The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 15
3. BIBLICAL WORSHIP AND ORDINANCES.
We laid a foundation last week for the consideration of True Biblical Church Worship by looking at Psalm 84; and some of the words that are translated WORSHIP in the Scriptures.
There were 3 Hebrew words SHACAH, SEGEED and ABAD. Each has a slant on worship, but only the first, which indicates a prostration on the ground, refers to the worship of Almighty God. The others refer to idol worship and serving idols.
We only had time to look at one Greek word – PROSKUNEOH. PROSKUNEOH is the primary word for worship in the New Testament. It denotes the act of bowing or prostrating oneself in submissive lowliness and deep reverence. Of the 60 times that it occurs in the New Testament, 23 of them refer to worship, prostration of someone before the Lord Jesus Christ.
b. A second Greek word is SEBOMAI and a number of its derivatives. Sebomai mean awe and reverential fear. It appears in Matthew 15 v 9
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Acts 16 v 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
From Sebomai comes EUSEBEOH – meaning to show awe and reverence, translated “worship” in Acts 17 v 23
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
This false god to whom you show great awe and reverence – He is the One I preach to you today!
c. A third word is LATRYOO-OH which has its root in the word LATRIA – a servant. This verb means to do service – to worship – which is why our times of worship are called SERVICES. In our Gospel reading from Luke last week we had this word in verse 8 –
Luke 4 v 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (latreuo).
A connected word is LEITURGEO which is always rendered ministered and from which we get our English word Liturgy.
Worship is service. Yet this term is not so common in the New Testament because it was the express term for the function of a Priest. With the abolition of the priestly group now ALL Christians are priests – therefore it can be used to refer to the priestly service of all believers – and their worship.
As an aside we can note that the word Liturgy is a high jacked word for this idea of worshipful service. It was coined in the 4th Century by Catholic clerics who were seeking to establish a division between the priests and the laity. Latreuo denoted the religious conduct of worshipful Christian service.
Romans 12 points us to service of a worshipful kind –
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Service in verse 1 is ‘latria’. We are living sacrifices to the Saviour. This reasonable service is the fashioning of our inner lives and our outward physical conduct in a way which plainly distinguishes us from the world and corresponds to the will of God.
Christian worship therefore is the work of life as service to God.
True worship is the sincere expression of devotion to God. It is a sacrifice of ourselves to the Lord in spiritual service.
We do not offer animals in sacrifice – but the offering now is of ourselves.
Does this describe us, brothers and sisters? Are we truly living sacrifices? Is our worship a way of life for us? Richard Watson once said, “I know of no pleasures so rich, none so pure, none so hallowing in their influences, and constant in their supply – as those which result from the true and spiritual worship of God.”
The next thing to say about worship is that
TRUE WORSHIP IS GOD CENTRED.
This sounds obvious – but it needs to be said. There is a danger that we come to worship or go to worship for what we can get out of it – but because God is worthy of our worship. Whoever seeks to worship God as a means to an end will not find God! God will not be used by us mere mortal creatures. Now this runs totally contrary to many modern ideas of worship. Much preaching and teaching about worship these days promises HEALTH, WEALTH, CONTENTMENT AND A PROBLEM FREE LIFE for all who will turn themselves over to God. Those who preach this idea would be heart broken if their own children only loved them for what they could get out of them! Worship is often turned into a SUBJECTIVE experience – one in which the worshipper expects some sort of blessing by doing it.
Actually – we ARE blessed if we worship correctly – according to God’s word – but this is what we call a SPIN OFF from the true objective – that of our “ASCRIBING glory to God”.
But how can we make sure that God gets all the glory and the praise? The answer is that we need to know the BASIC PRINCIPLES which underlie the Biblical Doctrine of Worship.
These principles correspond to the Work of God in His dealing with all of His creation.
1. Worship is directed towards God. 2. Worship is mediated through Christ. 3.Worship is performed in the Power and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
1. Worship is directed towards God.
What truly makes worship to be worship?
Answer – the centrality of God.
It is God Himself who transforms human activity into worship – because it is the nature of the God worshipped that determines the meaning of worship.
What sort of God do we worship?
We worship the creator and sustainer of life; the redeemer and lover of His people; the giver of Himself in Christ; the deliverer from darkness to light – and we could go on describing the great and glorious God whom we worship.
When we know what sort of God and how great a God He is that we worship, we will then get some idea about HOW to worship Him.
Much modern worship fails to recognise the centrality of God’s character. Such worshippers treat Him as a pal, a familiar mate, someone like us – rather than someone totally unlike us!
King David knew of this otherness of God when he said in 1 Chronicles 29 v 10
Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. 11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. 13 Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. 20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king.
Psalm 72 v 18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. 19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
Psalm 77 v 14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
Psalm 86 v 10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Moses knew God in this way –
Exodus 15 v 11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Daniel Knew God in this way –
Daniel 4 v 2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
Paul knew God in this way –
Ephesians 1 v 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Peter knew God in this way –
1 Peter 1 v 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
While God evokes and stimulates worship as the creator and sustainer of all things, the DOMINANT theme of New Testament worship is the manifestation of his love and grace in redemption. Revelation 5 v 9 –14
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
All worship is the acknowledgement in praise and adoration of God for who He is and for what he has given to us – HIMSELF! We have nothing to offer God except that which we have been given – LIFE – all of it!
Worship firstly then is directed towards God.
2. Worship is mediated through Christ.
The New Testament teaches us to worship the Father through the Son – because the Lord Jesus Christ has provided access to God the Father for us. We read from Ephesians 1 a moment ago and saw in verse 6 that we are “accepted in the beloved”. The Beloved is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ the mediator – He is the Son of God’s love.
More than this we are invited – no, more than that – we are URGED – to
enter into the holiest with boldness and confidence by the blood of the Lord Jesus
– a quotation from Hebrews 10 v 19. By the blood of Christ, or through the blood – there is mediation going on here.
Another verse that explains that we worship through the Lord Jesus Christ is in 1 Peter 2 v 4
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Supremely, because the Lord Jesus Christ is God Himself – we also worship Him. But as we saw from Psalm 84 last time that we need the strength of the Lord Jesus to approach Almighty God in worship. He is at the same time our Mediator AND the object of our worship. Scriptures that show this?
1 Corinthians 1 v 2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Acts 9 v 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
In this verse Ananias speaks to the Lord in prayer about Saul – the reference is to believers who CALLED UPON THE NAME OF JESUS.
Paul refers to Jesus the Mediator in Romans 10 v 12
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
This is the New Testament equivalent of Genesis 4 v 26
then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
And Genesis 12 v 8
And Abram removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
The New Testament Christians saw, in the Lord Jesus Christ, One who was worthy of their worship – they could not help it! They adored Him while He was with them – and they continued to adore Him after he ascended. This was referred to in Revelation 5
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Is our worshipful focus on the Lord Jesus Christ this morning? Have we come to turn our eyes upon Jesus – to look full in His wonderful face? When we think of all that He is and all that He has done – how can we think of anyone else or anything else – but HIM? Worship is mediated through the Lord Jesus Christ – but it is also to be directed towards Him. Worthy indeed is that Lamb that was slain!
3.Worship is performed in the Power and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We can only truly worship the Lamb worthy to receive honour, the Lord God, the Creator of the universe – by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 3 v 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
John 4 v 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Romans 8 v 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Ephesians 6 v 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
All three persons of the Holy Trinity are involved in worship of God. Worship is God centred and therefore we have no right to expect any blessing for doing what, after all, is our creaturely duty! We were made to worship! The amazing thing is that the Lord God DOES give us joy and peace in worshipping Him – because He is love as well as being worthy.
If only we knew just how great our God is. How much more seriously we would engage in worship!
The Lord Jesus Christ addressed this whole issue with the woman whom he met near to Jacob’s well We read about it in John 4. Turn there.
Let us take up from v 19 – read to 24.
Jesus emphasised that where the Samaritans worship, in terms of Ignorance, the worshippers whom the Father seeks must worship in the realms of truth.
What is truth?
The Lord Jesus Christ explains that TRUTH IS THE TOTALITY OF THE REVELATION which He has made of Himself.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
You are ignorant of the full knowledge of Almighty God – you haven’t found out what God is really like.
It maybe that some of us here are as ignorant as the woman was – and her friends and relations amongst the Samaritan people. In order to worship the Lord God we need to know Him – to know what He is like – to have a personal relationship with Him. Let me ask you this morning – do you have this? Do you know God? Can you say that you have such a relationship, that when you pray you know that you are speaking to Him – and when you read His word you know that he is speaking to you?
If you cannot it maybe that you are not even saved! It maybe that you have not yet come to that true and living experience of Jesus Christ as your saviour – conversion!
If I am speaking to someone this morning – and you know in your heart that you are a stranger to the Lord God – then quietly resolve to seek Him with everything that you have! Repent and believe!
But Jesus also points out that even though the Jews are doing everything right on the OUTSIDE – that is the place, the surroundings, the rituals etc; all apparently according to the word of God; and in doing them they thought that they were doing God’s will and that He was pleased with them – yet GOD SAYS NO! I am not pleased! The Father seeks worshippers not only in the realm of TRUTH – but also in Spirit.
What did the Lord mean by IN SPIRIT?
Either it is a reference to the energising power of the Holy Spirit in Worship; OR the spirit which is the same as INTERNAL HEART worship as opposed to external “going through the motions worship.” Brothers and sisters we are all capable of going through the motions aren’t we? Worship can become a weekly routine and duty – rather than a wonderful refreshment and delight!
According to the Lord Jesus Christ the Father is on a quest – a mission – to have worshippers who are TRUE worshippers. These must be those who will present to Him a worship that is characterised by 2 things –
TRUTH – worship according to His revealed Word
SPIRIT – by the reality of its spiritual nature – in other words it is a matter of the heart.
Anything else is an abomination to God. How do we know that? Has God ever spoken on the subject of worship that is abominable? Yes He has – turn to Isaiah 1 v 11 – 17.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
What a passage? Can we say “well that was only for the Jews? They were offending the Lord and they bore the criticism of the Lord God – it cannot apply to us!”
Yet my friends the connection IS obvious. The People of Israel HAD received clear instructions about how to worship their God Jehovah. Read Leviticus 23 for example –
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
There are many other clear passages like this that was the spelling out by the Lord God of the right way to worship Him. I am thankful that we are not Jews! There was so much to know and adhere to in the Jewish system. And it is even more amazing to find in the Lord Jesus’ day the many ADDITIONS that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought to bear on the Jewish people in their worship. It is little wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ said this about them – recorded in Matthew 15 v 9
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
There should be a tremendous concern in the heart of every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are offering to God the kind of worship that the Father seeks.
Is this our concern today? Are our minds and hearts tuned to godly worship? It would be unreasonable of the Lord God, who seeks true worshippers, for Him not to provide instructions on how to worship Him! He does not leave His people to make things up as they go along! He does not make demands on His people to try to work out what is acceptable all on their own! He tells them – He has told us – and next time we will search the scripture to identify what He has said and what he will accept.
May we be learners and seekers! May we seek what God wants and then seek to do what he wants with all the spiritual energy that He has given us! To His praise and glory.