The Church Jesus Built -- Worship
Someone has said, “If man does not worship God, he will worship something, even it he has to worship himself.” Naturally God never intended for man to worship anything other than God. Jesus built His church and in and through that body of believers, congregational or collective praise and worship is to be offered to God.
Jesus told a certain woman, “Ye worship that which ye know not: we (the Jewish nation) worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such doth the Father seek to be His worshippers. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24). It is important to notice first that God does not require man’s worship -- He seeks it. Paul spoke before a heathen audience in Athens and said, “The God that made the world and all things therein, He, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is He served by men’s hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He Himself giveth to all life and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). Please consider the appropriate remarks of the late Dr. Joseph Parker. He said, “God does not need our money as a beggar by the wayside may need it; yet He receives it, and pours out a blessing in return for it. God does not need our help, for He wields all power; yet men have been ‘cursed’ for not going up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The little child cannot help you carry your burden, yet when it puts out its tiny hand in your assistance, your heart is filled with a more confident courage. God does not need our patronage. What candle can patronize the sun? What little ceiling of man’s making can offer patronage to the firmament which holds all the stars? But God receives our love, our prayers, our gifts, our acknowledgements of His sovereignty, and in return He pours upon us a plentiful rain of grace and joy” (Studies In Texts, Volume IV, page 174). Those whose worship is both sought and accepted by the Almighty are blessed indeed.
But consider where God seeks worship. Does He seek it from all religions, all confessions of man’s faith, or all of the various “religious” orders men have created? Read with me from one of Paul’s great letters. “Unto Him (God Almighty) be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21). In the church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever God seeks and accepts the worship of mankind. Those who wish to participate in the adoration and worship of God, must be members of the church Jesus promised to build. And please remember Peter’s inspired statement. “Ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). His house today is not made of inanimate stone -- but of baptized believers who are called “living stones.” As God did not accept collective worship outside of the divine pricincts of His appointment in the Old Testament temple, He accepts worship today only from His spiritual temple, the church Jesus built.
From Paul’s affirmation at Athens we learn quickly that the temples men construct cannot be God’s place of abode, nor can the things men devise by which to show God veneration avail anything. This eliminates idols, artifacts, relics, and other objects of worship. It is in the church and in Christ Jesus alone that God accepts the praise and worship to His unfathomable glory.
Worship offered to God must be offered by those who are members of this church Jesus established. The Samaritan woman was told that her worship was not acceptable. Jesus linked true worship with the source of salvation. “Salvation,” He said, “is from the Jews.” The Jewish nation was formed by the Almighty to be His own special people, called out of the ancient world to provide the world a Savior, Jesus Christ. Salvation has come to this world only through Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, He fulfilled the one and only purpose the Jewish nation was ever intended to serve. Then He promised a new order. “I will build My church,” He promised. Remember, this is that church in which God both seeks and accepts worship. And, if that church exists, it must continue the same purpose God has assigned for it. The worship it offers must be completely acceptable to Him.
Worship, in order to be acceptable, must be offered “in spirit and truth.” Jesus told the Samaritan woman that any other worship is not true worship. In fact, He affirmed that just worship is not necessarily acceptable to God. Worship, according to our Lord, must be offered “in spirit and truth.” But what is involved in worship offered to God “in spirit and truth?” Jesus said that God is a Spirit, and then based His next thought on that point. As a Spirit, God must be worshipped in spirit and truth.
Adam Clarke, a well known Bible scholar, gives an excellent comment on this idea. Please consider it. “This is one of the first, the greatest, the most sublime, and necessary truths in the compass of nature! There is a God, the cause of all things -- the fountain of all perfection -- without parts or dimensions, for He is ETERNAL -- filling the heavens and the earth -- pervading, governing, and upholding all things: for He is an infinite Spirit! This God can be pleased only with that which resembles Himself: therefore He must hate sin and sinfulness; and can delight in those only who are made partakers of His own Divine nature. As all creatures were made by Him, so all owe Him obedience and reverence; but, to be acceptable to this infinite Spirit, the worship must be of a spiritual nature -- must spring from the heart, through the influence of the Holy Ghost: and it must be in TRUTH, not only in sincerity, but performed according to that Divine revelation which He has given men of Himself.” (Clarke’s Commentary, Volume V, page 541).
Dr. Clarke’s comment shows that the expression “worship Him in spirit” means worship under the influence of His Holy Spirit. A human spirit being influenced by the Divine Spirit is one that has been instructed by the revelation of God’s will. The Holy Spirit has made this possible. When our spirits are in complete union with the divine revelation, our worship is sincere and from the heart. But Clarke also shows us that worship must be “performed according to that Divine revelation which He has given men of Himself.” The only revelation God has ever given mankind is the Bible. That is why, the church Jesus built, in worship, insists on confining the performance of worship to that which one finds in the Book of God. In the case of the New Testament church, the New Testament is the sole source of divine revelation by which to determine that worship will be acceptable to God.
Let us look at the church Jesus built and learn how they offered God acceptable worship. First, turn to Acts 2:42. This is the first day of the church’s existence here on earth. Luke tells us that those freshly converted people “continued stedfastly in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The church offered worship in accordance with the teaching they received from the apostles. That included fellowship, participation with the apostles, as the body of Jesus Christ. They broke bread together; they prayed together. The breaking of bread on the Lord’s Day was a sacred memorial of the death and suffering of Christ. Later, in the narrative in Acts, Luke reports that Paul and some brethren waited seven days in Troas and then, “Upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them.” The Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s day are always inseparably related in the New Testament. There is no other day on which this sacred act of worship may be acceptably performed by the church Jesus built.
There is some question as to how often this memorial should be observed. Some opine, “The Bible does not say to partake of it every first day of the week, therefore we can set our own frequency of observance.” The church Jesus built maintained that “the (singular) first day of the (singular) week” necessarily implies every first day of every week. The people of God in the Old Testament understood “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” as an obligation to be done every Sabbath Day. Students in college, who make up their schedules, understand that if a class they enroll in meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is meant, unless they are specifically told that the class will not meet. It does seem that we should use as much common sense in observing the most sacred feast of all as we would enrolling in college classes. But many do not.
Collective prayers were offered by the church. Prayer is one of the means humans may use to the thoughts of the heart to the Almighty. It is through Christ, our intercessor, that our prayers come before the throne of God Almighty. Later, Paul wrote of another expression of congregational worship. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Colossians 3:16). This is another way God allows us to express our worship to Him. The Hebrew writer said, “Through Him (Jesus), let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). The church Jesus built offers up the identical sacrifices of lips. Singing praises to God is the only kind of music the Lord, or any of the writers of the New Testament, ever mention in connection with worship. Choirs, organs, orchestras, and other kinds of mechanical instruments of music are never mentioned. The New Testament church, the one Jesus built, never used anything to praise God in music other than singing.
There is also an opportunity made for God’s people to give of their financial ability. Paul wrote, “Upon the first day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (I Corinthians 16:1-2). Paul intended for all the churches of the first century to regularly lay by in store, into a common treasury. His purpose was that he and others were travelling through the land, acting as messengers of the churches, to take the combined contribution of the churches to Jerusalem for the relief of the needy saints there. The contribution by each member of the local church is the only way the New Testament teaches the church to have a treasury. Churches did not enter the business markets to make money, nor did they put on cake sales, car washes, and other such enterprises. The church Jesus built did quite well by the contributions of the saints on the first day of every week.
That, dear friends is what the New Testament teaches about the worship offered by the church Jesus built. It is simple. There is nothing ornate or ritualistic about it. And, it is the truth. It is the truth because it can be fully documented by book, chapter, and verse from the New Testament. It is hoped that, by this survey, those of you who study this will be impressed to first become a member of that church, for remember, it is the one place God seeks and accepts congregational worship today. And that once you become a member, you will worship faithfully, in spirit and truth, as you join with other saints in the wonderful experience of offering up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Christ.
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