Vol. 7, No. 10
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Throughout history, man has chosen to worship God in incorrect ways. Cain offered fruits of the land rather than an animal sacrifice. The Israelite nation frequently fell into idolatry. As the consequences of these actions show, God must be worshiped in the manner he prescribed. As in times past, God has laws concerning worship of him. It is ever so important that we, too, worship God in the manner in which he prescribed or God will not accept our worship either.
So, how does one worship God today? Since God demands we worship him as he prescribed, we must seek the answer of this question in God's book, the Bible.
God must be worshipped (1) in spirit and in truth, and (2) according to the acts that he has set forth.
John 4:24 reads, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The phrase "in spirit" refers to the state of mind of the persons worshipping God. Contrast this concept with Old Testament worship that was ceremonial and carnal (Hebrews 9:1, 10). Further, we are to worship "in truth." This is to say that we are to worship God as he has prescribed.
There is a two-fold reason we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. First, we see from John 4:23 that God desires this type of worship. The passage states that true worshippers will worship God in such a manner and that God seeks such worshippers. Looking forward to New Testament worship, God ordered Old Testament worship to prepare man for worship in spirit and in truth. Secondly, God is a spirit, meaning he is without body. God, who is spiritual, desires spiritual worship. "A pure, a holy, a spiritual worship, therefore, is such as he seeks--the offering of the soul rather than the formal offering of the body--the homage of the HEART rather than that of the LIPS" (Barnes').
Man must worship God according to the acts God has set forth. The New Testament records five acts of worship authorized by God. They are (1) Communion, (2) Contribution, (3) Singing, (4) Teaching or Preaching and (5) Prayer. These acts are separate from one another, and none is more important than any other.
Matthew 26:26-29 records Christ instituting what we commonly call the Lord's Supper. From this text, we learn that the Lord's Supper consists of two parts, each with a particular significance. First is the unleavened bread, which symbolizes Christ's body. Secondly, the fruit of the vine, or grape juice, symbolizes Christ's blood that was shed on the cross.
First Corinthians 11:26-29 then gives additional information regarding the Lord's Supper. First of all, verse twenty-six gives the reason for which we partake of it, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." The Lord's Supper is set as a memorial that Jesus suffered on the cross for the remission of our sins. By partaking of it, we are reminded of his sacrifice.
Verses twenty-seven through twenty-nine discuss the manner in which we are to partake of the Lord's Supper. Many take the word "unworthily" from verses twenty-seven and twenty-nine and view it as relating to the individual partaking of the Lord's Supper. For this reason, some choose not to partake because they view themselves unworthy to do so. It is true, they are not worthy, but neither are you or I worthy. Fortunately, that is not the meaning of the word. Notice the "ly" suffix as it identifies the word as an adverb, not an adjective as some perceive. As an adverb, it modifies the verb "eat." The word "unworthily" describes the manner in which we partake of the Lord's Supper, not the condition of the individual.
The Greek word translated "unworthily" would have been better translated "irreverently" (Biblesoft's). When verse twenty-eight then tells us to "examine" ourselves, we are to ensure that we are showing reverence and truly using the Lord's Supper as a memorial.
First Corinthians 16:1-2 informs us to give on the first day of the week as we have been prospered. Second Corinthians 9:6-7 add that we are to give as we have purposed in our hearts. Further, the passage commands us to give with a cheerful heart, not grudgingly, because we have to give. Also in this text, we learn that God loves a cheerful giver.
Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are usually the first two passages to which one turns when seeking Scripture for singing. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to sing, thus excluding all other forms of music. We are to make melody in our hearts. Based on the Greek, the phrase carries a meaning of plucking our heartstrings, indicating our music is to come from the heart. Colossians 3:16 then informs us that we are to sing using psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that will teach and admonish.
Music in the Lord's church is singing that comes from the heart. God designed this music to teach and uplift. If we use any other form of music, God will not accept it as worship.
We are commanded to preach and teach in a variety of passages. Mark 16:15-16 commands us to teach the Gospel to every creature. Matthew 10:7 and Luke 9:2 also tell of the command for the apostles to teach all nations. These are all general commands to preach. Acts 2:42, however, records the New Testament church continuing in the apostles' doctrine. A doctrine is a way of teaching. The New Testament church was simply continuing to act as the apostles were teaching them to act. Further, Acts 20:7 records Paul preaching to the New Testament church during one of their worship services.
Numerous Bible passages command us to pray while several more give us examples of God's people praying. First Corinthians 14:15 includes prayer as a part of worship. In chapter fourteen, Paul is responding to the abuse of spiritual gifts by the Corinthian brethren during worship. Verse twelve commands them to use those gifts to edify one another. We are told in verse fifteen to pray with understanding.
The Lord's Supper is the only act of worship restricted to the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). The remaining aspects of worship can occur at any time.
God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. We worship God in spirit when we have the proper state of mind while carrying out our worship to God. We worship him in truth when our worship is as he has prescribed. God commands us to worship him through (1) Communion, (2) Contribution, (3) Singing, (4) Preaching and (5) Prayer.
Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.