Sunday, November 9, 2014                            Basics Index


Worship (3)
When We Assemble to Worship

 Today we continue our study of worship this month.  Thus far we have addressed what worship is and we have discussed the seriousness of worship.  Today we want to discuss HOW to worship God when we assemble.

John 4:24 tells us that our worship must be in spirit and in truth.  It must be in accordance with the instructions of God’s word.  In the New Testament we find that public worship consisted of 5 acts.  We will discuss these acts in our lesson today. 

Even this is not universally accepted among brethren today.   Typically MORE “acts of worship” will be added to these, confusing examples of “corporate worship” (when we assemble and what we are discussing in this lesson) and personal worship (we OUGHT TO worship God personally and at times doing more than the acts associated with assembling together – i.e. fasting, meditating on the word).  In preparing this lesson I found a website that added 5 more acts of worship when we assemble – church discipline, baptism, eating together, restoration & reaffirmation, and “business meetings”  While SOME of these things are works of the church (some are not), they are hardly acts of worship.  The problem with such is a misunderstanding of what TRUE worship is, what the church and its work is and respect for authority as we worship God and in all we do (all subjects we have discussed this year).

In the Bible we find when saints assembled together there WERE 5 acts of worship they engaged in.  Let us notice the scriptural instructions for each of these.  (NOTE: Next year, as we discuss going on to perfection, I may revisit these 5 acts of worship and discuss our hearts as we participate in the worship).

 I.                    Prayer –

a.        Prayer is a privilege for Christians that is often taken for granted.   It is the prayers of the godly that God hears (answers).  This is true of all our prayers, including those offered when we assemble together.

b.       In our worship services we typically offer several prayers to God.  We begin our service with a prayer, we have a “main prayer”, prayers for the Lord’s Supper and possibly giving, and a closing prayer.  Sometimes more are added to these as warranted (for brethren that respond to the invitation).

c.        A simple description of prayer is: Speaking to God in a manner He prescribed for us to do so.

d.       Christians in the first century prayed when they assembled together (and individually) – Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, Acts 12:5, 4:23-31, etc.

e.       Public prayers involved:

                                                   i.      Praising God – Acts 2:47, Matt. 6:9 – as Jesus taught us how to pray He began with hallowing God.

                                                  ii.      Thanksgiving – Colossians 4:2, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;  1 Tim. 2:1-2  supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men.

                                                iii.      Praying for one another – James 5:16,

                                                iv.      Making requests of God – Matt. 6:11, 13 – our daily bread, lead us not into temptation, etc.
Opportunities to reach the lost, for our brethren who are wandering away. 

                                                  v.      Forgiveness of sins – Matt. 6:12

                                                vi.      In Jesus name – 1 Tim. 2:5, He is our Mediator; 1 John 2:1-2 – He is our advocate.
Col. 3:17 says we give thanks to God the Father “through Him.”. Eph. 5:20, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

f.         Thoughts on public prayer

                                                   i.      We must be reverent – while a particular position is not specified, a reverent heart is.   Typically, we show respect by closing our eyes and bowing our heads.

                                                  ii.      It should be appropriate –for the occasion – general prayers should be for all, specific prayers consider their purpose (Lord’s Supper, giving, closing prayer, etc.)  In the end, we should be able to say, “Amen” (1 Cor. 14:16).

                                                iii.      Avoid vain repetitions (Matt. 6:7) - Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees as loving to be heard for their many words (Matt. 6:5, Matt. 23:14, etc.).  Prayer needs to be from the heart and not for the purpose of letting others know how gifted you are in your prayers.

 II.                  Singing

a.        Singing is a way to praise God and to teach and admonish one another. 

b.       It was a part of first century worship and is commanded in a number of passages.
1 Corinthians 14:15 finds it in the assembly.
Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16 both challenge us HOW to sing.
Heb. 13:15 tells us to offer to God the fruit of our lips.  That is done in our singing songs.

c.        The singing of the first century was without instrumental music.  That is known both by the verses of scripture that call for it exclusively (without instruments) and historical accounts from the centuries immediately following the establishment of the church. 

d.       Singing when we assemble together is an act of worship that engages the mind and heart, as well as the lips.  Scriptural singing involves:

                                                   i.      Praising God – Heb. 13:15

                                                  ii.      Teaching and admonishing – Eph. 5:19, Colossians 3:16 – this tells us that the songs we sing must portray a message that is true to God’s word. 

                                                iii.      “One another” – Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19 – we are to ALL be singing.  It is not about a choir. 

                                                iv.      Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs – psalms would be songs of praise to God,
Hymns – a song of praise, thanksgiving and supplication.  Some contrast this with psalms saying these are uninspired songs (as opposed to the inspired psalms).
Spiritual songs – actually odes and describes songs that edify, admonish and teach us.  They provoke us toward godliness (spiritual as opposed to carnal). 
AGAIN, ALL these types of songs are instructional.  We learn from them. 
Many of the popular contemporary songs today are subjective and designed to provoke the emotions rather than teach us.
THOUGHT: Should we focus exclusively on one type of song?  Here we told (in 2 texts) to vary the types of songs we sing. 

                                                  v.      In your hearts – making melody, singing with grace – it must be with conviction and gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  The more we appreciate our salvation, the more we will sing from the heart.

                                                vi.      To the Lord – again we are reminded that God is to be glorified in our singing.  Even as we teach and admonish one another it is designed to glorify God.

                                               vii.      When we sing in worship, one thought we need to always remember is this – WHAT the song teaches is more important than how beautiful it sounds.  That does not mean that we should not strive to give our best in our singing or that melody is not important (it is in uniting us in song), but if the melody takes away from the message we ought to be concerned.  

 III.                Lord’s Supper

a.        1 Corinthians 11:23-26 finds Paul addressing the Lord’s Supper in Corinth.  In this text he observes that it was something they WERE to be doing, but he also notes that what they were doing was NOT the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20).  Their attitude was wrong and their actions were equally wrong. 

b.       The Lord’s Supper is to be offered:

                                                   i.      On the first day of the week – Acts 20:7.  A study of the New Testament shows definitively that saints assembled every Sunday to worship God.  While the word “every” is not used in Acts 20:7, we find frequency which necessarily implies they did it weekly (more next week).

                                                  ii.      It was done when they assembled together – Acts 20:7, the disciples came together.
1 Corinthians 11:17, 20ff.  The context lends to it being an act of the assembly. 
Vs. 33-34 also imply this as Paul says, “Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:33–34)

                                                iii.      It was not a full meal, but a memorial using (unleavened) bread and fruit of the vine – again 1 Cor. 11:22 points out that they can eat in their homes.  THEN, Paul emphasizes the elements to be used and their purpose.
Furthermore, the account of the institution of this memorial by Jesus shows that.  While it was during the Passover meal that the elements were introduced, we note they were NOT a part of that meal but distinguished.  Luke 22:19-20 shows this as Jesus took the cup “after supper” and gave it to them.  (Note: Both Matt. 26:26-27 and Mark 14:22-23 state that Jesus took bread “as they were eating” – we can reconcile these statements by observing that Jesus took elements that were part of the supper and set them aside and instituted the Lord’s Supper afterward – cf. Luke 22:17).

                                                iv.      With each element, there was giving of thanks – keeping the memorial solemn (i.e. not part of a festive meal) – Matt. 26:26, 27.

c.        The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the death of Jesus for our sins.  We must keep this in mind as we partake. 1 Corinthians 11:27-31 warns us of partaking of this in an unworthy manner, “not discerning the Lord’s body.”  

d.       While not mandated in scripture, typically we offer a song and sometimes a scripture reading or a short talk to help us focus on this important act of worship. 

e.       In it, we proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Cor. 11:26)


 IV.                  Giving

a.        Another act of worship is our giving.  We have previously noted that one reason we worship is to give back to God a portion of that which He has entrusted to us.  It is important that we grasp this in our minds.
As Paul spoke to the brethren at Corinth about their giving he notes “But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8)   Our giving is a reflection of our love and gratitude toward God.

b.       1 Corinthians 16:2 indicates that they were to “lay by in store” on the first day of the week (presumably when they assembled).

c.        2 Corinthians 9:6-7 describes how our giving is to be done generously and cheerfully from the heart.   1 Cor. 16:2 tells us it is to be purposeful (planned) and thus not leftovers or a last minute thought.
2 Corinthians 8:5 shows that proper giving comes from a heart that has FIRST given oneself to the Lord.

d.       As you study the work of the church in the New Testament there are things that we can do which requires funding – supporting the preaching of the gospel, worshipping God, authorized benevolence, etc.   The ONLY authorized means of securing funds is through the giving of the saints.  That is why in our contribution we are partaking in every work the Lord’s church engages in (or our lack of giving could hinder that work).

 V.                  Preaching/studying

a.        The final act of worship is the teaching of God’s word. 

b.       In Acts 2:42 we read the brethren in Jerusalem continued in “the apostle’s doctrine.”
In Acts 20:7 Paul preached to the brethren when they came together “on the first day of the week.”
In 2 Tim. 4:2 we find Paul commissioning Timothy to preach the word because the time would come when brethren would teach error.
1 Corinthians 14 which deals with spiritual gifts and the assembly, notes that teaching was taking place.  In fact, it was an integral part of their assemblies according to this text.
Timothy was told by Paul, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16)  In Ephesus as he taught, people heard and learned.  
Many of the letters of the NT were sent to churches who read them and circulated them – and thus teaching and preaching were being done. 

c.        1 Timothy 3:15 – describes the church as “the pillar and ground of truth.”  Continually we find warnings in the NT for churches (and individuals) to stand with the gospel and find and expose false teachers.

In John 4:24 we are told to worship God “in spirit and in truth”.  To do that, we need the TRUTH (John 17:17) 
ALL of this shows that when we assemble we ought to give attention to God’s word.  After all, just as prayer is our way of speaking TO God, His word is his way of speaking TO us!

d.       In this act of worship, both the speaker and the hearer have responsibilities.
The preacher/teacher must preach the whole counsel of God – cf. Acts 20:27, 2 Tim. 4:2
The hearer must listen attentively and search the scriptures (Acts 17:11) and apply the message as it is true to God’s word.

These are the 5 acts of worship we find in scripture that we are to engage in as we assemble.    In the New Testament you will NOT find any other acts of worship that we do corporately (together).  As with all of God’s word, let us respect His pattern in this too.  In so doing we can stand on the ONLY standard that will produce true unity.   Next week we will address WHEN we assemble and why.