The Value of Public Worship

By Connie W. Adams

Christians belong to the Lord all the time. We are his whether at home, at school, at work, at play, on a vacation trip, or wherever we happen to be. There is great value in private study of the Bible, private prayer and meditation. “In his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). Such continual devotion is a deterrent to sin. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:4). “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11).

Beyond all that, the Lord in his wisdom has ordained certain activities of a public nature in which his children jointly participate. The most common word translated worship means “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (Vine’s on proskuneo). It is homage paid by the performance of prescribed acts. Finite man would not know what acts of devotion would be acceptable to an infinite being apart from divine revelation. If he attempted such in the absence of such revelation, that would constitute “will worship” (Col. 2:23). That is worship suited to the will of the worshiper rather than to the will of the object of worship. Jesus said that the Father would seek men to “worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

There can be no doubt that the early church met publicly to engage in worshipful activities. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). At Antioch, Barnabas and Saul “for a whole year . . . assembled with the church and taught a great many people” (Acts 11:26). At Troas the disciples “came together to break bread” and while there heard Paul preach (Acts 20:7). At Corinth a disciplinary matter was to be carried out “when you are gathered together” (1 Cor. 5:4). Paul spoke of their public gathering to eat the Lord’s supper. “When you come together as a church. . .” (1 Cor. 11:18). He wanted their coming together to be for the better and not for the worse (v. 17). He wrote of “the whole church” coming together “in one place” (1 Cor. 14:23). In that context he wrote of singing, praying, and teaching and said, “Let all things be done for edification” (v. 26). Singing together was calculated to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).

Christians have a mutual responsibility to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

Why Is Public Worship Neglected?

The foregoing passages clearly indicate the will of God touching the matter of public worship. Then why is it so often neglected? In every congregation there are some members who view such gatherings as entirely optional. They will go if they have nothing else to do. They will be absent because of ball practice, extra-curricular school functions, family reunions, or family holiday gatherings. Some think that vacations exempt them from seeking out and meeting with faithful brethren on the Lord’s Day. Some who are careful to attend a Sunday morning service will skip other opportunities to worship the same God and learn more of his word.

Why is this? There are some things to be done on a weekly basis. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper, he said, “This do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25). The practice of the early church was to do this “upon the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). On that day Christians were to “lay by in store” so that collective work of the church could be done (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Other ordained worship activities may be done at other times (teaching, singing, and praying). When a Christian chooses not to meet on the first day of the week to break bread and lay by in store, he has chosen to violate a clear directive from the Lord. Jesus said, “This do,” but you say, “No, I have company” or “No, I don’t want to do that today. We are going to a family gathering, or on a picnic, or to an amusement park.”

Such behavior is rebellion against the Lord of Glory. It places the convenience of the worshiper above the true object of worship — the God of the universe. It reveals a lack of true conviction. In essence it says, “I know what the Lord said, but I think. . .” If that isn’t will worship. then what is? “Oh Lord I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). It places human wisdom above divine wisdom.

It further ignores the mutual responsibilities Christians have toward one another. We draw strength from each other. We all live in a society which is becoming increasingly secular and in which godly principles are held up to ridicule. We need each other. Our children need the influence of godly parents who see the need for regular, consistent worship of the Almighty and who are willing to keep their priorities straight. Weak Christians need the worthy ex- ample of those who are truly committed to the Lord.

Yes, sometimes it requires great effort. The responsibilities of jobs, families, and other social demands are taxing of strength and energy. But I remind you that it was not easy for our Lord to leave his heavenly existence, take the form of a servant, suffer the toils of a peasant existence, and then to endure the indignities of his trials and then the agony of the cross. What if he had gone to a family reunion that day? What if that would have made him miss a great sporting event? What if he was just too tired and that was his only day off?

I tell you, when we get our genuine convictions in line, we will see the need for public worship. The Lord requires it for our good. We need it. Our fellow Christians need it. The world needs to see an example of people who truly believe and whose convictions are not for sale, even for the sake of their own convenience.