Worship

FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions

Michael Hardt

Frequently Asked Questions

I. Introduction

II. The Concept of Worship

III. Worship in Old Testament Times

IV. How does Old Testament worship illustrate Christian worship?

V. Christian Worship

VI. Miscellaneous

 

I. Introduction

What is worship? Some people say “we worship in such and such a place” – and mean they go there to listen to a sermon. Others speak about ‘worship' but have in mind some sort of musical performance by a choir, orchestra or band. But is this actually what the Bible means by worship? As with all things we need to ask ‘what saith the scripture?' (Rom. 4:3)

The Bible shows that worship is the act of bowing before God, whether individually or collectively, offering something to Him that He can accept (see Q.1).

Unfortunately, men have bowed down before all sorts of things, from planets to carved wood or stone, whatever people thought might influence their lives, completely against God's will (see Q.16). How did it come to this? We find the answer in Romans 1: when people refused to honour God their hearts and minds were darkened, they became fools and bowed before man-made images (verses 21-23). When man refuses to bow before God he will end up bowing before all manner of things. In our post-Christian society, particularly in Western countries, people may profess to be non-religious but they demonstrate in practice that they still feel the need to look up to, to revere, and to bow before, something or someone, be it football, athletes, singers, or all manner of celebrities.

God's word shows the true meaning of worship according to God's mind. It shows that the principles to do with worship always remain the same: it must be done in faith (Heb. 11:6), in an attitude of reverence (see Q.1) and in bringing to God what He can accept (Q.13). But other things have undergone fundamental change: the things that can be presented to God today are very different from what Jews were to offer. The whole method and mode of Christian worship is fundamentally different from Jewish worship. 

Jewish worship was a formal and material type of worship involving animal sacrifices, cakes (‘meal offerings'), the first fruits of the harvest, the burning of incense, etc. Elaborate buildings and robes played an important role. Christian worship, on the other hand, is spiritual, not material.  We will look at some of these contrasts in Q.12.

But why, you may ask yourself, did God change the whole mode and method of worship? Has God changed? Surely not! (James 1:17; Heb. 13:8) But what has changed is that Christ died on the cross. Christians can look back to Christ's work of redemption and come to God in worship on that basis, offering praise and worship to God in the knowledge that sins are forgiven, the conscience is cleansed and God is glorified. This, evidently, was impossible in Old Testament times. The sacrifice of Christ was still future. Hence God instituted a ceremonial, formal, material worship which illustrated the work of Christ. Once Christ had come, though, these shadows gave way to ‘the body', to reality (Col.2:17).

If we want to worship God intelligently, it will be important to understand both the parallels as well as the contrasts between Old and New Testament worship (see Q.6 – Q.16).

The following questions and answers explore this important subject with a view to encouraging all Christians to become active worshippers. Worship is central to Christian life. As people who have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18–19) we have every reason to bow before God in worship.

 

II. The Concept of Worship

1.      What exactly is worship?

Worship is the act of bowing[1] before God (see Q.16), acknowledging and expressing His worthiness: who He is, His attributes, and His character. See, for instance, Revelation 5:9: ‘Thou art worthy'. In this sense, worship involves offering or presenting something to God (Q.13).

Worship is a central part of Christian life, whether as individuals or collectively (Q.23). We have been saved with a view to becoming worshippers, both on earth (John 4:23) and for eternity (Rev. 4:10–11; 5:9, 11–12).

 

2.     What do we learn from the Greek word for worship?

The Greek word generally translated worship[2] is ‘proskuneo'. It has been defined as follows: ‘to … crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage' (Strong's). In some instances it refers to the physical position only (see Q.35). But normally the word is used in relation to bowing before God. This underlines the meaning given above (Q.1). The physical attitude of bowing down which is conveyed by the word ‘proskuneo' illustrates the spiritual attitude that is essential for worship (which is the most important thing, given that as Christians we worship ‘in spirit'; see Q.15).

The first act of worship recorded in the New Testament is that of the wise men from the east worshipping ‘the child', the Lord Jesus (Matt. 2:2, 11). The word occurs around 60 times in the New Testament.

Another word sometimes translated worship is ‘latreuo' (worship service – see Q.22).

 

3.     Is worship identical to praise or giving of thanks?

No. We give thanks for what we receive (see Acts 27:35; 2 Cor. 9:15; 1 Thess. 1:2), we praise someone for what he has done (Matt. 11:25 (JND); Luke 19:37; 1 Cor. 11:2, 17, 22; 1 Pet. 2:14), but we worship God for what He is (Luke 24:52; John 4:22–24; 9:38; Rev. 5:9a). Worship is due to God only (Q.16) but it is good and right to thank and praise men where appropriate.

Thanksgiving, praise and worship may, of course, often be linked and offered together (Rev. 5:9).

 

4.     Is worship a spontaneous reaction or a planned activity?

It is both. On the one hand we read of individuals who were struck by God's greatness and by His marvellous actions and, in response to this, spontaneously fell down and worshipped. Examples include Abraham's servant (Gen. 24:26) and Gideon (Jdg. 7:15). The same applies to the five occasions of worship in Revelation (see Q.34).

On the other hand we know that worship is something we ought to bring. God deserves to be worshipped (see Deut. 26:10; 1 Chr. 16:29; Ps. 29:2; 45:11; 95:6; 96:9; 99:5, 9; 132:7). We should not ‘appear before the Lord empty' (Ex. 23:15; 34:20; Deut. 16:16). New Testament encouragements to worship include 1 Peter 2:5 and Hebrews 13:15.

 

III. Worship in Old Testament Times

5.     Did worship occur in Old Testament times?

Yes, there was individual as well as collective worship. Among the individuals who are recorded to have bowed down before God in worship there are, for instance:

  • Abraham (Gen. 22:5)
  • Abraham's servant (Gen. 24:26)
  • Joshua (Josh. 5:14)
  • Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:3)
  • David (2 Sam. 15:32), and
  • Job (Job 1:20).

Instances of collective worship include the following:

  • the children of Israel (Ex. 4:31; 12:27; 33:10)
  • the congregation (1 Chr. 29:20)
  • all the people (2 Chr. 7:3)
  • Jehoshaphat, Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chr. 20:18)
  • Hezekiah and all the congregation (2 Chr. 29:28–30), and
  • the people (Neh. 8:6; 9:3).

Finally, there are examples of angelic worship (Neh. 9:6; and Heb. 1:6b).

 

6.     How did believers worship in Old Testament times?

Old Testament worship

  • was largely material and involved animal sacrifices and the presentation of incense, cakes, firstfruits, etc.
  • was governed by strict formal ceremonies including holy places, robes, mediating priests, ceremonial washings, etc.
  • illustrates Christian worship (Q.7-Q.11) – and yet is fundamentally different (Q.12). 

 

IV. How does Old Testament worship illustrate Christian worship?

7.      What are the main Old Testament pictures of worship?

The main Old Testament types of worship are the following:

  • altars built by individuals (see Q.8)
  • sacrifices on the brazen altar, especially burnt offerings (Ex. 27; Lev. 1; see Q.9)
  • the burning of incense on the golden altar (Ex. 30:1–10; see Q.10)
  • the presentation of the basket of firstfruits (Deut. 26; see #11).

 

8.     What can we learn from the altars in the Old Testament?

After the flood when Noah had been saved and found himself on a cleansed earth, he built an altar and offered clean animals as a sacrifice (Gen. 8:20). The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built altars to approach their God (Gen. 12:7–8; 13:4, 18; 22:9; 26:25; 33:20; 35:1, 3, 7). They had communion with God and worshipped Him. From these altars we can learn important lessons:

1.       Believers should be worshippers.

2.      Worship is based on our knowledge of God (as the altars were built following a special revelation from God and/or experiences with Him).

 

9.     Do the Old Testament sacrifices shed any light on worship?

They do indeed. On the one hand these sacrifices (Lev. 1–7; 16; Num. 19; etc.) speak of the life (the meal offering[3]; Lev.2) and death of Christ. The typical meaning of the sacrifices is explicitly confirmed in Ephesians 5:2 (see also Heb. 9 and 10).

The sacrifices illustrate that the death of Christ

  • glorified God (burnt offering)
  • is the basis for and subject of communion (peace offering)
  • atoned for sins (sin offering), and
  • made good the damage caused (trespass offering).

Many different sacrificial animals and many different ways of offering them were needed in order to foreshadow the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. All of these aspects represent suitable material to be expressed in Christian worship.

On the other hand, some of these sacrifices, especially the burnt offering (Lev.1), illustrate worship itself:

  • the central thought in these sacrifices was that something had to be offered to God and that God is pleased with what is offered (‘sweet savour' in Lev. 1:9, 13, 17 etc.);
  • God was the one who determined what was, and what was not, acceptable material for worship, and how it is to be brought. Every detail must speak of His Son.

 

10. What can we learn from the golden altar of incense?

The golden altar (Ex. 30:1-10) was placed in the sanctuary of the tabernacle, just before the veil that barred access to the most holy place (‘holy of holies'). Every morning, Aaron the high priest had to burn incense on this altar. In this way the sweet smell of the incense — speaking of the perfections of Christ — filled the sanctuary every day. This type illustrates the fact that our prayers as well as our worship come before God based on the acceptableness of Christ.

When Aaron entered the presence of God on the day of atonement he had to ‘put the incense upon the fire before Jehovah, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat which is upon the testimony, that he die not' (Lev. 16:13). This shows our privilege to ‘enter in' and to ‘draw near' (Heb. 10:19.22) into the presence of God in order to worship there – knowing that we have been made ‘accepted in the beloved' (Eph. 1:6).

 

11.   What can we learn from the instructions in Deuteronomy 26?

This passage gives instructions to Israelites for the time when they would be in the promised land. They were to gather the firstfruits of the harvest into a basket, place them ‘before the Lord', and recount their history as a people and the way in which God had blessed them. Then they were to worship. Whilst there are some differences to Christian worship (e.g. we should not primarily be occupied with ourselves, our history or our blessing but with Christ and His work) there are some practical lessons we can draw from Deuteronomy 26:

·         The Israelites had to live in the land in order to be able to gather the firstfruits. As Christians, we have to understand and enjoy our Christian position (see Q.19).

·         We first need to gather fruit (be occupied with Christ) in order to have substance to offer in worship.

·         God takes the first place (it was the firstfruits, not the left-overs, that were offered).

·         Fruits had to be fresh and couldn't be stored for long. This shows that what we offer God must be fresh; we should be in the enjoyment of the things we speak of in worship.

·         Worship is connected with joy: ‘And thou shalt rejoice…' (v.11).

·         Worship is not made up of incomprehensible sounds or endless repetition. It consists of words which intelligently describe God and His character as revealed in His actions or ways.

 

V. Christian Worship

12.  How was Jewish worship different from Christian worship?

Having looked at the Jewish system of worship described in the Old Testament, we need to realise that this was fundamentally different from Christian worship:

·         It was based on ceremonies (a tabernacle or temple, altars, animal sacrifices, incense[4], robes, etc.). Christian worship, on the other hand, is spiritual (‘in spirit', see Q.15).

·         It consisted of ceremonies that were essentially shadows; Christianity is the reality, the body, the ‘real thing': it has ‘the very image of the things' (Heb. 10:1; see also Col. 2:17).

·         It looked forward to what God knew would happen at the cross. Christian worship is based on the finished work of Christ (Heb. 9:12, 14). God no longer desires animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:5–6).

·         It was characterised by repeated shedding of blood (Heb.10:1). Christian worship is based on the fact that the work is finished. The blood has been shed ‘once for all' (Heb. 9:12, 26; 10:12).

·         It was marked by class distinctions: the high priest, the priests, Levites, and the common people. In Christianity, Christ is the ‘great high priest' and there is no other mediator, neither ‘Saints' nor Mary, nor a special class of ‘priests' (1 Tim. 2:5). All believers are priests (1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6) and have direct access to approach God (Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:19–22).

·         It made nothing perfect (Heb. 9:8; 10:1, 4). Christian worshippers have been made perfect[5] (Heb.10:14), have a clear conscience, and liberty to approach God in worship — neither of which was known by Jewish worshippers.

·         It was addressed to the LORD (Jehova, Jahwe, see Gen 13:18; Deut 26:4); Christians know God as their Father and, therefore, worship the Father (John 4:23) and the Lord Jesus, His Son (Q.16).

The use of special robes, altars, literal incense, a special class of priests etc. by Christians represents a return to Judaism – something the Epistle to the Hebrews warns against in no uncertain terms.

 

13.  What is it that we can bring to God in Christian worship?

As Christians we do not offer material sacrifices as Israel did (Q.12) but spiritual ones. But how can we worship God whom we have never seen? God has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus. His life on earth and especially His death on the cross have shown us who God really is. Therefore, in our worship, we express in words what the Old Testament sacrifices illustrated as types: what Christ is and what He has done on the cross. This will form the subject of worship in eternity (see Q.34). We are ‘a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ' (1 Pet. 2:5).

The Lord Jesus himself announced this new form of (spiritual) worship (John 4:21, 23; see Q.15). The Epistle to the Hebrews demonstrates in detail the superiority of Christian worship (see Q.12)[6].

Worship is not a matter of being sentimental or emotional (although our hearts will be touched or affected in worship). The worth and value of what we present lies in the features of God and His Son that are being presented, not in our emotions (see Q.14).

 

14. How do we know that God accepts what we bring?

1 Peter 2:5 states that the spiritual sacrifices are ‘acceptable to God by Jesus Christ'. That they are acceptable is not based on what we are naturally or in our practical lives or on our eloquence or the grandeur of the building used, but on the Lord Jesus. Our words may be simple but if they are truthful and speak of Christ and His work, God will gladly accept them.

Having said this, God does want our daily lives and our worship to be consistent with His word. Otherwise, He will not be able to accept what is being offered. God did not look on Cain's sacrifice (Gen. 4:5) because it was based on the principle of ‘righteousness by works', presented without faith and ignoring the need of death in order to approach God. Amos had to tell the people of Israel that God would not accept their sacrifices because of their actions (Amos 5:21ff). If we have dishonoured the Lord we need to judge ourselves (1 Cor. 11:31). Then we can draw near to God again in worship.

 

15.  What is worship ‘in spirit' and ‘in truth'?

The Lord Jesus used this expression in His conversation with a woman from Samaria (John 4). She was used to a purely external and ceremonial worship, based on Jewish rites. The Lord explains that a new era was beginning and with it a new type of worship: ‘But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth' (v.23).

Worshipping ‘in spirit' conveys that:

1.       Christian worship is spiritual as opposed to material (see Q.13). This is in stark contrast to the elements of Jewish worship: robes, buildings, incense, animal sacrifices, etc. (Q.12) but it is consistent with what God is: ‘God is a Spirit' (John 4:24).

2.      The Holy Spirit guides the Christian worshipper as to what to express before God.

Worshipping ‘in truth' conveys that

1.       Worship is based on the truth revealed. The patriarchs worshipped the God who had appeared to them (Gen. 12:7; 26:24.25; 35:1–7). Under the law, worship had to be based on the instructions God had given. As Christians we have the full revelation of God. His heart has been made known. We know the Father. The Lord Jesus declared His name: ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God' (John 20:17).

2.      Our worship should be real. We should mean what we say and not just recite things and pay lip service (Matt. 15:8; Isa. 29:13).

 

16. Who do we worship?

Worship belongs to God, and never to creatures, be it men, angels, or anything else (Ex. 20:2–5; Deut. 6:13; Matt. 4:10; Acts 10:25–26; 14:13–18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9; see also John 4:24; 1 Cor. 14:25). In particular:

1.       We worship the Father (John 4:23–24; see Q.15). It says that ‘the Father' seeks worshippers. The name Father is used here to show that He seeks worship from those who are conscious of their relationship with Him as their Father (see also Eph. 1:3; 3:14; 5:20; etc.). We worship Him for what He is (Q.3) and for His wonderful purpose (Eph. 1 and 3).

2.      We also worship the Son. Although He became man, He ever was and is God. He is worthy to be worshipped. Even when on earth He accepted worship from men (Matt. 14:33; John 9:38). When He ascended to heaven the disciples still worshipped Him (Luke 24:52). Now that the Son has come, it is impossible truly to honour the Father unless due honour is given to the Son (John 5:23).

 

17.  Is worship of the Holy Spirit not Biblical, then?

No, it isn't. To see this, consider the following:

·         Nowhere in the Bible do we find an example of the Holy Spirit being addressed in worship (or in prayer).

·         The Holy Spirit dwells in us and helps us to enjoy our relationship with the Father and the Son (Rom. 8:15–16; John 14:8–17). We are exhorted to pray in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20) and we ‘worship[7] by the Spirit of God' (Phil. 3:3). It is worship ‘by', not ‘to' or ‘of', the Spirit.

 

18. What gift do I need for worship?

None whatsoever — neither for personal nor for collective worship. Every Christian can bow before the Lord. It is not a matter of gift. None of the lists of gifts mentions worship (see Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4:11ff). Gifts are for the edification of the body: for the salvation of sinners and the spiritual development of believers (Eph. 4:12). Worship is directed to God. It is not a matter of knowledge; rather, it is a question of affection and devotion.

 

19. Can anyone worship, and are there any prerequisites?

The first prerequisite is salvation. Only those who have been redeemed and are no longer under Satan's power will be able to worship. This is illustrated by the fact that Israel was not able to worship in Egypt but first needed to be redeemed (by the blood of the lamb) and delivered (by crossing the Red Sea). An unconverted sinner does not know God as Father and will not be able to see what is excellent in God's character.

Believers also need liberty to enjoy God's presence. They will only have this liberty if they are in the enjoyment of the Christian position: justified (Rom. 5:1), sanctified and made perfect (Heb. 10:10, 14), having a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). The knowledge of the finished work of Christ and the eternal security of the believer and being cleansed from an evil conscience (Heb. 9:12, 14; 10:22) will give the believer the liberty to come near to God in worship (Heb. 10:19).

Whilst, naturally, there will be growth in a believer's knowledge of the Lord and in the quality of his worship, it is still true that every believer can and should enjoy all of the above and, therefore, can approach God in worship.

 

20.            Do Christians worship the Lord Jesus as king?

Many probably do, but is it intelligent? As Christians we know the Lord Jesus as our Lord (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor. 1:2), our redeemer (Eph. 1:7), our bridegroom (Rev. 22:17), and our head (Col. 1:18) but He is never called our king. We look forward to the day when Christ will reign as king when all will honour Him. But even then we will reign with Him (as opposed to Him reigning over us). Our relationship with Him is a much closer one and this should be reflected in our worship.

By way of illustration: how will the President's wife greet him when he comes home in the evening? By saying: ‘Good evening, Mr President'? Surely not! Glad as she may be that he holds this office, for her he is the husband she loves, not her ‘Mr President'.

 

21.  Is worship really a useful activity?

John 4:23 states: ‘for the Father seeketh such to worship him'. This is so much more remarkable as it never says He seeks teachers, pastors or evangelists — or anything else. This shows how much God delights in a response from worshipping hearts.

In John 12 worship is illustrated by Mary's act of pouring out the precious ointment so that the odour fills the house. Judas regarded this as waste. In his view the money would have been put to better use by serving the needs of men (the idea of philanthropy). But the Lord defends Mary: ‘Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.' Expending energy or resources in worship is no waste. Worship is the most worthy cause ever. It is the highest form of service because it is directed to God (Q.16; Q.22).

After the 70 years of captivity when a minority of Jews returned to Jerusalem, the first thing they did was to set up the altar (Ezra 3:2–3). Worship was their absolute priority.

 

22. Is worship the same as service?

Worship, in a certain sense, is service (when this aspect of worship is emphasised the Greek word ‘latreuo' is used), but not all service is worship. Service often seeks to minister to the material or spiritual needs of men. Worship is addressed to God (Q.1; Q.16).

This distinction is illustrated in the Old Testament: priestly service was reserved to Aaron and his sons whereas levitical service could be carried out by any other Levite. In other words, worship is a more elevated activity than other forms of service.  Today, all Christians are priests (see Q.12) but the fact that priestly service is more elevated than levitical service remains.

 

23.  Is worship an individual or a collective activity?

Both. On the one hand we find many examples of individuals who worshipped God or the Lord Jesus (e.g. John 9:38). On the other hand it is as a ‘holy priesthood' (not as priests or as individuals), that we offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5). In this sense it is a collective matter[8].

Whilst the Lord delights in any individual bowing before Him and acknowledging His greatness, love and grace, collective worship (see Q.25) often rises to a far higher level than individual worship (because we are gathered unto His name (Mt.18:20), focused on Him, led in a special way by the Holy Spirit, and the worship of individual hearts is mutually reinforcing: what one brother expresses in worship gives rise to a new thought in another).

 

24. Can (collective) worship take the form of performances?

There are many performances (such as choirs or ‘worship concerts') which men refer to or publicise as ‘worship'. However, the idea of a performance is the very opposite from that of worship: a performance is addressed to an audience; worship is addressed to God (Q.1.). Performers receive applause; worshippers give glory to God (Rev. 19:10; 22:9).

 

25. Is there an assembly (church) meeting for (collective) worship?

There are three regular assembly meetings in the New Testament: for prayer (Matt. 18:19; Acts 12:5); for edification (1 Cor. 14:29), and for the breaking of bread (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23ff). The last of these is most naturally linked with worship. Whilst the objective of this meeting is to break the bread in order to remember the Lord (1 Cor. 11:24–25) and to ‘show' or ‘announce' His death (1 Cor. 11:26), it would be highly unnatural if the occupation with the sufferings and death of Christ did not lead us to worship Him and the Father who was made known in Christ's death.

Worship may, of course, also occur in other meetings (e.g. the prayer or ministry (‘edification') meeting, or even outside assembly meetings).

 

26. When we come together to break thebread (‘the Lord's supper'), in what order should we address the Father and the Son in worship?

When we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we ‘partake of the Lord's table' (1 Cor. 10:21). It is His table, communion with His body and with His blood; it is His supper. As the Lord presides at His table it would be unnatural not to address Him in giving thanks for the emblems (the bread and the cup) but it would not be good to try to regulate or to set up rules as to whether the Father is worshipped first or towards the end of the meeting, etc. Scripture does not specify these details and the course of wisdom for us is to not to do so either.

 

27. What are the respective roles of brothers and sisters in relation to worship?

Both brothers and sisters are priests (1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6) and any brother or any sister can worship the Father and the Son. In collective worship, brothers will give audible expression to worship, bringing before God the worship of the hearts of those gathered together. The focus is on collective activity – i.e. brothers and sisters worshipping as one. This would be evident when brothers and sisters are joined in singing a hymn and also when a brother prays audibly, as he prays on behalf of the company. In silent periods, both brothers and sisters may worship silently, in their hearts. This silent worship is beautifully illustrated in the odour of Mary's ointment – inaudibly – filling the house (John 12:3). The Lord delighted (not so much in the odour itself but) in the heart that was moved to offer up the ointment to Him.

 

28. Should we make use of the Psalms in Christian worship?

Many of the Psalms give expression to the feelings of Christ in His sufferings (see, for instance, Psalms 22 and 69). Numerous verses in the Psalms provide excellent material to stimulate meditation and for Christian worship. However, the Psalms are prophetic. For the most part they give expression to the feelings of faithful Jews during the tribulation period (generally known as ‘the remnant'). These faithful believers are not Christians and do not know the Christian position (Q.19): the knowledge of God as Father, assurance of sins forgiven, etc. They are still under the wrath of God and they legitimately pray to God that He might save them out of their troubles by destroying their enemies (hence the term ‘imprecatory' psalms). This is why many Psalms – valuable as they are – do not lend themselves to give expression to Christian worship.

 

29. What about the use of musical instruments in Christian worship?

Musical instruments were used in connection with worship in Old Testament times. Some of the Psalms refer to ‘stringed instruments' in their headings (see Ps. 4; 6; 54; 55; etc.) or in their text (e.g. 33:2; 45:8). In David's time, as part of the ‘service of the house of God', various musical instruments were used: ‘cymbals, psalteries, and harps' (1 Chr. 25:6).

When we come to the New Testament we no longer read of any musical instruments as part of worship on the earth – except in a symbolical sense in Revelation[9]. Rather, the directions are: ‘speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord' (Eph. 5:19), ‘singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord' (Col. 3:16).

Therefore, the use of musical instruments in Christian worship is not according to God's mind.

 

30.  Is there a link between Christian worship and Christian giving?

A number of passages indicate a connection between the two:

·         In Hebrews 13:15–16 the two are closely connected. Verse 15 speaks of worship: ‘By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.' This is followed immediately by the exhortation: ‘But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' It is interesting that the same word (‘sacrifice') is used here for the worship of the lips and the giving of the hands.

·         In Philippians 4:18 Paul uses similar language in referring to a material gift he had received: ‘an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God' — indicating that it had been offered, like worship, as a sacrifice to God.

·         In 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, the first day of the week is mentioned in connection with the collections for the saints, the same day on which the breaking of bread occurs (Acts 20:7). God takes account of both: what our lips express and what our hands give.

·         See also the connection between worship (the sacrifices) and giving (the tithes) in Deuteronomy 12 and 26.

 

31.  Where should I worship?

In one sense we can worship anywhere, whether at home or away from home; as long as circumstances permit and we have opportunity to be occupied with Christ, we may worship in our hearts and, where possible, with our lips (see Rev. 1:9–10).

In another sense, as far as collective worship is concerned, God wants us to be in the right ‘place'. This is no longer a physical or geographical place as was the case in Old Testament times (Deut. 12; 26:1) but a spiritual place, a set of principles: being gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 18:20). As Christians we should look for other Christians who desire to gather to the name of the Lord Jesus, recognising His authority (His word) and giving Him the central place (‘in the midst': John 20:19). This is the New Testament place for collective worship.

 

VI. Miscellaneous

32. Is the idea of having a ‘worship leader' Biblical?

No, it is not. Whilst it is true that in Old Testament times there was a ‘chief musician' (as the headings of many Psalms indicate), we do not find this concept in the New Testament (except to the extent that the Lord Jesus is now the chief musician, the One who leads the worship (Heb. 2:12)). Assembly meetings are guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that every brother can contribute (1 Cor. 14:26). This divine pattern is very different from the idea of a worship leader planning in advance what will be said and by whom.

 

33. Will there be worship after the Christian time period (i.e. when the Holy Spirit no longer dwells on earth)?

Yes. Numerous passages in the Old Testament contain prophetic statements to this effect: all the families of the nations will worship (Ps. 22: 27, 29). So will all the earth (Ps. 66:4), kings (Ps. 72:11), all nations whom God has made (Ps. 86:9), the dispersed from Assyria and Egypt (Isa. 27:13), all flesh (Isa. 66:23), the cities of Judah (Jer. 26:2), the prince (Ezek. 46:2), the people of the land (Ezek. 46:3, 9), all the isles of the heathen (Zeph. 2:11), all the nations (Zech. 14:16), and so on.

However, the church will be in heaven at that time – and engaged in worship there (see Q.34).

 

34. Will there be worship in heaven?

Definitely. Heaven will be characterised by worship. In Revelation, we read of five occasions of worship in heaven, each time with a specific focus:

·         worship of the Creator (4:10–11);

·         worship of the Lamb (5:12–14);

·         worship in view of the great multitude (7:9.11);

·         worship in view of the setting up of the kingdom (11:16–17);

·         worship in view of the judgment of the false bride and the Lamb's marriage supper (19:1–7).

The 24 elders symbolise the redeemed believers who have gone through death. Their new song (5:9) speaks of (i) Christ's person (‘thou art worthy'), (ii) Christ's work (‘hast been slain'), (iii) the results of His work for God (‘hast redeemed to God') and (iv) for us (‘made [us] ... kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth'). Each of these four themes of the new song is already part of Christian worship today. In this sense the new song has already begun.

 

35.  If worship belongs to God only, why is ‘worship' (proskuneo) used in Matthew 18:26?

Matthew 18:26 speaks about the man who fell down before his creditor asking for patience with the payment of the debt. In the King James Version it says: ‘The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.' Mr. Darby translates ‘worshipped him' as ‘did him homage' and the English Standard Version has ‘imploring him'. Whilst these alternative translations help us grasp the sense of the verse, the question remains why the Greek word for ‘worship' is used. Worship means ‘bowing down' (Q.2). This is the attitude to be taken by man before God (Q.15), but sometimes the word is used in a more general sense referring to the physical position taken. This is the case here (and also in other passages in the gospels and, for instance, in Rev. 3:9).

 

 


[1] Not necessarily in physical posture but in attitude (see Q.2).

[2] Also translated ‘give homage' in the New Translation.

[3] This perfection in His life is also illustrated in certain details of other sacrifices (e.g. ‘without blemish' (Lev. 1:3) and ‘without spot and wrinkle' (1. Peter 1:19)). It was a pre-requisite for His sacrificial death.

[4] If Christians literally burn incense, then – perhaps through lack of teaching – they act as though they did not know that these shadows have actually been fulfilled in Christ. Paul warns Christians not to return to Judaism (Gal. 2:14).

[5] All believers are perfect in relation to their position before God. Their practice is another matter. As long as we are on earth we have the flesh in us and, although we should not sin, are liable to fail or even to sin. However, we know that Christ suffered once for all and that God sees us in Christ and will hold nothing against us. Therefore, we have a cleansed conscience and liberty to ‘draw near' (Heb. 10:19–22).

[6] When we offer our bodies as a ‘living sacrifice' to God (Rom. 12:1) then this is not worship as such but a life lived for God out of thankfulness for the salvation we have experienced. Similarly, the results of our service for the Lord are regarded as offerings for the Lord – but they do not constitute worship as such (see the ‘offering up of the nations' (Rom.15:16) and the offering of the Levites (Num. 8:9ff)). None of these passages can be taken to justify the idea that we should engage in pilgrimages or other difficult undertakings to offer these to God in order to please Him.

 

[7] A different Greek word is used here (latreuo, worship service, see Q.2) but the same point applies. Worship service is directed by the Spirit of God, not addressed to the Spirit.

[8] Collective worship is already illustrated in the Old Testament where sacrifices had to be brought to the tabernacle (Lev. 1:3 etc.). In the New Testament, worship is connected with the sanctuary (Heb. 10:19) and the spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

[9] See Rev. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2. Revelation is a book full of symbols, the harps included (how can a harp sound like great waters and thunder (14:2)?). If anyone insists that these verses are given for literal imitation, to be consistent he would also need to take golden cups, put a crown on his head and stand by a sea of glass mixed with fire.