By Lewis Willis
When we in the Lord’s Church attempt to teach our friends the truth about the worship of the Church, most of them find that truth to be unbelievable. They cannot imagine that they can’t worship like the Jews worshiped. They run to David and his instruments of music which he used in his worship and they try to justify their instruments with his. All too frequently, and sadly, it is impossible to get people to see the truth about worship. The design of this article is to examine why a change in worship should seem so strange.
The Bible shows us three great periods or dispensations of time: Patriarchal, Jewish or Mosaic, and Christian. Just as there is a requirement for worship by those of us living in the Christian Age, those people who lived in the Patriarchal and Jewish ages also had a requirement for worship. And, there were differences in the worship God required of the people who lived in each age. It is my view that we will never understand the worship of the New Testament Church until we acknowledge this fact.
During the Patriarchal Age, religion was confined to the family. God conducted religious “business” through the heads of those families like Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc. God required that animal sacrifices be offered on altars built by these families. Thus, we read of Abel offering his sacrifice to God (Gen. 4:4). After the flood, Noah built an altar and offered animal sacrifices (Gen. 8:20). Lest his children fail to sacrifice as they should, Job continually offered sacrifices for them (Job 1:5). The practice of sacrifices being offered by the heads of the patriarchs of those great families was acceptable with God.
However, the practice of the Patriarchs, which was acceptable with God, would have condemned a Jew. Why? Because God changed the law of animal sacrifices. In the Jewish Age God did not permit heads of families to offer their own sacrifices. He assigned this responsibility to Moses’ brother Aaron and to the men of the tribe of Levi (Exod. 28:1; Num. 18:1-7; 25:11-13). They were the only ones who could offer sacrifices which God would accept. On one occasion King Saul offered a sacrifice which he was not authorized to offer and he was reproved by Samuel, the prophet (1 Sam. 13:8-14). If Saul had been like the denominationalist of our day, he would argue: “If Noah and Abraham could offer animal sacrifices, I feel it is alright if I do the same. ” Obviously, there is a difference with God. He gave Noah and Abraham authority to offer sacrifices. He did not give that authority to Saul. I believe anyone wanting to see, can see that the change in the Law governing these people also changed what was acceptable with God. Because it was right under the Patriarchy did not make it right for the Jews. Because it was worship to God, he had the right to change it if he pleased. And, that is exactly what he did!
It is essential that we understand that we do not live in the Patriarchal or the Jewish Age. We live in the Christian Age. And, guess what? God has changed the worship again! That’s right, God changed the worship which now is acceptable with him. In fact, we can no longer offer animal sacrifices like the people used to offer. Such were acceptable for them, but not for us. We are to offer up sacrifices alright, only we offer our “bodies” as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1). We are taught to offer “the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15). Suppose I said, “I don’t want to do it that way. I like it better and get more out of it the other way. I want to continue to offer animal sacrifices.” Never mind that the blood of animals could not perfect men (Heb. 10:1-4). You would be trying to correct my error, wouldn’t you?
Not only did God change the kind of sacrifices, he even changed who could offer them. Under the Patriarchy, the head of the family offered the sacrifice. Under the Jewish economy, the Levitical priesthood offered the sacrifices. But, not any more! Now, we who live in the Christian Age are authorized to offer our own sacrifices – all of us! Christians (each of us) are “an holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5). We are called “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are the royal priesthood because God, through Christ, has made us “kings and priests” (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). The distinction between clergy and laity and arrogance of Catholicism’s priesthood ignores this fundamental Bible truth. But, they argue, “They had a priesthood in the Old Testament, why can’t we have one now?” Why? Because God authorized them to have a special priesthood then but he does not authorize us to have one now. We must learn this lesson.
So I ask, “Why does it seem so strange that we cannot worship like God’s people used to worship?” Why can’t we have Dad build an altar and offer animal sacrifices? Or, why can’t we have a special priesthood to handle our sacrifices? Abraham and David had these things, didn’t they? Yes, and David had his instruments of music. But, God changed the law – the rules – and what they did is no longer acceptable with him. That is all we need to know to learn the truth about worship today. We have a new and better covenant. We now offer living, spiritual sacrifices, which includes our worship in which God specified that we “sing and make melody in (our) heart” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Patriarchal or Jewish worship will not be accepted – only the worship appointed for us in this Christian Age. Will you allow yourself to learn this lesson?
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 23, pp. 705, 728
December 7, 1989