Because of the very fact that God created the universe and everything contained in it, God is worthy to be worshiped. As the apostle John reveals the vision he saw on the Lord's day (Sunday) of the throne of God, those around the throne exclaimed, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). The psalmist exclaimed, "Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created" (Psalms 148:1-5).
THE OBJECT AND NATURE OF WORSHIP
Because of the attributes of God, He is the only one worthy of worship. When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, the devil took Jesus up on a high mountain and showed Him "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:8-9). In spite of this temptation and claim to power Jesus said, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10). Since God is the only one worthy of worship, we must focus our worship only toward Him and only as He has instructed, neither adding to nor taking away from His instructions.
In John 4, Jesus was asked about worship by a woman of Samaria. Because of Jesus' conversation with her, she perceived that He was a prophet and said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20). Jesus seized the opportunity to teach the woman about worship and said, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 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 a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24).
Notice that Jesus taught concerning the "true worshippers" as opposed to false worshippers. Further He taught the object of worship—the Father, and He taught the proper way in which to worship the Father—"in spirit and in truth."
"In spirit" refers to the inner man. When worship is done "in spirit," it is done from the spirit or heart of man. It is not mechanical ritual or ceremonial worship done without thought. True worship proceeds from the heart, the will, the spirit of man in harmony with the Spirit of God.
"In truth" refers to that which is real and that which is opposed to error. True worship, therefore, is according to the truth of God's word. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Thus, only that worship which is done according to the word of God is acceptable to God.
In summation of John 4, we learned three vitally important aspects of worship. First, we must worship the Father. Second, we must worship the Father in spirit (the inner man) and in truth (according to God's word). Third, only the worship of the Father done in spirit and truth has divine approval and is thereby true worship.
FIVE ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP
After the establishment of the church, the church "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). This passage describes the first worship assembly of the church. This assembly took place on Pentecost which was always on the first day of the week. Therefore, as we consider the five elements of worship, they are done when the church gathers or assembles on the first day of the week. The importance of this assembly is seen in the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
From Acts 2:42, we find that prayer was a part of New Testament worship. Since the Christian's life is a life of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), it is only natural that prayers be made when Christians gather for the worship assembly. Prayer is said to be the most common expression of worship. The very nature of prayer expresses that God exists and that man is in need of God's help. When Christians assemble there are many things that can be prayed for. Christians can pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45); for laborers in the kingdom of God (Matthew 9:38); for escape from temptation (Matthew 26:41); for forgiveness (Acts 8:22-24); and for all mankind (1 Timothy 2:1). All Christians are to pray, but during the assembly God's design is for men (adult males) to lead the prayers. The apostle Paul recorded, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Timothy 2:8).
The Lord's Supper:
Before Jesus was crucified, He instituted the Lord's Supper. Paul recorded the account in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
Acts 20:7 says, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." Here, we learn that the church partook of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week as a part of their assembly. The following will help us to better understand the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's supper contains two elements—the bread and the fruit of the vine. Since the Jews were commanded not to have any leavening in their houses during the Jewish passover and because the institution of the Lord's supper took place during the passover, we can be sure that it was unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 gives this warning concerning the Lord's Supper, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul proclaimed, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." Because the command was given to Corinth as it was to the churches of Galatia, we understand this to be a universal command for all churches. Since it was to be done on the first day of the week, we know that this was a part of their worship service. This is the only provision that God gives for the support of the church and its work. Fund raisers of any type are not authorized by God for the support of the work of the church. Paul also exhorted that the motive behind our giving should be one of cheerfulness. He wrote, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In Hebrews 2:12, the writer of Hebrews quotes Psalms 22:22 to show that Christians are brethren with Christ. The writer testifies, "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Within this quotation, please note that singing praise took place in the assembly. Paul instructed in Colossians 3:16, "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." From these two passages we learn that there are two purposes in worshiping through song—praise and teaching.
Please remember that the Bible instructs us not to add to nor take from it (Revelation 22:18-19) and not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6 ASV). God's instruction is simply to sing. Therefore, we must not add to this simple instruction with mechanical instruments of music. The verse following Paul's instruction to the Christians in Colossae to sing reminds us of our responsibility to the authority of Christ. In Colossians 3:17 Paul wrote, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
Further, Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to "be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:18-19). In this passage by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul commands a specific instrument to be used—the heart. We must not substitute nor add to what God has instructed! This music of the heart is "the sacrifice of praise" and "the fruit of our lips" (Hebrews 13:15) done unto the praise of God and the building up of one another.
When the church gathered during the days of the apostles in the first century, they were instructed as to God's will for them. This instruction took two forms—preaching and reading scripture. The example of Acts 20:7 states, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." In Colossians 4:16 the Bible says, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."
The Bible makes clear what the message of preachers should be. Notice the following verses: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2).
"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11).
"And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Romans 10:15).
From the previous verse, the message of preachers should be God's divine word—the Bible. The message is not to be one of sociology or psychology to tickle the hearts of men (2 Timothy 4:3-4) but a message "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12).
Peter wrote to Christians saying "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). Thus, it is the responsibility of Christians "to offer up spiritual sacrifices." Those sacrifices are Prayer, the Lord's Supper, the Collection, Singing, and Preaching. When they are done from the heart according to all that God has delivered unto us in His word, they are "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Anything other than what God has instructed whether done in sincerity or not, is rebellion toward God and unacceptable worship. Let us, therefore, worship God "in spirit and in truth" for He is the creator of all; He is worthy to be worshiped; and "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Questions for Lesson 15
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