Monday, November 15, 2010

True Worship Part 4: Old & New

Worship Before the Law – the emphasis was upon an individual relationship to God (Genesis 8:20). The father acted as the priest for his household (Job 1:5). There was no central place of worship prescribed, with the worshipers offering sacrifices on altars which they built (Genesis 12:7-8). Besides the offering of sacrifices, worship in this period was characterized by the expression of thanks to God (Genesis 24:26, 48, 52). There were no fixed times of worship.

Worship Under the Law – everything about worship is laid out in minute detail. Nothing is left to the imagination. The Levitical priesthood was instituted (Exodus 28:1). The place of worship was centralized, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple (Exodus 20:24 / Deuteronomy 12:5, 11). The high priest could enter the holiest place once a year (Leviticus 16). In addition to the daily sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-42), there were five specified offerings: the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings (Leviticus 1-7). Israel was given a calendar of seven special feasts: Passover, unleavened bread, first fruits, Pentecost, trumpets, Day of Atonement, and tabernacles. Anything God didn’t prescribe was considered strange fire, detestable in God’s sight. When the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, the Jewish people were no longer able to carry out Old Testament worship as it was explicitly laid out in Scripture. They no longer had a temple, or the ability to offer blood sacrifice. So they devised a method for instruction and fellowship called the synagogue. The word “synagogue” is not a Hebrew word, it is from a Greek word which means a gathering together.

Worship in New Testament Times – the exact prescription and prohibition was for the OT, but the NT reveals a different pattern of worship. The OT types pointed to Christ, and now we do NOT do those, they have been fulfilled, and so now we worship Christ but in varied forms, no Tabernacle or Temple, no sacrifices, etc., no exact prescription. The NT prescribes liberty (Galatians 5:1), not forms or formulas (Philippians 3:3), but it does give parameters for practice (1 Corinthians 12-14). Every believer in Christ is a priest (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Jesus Christ is the great High Priest (Hebrews 10:21). There is no central earthly place of worship, nor is there an appointed calendar of sacred feasts or religious observances. The sacrifices are “spiritual sacrifices” (Romans 12:1, 15:26 / 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:13 / Philippians 4:18 / Hebrews 13:15-16). Worship in the present age most closely resembles that which will occur in heaven, and sharply differs from that prescribed by the Law.

New Testament church worship is about freedom of communication, with some measure of spontaneity, and yet there is a structure: the reading and interpretation of the Word, the sharing of words of exhortation and encouragement, praying and singing together, and sharing money to help poor folks and to advance God’s kingdom. Jesus takes the Jewish Passover and transforms it into the central ordinance of the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper which, whenever it is observed, takes us back to Calvary and points us to the finished work of Christ.

New Testament worship leaves us with no New Testament book of Leviticus. Some believers today try and impose the OT regulations of worship on NT believers. We would agree in essence that anything that God doesn’t explicitly prescribe or implicitly command is prohibited. However, all of the New Testament proof texts that some try and use in order to limit worship are not really about formal worship at all, they are about life, because a fundamental thing about worship in the New Testament is that all of life is worship (1 Corinthians 10:31). The emphasis is not on binding the conscience of someone. While it is certainly true that God alone has the right to determine true worship and that He has done so in the Scripture, the NT focus is on the liberty and freedom we have in worship. That is what God has prescribed; worship in spirit and in truth. We do ourselves a great disservice when we think of worship only in stereotyped terms. However, we also would be in error in assuming that spontaneity is spirituality. Having said that, let’s now look at some further principles of NT worship.

Principles of New Testament Worship – The encounter Jesus had with the woman at the well (John 4) gives us clear principles for worship. The Lord led her to the true worship of Himself (vs.19-26). We come to understand that not all worship is acceptable to God (cf. Acts 17:16-31). God is the One who initiates true worship through the person, work, and word of Christ; there are none who naturally seek God from their hearts (cf. Romans 3:10-18). As we discussed earlier, God enables true worship (cf. Romans 8:26, 11:36). God is the appropriate object of worship. Worship must be in spirit; internally real and not outwardly by ritual alone (cf. Philippians 3:3). Worship must be in truth; not just a projection of our sincerity, or a reflection of culture, but firmly based on the truth of God revealed in the Bible (cf. 1 John 4:5-6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

1 comment:

Even So... said...

This is part of session #6 in a 10 session basic training and membership class at our church. You can see all ten weeks in .pdf form on the front page at

You can also see and download them from our "eDocs" section at SermonAudio...