October 28, 2012
In this issue: Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 3 by David Hersey
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There is a sense of worship in all the service we do for God and this has mistakenly lead many people to the mistaken conclusion that all life is worship to God. We associate and rightly so, the concept of sacrifice being a part of worship. And scripture plainly teaches this from the front to the back. One cannot separate worship from sacrifice, the two are intertwined and cannot be separated one from the other. There is no doubt that sacrifice was inextricably bound to OT worship. Under NT worship, our sacrifices are more of a spiritual nature as we see in 1 Peter 2:5, “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.“ We see also in Hebrews 13:15-16 that, “By him [referring to Jesus], therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, (there is that sense of a continual worship again), that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.“ There’s those spiritual sacrifices that Peter referred to in the previous verse of scripture.
Jesus accomplished the atoning work of sacrifice with His death on the cross, so we today don’t have to offer blood sacrifices. But when the Israelites were done with the atoning sacrifices, they approached God and offered spiritual sacrifices in the form of singing, praise and thank offerings (2 Chronicles 29:30-31). The sacrifices were not over for the Israelites when the atoning sacrifice was finished. They then approached God and offered additional sacrifices and worshipped. Read with me in 2 Chronicles 29:31 concerning their worship after the completion of the atoning sacrifice, “Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings.“ Focus on those words “come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings.” Hezekiah told the Israelites to come near, to approach God. The Israelites could not come near and approach God until after the atoning sacrifice. God’s presence was in some fashion understood to be inside the temple behind the veil in the most holy of holies and the Israelites were not allowed to draw near to God’s presence without that atoning sacrifice. Now today, that atoning work has been accomplished through the once for all time sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Today, we can approach God without having to first offer a blood sacrifice. Jesus did that for us. What we need to take from this is that now, under the New Testament we can “Approach God.” Worship is about approaching God. There are a number of ways that we accomplish this. We can, and are commanded to approach God through Christian service on a continual basis such as prayer, confession, benevolent good works, etc, etc and these things are a type of service and a type of sacrifice and therefore are a type of worship but this kind of service is different than the worship we offer collectively during our assemblies.
In the assemblies, the whole congregation comes together into one place for the purpose of unified worship to God. The Bible never comes out and directly says in those words that the purpose for the assembly is to worship God, but we do have a plethora of scripture where the activities of the Christians at those assemblies are evident and regulated. For instance if one looks at 1 Corinthians chapters 10 thru 16 and disregards the abuses of the Lord’s Supper and miraculous gifts, then we find all of the things we do in our assembled worship today. Paul referred to their coming together in one place in 1 Cor. 11:17-20, 33). Now let’s consider the following in 1 Cor. 14:23-26, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 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.” Notice what was done when they came together. They partook of the Lord’s Supper, Prophesying, or, teaching/preaching was done; Praying and singing was also done as revealed in 1 Cor. 14:15 and finally, giving was commanded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.
Notice that the giving was specified on the first day of the week. When we look back at Acts 20:7 we learn that the disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread which means they partook of the Lord’s Supper. From this we can rightfully reason that Christians of the first century met on the first day of the week to worship God. The activities engaged in during these meetings was the Lord’s supper, singing, praying, edification and giving.
Keeping in mind that worship is about approaching God, we need to understand that the things done in our assemblies are spiritual points of contact wherein God seeks to involve us in some aspect of relationship with Him or with spiritual matters.
1. We approach God through our singing. Draw in your minds with me an arrow pointing from us to God and from us to each other. The spiritual points of contact originate with us and move toward God and to each other. Our relationship with God and with each other is thereby strengthened and we are admonished and edified through it as a benefit.
2. Giving is a spiritual contact between us and our fellow man. Our giving is a sacrifice which has its parallel in the free will offerings under OT law which had nothing to do with the atoning sacrifices. Freewill offerings occur in the OT in 17 places. Consider the language used in regards to the freewill offering to be given at the feast of weeks in Deuteronomy 16:10, “And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.” The language is strikingly similar to what we see in 1 Corinthians 16:2 where we read, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” Freewill offerings under the law of Moses were part of their worship. Our giving is not for God, rather it is for our fellow man. The spiritual contact for us is to our fellow man and through it we strengthen and uphold each other.
3. The Lord’s supper is a spiritual point of contact between us and Jesus as the communion of the body and blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16) and reflecting inward as we examine ourselves and our relationship with the Lord while we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us.
4. Congregational praying is a spiritual point of contact from the whole congregation to God, indicating a priestly function wherein one man with one voice represents the people to God.
5. Preaching/Studying is a spiritual contact originating with God and moving to the congregation through the teacher or preacher. Those who teach and preach are required to speak as the oracles of God, meaning we are to speak as if He were the one who was talking. The Greek word for “oracles” means an utterance of God. The teacher or preacher is one person communicating the will of God to the congregation. This is the only way that God has a voice through His word to us. The spiritual point of contact is therefore God speaking His will to us in the assembly.
These five approaches to God, properly accomplished serve to completely furnish us with what we need to live our lives acceptably, grow in our knowledge of Christ and to make the world a better place. We have with our worship made spiritual contact with God, each other and ourselves. We have been edified and strengthened. we have subjected ourselves to an inner examination. We have reached out to our fellow man through our giving and laid our petitions at the feet of God’s throne as a congregation, and received instruction from an oracle of God. These ways of approaching God are simply referred to in scripture as worship. When considering worship, it is important to understand that God does not need it. Acts 17:24-25 reads, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.“ God does not need anything including our worship, but He knows that we do need it. He wants it because He knows that it is good for us. Everything God does for man is for man’s ultimate benefit and is a reflection of His just and loving nature. Think of our worship to God as a spiritual feast wherein we are fed. We provide physical food for our earthly children and we require them to eat it because of our concern for their well being. We do not need for our children to eat in order for us to exist, but we want them to so that they will grow up and be healthy and live. God likewise provided a spiritual banquet for the feeding of our souls, not because He needs it, but because He wants us to grow up and be spiritually healthy and live. God’s providential care for man is evident in everything He has ever done and our worship to Him is a reflection of His desire to provide us with the things we need to live the Christian life in full assurance of our hope to the end.
And lastly, let’s consider the throne scene in Revelation 4 with the saved of all the earth gathered around the throne in the presence of God in heaven. All singing praises and glorifying God together as the heavenly host. Our worship today in song and praise to God is a picture of what we will be doing when we get to heaven. The assemblies on the first day of the week is the closest we can get to God and Heaven this side of the grave.
We approach God, we sing, we praise Him, we adore Him, we glorify Him and we reverence Him through our worship in the only way we can this side of eternity. In heaven, we’ll actually get to see Him. We will get to stand in the glory of His presence and we will get to worship Him face to face in His presence. Until then, we assemble and receive that which we need to inherit our eternal home and help others along the way. ~