By Cecil Willis
To worship God is to pay homage to Him, or to render reverence to him. People in every land attempt to adore some sort of God. All people worship something. The Christian has certain instructions given to him as to how, where, and when he is to worship.
The Divine Place
There is a place or state in which one must worship God. The Bible also makes it plain as to Whom reverence is to be paid. In Rev. 22:8, 9, John says, “And I John am he that heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that showed me these things. And he with unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God.” God is the one to be worshiped. But worship of God is possible only when we sustain the right relationship to God. One outside the family of God cannot render acceptable worship to Him. In 1 Pet. 4:16, Peter says, “if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.” It is in the name “Christian” that one can glorify God. Those that attempt to worship outside of the name “Christian” worship in vain.
In Ephesians 1:3, Paul declares that every spiritual blessing is in Christ Jesus. One certainly is blessed by being given the great privilege of worshiping God. Just as all blessings are in Christ, so also is all acceptable worship rendered through Christ. And Paul adds: “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). So the man outside of Christ, the man outside the body of Christ, is in the wrong place to worship. There is a divine place to worship God, and that place of worship is in the body of Christ. In the Old Testament, God had a place where he would meet with those who worshiped him. That place was in the temple. Today the church is God’s temple. It is the place where God will meet those who worship him. Those therefore who worship God outside the church worship Him in vain. And when I use the word “church,” I am speaking of the spiritual body of Christ, and not of the material structure in which the church meets. The church may meet in a house of stone or brick to worship God, or under a tree, and yet the worship be acceptable. But outside the church, no worship is acceptable to God, even though it is rendered in the finest of houses.
The Divine Time
Not only is there a divinely specified place of worship, there also is a divinely appointed time for worship. One may render homage to God as an individual, but there are certain items of worship which are to be done at a divinely specified time. This time John speaks of as “the Lord’s day.” He says “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). This is the time God has set aside for certain items of worship. This is the time God has chosen for man to perform certain actions in adoration of Him. It is important that man worship God in the right place, but it is of equal importance that man worship God at the right time.
In the Old Testament there was a certain day set aside in which the Jews entered into a period of worship to God. This day was the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week or Saturday. But the day set aside for Jewish worship is not the divinely appointed day for worship in the Christian dispensation. The items of worship under the law were changed in the New Testament worship. We are not commanded to offer an animal sacrifice today. But not only was the type of worship changed, the time of worship was also changed. Sabbath keeping was a part of the Old Covenant, and in Eph. 2:14-16 and Col. 2:13-17, Paul says that the Old Covenant was done away in Christ Jesus. It was nailed to the cross. So after Christ’s death, and after the New Testament became effective, the Sabbath was no longer the chosen day of worship.
We read in Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed unto them.” The Lord’s Supper was observed on the first day of the week. This is not Saturday, but the first day of the week-Sunday. It is a mistake for people to speak of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. It is not that at all. The Sabbath is Saturday. In 1 Cor. 16:2, Paul says, “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” So the Scriptures specify a certain time for these things to be done in worshiping God. They are to be done on the first day of the week.
The Lord appointed a divine time for breaking bread or partaking of the Lord’s supper, and for taking a contribution. Denominational churches have had difficulty understanding what was meant when we read that the disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread. Some think this means on the first day of the week once a month, or every three months, or twice a year. But the Lord’s supper should be partaken as often as we have a first day of the week. It has always appeared a bit strange to me that these same people have never misunderstood the divine command to lay by in store on the first day of the week. Do any of these churches, which partake of the Lord’s supper but once every three months, take up a contribution only every three months? I never knew of one. Yet the commands to break bread and lay by in store both state the time: on the Lord’s day. We should take the Lord’s supper as often as we give of our means. The Lord’s day is the divine time of worship.
The Divine Manner
We must worship in the right place, at the right time, and in the divinely appointed manner. The Bible describes how we are to worship. In John 4:24, Jesus says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” One’s worship, to be acceptable to God, must be done in spirit, and according to the truth. We will, in a moment, notice what the truth is concerning what we should do in worship. The divine manner of worship is “in spirit.” This expression at least means that one should put his spirit into his worship. A mere formalism will not please God. Going through prayers mechanically or mathematically is not that with which God is pleased. God wants sincere praise from the heart.
Paul says, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). In describing how one should sing to please God, Paul says “singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16). The divine manner is that one should worship from the heart.
The Divine Acts of Worship
The Bible tells where we are to worship, when we are to worship, and how we are to worship. It also tells us what we are to do in worship. The divine acts of worship are enumerated.
(1) Prayer is a divinely appointed item of worship. We find that the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42) They continued in the prayers. The New Testament church was a praying church They worshiped God by talking to Him, praising Him in prayer.
(2) When the New Testament church met for worship, they also studied the word of God. In Acts 20:7 we find that when they gathered to break bread, Paul preached unto them. Not only did they speak to God through prayer, but they let God speak to them through studying His word. God is praised when man thinks highly enough of His word to meditate upon it night and day (Psa. 1:1, 2) and when we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly or abundantly (Col. 3:16).
(3) The breaking of bread was also a divinely commanded item of worship. We have already observed when this was done. It was done on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The early church continued steadfastly in the “breaking of bread.” The expression “breaking of bread” in the New Testament frequently refers to the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Paul commands that they eat “discerning the body,” else they eat and drink condemnation to themselves. This is another comment upon the “manner” of worship. For if one did not worship in sincerity, his worship was void. They ate of bread, and drank of the fruit of the vine in observing the Lord’s Supper. This eating of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine meant something to Christians; it reminded them of the body and the blood of Christ. In 1 Cor. 10:16, Paul says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?” It also reminded them that Jesus would come again. 1 Cor. 11:26 says, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.”
(4) The New Testament church was a singing church. There are many statements in the scriptures that indicate that the early church sang as a part of its worship. Paul commands, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col.. 3:16). And in a very similar passage, the same writer says, “speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). There are several other commands and statements in the Bible which indicate that singing was a part of the worship in the early church.
People today seem to think it is a matter of little consequence to change God’s prescribed order of worship. What would people think if I were to suggest that we have bread and the fruit of the vine on the Lord’s table, but that we also have something else. Suppose I suggested a third item to be used in the Lord’s supper. All would object to this for it would be changing a divinely given ordinance. But men and women today seem to think nothing at all is wrong when they add something to God’s command to sing. When mechanical instruments of music are employed in worshipping God, man has added something other than that which God commanded. To man, this would likely be a matter of little importance, but it is of grave importance for one of us to add to the commandment of God. God commanded that the music in the church be singing, and that only.
(5) Giving was also a part of the worship in the church one can read about in the Bible. Luke says they continued stedfastly “in the fellowship,” (Acts 2:42). Almost all commentators take this expression, “in the fellowship,” to mean that they continued to give of their means, their money, on the first day of the week. We have already read from 1 Cor. 16:2 where Paul commanded them to lay by in store on the first day of the week as God had prospered them.
The church is a divine organization in which man is to worship God. So the worship is divinely appointed. It is to be rendered in (1) the divinely appointed place-the church; (2) at the divinely appointed time-“The Lord’s Day;” (3) in the divinely appointed manner-in spirit or from the heart; (4) and yet we must do the divinely appointed acts of worship: Praying, tudying the Scriptures, partaking of the Lord’s supper, singing, and giving. In the divine church, we must worship according to the divine pattern.
Truth Magazine XIX: 13, pp. 195-197
February 6, 1975