Speaking Sound Doctrine


Divine Worship

I.                   The Character Of Worship

A.           Our Approach In This Study

We should first lay some groundwork by defining worship in its various forms and identifying the scope and goal of this study.  We will also examine some prescribed attitudes revealed in scripture regarding divine worship.  As we begin, we need to ask ourselves three challenging questions:

Why are we doing what we do in our worship services?

What are we supposed to be doing?

How well are we doing it?

The Bible will be our sole guide as we seek to answer these questions.  Our approach must be with a reverence for God's word and a firm resolve to perform only that which scripture reveals. 

Should our study show that what we are currently practicing in worship has no authority in scripture, we must be prepared to abandon it completely.  We have examples of such self-examination and commitment in the Old Testament scriptures.  In the days of Israel's restoration, Ezra, a priest and scribe, "had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10).  Doing this, the people learn that they have not been following the ordinances of the law as they should and begin to mourn (Nehemiah 8:1-9).  Consequently, the holy feast days, Sabbath observances, tithing, regular burnt offerings, and the service of the house of the Lord are restored in conformance to the written law – all of which they had previously forsaken (Nehemiah 8:13-18; 10:31-39).  A similar revival occurs before this under the leadership of Josiah, King of Judah, who is willing even to oppose the error that well-honored Solomon had instated (2 Kings 23:1-25; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33).  We likewise have the ability to read God's word in the New Testament scriptures and understand His will for worship today, and we should be willing to humbly comply no matter the cost (Ephesians 3:2-4).

B.           Authority In Worship

To assist in this study, we should first make a brief review of establishing authority in religion.  To begin, consider the question the chief priests and elders present to Jesus.

Matthew 21:23  Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority?"

Asking to one to provide the authority for their actions is a legitimate request.  The word "authority" in this verse translates EXOUSIA {ex-oo-see'-ah}, for which Thayer's definition includes "1) power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases 1a) leave or permission 2) physical and mental power 2a) the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises" (Matthew 8:9).

1.       Our source of authority: the scriptures

The church and its worship forms originate from what God has appointed, not from the inventions of man.  Jesus is the author and head and so holds sovereignty in the church (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23, 24; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 5:9).  The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to write and confirm the words and works of Jesus, which are preserved for us in the New Testament scriptures (2 Peter 1:18-20).  Therefore, whatever we do in worship must be with His authority, not stepping beyond that written word (2 Peter 3:14-18).

1 Corinthians 4:6  Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written…

Colossians 3:17  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.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 John 1:9  Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  (NAU)

2.       The dispensations of God

Ephesians 3:2-6  …you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel….

The word "dispensation" translates OIKONOMIA {oy-kon-om-ee'-ah}, which means "house rules" and generally refers to the delivery of God's law, whether through the Patriarchs, Moses, or Christ.

Accommodatively, the Patriarchal dispensation was the spoken will of God given to all mankind starting with Adam (Genesis 2:4).  This dispensation endured for the nation of Israel until the Mosaical dispensation: the written law given to that nation only, which endured for the Jews until Christ (Deuteronomy 4:1-9).  The Patriarchal dispensation endured for all others until the delivery of the gospel – the dispensation of Christ – which endures continually and supersedes all others and to which all men today are amenable (Hebrews 7, 8; Ephesians 2:13-16).

Therefore, though we can learn much from the examples in Old Testament scriptures, that law and its worship modes are no longer in effect (Romans 7:4-6; 15:4; Colossians 2:13-17).

3.       Direct and indirect authority

God's word authorizes in two distinct ways: directly and indirectly.  Direct authority is in the form of recorded commands and statements.  For example, we have authority to sing because we are directed to do so (Colossians 3:16).

Indirect authority is derived by forced conclusions from necessary inferences.  This is best explained by an example.  Singing praises was a part of early church worship (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26).  That which was ordained in one church was ordained in all (1 Corinthians 4:17), and God has not since changed His law (Jude 3).  Therefore, we are forced to conclude that singing is authorized in the church today as well.

Indirect authority also comes by approved apostolic examples.  For instance, we have the recorded examples of Lord's Supper observations at its inauguration and at Troas (Luke 22:16-20; Acts 20:6, 7), and we have the authority to do as they did.  A scriptural example for everything we do is not necessary if it is otherwise directly authorized or necessarily inferred.

4.       Generic and specific terminology

All descriptive language utilizes terminology having both specific and generic connotations.  The specific sense limits; the generic sense permits.  For example, "sing" specifically denotes vocal music but excludes everything else, such as entertaining or feeding.  However, "sing" generically includes various styles and optional methods.  We are also free to expedite singing with any tools or aids, such as song books and pitch pipes, as long as we are doing nothing more or less than singing.  A tool is justified by the authorized action it aids, but no unauthorized action can be justified by a tool utilized to perform it.  Moreover, expediencies always apply only to the generic sense.  To the extent that instruction is specific, we either do it or do it not, and further silence gives no other permission (Hebrews 7:14).  We need to make a distinction between that which is specified, that which is expedient, and that which is incidental.

A thorough investigation of authority in religion would include hermeneutics – the study of interpretive methods – which would also involve the examination of logical reasoning and figurative language.  These topics are beyond the scope of this study, but specific application of such will be presented as necessary in discussions that follow.  Nevertheless, this brief review should help establish some guidance as we proceed.

C.           Worship Defined

There is a sense in which everything an individual Christian does in life is worship to God, if he is shunning evil deeds and engaging in godly behavior.  Simply working diligently each day and showing kindness in words and deeds is service to God, bringing Him tribute (Matthew 25:34-40).  However, scripture reveals that there is a special way men worship God that is not a mere attribute of normal daily life.

In Genesis 4 we observe this special kind of worship.  Cain and Abel are honoring God in making their living by doing work as God ordained (Genesis 3:17-19; 4:2).  Then, for some reason, Cain and Abel each make an offering (Genesis 4:3, 4).  Here, the original Hebrew translated "offering" is MINCHAH {min-khaw'}, meaning: "1) gift, tribute, offering, present, oblation, sacrifice, meat offering 1a) gift, present 1b) tribute 1c) offering (to God) 1d) grain offering" (BDB).  In the Greek New Testament of the Septuagint, it is translated THUSIA {thoo-see'-ah}, meaning "a sacrifice" (JHT, Hebrews 11:4).  This offering has nothing to do with the normal duties of everyday life.

Abel's offering is accepted, since it is done by faith (Hebrews 11:4), which comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).  Cain's offering is rejected, indicating that he somehow disregards the word of God.  Therefore, these offerings are apparently some special acts of obeisance God commanded them to do.  This is the first example of special worship revealed in scripture.  (Though an animal had to die as a result of sin in order for God to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), nothing in the text suggests that Adam and Eve sacrificially offered the animal in worship as a special token of obeisance or for atonement.)

This distinction between special worship and everyday service to God is born out in several words of the Greek New Testament most commonly used for the worship of God, defined by Thayer as follows:

LATREUO {lat-ryoo'-o} [verb form] 1) to serve for hire 2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen 2a) in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship 2b) to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship 2b1) of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office.  (Acts 24:14).

LATREIA {lat-ri'-ah} [noun form] 1) service rendered for hire 1a) any service or ministration: the service of God 2) the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law 3) to perform sacred services.

SEBOMAI {seb'-om-ahee} 1) to revere, to worship.

EUSEBEO {yoo-seb-eh'-o} 1) to act piously or reverently 1a) towards God, one's country, magistrates, relations, and all to whom dutiful regard or reverence is due.

PROSKUNEO {pros-koo-neh'-o} 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence 2) among the Orientals, [especially] the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence 3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication 3a) used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank 3a1) to the Jewish high priests 3a2) to God 3a3) to Christ 3a4) to heavenly beings 3a5) to demons.

1.       Service

The essence of LATREUO or LATREIA is serving: doing the desires of another.  Remarkably, every usage of these words in scripture has a clear indication of service to a divine being alone.  However, these words are used of both the kind of worship that is the conformance to God's will in the actions of daily life and that which is the performance of appointed special religious rites.  The usage will indicate which meaning is applicable.  Note some examples of the 26 times this word family appears in the New Testament (indicated in bold):

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.' "

Luke 1:74, 75  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

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.

New Testament scripture often makes clear the viable connection between this form of service and the homage of sacred sacrifices (THUSIA, Acts 7:42, Hebrews 10:11).

Hebrews 9:9  It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices [THUSIA] are offered which cannot make him who performed the service [LATREUO] perfect in regard to the conscience.

2.       Devotion

The essence of SEBOMAI is loyalty.  Louw-Nida indicates that it means "to express in attitude and ritual one's allegiance to and regard for deity."  UBS further states that it "applied to Gentiles who accepted Judaism's belief in one God and attended the synagogue but did not become Jewish proselytes."

Matthew 15:9  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Acts 16:14  Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us.  She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.  The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

(NAU) Acts 17:17  So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.

3.       Reverence

The essence of EUSEBEO is to awe.  The noun and adjective forms, EUSEBEIA {yoo-seb'-i-ah} and EUSEBES {yoo-seb-ace'}, are typically translated "godliness" and "godly."  This indicates the somberness and respectfulness that would be expected before kings rather than a casual or flippant attitude.  These words combine EU {yoo}, which means doing well, and a form of SEBOMAI, previously explained.

NAU Acts 17:23  "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.'  Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

William Barclay further explains that it is "not confined to the precincts of the church and is not limited to the worship and liturgy and the ritual of the church.  True religion begins at home" (NTW).

4.       Obeisance

The unique essence of PROSKUNEO is to fall, kneel, or bow down at the feet of another: paying homage and obeisance.  It is used of offering sacrificial gifts to and petitioning one in authority.  The application is consistently of honoring another by some special act of reverence.  Note some examples of the 60 times this word appears in the New Testament (indicated in bold):

Matthew 2:11  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.  And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 4:9, 10  And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve [LATREUO].' "

Matthew 8:2  And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."

1 Corinthians 14:25  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.

The book of Esther tells how the Persian king's servants all bow to pay homage to Haman, but Mordecai, a godly man, refuses.

Esther 3:2  And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him.  But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.

The phrase "pay homage" is translated from the Hebrew SHACHAH {shaw-khaw'}.  In the stem form in which this verb here appears (Hithpael), it specifically means "1c1) to bow down, prostrate oneself 1c1a) before superior in homage 1c1b) before God in worship 1c1c) before false gods 1c1d) before angel" (BDB).  In the Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint, the word is here translated PROSKUNEO.  Mordecai understands that this special kind of honor is to be reserved for Jehovah God alone.

We honor God when we help our neighbor fix his lawnmower or share with him vegetables from our garden, but these are activities of everyday life, not the special performances of oblation in offering worship unto God as expressed by PROSKUNEO.  This is the form of worship we will examine in this study: the kind demonstrated in special acts of reverence and homage – not the form of worship rendered by each man's diligence in the duties and service of everyday life.

D.           Observations From Leviticus

Though specially ordained worship forms originate in the time of Cain and Abel and continue until the Passover, it is not until the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt that these are formally regimented, the regulations for which are detailed in the book of Leviticus.   A brief review of God's expectations of these early Hebrew worshippers is beneficial in understanding His expectations for us in the church today.

1.       An offering of purity

In the Mosaic law concerning sacrifices, God makes clear that He expects them to offer that which is undefiled.

Leviticus 1:2, 3  …When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock – of the herd and of the flock. 3 If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish….

Leviticus 22:20-24  Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the LORD. 23 Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. 24 You shall not offer to the LORD what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land.

(Leviticus 1:10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 32; 5:15, 18; 9:2, 3; 14:10; 23:12, 18)

To offer that which has little worth or value to us is an insult to our divine Lord who deserves more.  It also contradicts the basic principle of a sacrifice.  David fully understands this, as he refuses to offer to God that which would come to him as a gift (2 Samuel 24:21-25).  However, the nation of Israel is not so devout in the days of the prophet Malachi, by whose mouth God sternly rebukes them for their irreverent, worthless sacrifices (Malachi 1).

In the dispensation of Christ, we can see this even more clearly.  The principle of an undefiled offering in divine service is the same whether it is we or God who is offering the sacrifice.  Consider that God Himself offers that which is absolutely pure – His only begotten Son, the faultless Lamb of God – to redeem us from our transgressions against His holy name (Hebrews 9:12-14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).  If God offers that which is precious to Him, it should not be too much for Him to ask that we do the same.  Therefore, as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), Christians in worship today need to make certain to present themselves before Him without spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; Jude 24).  To hypocritically come into His presence to worship with impenitence – holding on to sin that we know abides in us – is a mockery and renders our worship useless (Matthew 15:8, 9).

Correspondingly, God ought to be top priority regarding our time, talents, money, and resources (Matthew 6:33).  We should not be giving God our leftovers after we have first done everything else we want according to our own desires.  For example, when planning a vacation trip or relocation, we should first investigate whether there is a local church where we can meet with saints for worship and service to the Lord. 

2.       Free will

As the service of the tabernacle is established, the Lord repetitively declares that the people are to offer the required sacrifices by their own free will (Leviticus 22:18, 19, 29; 23:38).

Leviticus 1:3  …He shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.

Leviticus 19:5  And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, you shall offer it of your own free will.

This does not contradict the fact that they are required to perform their worship exactly as they are commanded (Leviticus 7:36-38).  This refers to the attitude and goodwill of those under compulsion who sincerely and willingly serve as if the obligation does not exist (Ephesians 6:5-7).   

In Exodus 12:35, 36, the Israelites take from the Egyptians gold, silver, clothing, and apparently many other valuable articles as well, effectively as plunder.  In the wilderness, the Lord instructs Moses to call those of willing heart to a special service with these resources and their talents to build the tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-19).  Consequently, the people freely answer the call (Exodus 35:29).  Their willingness is so abundant that Moses has to order that the contributions cease (Exodus 36:3-7).

Likewise, in the church, obedience to the Lord's commands should come from an eager heart rather than succumbing against our will (Romans 6:16-22).  Jesus provides the perfect example, as He willingly offered His own life for our atonement (John 10:11-18; Ephesians 1:3-10; Hebrews 10:7).

Psalm 54:6  I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.

3.       Blood

Levitical law specifies numerous animal sacrifices for ordination and cleansing.  The gruesome and bloody annual slaughterings for atonement are continual reminders to them of the ugliness of sin.

Leviticus 1:5  He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

Blood has a vital role in worship under Mosaic law.  Over fifty times in Leviticus, the law details that which is to be done with the blood of sacrificed bulls, goats, and birds:

Sprinkle all around the altar (1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13; 7:2; 8:19, 24; 9:12, 18),

Of a bird, drain out beside the altar (1:15; 5:9),

Bring to the tabernacle of meeting (4:5, 16),

Sprinkle in front of the veil by dipping with a finger seven times (4:6, 17),

Put on the horns of the altar of sweet incense (4:7, 18),

Pour at the base of the altar of the burnt offering (4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:3),

Put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering (4:25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:3; 16:18),

Of a bird, sprinkled on the side of the altar (5:9),

Put on the tip of the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of Aaron and his sons (8:23, 24),

Put on Aaron and his sons and their garments (8:30),

Of a bird, dipping in it a living bird, cedar, scarlet, and hyssop (14:6, 51),

Put on the tip of the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of a leper to be cleansed (14:14, 25),

Bring into the Holy Place (16:3),

Sprinkle by the finger on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat seven times inside the veil. (16:14, 15),

Sprinkle on the altar of the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting (17:6).

Though blood is a figurative reference to death (Leviticus 20), it also represents life.  Life is in the blood, and Mosaic law for this reason stipulates that the blood of the animal is not to be eaten with the flesh.

Leviticus 17:10-14   11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, "No one among you shall eat blood…."

Under the dispensation of Christ, consider how much more significantly we are connected with blood: the atoning, life-giving blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:18-25; 13:10-13).  In New Testament worship, the blood of Christ is contacted in baptism (Romans 6:3, 4) and commemorated in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16).  We will discuss these aspects in greater detail later in this study.

4.       Pleasing the Lord

a.    A sweet aroma

In the instructions for the numerous burnt offerings for transgressions, a phrase recurs describing them as "a sweet aroma to the Lord" (Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 2:9; 3:5, 16; 4:31; 6:15, 21; 8:21, 28; 17:6; 23:13, 18).

Leviticus 2:2  He shall bring it to Aaron's sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense.  And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.

The word "aroma" translates REYACH {ray'-akh}.  Brown-Driver-Briggs describes it as literally the scent of plants, fields, and ointments, but figuratively, of influence and reputation.  The word "sweet" translates NICHOWACH {nee-kho'-akh}, meaning quieting, soothing, and tranquillizing (BDB) and is thus rendered "pleasing" and "soothing" in the ESV and NAU.  This directly relates the effect a thing has on one rather than the character of the thing itself.  The apostle Paul borrows this familiar language to metaphorically describe the selfless service of the brethren (Philippians 4:18).

Conclusively, the homage we offer has a calming influence on God, but only when we seek that which pleases Him, not our own will (Romans 8:5-12; 12:1, 2; 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:2, 10; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 4:1; Hebrews 11:5, 6; 13:16, 21; 1 John 3:22).  For example, in the institution of the priesthood found in Leviticus 8-10, Moses teaches all the people and does exactly as the Lord commands (Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29, 34-36; 9:5-7, 10; 16:34; 17:2; 24:23).

Leviticus 8:4, 5  So Moses did as the LORD commanded him.  And the congregation was gathered together at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 5 And Moses said to the congregation, "This is what the LORD commanded to be done."

In the dispensation of Christ, it is revealed that the Mosaic sacrifices, though pleasing to the Lord, do not have a lasting effect and have no intrinsic ability to make atonement.  Only the propitiatory offering of Christ, which the Mosaic sacrifices foreshadow, can satisfy the requirements of both the justice and mercy of God (Romans 3:20-26).

Hebrews 10:1-22  6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, "Behold, I have come … to do Your will, O God." … 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all….

Ephesians 5:2  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice [THUSIA] to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

In Ephesians 5:2, "sweet-smelling" translates EUODIA {yoo-o-dee'-ah}, for which, Thayer's definition includes "2a) an odour of acquiescence, satisfaction 2b) a sweet odour, spoken of the smell of sacrifices and obligations, agreeably to the ancient notion that God smells and is pleased with the odour of sacrifices."  Furthermore, "aroma" translates OSME {os-may'}, "a smell, odour" (JHT), whose verb form is actually the root of EUODIA.  The literal is therefore idiomatically: "a good-smelling smell."

b.    Obedience

In Leviticus 26, the Lord explains what He will do for them if they continue to obediently serve Him.

Leviticus 26:1-13  2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD. 3 If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, 4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit….

He then explains what He will do to them if they abandon His statutes and ordinances.

Leviticus 26:14-39  But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, 15 and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,  16 I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.  And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it….

Finally, the Lord explains what He will do when they repent of their iniquity.

Leviticus 26:40-46  But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me,  41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt--  42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land….

The outward keeping of rites and rituals alone is not pleasing to the Lord but sincere service from the heart (Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 29:13; Romans 6:17).

Deuteronomy 10:12  And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

5.       Holiness

In English, the word "holy" means:

To have the quality of divinity: exalted and worthy of worship, 

To be fully devoted to a divine being.

However, the original words often rendered as "holy" in our English translations have multiple meanings as follows:

QADASH {kaw-dash'} [Hebrew verb] "1) to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to be set apart, be consecrated 1a2) to be hallowed 1a3) consecrated, tabooed 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to show oneself sacred or majestic 1b2) to be honoured, be treated as sacred…" (BDB).

QADOWSH {kaw-doshe'} [Hebrew adjective] "1) sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart" (BDB).

QODESH {ko'-desh} [Hebrew noun] "1) apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness 1a) apartness, sacredness, holiness 1a1) of God 1a2) of places 1a3) of things 1b) set-apartness, separateness" (BDB).

HAGIOS {hag'-ee-os} [Greek adjective] "1) reverend, worthy of veneration, 2) set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his, 3) prepared for God with solemn rite, pure, clean 4) pure, sinless, upright, holy" (JHT).

These words describe not only dedication and a divine nature but also the characteristic of being separate from others.  The different senses are revealed by the context:

Leviticus 11:44, 45  For I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, [QADASH, dedicated] and you shall be holy [QADOWSH, separated]; for I am holy [QADOWSH, exalted]….

Leviticus 24:9  And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy [QADOWSH, separate] place; for it is most holy [QODESH, dedicated] to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire….

We will now make closer observation of these nuances.

a.    Worship-worthiness of the Lord

With the word "holy," eight times in the book of Leviticus, God reminds us of who He is (Leviticus 10:3; 19:2; 20:7; 21:8; 22:2, 32). 

Leviticus 22:30-32  "… I am the LORD … I am the LORD … I am the LORD … I am the LORD …."

Of the eternal characteristics of God – His infinite presence, knowledge, love, justice, power, mercy, and pity – only His holiness is expressed to the third degree: "Holy, holy, holy" (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).  As He is the creator and sovereign ruler of the universe and all life within it, we ought to stand before Him in awe and humility.  This cannot be over-emphasized (Isaiah 42:5; 44:24; 45:12, 18; 48:13; 51:13, 16).  As we approach worship, we must revere God as He deserves and keep in perspective who we are in comparison (1 Chronicles 29:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Job 38; Psalm 57:5, 11; Proverbs 30:3, 4).

The English word "lord" means one having authority or in high position (MW).  However, the original words in scripture translated "lord" have richer meaning.  In Leviticus, the word "LORD" (in all uppercase) translates YEHOVAH {yeh-ho-vaw'}, meaning "the existing One" (BDB), which suggests God's divine attributes.  Elsewhere in the Old Testament, "Lord" (with an initial capital) translates ADONAY {ad-o-noy'}, the emphatic form of a word indicating a master, superintendent, or proprietor, which denotes one's rule over another by virtue of possessing them (BDB, Psalm 57:9-11).  Similarly, in the New Testament, "Lord" translates KURIOS {koo'-ree-os} meaning: "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power…" (JHT).

Revelation 4:8-11  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy [HAGIOS], Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship [PROSKUNEO] Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 11 "You are worthy, O Lord [KURIOS], To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."

b.    Devoted to the Lord

According to the Jewish laws of dedication and redemption, if a man dedicates a piece of his property to the Lord, the priest assesses its fair value in silver (Leviticus 27:14-16), and the property no longer belongs to the one dedicating it, but it becomes holy, that is, it now belongs to the Lord (verse 28).  Should the man ever want to have it for himself again, he must redeem it by paying the assessed value plus one-fifth, and it will then again belong to him (verse 19).

Leviticus 27:21  But the field, when it is released in the Jubilee, shall be holy to the LORD, as a devoted field; it shall be the possession of the priest.

This follows the principles of ownership and control; when a man takes ownership of a property by redeeming it with silver, only then he has control of it.  In like manner, we today, who have been redeemed at a cost not measurable in silver, should be all the more devoted to God's will in all things (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

1 Peter 1:15-19  But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

As the property that is dedicated under Levitical law becomes the Lord's and is thereby suitable to come into His service, so Christians today are His and also must sanctify themselves to enter into the service of God (1 Peter 2:1-5).

2 Timothy 2:19-21  Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

c.     Separated for the Lord

Leviticus 11 specifies the animals that may and may not be lawfully eaten.  Chapter 22 explains that those who have some uncleanness upon them are to separate themselves from the holy things of the Lord.  Fundamentally, they are to distinguish between the clean and the unclean and not defile themselves nor profane the name of the Lord.

Leviticus 20:23-26  And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them. 24 But I have said to you, "You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey."  I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.

To apply this as individuals in our daily lives, "Be holy, for I am holy" means that we should separate ourselves from the world and consecrate ourselves to God, because He is worthy of our homage.  Two facts are self-evident:

It is impossible to consecrate ourselves to God without first separating ourselves from the world;

It is useless to separate ourselves from the world without also consecrating ourselves to God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17  17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."

Ephesians 5:5-13  11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them….

To apply these principles in the church, we must distance ourselves from those in lawless practices of man-made religion in the world today.  Though they claim to be honoring God in their services, they are actually an abomination to Him.

1 Peter 2:9-11  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; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

6.       The presence of the Lord

The nation of Israel in the wilderness has a particular sense of God's presence in the tabernacle (Leviticus 9:4, 6; 16:2).  Sixty-one times in Leviticus, the services are said to occur "before the Lord."

Leviticus 9:3-5  "Take … also a bull and a ram as peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil; for today the LORD will appear to you." 5 So they brought what Moses commanded before the tabernacle of meeting.  And all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.

The word "before" translates the Hebrew PANIYM {paw-neem'} for which the Brown-Driver-Briggs definition includes, "in front of … in the presence of, in the face of…."  There is a sense in which everything we do on earth is done before the Lord due to His omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-12), but in a special consideration He is present among His worshippers.  The Israelites are uniquely aware of this, as His presence is continually manifested in clouds and fire (Exodus 13:21, 22; 24:15-19; 33:9; 40:34-38).

These Mosaic ministries are but a shadow of the substance, which is in Christ (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8).  Therefore, though God does not manifest His presence in the church today with smoke, fire, and clouds or with lightning and thunder, we should recognize all the more that we assemble for worship before His face.  In essence, the Lord is with us in our service, observing and even sharing in it (Matthew 28:20; Romans 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11, 14; Philippians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 6:19, 20; 12:18-24).

Matthew 18:20  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

7.       The fear of the Lord

Among the ordinances delivered in Leviticus is the recurrent reminder to "fear your God" (Leviticus 19:14, 32; 25:17, 36, 43).  In these verses, "fear" translates YARE' {yaw-ray'}, which here means "…1a1) to fear, be afraid 1a2) to stand in awe of, be awed 1a3) to fear, reverence, honour, respect…" (BDB).  Observe the reaction of the people when they behold the glory of God and His power:

Leviticus 9:23, 24  And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people.  Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

In every account in scripture where men witness the glory and power of God – whether believers or unbelievers – their response is consistently an overwhelming sense of awe, terror, and dread:

Abraham, Moses, and Aaron fall to their faces (Genesis 17:1-4; Numbers 20:6, 7);

The camp of Israel are afraid and trembling (Exodus 19; Hebrews 12:18-21);

Ezekiel falls and can apparently only stand when the Holy Spirit lifts him up (Ezekiel 3:23, 24);

Daniel falls to his face and faints when the angel Gabriel approaches him at the command of the Lord (Daniel 8:15-19);

Daniel loses all strength at the vision of God's glorious messenger and falls faint on his face when the messenger speaks.  He is raised by hand to his knees and then to stand trembling and speechless, unable even to look up (Daniel 10);

The guards at the tomb of Jesus tremble and become as dead men (Matthew 28:2-4);

The apostle John falls like a dead man (Revelation 1:10-17).

In the days of our Lord's earthly ministry and of the apostles, people react in shock and fear at many of the miracles (Mark 4:41; 5:33; Luke 5:26; 7:16; 8:37; Acts 2:43: 19:17).  When Ananias and Sapphira test the Holy Spirit with lies, God strikes them dead, and great fear comes upon the church (Act 5:1-13).  God indeed entreats us by His mercy and grace, but we have good reason to fear as well (Luke 12:3-9; Hebrews 4:1-3; 10:26-39; 12:25-29).

Though God does not appear to us today in signs and wonders, we should nevertheless acknowledge His awesome glory and power by reverently, sincerely, and humbly approaching His presence for worship.  He is not our "buddy;" He is our Sovereign Ruler.  Worship is a solemn occasion, not a party.  It should be characterized by fear and trembling, not frivolous merry-making.

Psalm 5:7  But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.

8.       A summons for worship

In Leviticus 23, the celebrations of numerous feasts and Sabbaths are declared.  A detailed examination of the appointed Jewish holy days is beyond the scope of this study, but a brief review of the descriptive language is revealing.  Eleven times in this chapter, these observances are consistently called "holy convocations."

Leviticus 23:2  Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts."

In our English translations "convocations" is an exclusively Old Testament word.  The original Hebrew is MIQRA' {mik-raw'}, which means, "1) convocation, convoking, reading, a calling together 1a) convocation, sacred assembly 1b) convoking 1c) reading" (BDB).  Merriam-Webster defines "convoke" as "to call together to a meeting."  In three other NKJ verses it is rendered "reading" and "assemblies."  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament explains further: "The root … denotes primarily the enunciation of a specific … message.  In the case of the latter usage it is customarily addressed to a specific recipient and is intended to elicit a specific response….  The verb may represent the specification of a name.  Naming is sometimes an assertion of sovereignty over the thing named [Psalm 147:4]….  Our verb also connotes calling one to a specific task [Exodus 2:7] … a formal summoning of people to worship…."  The Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint translates it to a form of KLETOS {klay-tos'} meaning "1) called, invited (to a banquet) 1a) invited (by God in the proclamation of the Gospel) to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom through Christ 1b) called to (the discharge of) some office 1b1) divinely selected and appointed" (JHT), which is the root of "EKKLESIA" (the called out), typically translated "church" in the New Testament.

We will expound on these principles as we examine each worship form in detail.

E.           Attributes Of Worship

Observe our Lord's remarks on worship to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  Each form of the word "worship" in the passage translates PROSKUNEO or a kindred form.  Herein, two fundamental attributes of divine worship are revealed – spirit and truth:

John 4:19-24  The woman said to Him,… 20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

This Gentile woman is still under the Patriarchal dispensation and therefore not amenable to the worship rites of Moses's Law.  Unlike the Jews who have fuller knowledge, the Gentiles only serve God instinctively and conscientiously (Romans 2:13-15).  Jesus explains that, in Him, the separate worship of the Jews and the Gentiles in ignorance is being dissolved into one for all, independent of time and place (Acts 17:30).

1.       In spirit

a.    With sincerity

The word translated "spirit" is PNEUMA {pnyoo'-mah}.  Thayer's definition includes, "…2a) the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides…"  The idea is that what a man does outwardly in worship should align with what he is inwardly.  This indicates worship from the heart, not merely from the lips in pretense (Matthew 15:8).  This is worship in sound mindedness with fervor and emotional involvement, not perfunctory routine.

Joshua 24:14  Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  Serve the LORD!

NAU Acts 12:5  So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

b.    Free from carnality

Thayer further describes PNEUMA as "…3) a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting…."  This indicates that which is not of the physical realm – things pertaining to the mind, not the body.  Spiritual worship involves the intellect and is untainted by the concerns and interests of the flesh (Romans 8:1-8).  It is not whimsical or fanciful but reasonable, rational, logical, and sensible (Acts 17:17-31).

Old Testament worship is often characterized as physical whereas New Testament worship is conversely spiritual.  This is an over-generalization.  Although Mosaic worship had an emphasis on many physical rites, it was not devoid of things spiritual (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), and neither is worship under Christ devoid of physical elements (Acts 10:47, 48).

2.       In truth

The word translated "truth" in John 4:24 is ALETHEIA {al-ay'-thi-a}, for which Thayer gives both an objective and a subjective meaning: "1) objectively 1a) what is true in any matter under consideration 1a1) truly, in truth, according to truth 1a2) of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly 1b) what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth 1b1) in the greatest latitude 1b2) the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention 1c) the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians…."

a.    Objective truth

This is that which is true no matter what.  This is that of which we can always be confident on the basis of sound reasoning in God's revelation.  The existence of such absolute truths in religion is a matter men have been denying for ages, as did Pilate when he dismissively asked, "What is truth?" (John 8:38).  The benchmark of man-made religion today is the presumed right to believe as truth whatever is according each one's own view – what is truth for one man is not necessarily truth for another.  So the mantra today is to join the religion of your own choice and worship your own god in your own way.  Even within the Lord's church today, false teachers misinterpret scripture and work to fade clear Bible teaching into gray, saying, "You see it your way, and I'll see it mine."  Any worship to God in this attitude is vain.

Mark 7:6-9  He 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. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' 8 "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." 9 He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition."

Thayer explains that ALETHEIA stands opposed to "corrupt opinions."  We need to clarify something about opinions.  Paul extensively explains in Romans 14 that issues of opinions will arise – things of personal conviction that are truth for one but not another.  However, a careful hermeneutical review of the text will reveal that these are harmless opinions of those only who are weak in faith and over matters that are not morally right or wrong in themselves.

Romans 14  1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only…. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind…. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

Romans 15:1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

This does not pertain to ALETHEIA; Romans 14 makes no allowance for the perverted inventions and false doctrines of men.  We must learn to judge between things of harmless opinion and things of absolute truth for which God will hold us accountable (2 Thessalonians 10-13; 2 Peter 2).

Conclusively, our Lord makes clear that lawless worship is condemnable.  For example, in Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu are destroyed because they are serving the Lord according to their own ideas, contrary to how they had been commanded.  Human reasoning might see their actions as a matter of personal judgment, after all, fire is fire; however, the Lord sees this as rebellion.

Leviticus 10:1-3  Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace.

Just like Nadab and Abihu, some people today think that we can honor God by doing whatever we think is convenient and pleasing ourselves while disregarding what He has commanded.  To the contrary, a divine being deserves divine worship – service according to His holy will.

Matthew 7:21-23  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Galatians 1:6-12  I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:15-17  … as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.

Free will is not to be confused with self-will.

b.    Subjective truth

Thayer's definition of ALETHEIA continues: "2) subjectively 2a) truth as a personal excellence 2a1) that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit."  This also does not refer to that which is true for one person but not for another.  This refers to an individual's honesty and integrity.  We considered this aspect previously when discussing worship in spirit with sincerity of heart – not imitation or counterfeit.

Thayer further states that truth means, "free from affection," which seems strange.  Clearly, we are supposed to feel something when we worship in truth (Philippians 2:1, 2; Hebrews 12:28; Jude 24, 25), so how is it that truth does not pertain to feelings and emotions?  It is when we rely on our feelings and personal preferences as a guide that we depart from truth.  When the words of truth put us or those close to us in a difficult situation, we might be tempted out of pity to contort scripture with a bias toward a more pleasant interpretation, which inevitably results in prejudice or favoritism.

1 Timothy 5:20, 21  Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. 21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.

When Jesus challenges the Pharisees about the truth regarding John's baptism, they ponder over the possible consequences of their answer rather than the actual evidence on the matter and then just plead ignorance (Matthew 21:23-27).  False teachers will often use the "I don't know" argument in denial to conceal their heresy, when in their hearts they know their doctrine has no scriptural support.

Another manifestation of this is the idea that if something makes us happy, it must be truth.  There is a difference between emotion and "emotionalism."  If we get caught up in charismatic, spontaneous worship activities that make us feel elated yet have no lawful justification, we are deceived, and our worship is vain (James 1:14-16; Colossians 2:4-8).  Truth can certainly affect our emotions, but truth ought not be based on our emotions.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Worship in truth is not opposed to worship in spirit; it is in harmony with it.

3.       Decently and orderly

In the context of instructions on assembled worship, Paul delivers this principle:

1 Corinthians 14:40  Let all things be done decently and in order.

This builds upon the concept of worshiping God in spirit relative to our intelligence in reasonableness, thoughtfulness, and sensibility.

a.    Decency

In the passage, "decently" translates the adverb EUSCHEMONOS {yoo-skhay-mon'-ose} meaning: "in a seemly manner, decently" (JHT).  The related adjective is EUSCHEMON {yoo-skhay'-mone}, which means "1) of elegant figure 1a) shapely, graceful, comely, bearing one's self becomingly in speech or behaviour 2) of good standing 2a) honourable, influential, wealthy, respectable" (JHT).  The words combine the familiar EU {yoo} (doing well) and a form of SCHEMA {skhay'-mah} (from whence, "scheme") meaning: "the habitus, as comprising everything in a person which strikes the senses, the figure, bearing, discourse, actions, manner of life, etc." (JHT).

This relates how we seem to others in our appearance and activities.  For instance, our demeanor and decorum in the presence of a high civil authority figure would be fittingly different than our behavior at home with family.  Correspondingly, in worship, we are paying homage to a divine being, so our service should all the more exhibit refinement and propriety in every aspect.  It is an occasion specifically for honoring God, and we should not allow ourselves to be preoccupied with unnecessary beverages, snacks, chitchat, or cell phone use.  Parents need to closely monitor their children's behavior and use of toys so that they are not a distraction to others either by sight or sound.  By this alone, a visitor to our assembly ought to be able to sense our profound reverence to God.  Remember the meaning of worship expressed by the word EUSEBEO, explained earlier, as it directly applies.

b.    Order

In the passage, "order" translates TAXIS {tax'-is} meaning: "1) an arranging, arrangement 2) order 2a) a fixed succession observing a fixed time 3) due or right order, orderly condition 4) the post, rank, or position which one holds in civic or other affairs 4a) since this position generally depends on one's talents, experience, resources 4a1) character, fashion, quality, style" (JHT).  The opposite of orderly (disorderly), ATAKTOS was used as a military term for a soldier "out of ranks," (JHT).

With no supporting evidence from scripture, some churches today are adopting the notion that worship in the early church was characterized by informality and spontaneity.  Driven by emotionalism, the idea is promoted of casually doing whatever one wants in the moment they see fit to do it.  These groups often disparage having the order of worship fixed by duty rosters.  There is a current "house-church" movement afoot that would further leave even the time and place of worship not necessarily well established with regularity.  Realistically, spontaneity is the seed of chaos.

To the contrary, TAXIS describes the doing of the proper thing at the appointed time.  As a case in point, Paul instructs one in an assembly sitting by quietly who is given something to say even by the Holy Spirit's direct operation to wait until the first one speaking becomes quiet, so that each speaker may take his turn speaking one at a time (1 Corinthians 14:30, 31).  He is not to spontaneously blurt out something and interrupt another but must keep his spirit under control (vs 32).  If we de-emphasize orderliness and structure, we will make a worship service look more like an open house with people coming and going at all times and doing whatever they want whenever they want with the attitude that no elder has the right to ask them to please try to get to church on time or to please not behave a certain way in worship. 

Proponents of the "house-church" movement further suggest that spontaneity and the randomized progression of events in worship help avoid a mindless and perfunctory checklist mentality in worship.  To the contrary, such thinking is carnal-mindedness (Romans 8:4-14; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  If someone needs to have the order of services jumbled around at every gathering to be enthused, he is thinking carnally – needing to have his physical senses stimulated to be edified.  If such a man changes his focus and begins thinking spiritually, the word of the Spirit alone will be sufficient to motivate him to enthusiastic service in worship (1 Corinthians 2).  Conclusively, spontaneity is indeed incompatible with scriptural worship.

4.       True worship and false worship

If we always offer worship to God both in spirit and in truth, God assures us that it is always acceptable to Him.  However, our worship is vain if we have one but not the other: spirit without the truth or truth without the spirit.  Consider again the offerings of Cain and Abel.

Genesis 4:3-7  And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.  And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering.  And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

What Cain offers is worship, for certain, but evidently, not all worship is acceptable to God.  The exact reason why God rejects Cain's offering is not revealed.  However, here is what we know: Cain, unlike Abel, does not act in faith (Hebrews 11:4).  Since faith comes by hearing God's word (Romans 10:17), Cain's offering is somehow contrary to the Lord's instructions, as John calls his deeds evil (1 John 3:12).  Fundamentally, Cain's worship must not have been in spirit and in truth, else it would have been accepted.  Speculating, it might have been the wrong action with the right spirit.  For example, perhaps Cain brings a fruit offering in all sincerity when a blood offering is actually commanded.  On the other hand, it might have been the right action in the wrong spirit.  For example, perhaps a fruit offering is acceptable, but Cain is resentful that his best produce is the oblation required by God.  It even also could have been the wrong action and the wrong spirit.  We don't know, but it must have been some kind of iniquity such as this.

The same kinds of things occur in worship today.  For instance, some people serve God by teaching all the right doctrines and observing every performance detail but do so begrudgingly or in self-interest or with indignation toward others (Philippians 1:15-17).  Similarly, many today serve God spiritually in humility and sincerity but do so performing acts of reverence which the Lord has not commanded (Romans 10:1-3).  If we are to be pleasing to God in our worship today, we need to pay attention to serving Him both in spirit and in truth.  We will revisit these aspects as we examine every form of worship later in this study.

F.           Worship: Individually And Collectively

1.       The nature of worship in the assembled church

A study of the scriptures reveals that the work God has ordained for the church as a corporate body is fundamentally spiritual: teaching the gospel and collective worship.  The work of the church is not centered on secular or carnal pursuits.  Consequently, in every case where scripture indicates the church as a corporate body is performing worship, it is always in the sense of PROSKUNEO.  For example, farming, carpentry, engineering, cooking, and sewing are noble activities of common, everyday life which generally bring God glory when we pursue them in uprightness with integrity, as LATREUO or EUSEBEO would describe, but these secular pursuits are not works of the church as a body.  Similarly, even though our bodies are temples of the Lord for His glorification (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20), nevertheless, personal hygiene, nutrition, physical exercise, and such things are normal aspects of daily life, not special worship services of homage and obeisance nor works of the church.

Our study will further reveal that some acts of homage ordained by God are authorized to be performed by both the local church as a body and the individual Christian.  However, some activities are authorized only in the collective function of the local congregation.  This distinction will be noted in this study in every case as applies.

2.       Obeisance: collectively or individually

Worship functions characterized by special services of homage and obeisance, as expressed by PROSKUNEO, are defined not necessarily by their circumstances or the venue but by the activities themselves.  This is more easily understood by examples.  For instance, prayer is not a secular function of everyday life but a divinely appointed act of subjection revealed within God's holy word.  However, prayer is nothing other than prayer, whether we do it publically and collectively or privately and individually.  God has not ordained special regulations for collective prayers in a church building as opposed to private prayers in our homes.  The same is true for gospel teaching and singing hymns of praise to God.  God has ordained how we do those things – in spirit and in truth – regardless of whether we are at a public assembly in a church-owned meeting house or at our own homes in private.  If God makes no such distinction, neither should we (1 Corinthians 4:6).  Notwithstanding, confusion prevails in some churches today regarding this.

As a case in point, a common notion in some churches today is that a Bible study class is not a worship service.  In the absence of any scriptural basis for such a distinction, certain regulations for worship are consequently either imposed or lifted by declaring that a particular function is part of a "worship service" in one situation but not another.  Such ideas are derived from human reasoning, not divine revelation.  This matter is easier to understand by examples, which will be discussed in greater detail as applicable in each area of worship as this study progresses.

The distinction between the individual Christian and the collective body is more deeply discussed in a separate study on the work of the church.  This brief review should be sufficient as our study on divine worship continues.

3.       Fellowship

The worship that is performed collectively is appropriately described by the term "fellowship."  The word in the original Greek is KOINONIA {koy-nohn-ee'-ah}, defined as "1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse 1a) the share which one has in anything, participation 1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy…" (JHT).

Act 2:41, 42  Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We acknowledge that the special functions of divine worship sometimes involve the actions of one individual and sometimes the joined actions of a collective group.  However, bear in mind that whenever there is collective action, it is still the individuals that are doing it.  It is important to note that the characteristic of fellowship is that the individuals are never spectators; we are engaged participants.  As this study continues, our primary interest will be on examining divine worship by the collective church as an assembled group.

G.           New Testament Acts Of Worship

Let us now observe in scripture the special activities we see ordained for the local church as an assembled body in rendering religious service or homage, performing sacred services, offering gifts, observing instituted rites, making obeisance, expressing reverence, or making supplication to God.  By definition, such activities are worship, a divinely appointed work of the collective church.

1.       Teaching

Acts 20:7  Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

2.       Singing

Ephesians 5:18-20  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3.       The Collection

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: 2 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.

4.       The Lord's Supper

Matthew 26:26-29  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

5.       Praying

Acts 12:5  Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

These are the special things that the early Christians continued to do steadfastly in homage to God beyond the duties of everyday life.  Moreover, if this is what the early church was doing, it is the pattern for what the church today should be doing.  This is not "five-acts-of-worship" church-of-Christ doctrine; this is what the New Testament scriptures reveal.  From our observations to this point, we recognize that we are to share in all these activities to our best ability, non-grudgingly, reverently, purposefully, decently, orderly, and in sincerity, humility, and purity.

This study examines the worship assembly functions in detail and with utmost respect for the scriptures so that we might maintain New Testament doctrine and practice in the Lord's church today.  However, we must never get the impression that our service to God is defined by what we do in worship assemblies.  Being a Christian means more than singing and praying together two or three times a week in a church meeting house.  If we are not careful, we can develop an unrealistic check-list mentality, thinking that if we correctly perform all the prescribed acts of assembled worship routine, we have fulfilled our duty to serve God until the next meeting time.  We need to also examine what the scriptures reveal about glorifying God in those individual, everyday actions, but such discussions are beyond the scope of this study.

H.          The Purpose Of Our Worship

1.       Christ-centered

We find that every aspect of our worship centers upon Christ ­– His life, death, and resurrection – for without this, we have no hope and therefore no reason to worship.  The cross of Christ is the only thing in which we can boast, and it alone gives meaning to everything we do, especially our worship (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  Our purpose in worship is to glorify the Father for blessing us, to glorify the Son for redeeming us, and to glorify the Holy Spirit for revealing it to us (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Ephesians 3:21  To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

The purpose for our worship is not to entertain or enthrall us or to increase our favor or self-esteem.  It is not about us.  Our worship in spirit and truth may indeed bring us edification and joy, but these are its results, not its purposes (Psalm 29:2; 86:9; Revelation 14:7; 15:4).  Those who complain that they don't get anything out of worship fail to recognize this.  Our worship is an offering to God, so our objective ought not be what we can get but what we should give.

2.       Our benefit

Though God is glorified and pleased by our worship, He derives no benefit from it; He is not any better because of it.  When Paul is describing the ignorant worship of the Athenians, he explains that God's supreme will for His creation is that we might someday be with Him.

Act 17:24-27  "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."

Worship is essential to our forgiveness and our salvation.  Consider that baptism is an act of worship, and without submitting to it, we remain dead in our sins.  God created us with free will and offers redemption through immeasurable love hoping that we might willingly choose to love Him in return and serve Him.  Now the righteousness of God will not allow Him to save those who rebel against Him, but our worship is evidence of our love and devotion to Him.  It is foolish to think that after baptism we have no need to continually sing, teach, and pray and no need to participate in the contribution and communion of the church.  Assembled worship is not optional for us; it is a requirement, and forsaking it has severe consequences (Hebrews 10:22-31).

God designed worship for our benefit, not His own, and love is its motivation.  As God seeks us and loves us (Luke 19:10), then we ought to seek Him and love Him and His church (Luke 12:31; 1 John 4:7 - 5:5; Hebrews 11:6).  Let us never think that God saves us in return for worshipping Him.  Worship does not earn us salvation (2 Timothy 1:9).  It is only a declaration of our love for God and God's love for us.



Copyright 2014, Speaking Sound Doctrine