When we watch a big athletic competition on television, there is no question about the motives of the people who are in the stands. The fans are there for one reason—to cheer on their team and enjoy the entire atmosphere of the big game. When it comes to our worship of God, why are we less engaged or less involved? I’m not at all suggesting that we must be fanatical in our worship with crazy shouts and cheering. What I am suggesting is that we must be engaged properly and involved in the worship of God. Worship is not a spectator event. Sinclair Ferguson stated the following, “The foundation of worship in the heart is not emotional (‘I feel full of worship’ or ‘The atmosphere is so worshipful’). Actually, it is theological. Worship is not something we ‘work up,’ it is something that ‘comes down’ to us, from the character of God.” [1]

The Definition of Worship

When we discuss worship in our contemporary setting, we typically have in mind the worship of God. Perhaps in our ultra-contemporary or progressive settings we tend to associate singing with worship while not typically focusing upon other aspects such as preaching, praying, giving, and responding to God in worship.

For many years, the word worship has been used in a variety of contexts from knights who win worship by their feats of arms to the old English prayer book where the groom tells his bride, “With my body I thee worship.” It goes without saying, the term for worship has been employed in a variety of contexts throughout time. The antiquarian English term (weorthscipe) has carried the idea of “worthiness” or the “worthship” of the object or person in reference.

As we consider the way in which the term worship is used in a biblical sense and within the context of the church (the Christian community), we reserve worship for God alone who is worthy to receive such adoration and praise. In the New Testament, we find the Greek verb “προσκυνέω” used to talk about people worshipping Christ (Matt. 2:2). This term carries the meaning “to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to.” [1] The idea from Old to New Testaments is that God himself is alone worthy of worship and we must avoid any act or engagement of worship to false gods. Our God is a jealous God and has made that clearly known (Ex. 20:1-4; Deut. 7:1-5).

The Privilege of Worship

When it comes to worship, we must consider the reality of what we get to do and why this is such an unbelievable privilege. Have you ever had the privilege to meet a celebrity or a person of great power in the world of politics—including the President of the United States? Such meetings often leave a person feeling overwhelmed with a sense of privilege. We should view worship as an undeserved privilege that our God has granted to us as a result of his saving love and divine mercy.

When we consider the backdrop of human depravity and the salvation that is ours through the blood of Jesus Christ—it is indeed overwhelming to comprehend the reality that God is pleased with us and that we have been reconciled to him through the blood of his Son Jesus Christ. That reality of our position in Christ and the privilege of God receiving our worship is a sobering thought to comprehend. How true it is that God receives our worship and we are welcomed to come to him in prayer boldly (Heb. 4:16). We are to sing to our God as we offer praises to him (PS. 7:17). Preachers stand and proclaim God’s Word and point people to hope in God through Christ and to serve him (1 Cor. 1:23). We gather at the Lord’s Table for worship as we remember the very body and blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Worship is a foretaste of our being welcomed into God’s visible presence in eternity. What an unbelievable privilege.

The Responsibility of Worship

The Psalmist writes the following, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker” (Ps. 95:6)! God has saved us and called us to be worshippers of him. God did not need us to worship him. Our God is self-existent and self-sustaining. However, God in his divine mercy has saved us—calling us out of darkness into his marvelous light. God has called us to be worshippers of him—and this worship is not suggested or given to us for consideration. We are called to worship God.

We read the following in Psalm 66:1-4:

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.” Selah

All throughout the Word of God, we see a clear call for God’s people to offer up praise, adoration, song, sermons, and Spirit-empowered worship to God. Therefore, it should not be something we do as an additive to our weekly activities, it should stand high above all other things and it should be positioned at the very center of our lives.

The Blueprint for Worship

When it comes to the building of a house, the builder uses a set of blueprints which serve as a definite guide and scale of measurement for the structure that he will erect. When complete, the finished product should look like the drawings on the blueprints which were created by architects and drawn to scale. Go back in history to the days of Moses and the Israelites. God provided Moses a set of audible blueprints for the construction of the Tabernacle. Each part of the structure—from the blazing alter to the choice of fabric was to be constructed to God’s specifications. In Exodus 40:33, the text says that Moses finished the work, and then something unique happened.

Exodus 40:34–38 – Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [35] And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [36] Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. [37] But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. [38] For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

God was pleased, and he descended upon the tent of meeting in visible glory. Unfortunately, the reason that many worship services are full of emotion but lack the blessing of God is because far too many churches fail to follow the blueprint that God has given to us for worship. When God’s people worshipped the golden calf, God was displeased. When Cain offered up an improper sacrifice, God was not satisfied. We see other examples of fleshly worship as Ananias and Sapphira offered up only part of what they promised God, and God judged them (Acts 5:1-11). Furthermore, we find that when God’s people perverted the Lord’s Table, they were judged with sickness and death (1 Cor. 11).

The regulative principle of worship is the idea that everything we need to know about how God desires to be worshipped is found plainly in the Word. Not only is it accessible, it’s also mandatory that we follow God’s blueprint. This regulative principle is a commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture—with a firm belief that God has given us his directions to follow in worship. When we read the Bible, we find that God has given specific directions about the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13), the preaching of the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5), the singing of the church (Col. 3:16), the administration of the ordinances (Acts 2:41-47; 1 Cor. 11), and the prayers of the people (Matt. 5:44; Matt. 6:-13; 1 Thess. 5:17). The corporate gathering of God’s people is to be observed and not neglected (Heb. 10:24-25), and so God has given us a blueprint of acceptable worship.

Psalm 99:5 – Exalt the LORD our Godworship at his footstool! Holy is he!


  1. Sinclair Ferguson, A Heart for God, (Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1987), 110.
  2. William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 882.

 

 

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