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by Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
November, 2001

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November 1, 2001.

WORSHIP IS A HUMAN RESPONSE TO THAT WHICH IS PERCEIVED TO BE THE PRESENCE OF SOMEONE VASTLY SUPERIOR, AND ESPECIALLY THE DIVINE. This reaction takes place among the sincere who know the Truth, as well as, among the heathen who do not. The reaction called worship is not necessarily due to enlightenment. Consider the ignorant heathen who creates an image out of wood or stone, and sincerely attributes to this image the essence of divinity, then prostrates himself before it in worship. Those who know the Truth understand a presence which is holy. The apostles were promised, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).

The consciousness of His "being with us" should bring forth a response from those of us who perceive it. The response is worship; it takes on several forms - prayers, singing of sacred songs, confessions of sins (1 Corinthians 14:25), meditation on God's word, and eating and drinking of the Lord's Supper. These should be responses not merely religious activities. Our worshiping God is an exercise of honor and praise to Him. The word "worship" means to fall down at another's feet. In Acts 11, by a heavenly voice, Cornelius was told that his prayers and alms were come up for a memorial before God and that he should send for Simon Peter, "Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (v. 14). We are told that as Peter was coming in to Cornelius, the man "met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshiped him" (v. 25). Do you see that this act, though misplaced, came from a sincere man who understood that God was with Peter. The Bible tells us, "But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man" (v. 26).

Christians are not to worship other men or even angels, but God only. Revelation 22:8,9 tells us, "And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God." We don't worship other men-the command was clear-"Worship God!"

The children of God today are not allowed to observe worship now and again according to their own whim. The acts of worship as prescribed in the New Testament are to be diligently attended to. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). Although we are given a form to carry out, our worship should nevertheless be a response from the heart to God.

For centuries men of God found geographical locations as places of worship. For example, when Jacob was fleeing away to Haran, while sleeping at "a certain place," in a dream he suddenly perceived the presence of the Lord and when he woke from his sleep, he said: "Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel..." (Genesis 28:16-18). Before the dream, the place had only been a stopping place reached by sunset (18:11), but when Jacob awoke it had become a holy place. In the Old Testament we notice that there were times when individuals spontaneously worshiped, later God designed and had set up what has been called "corporate worship." It was carried out, not by one person, but by God's people as a group. It was nonetheless holy worship because of the presence of God Almighty.

In the wilderness the Lord gave Moses the instructions for worship and designated the Tabernacle as the place of His own presence. The priests of the Old Testament were to make certain that no unclean or profane thing would come close to Him and those things of worship (Deuteronomy 22). In the Christian age Jesus has taken a specified geographical location off of the worship of God, and placed it wherever the saints assemble or come together (John 4:21-24; Acts 11:17-29). Paul taught the men of Athens that today God does not dwell in temples made with man's hands (Acts 17: 24-25). Although we cannot see Christ with our fleshly eyes, we know that he is present with us when we worship. Just because the Jewish temple is not the valid place of worship today, and we are not given a specified geographical location where God dwells, does not decrease in the least, the sanctity of the worship of the Lord's people. Is your worship the conduct of sincere acts in reaction to God's presence? We should always keep in mind the Lord is in our midst when we worship, and conduct ourselves according to this knowledge.

God wanted the children of Israel not to worship anything but Him (Deuteronomy 5:6-9). As we have seen in our reading above, Jesus demanded that God should be worshiped "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). We are to worship God sincerely from our inner man. God's nature demands that we worship with reverence and awe. Habakkuk 2:20 says, "But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." Dear Christian, you and I are the temple of God today. Paul wrote, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:16,17). Today, we are the dwelling place of Almighty God (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21,22).

Our sincere acts of worship are an offering of spiritual sacrifices. 1 Peter 2:5 tells us, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Under the law of Moses, only ordained priests could offer sacrifices. All Christians are priests today. "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5,6). Those who have not become part of the priesthood cannot offer sacrifices of worship to God. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Hebrews 13:15).

Genuine songs of praise to God come from hearts full of amazement and awe, gladness and thanksgiving. We should never do anything "to be seen of men," but neither should we ever be ashamed to allow ourselves to sincerely bow before God as did men and women of the New Testament. We are told that Jesus, leaving the disciples behind in a place called Gethsemane, and "saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:32-35). According to Matthew 26:39 some translate it to say, he "threw himself on the ground and prayed" and according to Luke 22:41, he "knelt down, and prayed," as did the apostle Paul with the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:36), and again with a number of disciples including the wives and children in Acts 21:5. Consider these physical postures. Are they not befitting worship of Jehovah our God?

In some quarters today there is little understanding of the awe, amazement and great reverence due in true worship. Among many there is the feeling that our worship, and the true and living God are hardly related to one another. They appear to think that our assembly is a social event, or a gathering of "the club" according to the rules-four songs; a reading of a passage; a recited prayer; another song; some teaching, etc., etc., etc. In a group with this disposition it is doubtful that much "worship" is going on among them. You remember, worship is action awakened by realizing the presence of one superior or Divine.

Jesus condemned trying to simply appear righteous or worshipful. He said that some make long prayer in public places and some wear unreasonably embellished vesture "to be seen of men" (Matthew 6:5; 23:5). Nothing in our worship should be done to attract attention to ourselves - that would be hollow and insincere. It is true that we might all desire to fall before God or bow on the knee in worship, however, some cannot because of physical debility. But, please, never be ashamed to give yourself wholly to your worship of God. Don't let your clothes be too nice for you to really worship. Sing from your heart and understand what you sing. Do your best to follow the teaching from the Scriptures, remembering that it is God speaking to you. Don't be ashamed to carry a Bible whether it is fashionable or not. Listen carefully to the public prayer that is offered. Don't be ashamed to say, "Amen" to a prayer if you are sincerely approving it (1 Corinthians 14:16), but don't holler, "Aaaamennnn" so people will notice you.

Teachers and preachers, be as sincere and good a listener as you want other people to be when you speak. If you act bored while your brother speaks, it looks rude, if not simply hypocritical. Don't act like you think what you say is far more important than what your brother says. We just need to all "practice what we preach," and live by the "golden rule" which Jesus taught- "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 3:31). We consistently tell Denominational people that we must do what pleases God. Friend, we are commanded to worship in spirit as well as in truth. Remember, if you treat your brothers like babbling buffoons why should the world listen to you. It's certain they won't think that you believe and practice the Truth.

Furthermore, our singing in worship is not to entertain or to impress other people. The Scriptures tell us that our singing should be the outpouring of our hearts in praise to God (Ephesians 5:19). We need to do our best when we sing, exercising the ability the Lord has given us. If you need to learn more about the subject of singing, then do what's necessary to learn more. But after all, when you come together with the church, sing praises to God and truly worship.