Worship is an important element in the life of the Christian. While it is a command of the Lord to worship Him (i.e., Rev. 22:9), it should also be an automatic response of a grateful soul for the blessings of life and salvation. Indeed, in all human beings, whether they openly profess to be religious or not, there seems to be a tendency to worship. However, most direct their worship to the wrong object. Some worship their ancestors, others worship the heavens, some worship an object crafted by their own hands and others worship themselves (Rom. 1:21-28). While the desire and need to worship is there, the knowledge of Whom to worship and how to do it is not. God’s word teaches us about the proper object of worship and the proper way to do it.
First, only God is to be worshiped. “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). Because all other objects and persons are created by God, only He is worthy of worship (Ps. 100; I Chron. 16:25,26). Since Jesus is also God, and, along with the Holy Spirit, was involved in the creation of the world (Gen. 1:1,2; John 1:1-3), He is also worthy of worship (Mark 5:6; Rev. 4,5). Many, however, often without even realizing it, worship things other than God. Some worship wealth or possessions and others worship fame and status. But Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve God and mammon and be acceptable to Him (Matt. 6:24). God is the only authorized object of worship.
Second, reverence must be exhibited when approaching God in worship. When Moses approached God in the burning bush, God told him that the place whereon he stood was “holy ground” and that he should remove his shoes as a sign of reverence (Ex. 3:5). Today, of course, we do not show reverence by removing shoes, but we should show reverence in the way we approach God in worship by the way we dress, by the way we conduct ourselves and by the way speak. David said he would not offer to God that which cost him nothing (II Sam. 24:24). We should be willing to sacrifice in order to come before God. Like the four and twenty elders before the throne, we should cast down our crowns before the Lord (Rev. 4:10). Our attitude toward God will be manifested by how we present ourselves before Him (I Chron. 16:29; Psalm 92:2).
Third, God must be worshiped according to His will. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” God must be worshiped both in spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit is to worship Him with the right attitude or disposition of heart, which we just mentioned. But God wills that we worship Him according to truth as well, which means it must be done the right way.
For example, when Abel offered the wrong sacrifice, God was not pleased (Gen. 4:4,5). Cain chose to offer that which God had not commanded and was condemned for his unfaithfulness (Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17). Likewise, Nadab and Abihu offered the wrong fire in worship, a fire which God had “commanded them not,” and were destroyed because of it (Lev. 10:1,2). God said He was going to be sanctified in those that come nigh Him (Lev. 10:3). The world attempts to worship God in it’s own way, and God will have none of it. Ignorant worship is false worship and is not acceptable to God (Acts 17:23). Jesus condemned this kind of attempt to worship God when He said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Fourth, scriptural worship of God consists of specific actions which God has authorized. Some have said in the past that all that we do in life is worship. Such a view is completely without scriptural support. For example, when Abraham obeyed God’s command to offer Isaac, Abraham said “abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship” (Gen. 22:5). Abraham was not worshiping as God commanded until He went to the place and performed the actions God had commanded. Abraham lived during the Patriarchal dispensation when God spoke directly to the fathers (cf. Heb. 1:1,2). Today, however, we live in the Christian dispensation and we are to listen to the Lord and the Lord only (Heb. 1:1,2; Matt. 17:1-8).
Under Christ, worship consists of five specific acts: Teaching/preaching, prayers, singing, giving, and the Lord’s supper. Very early on in the inspired account of the establishment and growth of the Lord’s church we are given a list of things in which Christians strictly continued and these five items are subsumed under them. Acts 2:42 states: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” While we cannot here go into detail about each of these avenues of worship, a brief summary will suffice to show the example of the first century church.
The book of Acts records that upon the first day of the week, the early church gathered to hear the gospel preached, which was the equivalent of the apostle’s doctrine being taught (Acts 20:7). The apostles doctrine involves teaching/preaching. This passage (Acts 20:7) also states that they partook of the Lord’s supper, or broke bread, on the first day of every week (I Cor. 10:16). Prayer was also an important and mandatory part of the services of the Lord’s church in the first century (Acts 12:12). On the first day of every week, first century Christians were commanded to lay by in store as God had prospered them (I Cor. 16:1,2). Finally, singing was a part of the worship of the assembled church (Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; I Cor. 14:15). Singing was also a way of “teaching and admonishing” which is referred to in Acts 2:42. Anything more than these adds to the worship and anything less, on the Lord’s day, takes away from God’s commands and corrupts the New Testament pattern.
God demands our worship be pure. Therefore, “let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Ps. 95:6) and let us “give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (I Chron. 16:29).
Eric L. Padgett