Part I: public worship--what is it?
This is how king David looked at God's creation.
Psalm 19:1-4. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies
proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth
speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is
no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their
voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends
of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the
Every action that God has done or will do brings glory to
him. What does our worship mean to God? Let's look at Romans
3:23 to see something. Romans 3:23. "for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God
" We've all fallen short
of the glory of God, all of us. God is the point of everything.
This is an interesting point and a way of looking at sin.
No matter what we do or who we are, we've all fallen short
of God's glory, and we always will! Worship is not about us,
it is about God. God could have raised up stones, rocks, to
worship him--but he raised us up instead. Every action that
God has taken or will take is to bring glory to him. How do
we view worship, public worship? Worship is not about
what makes us happy but what makes God happy. When God becomes
happy, pleased with us, that happiness is reflected back into
us by him. We in the Worldwide Church of God have
gone through some changes in our public worship. In our worship
team meetings we pray and talk about the subject of worship
and the effectiveness of our worship of God. We pray about
the subject of worship and ask others to pray about our public
worship. We pray for a proper understanding of what worship
is. What is worship for anyway? There is a broad spectrum
of worship both in what we do or what we may yet do. Some
leave one Christian fellowship and go to another simply to
find a worship service that suits them. But the question isn't
so much "What is the worship service that I like
"How does God want to be worshipped? What is acceptable and
what isn't acceptable to God?" To learn this we must look
into God's Word for God's understanding of what he wants--what
is acceptable and what isn't. We find there is a framework
that God gives us to work with.
STARTS THE PROCESS FIRST
Worship is our response to God. It
is something we are doing to him. He touches
us first, to open our minds to him. He gives us his love first,
regardless of who or what we've been and what we are. No matter
what we've been or are now he says to us, "The very first
thing I want you to know is that I love you!" "I love you.
And as a result of all I'll show you and do for you, you'll
worship me." God created us for his pleasure, not for
ours. We were created for his purpose. That's what worship
is about. We can't exist without God. Worship is from God,
for God, to God. He created us to comfort him. Worship is
initiated by God first. And there is a remarkable benefit
for us when we worship God, when we enter this world of worship.
What happens when we enter into worship with God? We enter
into a loving relationship with God. We enter into a relationship
that will go beyond measure. Are you in a relationship with
God right now? Do you know what that relationship is or should
be? Let's look into the subject. A lot of us know God. A lot
of us understand that God exists. But all of this is one way.
We find that we're loving God on our own terms, not his.
All our idols fall short of God. When we come before God in
a complete, open, loving relationship, that is worship. Worship
in the Old Testament was a formality, a covenental agreement
of obedience. Did Israel believe God? No. Worship in the New
Testament is a different relationship. In the Old Testament
the primary vehicle to worship was the Temple. The people
had to come to the Temple to worship God. And bringing
sacrifices for their sins was an essential part of this worship.
That's why they needed to go to the Temple to worship God.
They had to do all this before God would hear them.
In the New Testament the focus has changed. The focus is now
on Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection, and the
atoning power of his blood. It is by the blood of Jesus Christ,
shed for our sins instead of all those bulls and goats of
the Hebrew sacrificial system of worship, that we are now
able to be with God. You don't have to go to the Temple of
God to have Jesus' blood cover and atone for your sins. Both
forms of worship required us to respond to God's initiative
in our lives. Before, you had to do things before God would
hear you. As we just saw, you had to enter into the old covenant
Temple with your physical sacrifices. Now Jesus is our true
Temple and so we come to Him to worship. We get into this
Temple by his shed blood. Jesus had done
it for us. And so we find that worship of God revolves around
having a relationship with God--in both the old and new covenants.
The two are common but different in many ways. The common
denominator between the two was that worship revolved around
having a relationship with God. The relationship with God
is the primary motivation for worship. In Old Testament Israel
they worshipped God as a result of his great acts for them.
The book of Exodus is full of those acts. Read from Exodus
chapters 1 through 12, and then chapter 15 verses 1-18. What
God had just done caused them to worship him in praise and
CAN WORSHIP GOD IN VAIN
You can worship God in vain. And the result
under the old covenant could mean death. Look at Nadab and
Abihu's example of vain worship in Leviticus 10:1-5,9-11.
"Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer
and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane
fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So
fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died
before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the
Lord spoke, saying: 'By those who come near to Me I must be
regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'
So Aaron held his peace. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan,
the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, 'Come
near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of
the camp.' So they went near and carried them by their tunics
out of the camp, as Moses had said." Verses 9-11, "Do not
drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, or your sons with you,
when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die.
It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations,
that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between
unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of
Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them
by the hand of Moses." Judging from this command which comes
right on the heals of Nadab and Abihu's untimely death, they
were drinking on the job and it affected their proper judgment
and responsibilities as priests. They were worshipping God
in vain in a very real way. In the New Testament Jesus has
this to say. Matthew 7:21-22. "Not everyone who says to me,
'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who
does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me
in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name,
cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your
name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you;
depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" The penalty
under the old covenant was physical death. The penalty under
the new covenant is separation from God and his eternal reward,
at least for that time of judgment, which may come at the
time of his 2nd coming. This may just be a command
to 'Get away from me and become real Christians now!' We just
don't know yet.
BETWEEN OLD AND NEW
In the Old Testament the children of Israel
worshipped God as a result of his great acts. So as a result
of God's intervention in their lives, their reaction was,
'I'm going to worship you.' Moses touched the core of ancient
Israel's relationship with God. They knew that God loved them
and that God would do anything for them. All the plagues (Exodus
6-12), all the miracles (Exodus 13-19 and elsewhere) that
occurred--they were always taken care of. God loved them and
they knew it. It was because that relationship existed that
they thought they could control God. They could control God
they thought. The reason Moses gave Pharaoh why they wanted
to get out of slavery was so they could worship God. We see
a New Testament parallet in the book of Revelation. The book
of Revelation parallels the book of Exodus. Most don't realize
that. In Revelation 7 we see a New Testament parallel--the
symbol for Passover is used. We find the saints have washed
their robes in the blood of the Lamb. In the Old Testament
example the Israelites took the blood of lambs, and came under
the protection of this blood, which spared them from the death
angel and certain death. In Revelation 7 we find the saints
washed themselves, their lives in the blood of Jesus Christ--the
only thing that can cleanse sin. And the Passover example
is there. In Revelation the sentence goes on to say that they've
washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb so they
can worship the Lord. That's why they do it.
And furthermore, it is this blood of the Lamb which saves
us from Eternal death and separation from God. We have to
accept the fact that in some ways the form of worship carries
over from the "old" to the "new," in the form of it, the worship
aspect, and even in the symbols used. The similarity involves
worship, reverence. The similarity involves attitude.
There are many forms of worship in the world
today, aren't there? Many different types of worship exist
when it comes to worshipping God. Sometimes we're uncomfortable
with the ways that others worship God. We fear, primarily,
that we may be offending God. That's one of the reasons that
we may feel uncomfortable. The others maybe are personal.
How do you feel about saying "Amen"? It means that we agree
with the prayers that have just been said. So if we say, 'Father,
help me so that I may love you more,' we might hear an "Amen".
But if I say, 'Father, please help the Red Sox beat the Mets
tonight,' is that something that you would say an "Amen" to?
Maybe not. Maybe you don't feel that would be total worship.
If I said, 'Brethren, let's just stand, and for a moment look
up into the heavens and raise our hands and just thank God
personally for what he has done for us.' Maybe you might feel
comfortable with that and maybe you might not. What if I said,
'Brethren, let's just raise our hands, let's just sit here
with our hands raised to him. And let's meditate on him.'
Maybe that would feel awkward. Maybe that would feel good.
I think of Moses when his hands were outstretched, and what
happened? When the battle with the Amalekites was going on,
as long as his hands were raised he and the Israelites were
fine. When he let them down they would start to lose the battle.
Sometimes those things might be considered a little bit out
of the "norm" for us. Some will say, 'I don't want any part
of a Jewish festival! That's all in the old covenant and I
don't want any part of that.' Others will say, 'Well, there's
a lot of meaning there.' God gave them for a reason. He must
have had some intent behind them.' And so we see there's feelings
on both sides.
CHANGE IN THE CONTENT OF WORSHIP BETWEEN OLD AND NEW
The content of worship changed between the
old and new covenant. It's changed dramatically and forever.
It's important for us to realize that it changed. What's the
difference between worship in the Old Testament and New Testament?
Two words. Anybody know what they are? Jesus Christ!
Big difference between the old and the new. Two words that
bring Eternal life and Salvation to you--Jesus Christ. Christians
in the New Testament had many Jewish characteristics though.
We can read the book of Acts, and we find out the book of
Acts was comprised early--the early Church was made up of
Jewish converts. What had they established in their lives
already?--traditions and customs. These were Jewish traditions
and customs. Some of those customs and traditions live on.
Many of those traditions became more meaningful to Christians.
Because of Jesus Christ, they saw those two words in these
customs. For example, Jesus Christ and all he was and did
and is today, the Messiah, can be seen throughout the customs
and traditions of the Jewish Sedar meal. One Jewish person,
while a student at Brandeis University, discovered Jesus Christ,
came to recognize him as the Messiah, when he saw his sacrifice
portrayed in the customs of the Passover Sedar meal he was
observing at home with his parents one year. He became a Christian,
and he wrote a book about this experience. So changes in the
New Testament Church over worship services began to take shape.
In the Old Testament we had Temple worship. You had to bring
sacrifices for your sins to this Temple before you could approach
God and be heard. Temple worship was glorious to be sure.
King David set up whole divisions of singers from the Levites,
who rotated on duty, and sang in what must have been huge
choirs. King David exuded musical enthusiasm. The whole book
of psalms were put to music to be sung in the Temple as Praise
and Worship hymns. Now in the new covenant the Temple was
and is Jesus Christ. And so the worship service changed, became
different. Format changed as well. There was active participation
in the service by all people. It wasn't just a certain group
of people, as it had been in the Temple at Jerusalem. The
congregation was sent forth to preach the gospel, to praise
Jesus Christ's name by living what they believed. And by when
someone said, "Hey, I notice something different about you.
What is that?" "That's the hope of Jesus Christ living in
me that you too can have!" How can we preach that gospel [the
gospel of Christ]? We can live it. We can then talk about
it. And if I was so inclined, and wanted to, I could go and
knock on my neighbor's door. And some will say, "There's Mr.
Ebeling, he's saying, 'We have to go door to door!'" I'm not
saying that, but what would be wrong with that? Would it help
or would it hurt? [Let that be your way of determining your
actions.] We see that there were Christians that started to
worship Jesus Christ on Sunday as their day of worship, totally
different from the Sabbatarian Jewish Christians. Yes, there
were still Christians who gathered on Saturday, the Sabbath
day, as was their custom to worship Jesus Christ. No fault
there, nothing wrong with that. [If you think so, read Romans
14, where Paul was correcting the Gentile Christians for their
judgmental attitudes toward the Jewish Christians in their
What we see is that the New Testament Church focussed on this.
They focussed on the birth of Jesus Christ, they focussed
on the life of Jesus Christ, they focussed on the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. They then focussed on the ascension
of Jesus Christ. And they focussed on the soon coming return
of Jesus Christ. And all was focussed on Jesus Christ.
That's what the New Testament Church was founded on--on the
Rock, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I will build my Church, and
the gates of hell will never prevail against it!" That was
never said of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The structure of worship retained a lot of Jewish elements.
They gathered to worship. We gather to worship. The gathering
occurs. We have the ministry of the Word, where in the Temple
or synagogue the reading of the Law took place. Now we preach
the gospel message, both in services and abroad. The structure
of the Jewish Church and Temple was and is still in the Christian
Church. Instead of the Sedar meal, the Christians partake
of the Lord's Supper, until He come again. There was a sending
forth of the worshipping community, "Now go out and preach
the gospel unto everybody." Jesus said that in Matthew 28
verse 19. In the congregation today we have prayers, singing,
preaching, Scripture reading, and congregational participation.
And lastly, the use of spiritual gifts in the praise and ministry
of Jesus Christ, because we all have gifts. When we come together
in our Christian congregations, our worship isn't for us,
it's for God. This type of worship in the early Church that
began to develop involved the whole person--body, mind and
soul. Worship involves every part of our being. (Soul can
be translated as "spirit.") Worship in the New Testament was
no longer single dimensional, it was multi-dimensional, in
the full spectrum. It wasn't just an emotional binge but something
that came from deep within. In fact, this worship affects
our heart. And this type of relationship that we want to have
with God suggests to us that we need to have this type of
worship service--a worship service that facilitates this type
of realization that we're in a loving relationship with God.
That's the substance of worship.
We find that Hebrews 10 is really a summation
of chapters 7, 8 and 9. Let's read Hebrews 10:19-25. "Therefore,
brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood
of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for
us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and a High Priest
over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart
in full assurance of faith, having our conscience and our
bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession
of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and
good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so
much the more as you see the Day approaching." Now verse
25 which is in bold. What that verse means when you look at
it under the surface is that those who purposely and willingly
continue to abstain from meeting with one another (of like
faith) eventually lose their relationship with God! And that
relationship comes in the form of worship! That's how powerful
worship is. When you worship God collectively as the body,
the relationship is there and it spills over into our relationship
with others. Next we will go into the theology of worship--how
you and I need to approach worship when we come to Church
services, and how you and I need to develop our lives before
God when it comes to this vital subject of worship. Hymn #
215 of our hymnal says it all.
[At this point I would like to make this statement of intent.
This webpage has been created and exists for the express purpose
of spiritually nurturing and uplifting Christians in their
walk with Jesus and God the Father by stirring up the Holy
Spirit in them through the reading of the gospel of Christ.
The material in this website is never
written or presented with the intention of drawing a Christian
out of his or her own particular Christian fellowship into
another. It is the intent and desire of all who work on this
site that Christians remain in the Christian fellowship
they came from, using the resources made available
here to strengthen themselves and thus their own fellowships
by their gaining a better understanding of God's Word, and
particularly the gospel of Christ. The editor.]