Worship which is acceptable to God, in this, the Christian age, must be
by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. In John 4:23,24, Jesus said,
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall
worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such
to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship
him in spirit and in truth.”
We can derive at least two clear conclusions from this Scripture.
First, the statement plainly implies that there is a true worship and a
false worship. Christ said, “when the true worshippers shall worship
the Father,” which leads us to understand that there must also be false
According to Matthew 15:8, 9, Jesus emphasized that worship which is
according to the doctrines and commandments of men, is “vain worship.”
Vain means “without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or
worthless.” He said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their
mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from
me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the
commandments of men.” Vain worship is clearly the opposite of true
Secondly, according to Jesus in John 4, worship, in order to be true and
acceptable worship, must be in spirit and according to the truth.
Furthermore, Paul declared in Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever ye do in
word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
and the Father by him.” From this inspired statement, we understand
that the worship Christians conduct must be in the name of, or by the
authority of, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, when Christians worship according to the divine pattern set down
in the word of God, they worship in Truth–“Thy word is truth” (John
17:17). We cannot worship “in truth” and allow something in our worship
which cannot be found in the divine pattern. These days, there are all
kinds of things done in “worship” which are foreign to the New Testament
The word worship means “reverent honor and homage paid to God... Formal
ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage...” When worship was
misdirected in the New Testament it was quickly met by correction. (See
Acts 10:25,26; Revelation 19:10). Worship in the Bible moves back and
forth between personal experience and congregational activity. Personal
worship may occur in very private circumstances or may be related to
public worship. During the Mosaic dispensation there were times and
seasons for worship–Day of Atonement; Festivals; Sabbath days.
In its beginning the church of Christ was totally comprised of Jews,
with their heritage of Old Testament commandments, but it soon became
mixed with both Jews and Gentiles. Some Jewish Christians, zealous of
keeping the Old Law with its traditions, bound these things on new
Gentile converts. Consequently, there arose an urgent need for the
Lord’s Apostles to teach that Sabbath keeping, abstinence from certain
foods, the rite of circumcision, etc., were not binding on Christians.
The Jewish Christians had to learn that the many ceremonies of the Old
Law which pointed forward to the crucifixion of Christ had been
fulfilled in Jesus. For the Christian, all of the complex activities of
the Temple, Levitical priesthood, animal sacrifices, and sin-cleansing
rituals were done away. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in
drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the
Sabbath days,” Paul wrote to Christians in Colosse (2:16). (See also
Galatians 4:10,11; 5:4)
In the verses preceding (Colossians 2:13–14) the Scriptures say, “And
you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath
he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which
was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his
The church itself has now become the temple of God. And being added to
the church by the Lord indicates that a person has been saved (Acts
2:36-47). In becoming a Christian each person has been given a new
spiritual station. The Lord, “ loved us, and washed us from our sins in
his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his
Father” (Revelation 1:6).
To impress on the minds of Christians their important spiritual position
as God’s holy dwelling place, Paul wrote, “What? know ye not that your
body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of
God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and again, “In
whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple
in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of
God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21,22). Peter told Christians,
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a
peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath
called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Yes, those who become Christians not only become children of God, born
into His family (Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26,27; 1 Peter 1:23), but they
become members of “the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22,23),
and are become citizens of the kingdom of God’s dear son (Colossians
1:13), and their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
A search of the Scriptures will lead us to understand that the members
of a church of Christ in a locality came together to conduct public
worship each first day of the week. In doing this, five ordinances of
worship were to be accomplished. In this assembly there was the
observing of the Lord’s Supper; they also contributed as they had been
prospered; they prayed; they taught and learned from the word of God,
and sang “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Please read Acts 2:42;
20:7; 1 Corinthians 10,11,14 & 16:1,2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.
As you read the above passages and others, you will see that the
Apostles instructed early Christians as to what was to be done and how
it was to be carried out. For example, when they came together in the
assembly, the teaching from the word of God was to be done by men only,
and that by turn, one by one.
The inspired writer gives the reason for this saying, “For God is not
the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the
saints.” They were to conduct the services in a manner that would edify
all worshipers (1 Corinthians 14:5,12,26), and even unbelieving visitors
would be convinced and converted (vs. 25).
We must not make the mistake of confusing public worship with things we
might do in private. Christians can pray and fast as it suits them.
They should pray when they have difficulty and sing to rejoice as their
situation demands (James 5:13). These activities are individually
conducted according to one’s own personal needs and choices.
There was once a brother who visited the Siskiyou Street congregation in
L.A. who held that women could not teach the word of God at all, under
any circumstances. He reasoned that since Paul wrote “Let your women
keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to
speak,” (1 Corinthians 14:34), and we are still the Lord’s church
wherever we are, women are never allowed to teach the Bible.
Of course, the brother had to ignore several Scriptures which clearly
imply that it was not only permitted but proper for a woman to teach
God’s will. Outside of the public assembly the wife of Aquila helped
teach a preacher. In Acts 18:24-26 we read of a Jewish preacher from
Egypt named Apollos who was said to be eloquent and mighty in the
Scriptures, but he knew only the baptism of John which was no longer
valid. This Christian couple, husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla,
heard him preach, took note of his error, and “took him unto them and
expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
Be sure that you note the fact that they were careful to teach him
privately. There was no public reprimand. This ought to be a lesson to
all who love the Lord and His worship, who love the souls of saints and
who make a sincere effort to keep all things taught properly. Women as
well as men should quietly and privately make corrections to keep down
disturbances, and still maintain the Truth. Of course, women should not
usurp the position of men, but a careful God-fearing knowledgeable woman
can help many of us understand the will of God more clearly.
The prohibition of women teaching was in the public. The inspired
Apostle writes to Timothy for him to instruct brethren in a number of
areas including the conduct of teaching in their assembly. He says,
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a
woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in
silence” (1 Timothy 2:11,12). The restriction by God was not because
the man is usually smarter than the woman, nor is the woman less
eloquent than the man. The remainder of the chapter gives God’s reasons
for placing the responsibility of teaching the assembly on the man and
not the woman. It had nothing to do with ability or intelligence.
In Acts 8 we read of the preacher, Philip, being sent by divine dispatch
to Gaza to assist in the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch. After his
preaching about Jesus to the Ethiopian resulted in his being baptized,
Philip was “caught away” and was after that said to travel from city to
city up the sea coast until he reached Caesarea. We don’t read more
about Philip until we find in Acts 21, some twenty-seven years later,
that he is still in Caesarea. In this passage Paul and his company, on
their journey to Jerusalem, come to that city and abide with Philip.
The writer tells us that this evangelist now had four daughters who
prophesied. Consistent with Paul’s inspired instruction that women are
restricted to teach only in private, Philip’s daughters must not have
prophesied in the worship assemblies. There is no evidence that Paul
stopped the prophesying by Philip’s daughters, therefore, it was
evidently being done according to the will of God.
We think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit was correct in having
the apostle Peter (Acts 2:17-19) quote the prophet Joel and apply his
words to the miraculous events at the establishment of the Lord’s church
and its early days. He said, “And it shall come to pass in the last
days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your
sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on
my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in
the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.”
We are sure that everything said by Philip’s daughters was a word of
prophecy. No doubt, they were normal sisters with normal needs, but
when it came time to teach someone the word of God they, each one, had
this miraculous gift. This is part of the New Testament teaching and we
must accept this subject in consistency with other inspired teaching.
We don’t have prophetesses today, but women have a responsibility to
teach God’s will when opportunity presents itself. The command to not
“usurp authority over the man” must be obeyed whether in the assembly or
out. Evidently, Priscilla could conduct herself as a Christian woman and
still teach the preacher who was in error.
Make no mistake, the Lord’s church, in its infancy, was endued with
miraculous events and gifts. Not all had the same gift, but both men
and women possessed them. Of course, there were restrictions and
direction given concerning them. Much of it had to do with that done in
the assembly and that done outside. If the brother was correct who took
the position that the restrictions and directions given concerning
teaching, praying, singing, etc., was binding both in and out of the
assembly, we find a great inconsistency in the Divine record. But there
was a distinction made and we must recognize this distinction today.
If that brother were correct, then why were the wives of the prophets
commanded to discuss scriptural questions at home (1 Corinthians
14:35). In this Paul shows a great line of distinction between being in
the assembly and being out, saying “for it is a shame for women to speak
in the church,” meaning the church assembly.