11 — What We Believe About Worship (Part 1)

Whatever we do with our lives to intentionally honor God above all else is worship. It is, in fact, the very definition of worship.[1]

God deserves this preeminence in our lives for two reasons: First, He is the creator and sustainer of all things, the embodiment of holiness, the absolute universal sovereign.[2] Repeatedly in the Bible, the call to honor God is for this reason and because His status is absolute, nothing else and no one else is as deserving of this honor[3] and all people are expected to give it. Second, God’s people are called to place Him first because of what He has done for us in particular.

It is for this latter reason, and to keep us in mind of it, that God calls His people to assemble at special times for particular worship. In the Old Testament there were three specific times to do this[4] and each time was in memory of what God had done in saving His people in the Exodus. The same rationale applied in the New Testament where the greatest saving act of all was the exodus Jesus accomplished at Jerusalem in his death and resurrection.[5] His action frees believers from sin and he commanded we remember it with a special observance of bread and wine. Christians gathered on the day of that event, Sunday, to remember it with the Lord’s Supper.[6] This is why we also gather.[7] While Christians tended to gather for worship most days of the week,[8] the first day was always something special because of that observance. Sunday is preeminently the Lord’s Day and by devoting it to Him, we give Him worship.

We do not take this time lightly. In fact, every day of our lives is lived in view of the coming Sunday in preparation for this worship. The Old Testament was very specific that each day should be lived in honor of God with our behavior so that the special gathering of God’s people for worship would not be seen as hypocritical.[9] So, in the New Testament, we are urged not to be neglectful in our daily lives as our day of assembly approaches.[10]

Footnotes:

[1] There are, in fact, some twenty different Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible to refer to worship. They involve respect, awe, obedience, subservience, and thanksgiving. The English word “worship” means to give something worth or value and when we give God first place in our lives, that’s giving Him worth above all others. Paul wrote that our lives should be “living sacrifices,” that is, the entirety of our lives should be spent honoring God (Romans 12:1).

[2] See Psalm 96 for example – 1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. 7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. 9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. 11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

[3] Luke 4:8 and Deuteronomy 6:13

[4] The Passover, Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

[5] Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is described in the Greek text of Luke 9:28 as an “exodus” (or “departure” in the New International Version).

[6] Paul uses this term, “Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11:20.

[7] Christians should give up the explanation that because first century Christians gathered on the first day of the week, we should too. Early Christians gathered on the first day of the week for a reason. That should be our reason too – not that we are just doing what they did.

[8] Acts 2:46

[9] See for example Isaiah 1:11-17.

[10] Hebrews 10:22-25 – 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.