How Do We Worship God?
Studying the New Testament we find that there are
five acts of worship that Christians did when they assembled together.
They offered prayer to God, sang spiritual songs, studied Godís word,
partook of the Lordís Supper, and contributed to the work. Let us
examine each of these. Jesus taught the Samaritan woman in John 4:24
that, "God is Spirit. And those who worship Him must worship in
spirit and in truth.". Worshipping in Spirit means according to
how the Spirit prescribes. This involves a proper attitude
in our worship. Worshipping in truth means according to His word
Christians and churches of the first century
Acts 2:42 says, "And they continued steadfastly
in the apostleís doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread,
and in prayers." Acts 12:5 records that while Peter was in prison
that, "...constant prayer was being offered to God for him by the
church." Speaking of churches when they assemble together that they
are to edify one another he says in 1 Cor. 14:15, "What is the
conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with
the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing
with the understanding." Colossians 4:2 says that we are to,
"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with
thanksgiving;". Certainly this would include prayer in our worship.
Paul asked brethren to, "pray for us" (1 Thes. 5:25, 2 Thes.
3:1). In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul tells Timothy, "I desire therefore
that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and
doubting;". These are but a few passages that teach that we ought
to pray, not only in our private lives, but also with others which would
include when we are assembled together. The need for prayer is something
that is not greatly disputed.
Churches are to preach and teach the word of God.
This is something that might seem obvious, but we do
not want to take anything for granted. In the scriptures we find
examples of churches being taught by preaching. Acts 20:7 says,
"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together
to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and
continued his message until midnight." Again Acts 2:42 indicates
this when we are told that they "continued steadfastly in the
apostleís doctrine..." Acts 8:25 records some of the apostles
coming to Samaria to a church newly established. We read, "So when
they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to
Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the
Samaritans." Paul wrote to the church(es) at Rome, "So, as
much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome
also." (Rom 1:15) He concluded this letter saying, "Now to Him
who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of
Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret
since the world began" (Rom 16:25). Notice how preaching
establishes (helps them gain a firm hold) these churches. To the church
at Corinth, Paul said, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the
gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you
stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I
preached to you-- unless you believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:1-2).
Note that Paul speaks of the gospel that they now stand in. This
indicates that they were preached to and taught this gospel regularly.
Toward the end of his life, Paul told Timothy, "Preach the word! Be
ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all
longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). He told Timothy to do this
while in Ephesus working with the church there. Finally, when we
consider that most of the epistles were written to churches giving them
instructions, we necessarily conclude that preaching and teaching is
authorized and even commanded.
A third act of worship that churches were involved
in during the first century was giving.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says, "Now concerning the
collection of the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of
Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each of
you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no
collections when I come." 2 Corinthians 9 further deals with this
saying how we are to give, "So let each one give as he purposes in
his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful
giver." (vs. 7). That a collection can be taken up is readily
accepted. But do we follow the examples that we are given? The only
example that specifies the time is mentioned above. It states that
laying by in store is to be done only on the first day of the
week. To take up a collection at any other time is to act beyond what
the scriptures teach. Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 9:8 states that it is
to be given willfully and as we have prospered. This eliminates
compulsory giving and tithing. The amount given is left up to the
discretion of the giver with the realization that he will answer to God
for what he does. There are churches that violate the examples of the
scriptures in the area of the collection. We should consider this when
looking for the church of Christ.
Christians are to sing.
Again, that this ought to be done is not greatly
disputed. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says speaking of edifying one another in
our worship, "What is the conclusion then... I will sing with the
spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding." To the church
at Ephesus Paul wrote, "... But be filled with the spirit, speaking
to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody in your hearts to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:18-19). He
also wrote in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you
richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms,
hymns and spiritual songs., singing with grace in your hearts to the
Lord." Thus it is readily accepted that we need to sing. But what
is often neglected is HOW we are instructed to sing. We find in these
texts several things: 1)We are to sing (psalms, hymns and spiritual
songs are specified); 2) That we are to sing to one another
(congregational singing with everyone participating); 3)And the fact
that we are to only sing (as opposed to other types of music). While
everyone will agree that singing together is authorized, most have added
to the instructions found in the New Testament. For instance, I ask,
where in the New Testament do we find authorization for using
instrumental music in our worship? A thorough study will reveal that it
is NOT FOUND ANYWHERE. Adding instrumental music to singing is adding to
the way God instructs us to worship Him. When one considers WHY musical
instruments are added to singing in worship the answer is because it
sounds good to men. God is not interested in how beautiful we can make a
song sound to manís ears, What He wants is us to worship Him with the
proper attitude in our hearts (John 4:24). And if our worship is to be
pleasing to Him, does it not make sense that it should be done THE WAY
he tells us to do it? To add anything to that way is presumptuous at
best. Why take a chance on something that could possibly condemn us when
we stand before God. "...For whatever is not from faith is
sin." (Romans 14:23). Another example of adding to Godís commands
concerning the type of singing that is pleasing to Him is the use of
Choirs, bands, quartets, and other groups whose main purpose is to
entertain the audience they stand before. The problem with this is again
lack of scriptural authority. Remember Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16, both of
which tell us that we are to speak to and edify one another. To fulfill
this demands that ALL participate. Thus in searching for proper worship,
we should consider the way a congregation sings. The church of Christ
found in the Bible sang songs to one another without the accompanying of
Christians are to partake of the Lordís supper.
This is the final act of worship we find in the New
Testament. As with all the other acts of worship we have noticed, we
find instructions concerning this also. We begin by noting that it is to
take place on the first day of the week. Acts 20:7 records Paul waiting
in the city of Troas for seven days to meet with the saints there. We
are told in that text, "Now on the first day of the week, when the
disciples came together to break bread,..." The breaking of bread
is a reference to partaking the Lordís supper. And in this text we
find the ONLY reference to time concerning this act of worship. It is to
take place, "On the first day of the week." That example
excludes all other days of the week. One might ask, how often should
this memorial be taken? This text answers that also by stating the first
day of the week. It does not specify a certain first day of the week
when a special service was being held, but simply "when the
disciples came together to break bread". This was something they
did regularly. We can only conclude from this that as often as the first
day of the week comes around we SHOULD partake of the Lordís supper.
Just as the Jews under the Old Law were commanded to observe the Sabbath
day, every week (Exodus 20:8). To do anything different is to do more or
less that what we are told in Godís word. We learn further that it was
done regularly in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 where Paul identifies the
purpose of the Lordís supper. He begins by rebuking them for abusing
the Lordís supper and turning it into a common meal (18-22). He then
explains its purpose is to commemorate the Lordís death until He comes
again (23-26). A church that is following the example of the New
Testament will partake of the Lordís supper on the first day of the
week, as often as the first day comes around.
This is one characteristic to consider when trying to
find the true church. Much more can be said on each of these subjects.
If you would like more information on the type of music God wants and
how and when the Lordís supper is to be offered, please let us know.
We would be honored to assist you in your studies of this vital subject.
IN our next article we will continue to look at some identifying marks
of the New Testament church.