Biblical Theology And Corporate Worship
What exactly are we doing when we gather as churches for worship? And how do we know what we should be doing in those weekly gatherings?
Naturally, evangelical Christians turn to Scripture for guidance on these questions, but where in Scripture do we look? Theres plenty about worship in the Old Testamentabout prayers and sacrifices and choirs and cymbals and much else. But does all that material actually apply to new covenant gatherings of believers?
What we need in order to answer these questions is a biblical theology of worship. Biblical theology is the discipline that helps us trace both the unity and diversity, the continuity and discontinuity, within the sprawling storyline of Scripture.
In this article Im going to sketch, all too briefly, a biblical theology of corporate worship. Four steps will take us there: gathered worship in the Old Testament fulfillment in Christ gathered worship in the New Testament reading the whole Bible for corporate worship.
1. GATHERED WORSHIP IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Ever since Gods people were banished from his presence after the fall in Genesis 3, God has been at work gathering them back to himself. So when Israel suffered in chains in Egypt, God rescued them not just so that they would be free from oppression, but so that they would worship him in his presence . God led his people out of Egypt and brought them to his own dwelling place .
2. FULFILLMENT IN CHRIST
3. GATHERED WORSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
What Does The Bible Say About Worship Through Singing
What is worship? Worship is a truth-based, spiritual relationship with God that responds to Gods greatness by a daily dying to oneself, internalization of His truths, and practice of faith-filled actions in Christ. Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 1 Corinthians 10:32 whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Why does God want us to sing? Singing is one aspect by which we worship God, publicly proclaiming His glory and holiness and our gratitude to Him for who He is and for the gift of Son for our salvation. Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
What does God want us to sing? Scripture-Focused Songs: Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
What sorts of methods & instruments should we use for worship in song?
How does God want us to sing?
A Definition Of Worship From The Bible
The first time the word worship appears in the King James Version is Gen 22:5 when Abraham told his servants he would go worship on the mountain with Isaac.
The Hebrew word the patriarch uses is shachah meaning to bow down.
But the Hebrew word actually appears prior to this first translational occurance. The real first appearance of shachah is in Gen 18:2.
In this passage, God appears to Abraham in the desert as three persons. Abraham recognized his God. In this instance the King James translates the word more literally. It says Abraham ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
So bowing down seems to be the appropriate action when meeting with the Creator. Bowing and kneeling sucking carpet as my senior pastor says are certainly appropriate responses to Gods presence.
If I can continue with this word study, another aspect of worship appears in Genesis 4:3-4. This verse says Cain and Abel brought their offering Hebrew word minchahto the Lord. This word means gift, offering, present, tribute, sacrifice.
The word is used about 40 times in Leviticus when it describes how to sacrifice and bring offering to God.
So according to our quick OT study, heres another worship definition: bowing down in homage and laying down/giving up something you care about to honor God.
You might be thinking, Im not a big OT person. What does the NT say about worship?
Well, almost exactly the same thing. The OT and NT are part of the same book, you know.
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What Does It Mean To Worship God In Spirit And Truth
Many Christian are familiar with the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4. But not everyone can explain what Jesus meant when he said the Father is seeking men and women who will worship him in spirit and truth .
To say that we must worship God in spirit means, among other things, that it must originate from within, from the heart it must be sincere, motivated by our love for God and gratitude for all he is and has done. Worship cannot be mechanical or formalistic. That does not necessarily rule out certain rituals or liturgy. But it does demand that all physical postures or symbolic actions must be infused with heartfelt commitment and faith and love and zeal.
But the word spirit here may also be a reference to the Holy Spirittheres disagreement among good Bible scholars. The apostle Paul said that Christians worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh .
Its the Holy Spirit who awakens in us an understanding of Gods beauty and splendor and power. Its the Holy Spirit who stirs us to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks. Its the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see and savor all that God is for us in Jesus. Its the Holy Spirit who, I hope and pray, orchestrates our services and leads us in corporate praise of God.
Worship Is Singing But Not Only Singing
Many Christians today understand worship as singing. When we talk about Sunday morning, we refer to congregational singing as worship. When we say, I really enjoyed the worship, we almost always mean I really enjoyed the music.
This isnt entirely wrong its just incomplete. There are clear examples of singing as worship found in the Bible . Were admonished to sing to the Lord and to encourage one another with hymns and spiritual songs.
So singing, biblically, is a part of worship.
However, we must be careful not to equate worship with singing and music.
The word worship at its most basic level means to ascribe worth. This is helpful to keep in mind, especially when you consider the words translated as worship. The two most commonly used words in Hebrew and Greek that we often translate as worship refer to bowing or kneeling down, both to God and to men. In other words, they describe an act of reverential deference.
This is the important thing to understand, then, about worship. Its not merely about singing, its about reverenceits about having a biblical fear of the Lord. At its most basic level, then, you could define worship as the humbling of yourself before the One who is your better.
This, naturally, has serious implications.
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What Is True Worship
What does worship look like? Ill give you a hint: It has nothing to do with fashion or hairstyles.
Lets see what Colossians 3:16-17 says about this:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
True worship is a lifestyle. Worship can be demonstrated through our every word and action. Of course, God can be worshipped corporately as well. His presence is manifested where believers gather to lift His name high, according to Matthew 18:20:
Bible Verses About Worship
First, we need to understand why God created man in the first place. Isaiah 43:7 tells us that I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them. God didnt need to create us. He doesnt need our worship after all, the Creator is sovereign and self-sustaining. But He chose to create us for His glory. If we return to the Garden of Edenbefore sin created a separation between mankind and Godwe can see that Adam and Eve walked in deep friendship with their Creator.
God enjoys our fellowship. All of creation was created to give Him glory, and our every word and action can be a reflection of this adoration toward our Heavenly Father. True worship is simply an outward expression of this love we have toward Him, a means by which we glorify Him.
God treasures our intimacy with Him so much that He sent His Son to die on our behalf. Why? Because this was the only way mankind could be restored back to the Father. It was Gods great love for us that compelled Him to create us, and it was His great love for us that compelled Him to send His Son .
What should our response be in return? Nothing less than exaltation. We will never be able to comprehend this sacrifice, this love that God has for us, much less give Him what He deservesbut we can at least try. We can at least pour out our every breath, our entire being, as an offering of worship.
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The Call To Worship With Our Entire Being
Biblical worship involves our whole being: spirit, soul, and body . Biblical Worship is not just a cerebral pursuit, an emotional exaggeration, or a mystical consciousness. Worship is a presentation of our entire being, ignited by the Holy Spirit, as a living sacrifice to God.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Worship involves our bodies. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 reminds us: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
With our bodies, which are created in Gods image, we can express our worship to God. There are many words in the Bible that show physical expressions of worship. Biblical expressions of worship can include keeling , bowing heads , raising heads , lifting up hands , and dancing before the Lord . True Biblical worship will confront our fleshly pride.
We can see these examples in the life of Jesus. He spoke praise , lifted His hands , lifted His head , and kneeled .
What Does The Bible Say About Music Especially Worship Music
Scripture tells us hymns and songs are used to worship God. By singing in worship, Christians proclaim the truths of Gods saving power, rejoice in His redeeming grace, and even edify and strengthen each other in singing the truth of His word.
Bible Verses about Worshipful Music
- The Psalmist in 147:7 instructed us to ing unto the Lord with Thanksgiving sing praise upon the harp unto our God.
- Colossians 3:16 proclaims the edification power of song by saying, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
- When we become redeemed, the Psalmist in 40:3 spoke of the new song in mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
Therefore, song is very important to the believer and the worship of Jesus Christ. Songs and music serve many useful and vital purposes.
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Bible Verses About Forbidden Worship
So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire,so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky,read more.the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth.And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.
Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and he said to Him, All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.Then Jesus *said to him, Go, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, andserve Him only.
How Is Music Related To Worship
In contemporary worship, sometimes we can talk as if worship is almost synonymous with music. Worship is much more than music or an event like a worship service.
Music is a gift from God and has been associated with Christian worship since the beginning. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are part of being filled with the Holy Spirit . Music is around the very throne of God .
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we will sing and make melody with our hearts. But the rest of the sentence is also true. This is actually one long sentence in the original Greek! If we are filled with the Spirit, there will be a constant spirit of thanksgiving and an attitude of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
|Questions for Reflection/Discussion:|
|If we only sing the songs but dont have the other two, would we really be living our lives filled with the Holy Spirit? Could we be just singing the songs and sensing the emotions of the moment?|
But we cant just get content singing the songs. Music is powerful and valuable as long as it fosters true worship, a heart that follows and obeys Jesus.
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How Is Worship Defined In The Bible
The most common words translated worship in the Bible mean to lay ones self before God.
In the New Testament, the most common word translated worship in the original Greek is proskuneó . According to Thayers Greek Lexicon, the definition of worship is:
What is the word worship in Hebrew, in the Old Testament? The most common word translated worship is shachah. According to A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament , worship means to bow down, prostrate oneself, before a monarch or superior, in homage, etc.
Both of the primary words in Hebrew and Greek for worship in the Bible mean the same thing: to bow down or lay ones face to the ground. Its an acknowledgment of Gods glory. There is someone who is transcendent and glorious and He is worthy of our full allegiance and devotion!
The word worship in English means to acknowledge and ascribe worth to someone or something. The Biblical words describe the actual act of worship, that of kneeling, bowing, or lying prostrate on the ground. The English translation describes the reason we would do what the Bible says.
Psalm 95:6 describes the act of Biblical worship with two synonyms.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
So worship is to bow down or lay our face before God. This physical act is worship when it reflects the hearts posture to follow the King.
What The Bible Says About Worship
Group 1 What The Bible Says About Worship
Psalm 103:1 Praise the Lord, my soul all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Exodus 23:25 Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Isaiah 25:1 Lord, you are my God I will exalt you and praise your name,for in perfect faithfulnessyou have done wonderful things,things planned long ago.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree does not budand there are no grapes on the vines,though the olive crop failsand the fields produce no food,though there are no sheep in the penand no cattle in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord,I will be joyful in God my Savior. 1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good his love endures forever.Psalm 63:1 You, God, are my God,earnestly I seek you I thirst for you,my whole being longs for you,in a dry and parched landwhere there is no water. John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
Group 2 What The Bible Says About Worship
Group 3 What The Bible Says About Worship
Group 4 What The Bible Says About Worship
Group 5 What Does The Bible Say About Worship?