“Worship at the church of your choice” has become a common sign in North America, and believers and unbelievers alike are urged to join in a public service in a specially designed building called a church or synagogue. But is this worship? Can a person who does not believe in Christ join in? No. If we go to the average church, including the average Bible-believing church, we will see a sign, “WORSHIP 11:00 A.M.” We will find that the main part of the service is a sermon. But is sermon worship? No, listening to a sermon; or even preaching one, is not worship. It can, should, and often does draw forth worship, but a sermon is not worship.
But what about prayers? Are they not worship? No, most prayers are petitions and are meant to be that. Some prayers are filled with worship, and most good prayers certainly include worship, but a prayer itself is not necessarily worship. Surely the church music—the anthems of the choir and solos, as well as the hearty congregational singing—is worship. Here we are getting closer to worship, especially when the music is addressed to God in adoration. But music itself is not worship. Some of the most beautiful church music is performed and enjoyed by people who make no profession of Christianity at all. Is the collection of tithes and offerings worship? Giving is a good work, and giving back to God some of what He has blessed us with can be an act of worship.
A beautiful example of worship by a former pagan Gentile is recorded in the book of Daniel. Consider the words of Nebuchadnezzar, as he worshiped the Most High God, after he came to know Him as his God and Savior: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing [compared to His greatness]; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’…Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:34-37). This is pure worship. He certainly was not preaching; he was not even, praying; but was praising the Most High God in worship. His heart was overflowing, bubbling over with a consciousness of the greatness, love, and goodness of the sovereign God.
We also are told to “exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool—He is holy” (Psalm 99:5). Worship exalts God and humbles man; there is no room for pride, arrogance, or hypocrisy in worship. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
28-1 Worship: Some Fundamentals
1) The definition of Worship. The dictionary definition of worship is “the reverence or veneration tendered a divine being or supernatural power; respect, admiration, or devotion for an object of esteem.”
A simpler understanding of worship is in the very root of the English word, which is “worth-ship.” In other words, it is the state of gladly recognizing the supreme worth of God. It is not coming to God to get something, as in prayer; it is not evangelizing people to bring them to God; it is not learning the Scriptures; rather it is heartfelt love, appreciation, an adoration of God for who He is and what He has done (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5). One of the best illustrations of pure worship is a loyal dog, who will lie at its master’s feet, gazing in adoration and seeking nothing but the privilege of being in his presence. Worship is difficult to define in cold print, because it is an exercise of the heart. As the Scottish lady put it, “It’s better felt than telt.” The Bible is full of worship. It is a book of worship from cover to cover. The most popular book in the Old Testament, the Psalms, is largely a worship book in poetic form.
2) The Object of Worship. “For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’ ” (Matthew 4:10). In this quotation from Deuteronomy 6:13, our Lord rebukes Satan for suggesting that Christ should worship him. The only true object of worship is God. That Jesus Himself received worship and is accorded worship in the book of Revelation and elsewhere, is further evidence that He is the son of God and God the Son. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, and deserve equal honor in our worship. Anyone less than God, no matter how beloved or revered, should not be worshipped. The worship of angels (a heresy that apparently existed in Colosse), the adoration of the Virgin Mary or other “saints,” the virtual deification of high-ranking church officials, are all completely forbidden. by the Word of God. Only one is worthy of worship: our Creator and Redeemer, the one true God, eternally existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Acts 10:26 Peter refused to let Cornelius kneel before him, uttering a strong rebuke: “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” Likewise, in the very last chapter of Revelation, the apostle John was so overwhelmed by what he had seen in the visions revealed to him by the angel, that he fell down to worship him. The angel answered, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:9). From start to finish the Bible makes it clear that there is only one true Object of worship as concisely summarized by the angel in Revelation 22:9: “Worship God.”
28-2 Worship in the Old Testament
1) Worship before the giving of the law. Before God gave the law, with its elaborate instructions on how to worship Him properly, the unit of worship was the family. The father of each family acted as priest. From the time of Adam and Eve, animal sacrifices were made to atone for sin, as well as to worship God.
The first use of the word worship in the Bible is in the beloved story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). When God spoke to Abraham and told him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, His instructions were specific:
a) “Take now your son, your only son Isaac.” He was to be the sacrifice.
b) “And go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). God chose the site for Abraham to build an altar, and would later provide a sacrifice to take the place of Isaac.
“And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you’ ” (Genesis 22:5).
Not just any person may worship God, but only those who have accepted His provision. The system of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament prefigured the sacrifice of Christ in the New Testament. Not just any method of worship is allowed, but only such as God has prescribed. Even before the giving of the Law it was necessary to present a blood sacrifice; because Cain did not do so, his worship was refused. Old Testament worship was taken up with forms and ceremonies; New Testament worship is concerned with worshiping in spirit and truth (John 4:24, 25). But in both Testaments the basis of worship is the shedding of blood, without which the unforgiven sin separates the would-be worshiper from a holy God.
2) Worship in the tabernacle. The book of Exodus gives elaborate and intricate instructions on the building of the tabernacle, and the book of Leviticus is equally detailed concerning the sacrifices that were to be offered. While these books can be read as history, their spiritual lesson is missed if they are read in this way only. 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that all these things happened for our instruction. Both the tabernacle and the sacrifices are clear types, or illustrations, of Christ. Christ is the means by which the worshiper comes to God; without Him there can be no true worship. The colors, the materials, the metals, the arrangement, every detail of Old Testament worship prefigures some attribute of our Lord Jesus. All the sacrifices of Leviticus together picture the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The worshiper in ancient Israel brought his animal to the door of the tabernacle and identified himself with it, but only the priest could officiate at its sacrifice; even the high priest could go through the veil into the Most Holy Place only once a year. In Christianity, however, the veil has been torn apart (Mark 15:38), and any believer-priest may enter the Most Holy Place (1 Peter 2:9) spiritually, in prayer, through the one Mediator between God and man, the God-Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
3) Worship in the temple. Solomon’s temple continued the sacrificial system of the tabernacle. But there were differences:
a) A building is more permanent than a tent, no matter how beautiful and elaborate that tent may be.
b) The additional beauties of the temple choir’s antiphonal hymns, which we learn about in Chronicles and the book of Psalms, surpassed the simpler tabernacle worship.
The typology of the temple apparently is less specific than that of the tabernacle, but the same sacrificial system was carried on as outlined for the tabernacle, and Christ was portrayed in the temple sacrifices.
Our Lord Himself spoke of the temple as His “Father’s house” (John 2:16) when He threw out the money changers and those who would use religion as a means of monetary gain (1 Timothy 6:5). He also pointed out that His own body was a temple that would be destroyed through death and yet in three days would rise again (John 2:19-21). The believer-priest of the New Testament era is told that his or her body is also a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). The world is much impressed with Grecian temples and Gothic cathedrals with their high ceilings and beautifully colored windows, but God is more impressed with the humble heart of the believer in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
28-3 Worship in the New Testament
(John 4:23, 24)
The Old Testament ends four hundred years before the New Testament begins, with the temple having been rebuilt and the sacrificial worship system restored. As New Testament times began, this temple had been greatly beautified by Herod. With its gleaming white marble trimmed in real gold, it was one of the wonders of the age, its splendor visible from a distance as the people went up to Jerusalem to worship. This ornate, ritualistic worship continued throughout the New Testament era and only ceased with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Two other forms of worship, however, are more pertinent to our study of this period:
1) Worship in the synagogue (Acts 15:21). The word synagogue is simply a Greek word for congregation. Local Jewish congregations had formed when the people of Israel were in exile and therefore had no temple. In the synagogue the Old Testament was taught, especially the Law, services of prayer were also conducted. A group of elders and the ruler or chief of the synagogue led the worship.
Scripture was read and expounded by men of the congregation; unlike today’s modern synagogue in which a rabbi does most of the teaching and work, any man might read or speak in the ancient synagogue. Hence our Lord Himself, though unpopular with the religious leaders, could read and preach in the synagogue both in His home town, Nazareth (Luke 4:16-27), and in His second home base, Capernaum (John 6:59). Paul and his fellow missionaries were allowed to share their beliefs with the congregation because they were Jewish (Acts 13:14-52).
Synagogue worship laid the foundation for Christian church worship, since many local synagogues in various countries were easily adapted to Christianity. Even the system of elders was retained (instructions for which may be found in Acts 20; 1 and 2 Timothy; and Titus).
2) Worship in the church. To the Samaritan woman, who was concerned about which temple of worship was the correct one—her Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim or the Jewish temple in Jerusalem—our Lord foretold the then-future Christian dispensation, in which we worship in spirit and truth.
The Samaritans only accepted the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), rejecting all the rest of the Old Testament. Like cults of the present day, they did not worship in truth. Most of the Jews did possess the truth (except the liberal Sadducees who denied the supernatural and the resurrection), but the Pharisees were so legalistic they did not worship in spirit.
The major activities of the New Testament church are mentioned in Acts 2:42, such as the “breaking of bread” (the Lord’s Supper), a ceremony especially suited to worship in spirit and truth (1 Corinthians 11-14). Its elements, reminding the believers of Christ’s sacrificial death for them, are comparable to the actual sacrifice of Old Testament lambs and other animals. However, the book of Hebrews emphasizes that the Lord’s Supper is not itself a sacrifice, since the ultimate sacrifice has already been made by the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:28; 10:10; rather it is a memorial to Calvary “in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). It is not the Lord’s Altar but the Lord’s Table.
Since this service evolved from the yearly Passover, it was only natural that the church worship also continued the practice of hymns and prayers. And just as the Old Testament priest or worshiper sometimes actually ate bread and meat in communal worship, so the Christian believer partakes at the communion service as a sign of fellowship with other believers (1 Corinthians 10:17).
The earliest church (Acts 2:46) broke bread daily, but by the end of the book of Acts, weekly communion (on the Lord’s Day, to commemorate the Resurrection) seemed to be customary (Acts 20:7).
28-4 Worship: Its Importance
“Let all the angels of God worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6). Worship is the paramount activity in heaven among all the angels of God. They looked to Christ and worshiped Him, because the Father said to Him, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8; cf. Psalm 45:6). Jesus is worshiped because He is the only begotten Son of God, and God the Son (John 3:16).
The truth of Jesus’ deity is one of the most profound facts ever revealed by the heavenly Father. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, God the Father sent “a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!’ ” (v. 13-14). Christ came to His own, but His own did not know Him; so they did not worship Him (John 1:10). But God the Father sent the heavenly host to earth to worship the virgin-born Messiah.
1) The seraphim know God’s worth, and in great joy and ecstasy they cry one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3).
2) The cherubim are always seen in connection with the throne of God. They worship the Lord and guard His throne. They cover the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place in heaven (Hebrews 9:1-5); accordingly, God told Moses to make golden cherubim and put them above the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:17-19). They were not to be worshiped (Exodus 20:3-5), but to remind the high priest and the people that all the angels of God worship Him day and night (Revelation 4:8). All the angels of God, as well as mankind, were created to bow down and worship the Creator.
3) John said, “I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:8-14). All were engaged in pure worship.
a) The elders and the living creatures fell down before the Lamb.
b) They brought the prayers, of the saints as a gift to the Lamb
c) They sang a new song of praise.
d) They worshiped the Lamb in word, and then the elders fell down to worship the One who lives forever and ever.
4) The Tribulation saints will join all the host of heaven and worship the Lamb of God at the end of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-17).
5) Just as worship is paramount with the host of heaven, so it must have priority in all our thoughts and plans here on earth, because it is the most important thing we do as believers. Worship must take precedence over prayer, although prayer is vital to Christian growth and power. Worship must take precedence over reading God’s Word, unless you are reading Scriptures to motivate worship. Worship must take precedence over music, unless music is used to enhance worship.
Worship is an indispensable part of the Christian’s life—now and in eternity. Evangelism and Bible teaching, like faith and hope, will cease. Worship, like love, will occupy our hearts forever (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
Master Outline 28 – Worship
 Can a person who does not believe in Jesus Christ join in Worship? YES or NO. Explain.
 Is a sermon Worship? YES or NO. Explain.
 Are prayers worship? YES or NO. Explain.
 Is music itself worship? YES or NO. Explain.
 What former pagan Gentile in the Old Testament gives us a beautiful example of worship?
 Describe pure worship as performed by Nebuchadnezzar.
 Worship ______________________ God and ______________________ man.
 What is the dictionary definition of worship?
 The Bible is a book of _____________________ from cover to cover.
 The only true Object of worship is what?
 Why did Peter give Cornelius a rebuke?
 What did the angel tell John in Revelation when John fell down to worship him?
 The first use of the word “worship” in the Old Testament is?
 The only person that can worship God is the one who has done what?
 New Testament worshipping is concerned with worshipping in ____________________
 What is the basis of worshipping in the Old Testament and New Testament?
 Without ___________________________ there can be no true worship.
 Explain why the veil was ripped in two when Jesus died.
 Is God more impressed with a Gothic cathedral or a believer’s body?
 When did the ornate, ritualistic worship of the temple end in the New Testament?
 What is the Greek meaning of synagogue?
 The Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Was this worshipping in truth?
 What were four (4) elements of worship in the early church described in Acts 2:42?
 What is the paramount activity in Heaven among the angels of God? Why?
 The truth of Jesus’ Deity is one of the most profound facts ever revealed by the Heavenly Father? TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 Why did God tell Moses to build cherubs above the mercy seat?
 All the angels of God and mankind were created to bow down and do what?
 What is the most important thing we can do as believers here?