THE IMPORTANCE OF WORSHIP
THE MEANING OF WORSHIP
In the Old Testament, worship came from the Hebrew word shachah, which meant to bow down or other movements of the body to show respect, submission or reverence.
In the New Testament, worship comes from the Greek word proskun, which means to kiss the hand toward. From the meaning of the word it is easy to see that worship is the act of showing reverence, respect, submission, honor and adoration.
The Bible tells us to whom this reverence, respect, submission and honor must be given. The Bible tells us how to worship and even specifies certain times that God's people are to assemble for worship.
WORSHIP IN THE PATRIARCHAL AGE
Worship is as old as the human race. Early in the Patriarchal Age we find people engaged in worship, and with a reverence that shows that they understood both the sacredness and need for such devotion. In the Patriarchal Age worship was different from the Mosaic Age or the Christian Age. They did not have the Bible as their guide but God spoke directly to people in those days. God did not accept everything that was offered in worship. For example, He accepted Abel's sacrifice but rejected Cain's (Genesis 4:4-5).
In the Patriarchal Age there was no day set as a special day of worship and no city, temple or altar as a certain place of worship. Men erected altars and offered sacrifice in worship when and where the occasion was appropriate.
When Noah emerged from the ark he had few people, few animals and other things with which to replenish the earth. Yet the first thing that Noah did was to erect an altar and offer a burnt sacrifice to God of all clean beasts and fowls (Genesis 8:20). One would have though that Noah would first be interested in building a house for himself; instead, he began with an altar for God. After the flood the first thing that we find being done in the new world was an act of worship. In his worship Noah showed that he was thankful for being spared from the flood.
After God called Abraham from his home in Ur of the Chaldees to go to another land, He spoke to Abraham and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land…" (Genesis 12:7). First God promised to show Abraham the land (Genesis 12:1), now He promises to give him the land (Genesis 12:7). This was a special occasion and Abraham built an altar to the Lord. Abraham left this place, moving to a mountain near Bethel. Here he built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8). Later Abraham returned to the first altar and called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:3-4).
God asked Abraham to take his only son, Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering upon a mountain in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:2). Some would consider this murder rather than worship, but to the man of faith who loved God more than his country, and now more than his son, it was submission to God, whose way we do not always understand but whose will and love we do not question. Abraham arose early the next morning, cut the wood for the burnt offering, prepared the fire, took Isaac with two servants and journeyed to the appointed mountain. When they came near the place Isaac asked a penetrating question, “My father… behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). No doubt Isaac had seen his father erect many altars, offer many sacrifices, and his question about the lamb shows that it was the practice of the patriarchs to offer such an animal on the altar. Doubtless the question cut deeper into the heart of Abraham than his knife could into the breast of Isaac. How could he acknowledge the affectionate title of father when he was about to take the life of his son? On the brink of making this unbelievable sacrifice, and with unwavering faith, Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:8). Let us notice how Abraham referred to this awe-inspiring scene. To the servants he said, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship…” (Genesis 22:5). WORSHIP? It is when our bodies submit to do God’s command, our hearts yield to His will, our very soul surrenders at His word, that we truly worship. Truly these things were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). Let us be as willing and careful to obey God as was Abraham, when we “… go … and worship.”
Remember that in the Patriarchal Age there was no set day or certain place for worship. People did worship God by offering sacrifices, by submission to Him and by showing reverence and honor.
WORSHIP IN THE MOSAIC AGE
In lesson two we learned that the Mosaic age began with the giving of the law at Sinai and continued until Jesus died on the cross. During this time the people had first the tabernacle, then the temple as a place of worship. They had the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship. In addition to the Sabbath there were three feasts kept at Jerusalem each year which were times of worship. The three feasts were Passover, Feast of Tabernacles; Pentecost or feast of weeks.
There were daily sacrifices offered at the tabernacle, the day of atonement, kept each year when the high priest went into the Most Holy Place to offer blood as the atonement for the sins of all the people. Many other sacrifices were offered, such as burnt offerings, peace offerings and sin offerings.
Jerusalem was the place where the Day of Atonement and the three yearly feasts were observed. The three feasts were observed at a certain time each year. The Sabbath was the seventh day, a certain day each week. The daily sacrifices, the atonement and certain offerings had to be made at the tabernacle or temple, a certain place. From this we that there were certain forms, days and regularity for worship in the Mosaic Age.
Below is a picture of the tabernacle to indicate the things done in worship. The tabernacle had two parts: the Holy Place (7) and the Most Holy Place (8). The priests went into the Holy Place to make offerings to God daily. Only the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place, one time each year, to offer atonement for his own sins and for the sins of all the people.
WORSHIP MUST BE ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL
The people had a written law, the law of Moses, to instruct them in worship. The law told what sacrifices were to be offered, when, where, and why the sacrifices were to be offered. God did not accept everything that was offered as worship in the Mosaic Age.
Aaron was the first high priest in the Mosaic Age. He had two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who were priests. Nadab and Abihu worshiped God by burning incense. Unfortunately they “…offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1). They were priests and therefore the right ones to burn incense. They used the censer (firepan) and incense which the law required. Only one thing was wrong with the offering – they used strange fire. The fire to be used in burning incense was to come from the tabernacle and its holy services – it was to be holy. Nadab and Abihu may have brought the fire from home, borrowed it from a friend, it was common fire. To many this would be a small matter – fire is fire, so what difference does it make? The strange fire provoked the Lord to anger “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:2). It is never a small matter when we change God’s will. God rejected Nadab and Abihu because they changed this one thing and they disregarded God’s will, so let us learn a lesson from them. In worship we should not change what god has authorized, we should not presume to improve upon what God has said.
Another example of God’s displeasure at men changing divine worship is found in Uzziah, King of Judah (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). As king he went into the Holy Place and took a censer to burn incense. What was wrong with this? Only the priests were to go into the Holy Place. It was right only for “…the priests the sons of Aaron…to burn incense…” (2 Chronicles 26:18). Even though Uzziah was king, God did not excuse his violation of the law of worship. He was smitten with leprosy and remained a leper until the day of his death (2 Chronicles 26:21). This shows that God expects men to respect His will in worship. We must not change what God has said about worship.
WORSHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN AGE
Remember that the Christine Age began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, or 33 A.D. The church also was established on this day. The word church means the called out, and in the New Testament it refers to the people who are called out of the world by the gospel into the service of Christ. The church is God’s people in the Christian Age, so when we refer to worship in the Christian Age we are referring to worship in the church.
Simplicity is one outstanding thing about worship in the New Testament church. Worship in the New Testament church is so simple that all Christians can participate.
THINGS THAT SHOULD CHARACTERIZE OUR WORSHIP
1. Worship must be directed to God. John fell at the feet of the angel to worship. The angel forbade it, saying “…See thou do it not…worship God” (Revelation 22:8-9). Cornelius fell at the feet of Peter to worship him “But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man” (Acts 10:25-26). Jesus taught that God hears not sinners “…but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31). God is the one to be worshiped.
2. Worship must be in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We do not worship God in anger or fun. Worship must be in the spirit of reverence, praise, and adoration. Worship must be according to the truth of God’s word. Worship in the church must be according to the New Testament.
3. Worship should come from the heart, from a sense of need for God, from a recognition of God’s greatness, power, love and grace.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORSHIP
1. Vain Worship. Jesus reproved the Pharisees for worshiping in vain because they taught “… for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). We should examine our worship to see if it is based only on the traditions of men or can we give scriptural proof for what we do in worship.
2. Ignorant Worship. Paul exposed the people at Athens for worshiping in ignorance (Acts 17:22-23). The Athenians took great pride in their wisdom and learning, yet they did not know the God of the universe. They worshiped in ignorance and were unwilling to change. First and foremost we need to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). We need to study the Bible to be sure that our worship is according to His will. We should be sure that we are not worshiping in ignorance.
3. True Worship. In the Patriarchal Age true worship was a sacrifice offered on the altar for a special occasion by one who showed reverence and honor to God. In the Mosaic Age true worship had to be according to the Law of Moses. We learned from the example of Nadab and Abihu that men could not change God’s will in worship, even in small matters. In the Christian Age true worship must be according to the New Testament. Our worship is not based on tradition or the opinions and doctrines of men, but on the will of God according to the New Testament. The worship of the Patriarchal Age would not be true worship today. The worship of the Mosaic Age or according to the Old Testament would not be true worship today.
WORSHIP IN THE CHURCH
Individual Christians worship each day in prayer, praise, reading the Scriptures. The church must also assemble for worship. The regular day for the church to assemble and worship is the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), THE Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10).
There are many reasons why the first day of the week is significant to Christians, why it is the Lord’s day. Jesus arose on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). Between the resurrection and ascension Jesus appeared to the disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:19). The Holy Spirit came on the first day of the week (Acts 2:4). The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which always came on the first day of the week. The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1, 47). The disciples met for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The church made a contribution on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The church assembled on the first day of the week to worship and we are not to forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25).
The Lord’s day is not the Sabbath. Christians did not assemble to worship on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a special day between God and Israel in the Old Testament but not between God and Christians. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a day of rest but not between God and Christians. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a day of rest to commemorate their bondage and slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). Christians were never in slavery in Egypt. The Lord’s day is the first day of the week, not the seventh day or Sabbath.
When the church assembled to worship they sang (Colossians 3:16). This was a command to the whole church (Ephesians 5:19). They were to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They were to sing with the spirit and understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Nine times the New Testament refers to the followers of Christ singing. Not one time does it mention instrumental music in worship. The New Testament church did not use instrumental music in worship. It cannot be used in worship today by divine authority. Many today think that this is a small matter, that it does not make any difference whether we use it or not. REMEMBER that Nadab and Abihu thought that it was a small matter about where the fire came from to burn incense. God did not think so and they were destroyed. REMEMBER that King Uzziah thought it was a small matter concerning who went into the Holy Place to burn incense. God did not think so, he died a leper.
Those who use instrumental music in worship do so because THEY like it and reason that God will accept it because they like it. There is not a word in the New Testament about instrumental music in Christian worship. To use instrumental music in Christian worship disregards what God has said about worship in the church, it shows a lack of respect for God’s authority.
We can sing in worship by divine authority (Ephesians 5:19). We can give scriptural proof for singing in worship (Colossians 3:16). We cannot give scriptural proof for instrumental music in worship. Let us follow the scriptures and sing in worship as God said.
When the church assembled for worship they taught God’s word. The Jerusalem church continued in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). When the church at Troas assembled, Paul preached to them (Acts 20:7). The letter to Colosse was to be read “…in the church of the Laodiceans…” (Colossians 4:16). When we meet for worship we too teach God’s word.
When the church assembled to worship on the Lord’s day they observed the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). There is no scriptural authority for observing the Lord’s Supper on any day except the first day of the week. The church at Corinth was taught to properly observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-30). They met to worship on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). We follow the New Testament example and observe the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week, the Lord’s day.
When the church assembled to worship they engaged in prayer (Acts 2:42). Surely nothing is more clearly taught in the New Testament than the fact that Christians pray, especially in worship. When we meet for worship today we pray.
When the church assembled to worship they gave or made an offering (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Each Christian is to give (2 Corinthians 9:7). When the Jerusalem church continued in the apostles’ doctrine they continued in “fellowship” or giving (Acts 2:42). Like the church at Corinth, Paul instructed the churches in Galatia to make an offering upon the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). When we meet for worship on the Lord’s day we follow this New Testament teaching by giving to God.
We sum up the worship of the New Testament church by saying that they met on the first day of the week, they sang, taught the word of God, observed the Lord’s Supper, prayed and gave. This is what we do in worship today on the Lord’s day. Just as Nadab and Abihu could not change God’s will in worship, neither can we change God’s will for us in worship today. We must not add to or take away from God’s word (Revelation 22:18-19). This also applies to worship.
SECTION 1 - IDENTIFYING PROPER WORSHIP: SELECT THE PROPER THINGS ABOUT WORSHIP UNDER THE PROPER AGE
God Spoke Directly
Law of Moses
Not Set Day
No Set Place
Altar At Proper Occasion
Law of Moses
No Written Law
Giving as Prospered
SECTION 2 - TRUE OR FALSE
The Bible tells us to worship God but does not tell us how.
People in the Patriarchal Age kept the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel but not between God and Christians.
Men have worshiped God in the same way in the Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian Age.
God accepted everything that was offered as worship in the Mosaic Age.
Noah made a sacrifice to God when he came from the ark.
Abraham erected no altars of worship to God.
Abraham was the first high priest in the Mosaic Age.
In the Mosaic Age there was no certain time or place for regular worship.
Only the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place.
SECTION 3 - CHOOSE THE CORRECT ANSWER
_______ was smitten with leprosy for going into the Holy Place to burn incense.
Peter _____ allow Cornelius to worship him.
John _____ worship the angel.
Worship ________ to be acceptable to God.
must be in spirit and truthmay be according to the traditions of men
Worship according to the law of Moses _______ be true worship today.
When the Pharisees taught the doctrines and commandments of men their worship was ____.
Christians meet to worship on ____.
the sabbaththe Lord's day
The Lord's day is the _____ day of the week.
Christian worship by observing the _____.
Jesus arose from the grave on the ______.
SabbathFirst day of the week
The disciples came together on the ______ to break bread.
SabbathFirst day of the week
There is ______ bible authority for instrumental music in Christian worship.
New Testament Christians were taught ________ in worship.
to singto sing and play instrumental music
Nine times the New Testament refers to the followers of Christ _______ in worship.
singingplaying instruments of music
The church at Corinth was taught to give on the first day of the _____.
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