. But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us.
While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts. Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you, Says the Lord of hosts, Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations, Says the Lord of hosts.
God's name is great. He alone is worthy of our worship! But what kind of worship are we offering Him? Are we worshipping Him in spirit or are we concentrating on the physical things like buildings and places? Is our worship real and individual or are we focusing on ritual? Are we worshipping God personally or just as spectators looking on? Are you worshipping God according to truth? We can't con God, He knows if we are only pretending. He knows when we worship Him with our lips but not our lives. If we give God our second best, why should He bless us? Will He be happy with us? Was He happy with the people in Malichi's time when they gave blind, lame and inferior sacrifices to God? Real worship requires us to give God what He is worth. Is this your desire in worship?
Secondly Worship Requires A Daily Experience With God
Acts 2:42, 46-47 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
a. God Is Always Worthy
The Early Church worshipped God daily. Why? Why didn't someone tell them that they were being fanatical? After all Sunday is the day to worship, isn't it. It says so on the signs outside Church buildings. Worship Services 10:30 am and 6:00 pm. Why should we worship God every day? Because God is worthy of our worship every day. Unless we don't think He is worthy of being praised and exalted from Monday to Saturday. God doesn't change every Monday. He is still worthy of our praise, adoration and service from Tuesday through to Saturday too.
The Christians you meet in the Book of Acts were not content to meet once a week for services as usual. They met daily, cared daily, won souls daily, searched the Scriptures daily, and increased in number daily. Their Christian faith was a day-to-day reality, not a once a week routine. Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them, and His resurrection power was at work in their lives through the Spirit. They had the joy of the Lord in their lives every day.
Real Worship Begins At Home
In early America, home was a sanctuary of worship; the father was the priest of his own household; the open Bible was the source book for Christian worship, the textbook for his education, and the inspiration for the establishment of his political institutions. We have not outlived the need for the open Book, for the message of God in and through the family, and for the spiritual discipline of prayer. Perhaps we would be better people now if the home were still honored as a sanctuary of worship.
b. We Are Always God's Priests
When God saved us He saved us to serve Him. The Lord has called us into the priesthood. He wants us to serve Him. Under the Old Covenant the priests ministered before the Lord daily. We are to minister to the Lord daily also. 1 Peter 2:5, 9 You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. God wants us to worship Him daily through service.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. The word service latreia means religious service, spiritual service, or worship. Paul says that it presenting ourselves to God each day is our reasonable service. By this he means our service is not just external or physical. He means that it is spiritual service. God wants our whole lives to be lived for Him. Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result ... their life-styles resemble a cast of characters in a search plot.
Why should we worship God every day? Firstly, because He is always worthy of our worship! Secondly, God has called us to serve as priests. Priests serve continually. Is your life a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God? Are you Him giving your reasonable service?
Thirdly Corporate Worship Enables Us To Exalt Our God
The early Church united to exalt the Lord in a wonderful way. Although they did this through various means one thing was common, they gave God what He was worth. 1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. The content of their corporate worship was God's worthiness.
a. The Word Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
From the beginning the early Church put prime importance on doctrine. They studied the Word of God daily. We would do well to follow their example. Even though they didn't have their own Bibles that didn't stop them from learning it from others.
How much richer our Christian lives would be if we studied the Word of God daily. If we don't learn God's Word how can we share it with others? When you read the epistles you discover that the doctrine they learnt covered all aspects of the Christian faith. God has given gifted men to teach the Word to the Church. Today, He speaks through pastors, evangelists, teachers and encouragers. They share what God has revealed in His Word. Paul told Timothy to major on the Word. 1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
2 Timothy 4:2-3 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; When the Word is proclaimed God's worth is clearly revealed. This is worship.
Acts 2:42 says: And they continued steadfastly in prayers.
Prayer was practiced both individually and corporately. The Early Church were devoted to prayer. They continually praised God and gave thanks for His goodness. They prayed daily for the needs of the fellowship. As a result God worked miracles in their midst. Through prayer they obtained great boldness to preach the Word and people were continually being saved. Because of prayer God delivered them from prison and punished their enemies.
Prayer was vital to the effectiveness of early church. They practiced Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Jesus taught the disciples to pray for God's name to hallowed and His kingdom to come. God's worth should be shared in our prayers. Praise and thanksgiving proclaim God's worth.
Acts 2:46-47a So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
The New Testament encourages us to sing both privately and publicly. The content of our songs should be the greatness and goodness of God. Since worship is giving God what He is worth singing is very important part of worship. Of course we must be sincere when we sing. We should sing for all sorts of reasons. James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
Colossians 3:16 says: that we can teach one another the Scripture through song. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Psalms can be sung or read. Originally they were sung in the temple.
Do You Have A Song
Somehow, about forty percent of churchgoers seem to have picked up the idea that singing in church is for singers. The truth is that singing is for believers. The relevant question is not, Do you have a voice? but Do you have a song?
Acts 2:44-45 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
The New Testament says more about giving than any other single aspect of Church life. Giving to others serves as clear proof of one's love for God. The early Church practiced giving. They generously supported the needy in the fellowship. As time progressed Paul felt it necessary to set some guidelines regarding free will giving. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. Believers should give in proportion to the blessing which God has bestowed upon them. They should give cheerfully, regularly and liberally.
As we have seen recently fellowship means to have all things in common. Fellowship is centered around our love for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is central to Christian fellowship. Unless we are in a right relationship with God through Christ we cannot have Christian fellowship. Since we have studied this in depth already I won't go over it again now.
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
For the early Church the Lord's Table was a central part of the corporate worship and rightly so. The communion service reminds us of Christ's death, burial, resurrection and second coming. 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. This remembrance feast certainly proclaims our Saviors worth.
Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Like communion baptism exalts the Lord. Baptism is a public testimony of one's decision to follow Jesus Christ. A personal testimony of one's salvation through Jesus Christ glorifies God. This certainly proclaims Christ's worth to the watching world.
The Lord's Day
Although God wants us to worship Him daily we should also come together for corporate worship. To neglect the Lord's day is to slight Him, to blunt the testimony of the resurrection, and to miss the benefits of the ministry and protection of corporate worship.
A Prescription For Worship
Enter the place of worship a little before the service begins. Enter expectantly. God has promised to meet you there. Whisper a prayer. When the first hymn is announced, open your hymnal to that place. If you cannot sing, follow the words. Bow your head and close your eyes during the prayer. As you give, pray that God will accept the gift. During the special music, be attentive and prayerful. When the minister preaches, pray for him and listen attentively. Be silent; expect to sing or to say Amen!
There are many things believers can do in the corporate worship services. Sharing God's Word through reading and preaching is important. So is prayer and singing. The Lord's table and baptism can further enhance the services also. Giving and fellowship are also important. The Church meets together for both edification and exaltation. The one thing that all of these should have in common is that they proclaim God's worth. God is worthy of our worship.
Today we saw the subject of worship under three categories. Firstly, Worship Reveals Devotion To God, Secondly, Worship Requires A Daily Experience With God, Thirdly, Corporate Worship Unites Us together In Our Exaltation Of God. Do you worship God in spirit and in truth? Do you present your life to God daily as a living sacrifice? Is attending the services each Sunday with God's people a priority for you?
Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.