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 (John 17:17).

Christians and churches of the first century prayed together.

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 an instrument.

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.

 

 

 

 

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