What Exactly Is Christian Worship?
In Search of a Biblical, Theological, and Practical Definition for the Practice of Worship
What Exactly Is Christian Worship? © 2006 by Bradley Robert Berglund. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address:
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Part 6 of 8
(For earlier chapters, click on my name next to my picture above)
Quartets Need Not Apply
The definition of worship provided above is simple, but when examined in the light of scriptures there are additional profound doctrines worth exploring.
Worship is Trinitarian in character. Key to Christian theology is the doctrine of the trinity: three persons and one God at the same time. In His work, God does it all, but each member of the trinity serves in a unique capacity. God the Father is the origin of all. Everything God does comes FROM God the Father. Jesus Christ is God the Son. He serves as the channel of God’s activities. All things come THROUGH the Son. Finally, God the Holy Spirit is the energizing person, and thus all things come BY the Holy Spirit. Nowhere is this pattern more evident than in worship, and for this reason the current definition of worship is triune in its arrangement. God the Father is the origin of all worship. He has declared that true worship today be expressed through the person of His Son. Jesus is God’s prescribed object of worship. Salvation is found in none other but Him. Prayer is offered in Jesus’ name. So, too, every cup of water is given in His name. God has ordered that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. The energy behind love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance is the person of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Every act of worship is mandated by God the Father, channeled through God the Son, and energized by the Holy Spirit. The Bible challenges us to “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh - Philippians 3:3.”
To illustrate this principle, imagine sitting in an orchestra hall awaiting a concert from a professional orchestra. The program lists the producer in the credits. He is the one who makes everything possible. He chooses the auditorium, determines the program, hires the musicians, and does many other things that are taken for granted when the concert begins. Were it not for his vision and activity, none of what takes place would happen. Such is the role of God the Father. The conductor enters to the applause of the audience. Tonight’s concert is a special treat because the conductor is also the composer of the music. Therefore, the headliners of this concert are found in one person. This is the role of God the Son. He has preeminence in all things. The conductor raises his baton. As he waves his hands, the instrumentalists all energize the instruments in a skillful way. This is the role of the Holy Spirit. He gives life and voice to the clarinet, the trombone, the cello, and the timpani. The one who worships is the instrument in His hand. The audience is incapable of appreciating the concert without those instruments. The instrument becomes the tool which makes the diligence of the producer, the genius of the composer, and the skill of the artist apparent to the audience. The more the instrument yields, the greater the glory is for the Godhead.
The last phrase of Philippians 3:3 is critical to a definition. In worship, we have no confidence in the flesh because God is not looking to make worship a divine quartet. It is not the triune Godhead plus us. The potter is not asking the clay for input (Jeremiah 18:6). As important as man is, worship is about God, not about him. It is not about how the good the instrument feels after the concert. Sometimes the instrument is spent to the point of exhaustion. Even more damaging to the ego of man is the fact that God is not dependent upon him in any way for praise and glory. Man is not the singular instrument which God uses for worship.
Before man was created, the angelic hosts were engaged in whole-being worship. The seraphim were literally on fire for God. After a revolt, the angelic hosts divided into two uncompromising groups: one completely devoted to God and the other completely antagonistic toward God. There are no moderate angels. Thus, man is not alone in this activity of glorification (Revelation 5:8-14). He sounds in symphony with the elect angels. God, in His divine wisdom, desired more than one type of voice to witness His works and sing His praises. While both men and angels are sentient beings, disciplining their wills to sound in harmony with the conductor, their voices are as different at the strings and the brass in the orchestra. When men refuse to follow the conductor and begin to improvise or jazz things up independently to please the audience, they are not only out of step with other human worshipers; they are also out of sync with the angels in heaven. Religious pride turns divine harmony into devilish cacophony. Man is critical to worship, but he is not the exclusive standard by which proper worship is measured. The conductor, who sees the bigger picture, is the only person who is capable of truly knowing what is right and what is wrong. For our worship to be all that God expects, we must follow the leader.
God has one other voice of praise. This may not be sentient as men and angels are, but it nevertheless hears, obeys, and responds to the voice of God. Creation and nature also glorify God. On the first day of creation, God created light. That which had no ears or feet sped to do the will of God. The stars appear on day four. The light from the Andromeda galaxy which is about 2 million light years from earth sped faster than the speed of light to do God’s will. For what reason did this happen? Was it so that scientific man might find cause to deny the legitimacy of God and His self-revelation? Of course not! Andromeda is testimony to the vastness of God and His ability to do the miraculous at His own pleasure. Miraculously, the wind and the waves obeyed the voice of Jesus (Mark 4:39-41). While there was a very practical reason for this event, the fullest purpose was to affect the minds of the disciples to marvel and wonder at the deity of One whose command can cause that which has no ears to submit to His will as a servant. Science ought to be the greatest tool to humble man and enable him to recognize the existence of God. It is not about the creation of man-made inventions; rather, science is about the discovery of the order which God placed in His creation from the very beginning and then utilizing that knowledge to the glory of God. For this reason, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.”
For other messages and illustrations see Pastor B archives