By Thomas Icard
In Volume 3, Number 3, of the Examiner, Dusty Owens stated in his article “Answering the Mail” (p. 8):
Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a command by God for his children “to assemble in order to worship.” Now think, and re-read what I said. Do you know of any passage of Scripture that commands saints to assemble themselves together that they might worship God? No, you won’t find one.
The New Testament very clearly shows this statement to be false! First of all, Hebrews 10:24-26 shows that the church is to “assemble.” Brother Owens mentions this passage in his article, but apparently does not believe it. What is the church to assemble for, if it is not to worship? Several passages in the New Testament talk about the church engaged in worship (the Lord’s Supper, Acts 20:7; singing, Col. 3:16; laying by in store, I Cor. 16:2; coming together, I Cor. 14:23,26, . . . the whole context of the 14th chapter is about the church coming together and how they should conduct themselves). Philippians 3:3 shows that Christians are to “worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus.” Paul said in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The illustration of a “temple” is used here. A “temple” is a worship place. The saints make up this “holy temple,” implying a gathering for worship. The apostle Peter also shows “worship” in a spiritual house (which would be the church): “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” (2 Pet. 2:5). Again Paul in 1 Timothy 3:15 talks about the “house of God, which is the church of the living God.” Hebrews 13:10 says, “we have an altar” showing the sacrifice we offer on the altar in our worship to God. This spiritual “worship” is done by those who make up the spiritual house of God. It should not be necessary to brethren to show that we are not talking about a meeting house as the “church.” But because of men like Charles Holt and Dusty Owens along with their fellow writers in the Examiner who do not understand this, we want to emphasize this fact. They mix so many false statements among true statements and denominational and apostate ideas among sound statements and then apply it to all religious people as if we all went along with such a conglomeration that we must make it perfectly clear when we talk about “the church” that we do not mean the “meeting house.”
The word “worship” (Greek, proskuneo) means to “prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)” (Strongs, p. 1190). Another Greek word for worship (sebomal) means “to revere, i.e., adore: devout, religious worship” (ibid.). The English word means the “act of paying divine honor to duty; religious reverence and homage . . . to pay divine honors to, to adore; venerate; to idolize. To perform acts of homage and adoration; esp. to perform religious service” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 988).
In John 4:23-24 we are to worship God the Father in spirit and in truth and God seeks true worshipers to worship him. The apostle John was told two times in Revelation 19:10 and 22:9 to “worship God.” And Jesus told Satan, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:9-10). Brother Owen’s article emphasizes Bible study when Christians come together and denies the purpose is to worship.
In the New Testament instructions are given for the people of God to “worship.” God’s people are commanded to assemble in Hebrews 10:25. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Apostolic examples show them coming together to “break bread” (Acts 2:42; 20:7) and certainly Bible study was involved in these gatherings (“apostles’ doctrine” and Paul’s preaching), but that was not all. “Fellowship and prayers” were part of these meetings. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-18 Paul talks about coming “together in the church” and in verse 20 that “coming together” involved eating the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the Lord’s Supper is an item of worship.
When Christians “come together,” they are commanded to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12). These passages cannot be obeyed as far as a collective group without a gathering together. Note the phrases “speaking to yourselves” in Ephesians and the context in verses 20-21 implying mutual caring and respect “submitting yourselves one to another.” In Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another . . . singing . . . in your hearts to the Lord” is praise, “worship.” Again this command could not be carried out in private individual worship.
Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalms 22:22 where David said, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” The Hebrew writer applies this “praise” to Jesus in verses 8 and 9. Thus, “singing” “praise” to Jesus in the “midst” (middle, among, Strongs Greek Dictionary, 8432).
In Acts 12:5,12 members of the church “were gathered together praying.” “Prayers” also were offered as “they continued steadfastly” with the apostles after Pentecost (Acts 2:42); thus, an item of New Testament worship was offered to God and Christ. Here in Acts 2:42 we find “fellowship” is just as much a part of this worship as “prayer” and “breaking bread” were. In Philippians 4:14-20 this “fellowship” is referred to as “communication” with Paul’s need which was I ‘giving and receiving.” It was a “sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” “Sacrifice” is “worship” because when Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac he went to “worship” (Gen. 22:5). 1 Corinthians 16:2 shows an approved apostolic example of the “collection for the saints” being “laid by in store” which is a necessary inference for a treasury among a “local collective unit” of the Lord’s people in Corinth. Note also that the “church” in Philippi was a “local functioning unit” that had “communicated” with the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:14-20). 2 Corinthians 9:7 shows how this act of worship should be engaged in.
When Paul met with the “local church” in Troas (a functioning unit) to “break bread” he “preached unto them” (made a speech; Acts 20:7). This local church had met together upon the first day of the week to “worship” (they engaged in the items discussed above). “Preaching” was part of this “worship service” to God. “Preaching” is “worship” because in Matthew 15:9 part of the “vain worship” was the “teaching for doctrines.” Thus, “preaching” is looked upon by Jesus as “worship.”
As individuals we have examples in the New Testament of private personal worship: prayers, singing and study (1 Thess. 5:17; Jas. 5:13; 2 Tim. 2:15). But we also have obligations collectively as part of the “local congregation” discussed in this article. Each “member” of the church must meet his “individual responsibilities” (Rom. 12:4-8) in the work and worship among God’s people collectively. A “local congregation” is composed of fellow-children of God who work and worship as a “local functioning unit.” Acts 13:1-3 shows the church at Antioch as such a “local unit” that “ministered . . . fasted . . . prayed and laid their hands on . . . and sent” the apostles away. That is a functioning unit!
Those today who are denying there is a “local church” in the New Testament “functioning as a unit” meeting to “worship” are very simply and clearly false teachers and are encouraging brethren to be unfaithful. They are out to destroy the Lord’s church and cause people to lose their souls.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 5, pp. 142-143
March 2, 1989