O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. -- Psalm 63 verses 1-4 NIV.The well-presented sermon I heard one Sunday morning was based on Psalm 63. The preacher assumed, and shared his understanding, that the worship spoken of by the Psalmist was identical to what Christian worship should be. He specifically exhorted us to lift OUR hands during our services in “God’s sanctuaries,” which he told us were our Christian meeting places. What was good advice to Jews 1,000 years before Jesus came is, in his understanding, also excellent advice for Christians 2,000 years after Jesus came and died in our place and was raised again to life.
He correctly pointed out that many of the “worship choruses” now being used in Christian assemblies were taken directly from the Old Testament, and several from Psalm 63. He thought that meant they were good aids for proper conduct of Christian assemblies. But are all Christians Jews? Are Christian meetings to be conducted as were the meetings of those who lived under Moses’ Law? Do WE meet in sanctuaries? Are our assemblies for the purpose of worshipping God? So far as I can read in my Bible, our meeting places are NOT sanctuaries, and the meetings are not for the primary purpose of worship.
The preacher implied that, yes, our meetings are in sanctuaries not unlike those built to house Jewish worship assemblies, and that God dwelt in the sanctuary awaiting the visits of faithful worshippers. I point out that the only possible CORRECT answer is that, NO, our assemblies are NOT like Jewish meetings. God now dwells in US. He’s not waiting in a “sanctuary” for us to assemble so that we can be with Him. He’s with us wherever we go and whatever we may be then doing.
Christians take God’s sanctuary with them wherever they go. We don’t go to sanctified places. As sanctified people we bring God with us when we enter any place. It is NOT correct speech to call a church building (or some particular room in the building) a SANCTUARY (at the time David wrote psalms, the Jewish “sanctuary” was the tabernacle or the great outdoors -- the temple had not yet been built).
Use of the word “sanctuary” implies ONE place is holy while other unsanctified places are NOT holy. Such doctrine does not come from any New Testament writing. It doesn’t mesh with what God has taught us about Christianity and sanctity. Many in our generation seem to think that doing things as Jews did is the RIGHT way for Christians to conduct their public meetings. At every gathering now, we are exhorted to WORSHIP together under the leading of a WORSHIP LEADER.
In Viewpoint’s PROPER BIBLE UNDERSTANDING, it is pointed out in simple words that we do NOT live under the covenant God made with the Jews at Sinai. We do not live under the Old Covenant. A NEW covenant has been made, and the New Covenant gives guidance for CHRISTIANS. The New Testament doesn’t indicate that Christians EVER had meetings primarily in order to worship God and His Son. Paul says the PURPOSE for their meetings was to edify one another. It was then. It is now. CHRISTIAN meetings are for mutual edification of the saints. Our primary purpose for meeting is NOT worship, and it’s NOT evangelism.
Read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, especially chapters 12 through 14 where matters concerning their assemblies are discussed. Why would anyone look back to the Psalms to find out how to conduct CHRISTIAN gatherings? Let’s look in the right places to find out how those who companied with Christ’s apostles conducted themselves when together. That’s better guidance than deep study of how David worshipped and served God many years before Jesus came and opened the Way to Heaven for us!
Before the temple veil was torn in two, Jews had to go to the temple to meet with God. Those greatly err who think the same is true for Christians. Here’s why: A few of the Jews were priests. A few of the priests had the privilege of direct approach to God. EVERY Christian is a priest. Every Christian can approach God any time. In fact, God now DWELLS in us -- in each of us. Let’s not go back to the Old Testament as if we were Jews who waited for the coming of the Messiah. He HAS come, and we are His, and we daily walk WITH God. Those who sang the O.T. Psalms were NOT Christians. They sought God. We have found Him. Let’s not pattern OUR meetings after what THEY did. Why would we want to do so?
In Number 23 (June 1997) of Cecil Hook’s FREEDOM’s RING you could read his comments about VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL Worship and Service to God. I first thought I’d copy the five sections of his study as five issues of my Viewpoints. Since it’s readily available without me doing so, I’ll satisfy myself by just telling you where you, if you want to do so, can obtain the study. Few in our generation write as well as Cecil Hook. God has blessed us by his choosing to write much in the years prior to his death.
NOTE: One preacher friend of mine who replied to me on this subject wrote: I do believe we should come together for worship. There is a pattern of that practice: Acts 2:42, Acts 20:1-7, the teaching of 1 Corinthians 13,14 and many others.
Ray comments: Acts 2:42 speaks of what early Christians did daily rather than in so-called worship services. Acts 20:1-7 tells of one church once meeting to eat together and visit with an apostle. 1 Corinthians 12-14 is about church meetings, but does not exactly refer to the group coming together to worship. The only reference to worship is that while they were together they were eating wrongly. Some selfishly hogged the food and drink while others had little or none. A pattern calling for worship services? I think not!
He affirms that those who went to this area, which he says is in the outer courts of the Jewish temple, went there TO worship, so that’s why the Christians (who had been Jews) went there. They went there to worship just as they had done before they were Christians. “It is not reasonable to believe that the apostles and other Christians from the Jewish culture devised a whole NEW system of worship,” he suggests. Yet we all surely can see that they did NOT go to the temple to engage in the system of worship which there consisted of the offering of grain, birds, and animals at altars in sacrifice to the Creator God. I’m not sure what worshipful acts were regularly performed in the temple in its outer courts. I don’t believe the altars at which Jewish worship was performed were in those courts. The incense of course wafted into the outer courts, and it was offered in tribute to God. But it was burned in an inner court rather than the outer courts. I surely do believe that the “new wine” of the Lord’s Way was NOT continued in the old ways of Jewish worship. What do you think?
Does the book of Hebrews speak to this question? If the priesthood was changed, as it was, and if the O.T. priests were in charge of Jewish worship, which I believe was the case, was the old system carried forward into the new covenant? Even in those first transitional days? It may have been, but I’m not at all sure it was. They surely didn’t ask any Jewish priests to preside over the meetings they held there as Christians, did they?
If the very first Christians, Jews every one, did go to the temple to worship, did Christians then make pilgrimages to Jerusalem in later years so THEY could worship in the outer courts of the temple? Is there a record of such meetings for worship? I don’t find the records. Instead, I see Paul, that avid Pharisee in younger years, after he had become a Christian, urging the saints to in their meetings make sure that everything was done for edifying other Christians rather than in efforts to worship together. I’m still stuck with the idea that the early saints did NOT wait to worship until they came together. Christianity does not have holy places, but rather it has holy people!
Nor does the record say that worship was what drew them together. At various locations in Jerusalem, they PRAYED together. They ATE together. They STUDIED together. Together, they considered the needs of one another, and had all things in common. And in all they did, they sought to honor the Father and the Son. Perhaps this is the “worship” of which our brother speaks. Luke in Acts doesn’t mention that they SANG together, but they might well on occasion have sung together. And at least some of their songs might have been in praise of God, which surely qualifies as worship. WAS worship, though, their primary reason for assembling?
Jesus made clear that Christians would in future days not need to travel to Samaria or to Jerusalem to worship God. No provisions were made for, or instructions provided about, any “houses of worship” where Christian worship was to be done. But much was said about the fact that God would dwell within the hearts of the Christians wherever THEY were.
I’m not convinced that early Christians ever assembled for the primary purpose of joining in worship, either in the temple or elsewhere. I see nothing in Acts 5:12 requiring worship when the Christians got together, reporting that worship was what brought them together, or implying that it WAS to engage in Jewish or Christian worship that they assembled then or any other time.
Date sent: Fri, 08 Aug 1997
Dear Ray, Thank you for your kind reply. Regarding OT scriptures as applied in NT times: I understand that the OT has been fulfilled in Christ, that the promises and prophecies have become complete in him. I understand that there has been a change of covenant, and that the law of Moses is no longer in force for the believer.
The New Testament church did (and still does) consider the OT as sacred scripture. In Acts 8, Phillip led the Ethiopian to Christ from the OT scriptures (Isaiah 53:7,8); Peter’s Pentecost sermon is chock full of OT references which demonstrate the reality of the resurrection; Stephen’s defense in Acts 7 likewise is a rehearsal of OT history, Paul continually persuaded people from the (OT) scriptures that Jesus was the Christ; and the noble Bereans searched the (OT) scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Even Paul’s famous doctrine “justification by faith” is demonstrated in Romans 1:17 by appealing to OT scripture (Habakkuk 2:4). In Romans 4:23 he refers to God’s OT promise to Abraham being “not for him alone, but also for us” (Christians). Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:16,17) that “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul did not say “only NT scripture” he said, “all scripture” which includes (and primarily refers to, in this context) the Old Testament. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul cites an OT passage (Deuteronomy 25:4) and then says, “Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us...” Finally, brother, let me point you to Romans 15:4 which teaches us, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” Here Paul says clearly that the whole of OT scriptures was written for the NT church.
Don’t we find a seamless continuity from Genesis to Revelation? Isn’t it all the mind of God revealed to the prophets by the Holy Spirit? When we look for worship “patterns” or examples, can we look not only to the pages of the NT, but the OT scriptures as well, keeping in mind their completion in Christ?
Thoughtfully in Jesus, Dan Johnson:)
My reply is in Study #51.
On 10/17/98, I received this comment from Doug Oakes of Lamar, Missouri -- Dear Ray, I agree with your basic premise that Worship of God can be done anywhere and that the heart of the believer is the “sanctuary,” not a building. I have preached this and taught it in Lamar for several years, and yet it is a hard concept to get across. Many of my folks balk at this teaching after many years of calling the auditorium a “sanctuary.” Yet, I go to Hebrews 9 for the understanding that Christians ARE the sanctuary for the Spirit of God. The temple is no longer present. We are the Royal Stones built into a sanctuary for God.
There is no example of the Early Church going into a church building and calling it a “sanctuary.” If it was not practiced in the New Testament, then why are we doing it today? I do believe we should come together for worship. There is a pattern of that practice: Acts 2:42, Acts 20:1-7, the teaching of 1 Corinthians 13,14 and many others. But, it is our language and attending concept of where the sanctuary is that is at issue. I love the chorus which declares: “Lord make me a sanctuary.” -- Sincerely, Doug Oakes, 1st Christian Church, Lamar, Missouri ~
BRIEF BIBLE STUDY #28 FROM RAY DOWNEN --
A Viewpoint from MISSION OUTREACH in Joplin MO. Additional comments about Viewpoint study #27) ___________________________________________ SOME READERS RESPOND
ABOUT CHRISTIAN WORSHIP...
Yesterday late I sent out a comment about the morning’s sermon where I attended a gathering of the saints. Yesterday very late several responded to those comments. I think you may be interested in the response. What do YOU think?
RESPONSES Click on the names to go directly to their comments below, or just read on --
-- Leonard Clark
Indiana -- George L. Faull
Michigan -- Dan Johnson
2nd comment by Dan Johnson
Final comment by Dan Johnson
Internet -- David Maddux
Internet -- Daniel Massey
Colombia -- Paul Moreland
Colorado -- Don Myers
Missouri -- Doug Oakes
Missouri -- Don Sigler
DANIEL MASSEY: Ray, You wrote: The New Testament doesn’t indicate that Christians EVER had meetings primarily in order to worship God and His Son. CHRISTIAN meetings are for mutual edification of the saints. I have questions --
Your brother in Christ, Daniel Massey
GEORGE FAULL -- I received your article on psalms, worship, and raising of hands, and if these are for Christians. Your sentiments agree with mine, which doesn’t make you right of course. I always say when these good brethren who judaize worship get consistent they may be taken seriously. When they greet with holy kisses, repent by sitting in sackcloth and ashes, show their anger by rending their garments, throw dust in the air when frustrated, and such like I would be much more willing to go along with their hand raising. That is eastern worship. In this country we fold hands. Next they will want us to face Jerusalem.
In the second century many Christians made the sign of the cross as our Roman Catholic friends do. There was nothing wrong with it. Today it is the sign of a Romanist so I refrain from it.
There is nothing wrong with raising hands as the Jews did. Today it is the sign of Pentecostals and Charismatics and those still claiming revelation from God. I refrain from it for the same reason I do not make the sign of the cross. I do not want my theology misunderstood. The early Christians used the fish as the sign of being a Christian. If it ever becomes the recognized symbol of a cult I will refrain from wearing the symbol. I think this is reasonable. This is my decision, but I would not bind it upon others.
Just my thoughts. George L. Faull
BACK or Study #28.
DAVID MADDUX -- Thank you for pointing this out. I find your messages thought-provoking. Please resend the message about the Restoration movement. It was deleted from my reading list before I got a chance to read the whole article.
Thank you. David Maddux
Click BACK or Study #28.
DON MYERS -- Dear Ray Downen: Thank you for the informative article. As a comment, I’ll just say “AMEN!” A very well written article full of truth. It is my opinion that many of the brotherhood who are strongly advocating the liberal use of “praise choruses” and the associated actions such as hands held in the air (upraised hands and/or waving hands), may have a secret desire to be somewhat or actively charismatic, rather than seeking to restore the New Testament pattern of worship. I don’t mean to unjustly judge their motives. They are sincere, I believe, but that is just my feeling and observation.
I don’t think the scriptures support the pattern of a self-indulgent emotional public display of worship. The rush to copy the worship services of the Pentecostal groups such as The Vineyard Churches and to align with basically charismatic groups such as Promise Keepers deeply concern me, because some of the fundamental teachings of our Lord and the Apostles seem to get lost along this path.
Commenting on an earlier mailing about music, the concept being that is widely advocated indicating that the music types we use in our churches does not matter, just doesn’t make common sense. Film making, advertising, shopping malls, whatever, all use music to set the mood and influence people to think what they want them to think or buy.
Music is used by the world of business and entertainment to accomplish certain goals. It is no different in the church, music helps set a mood and convey a message, and an attitude. My sixteen-year-old daughter, who is learning to drive the car, recently complained about a certain song she frequently heard on the radio commenting, “That song, it makes me want to drive fast.” The music in the church also has an effect on people. If the music that is being used has charismatic overtones, could not this music be teaching something that isn’t necessarily right?
Yours in Christ, Don Myers
BACK OR Study #28.
And here’s a comment on a related subject, received 8/31/97 from Paul Moreland in Colombia, South America.
This week we had an opportunity to participate in a counseling seminar. A group based in the U.S. was sponsoring the event. Since I believed that they were a solid fundamentalist group, the seminar sounded interesting. So with joyful hearts we set out on Friday morning to participate in the seminar. We were quickly desenganados as they say here in Colombia. The word literally means to be unfooled. We found that whereas the material shows some promise, those presenting the material are steeped in the charismatic/pentecostal movement which is currently leading many astray here in South America. Such practices as the following were common --
The reason I mention the above is to show some of the practices which do not match up with the Bible’s teachings. The reasons I know this to be true are:
My point with the above is to show the need for us to be alert, know the Bible well and be ready to answer any who ask as to our reasons for faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must learn to use the Bible well and appropriately -- NOT slinging it around in ignorance wounding those around us, but using it accurately and efficiently.
The Bible is a sword which can be used for good or used for evil. We must learn to use it for good.
Click for BACK or Study #28 or Study #30. OR continue reading --
BRIEF BIBLE STUDY #29 FROM RAY DOWNEN --
A Viewpoint from MISSION OUTREACH in Joplin MO. (Additional comments about Viewpoint study #27) ___________________________________________ Do REAL Men Wave At God During “Worship”? ___________________________________________
DON SIGLER searched the Bible to see if Christians are there taught to “lift their arms” (hands, really) upward during church assemblies. I equally wonder if we are ever taught to clap our hands in “praise to God.”
He found one verse in the N.T. which speaks to the possibility. That’s 1 Timothy 2:8 where Paul encourages holy living, and the avoidance of anger and disputing. He writes, I want men everywhere (that’s gender-specific, in that he specifies men are to do this rather than women) to lift HOLY hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. Don says he doesn’t see this as specifying that the lifting of HOLY and peace-loving hands be done mainly or entirely in assemblies. It appears to be an appeal for holiness and peace at ALL times by ALL men [and surely all women also] who love the God of Creation and seek to serve Jesus, God’s unique Son.
I wouldn’t have minded if he had widened the search and looked for any excuse for the hand-clapping that also has recently begun in our assemblies. There was a time when Christians in their meetings acted differently than a crowd in a coliseum or in a house of entertainment. Since we didn’t go to church to be entertained, we felt it out of place to clap for each performer. We assumed those taking part in the service were seeking to please God rather than the audience. Along the way, we’ve changed the nature of our gatherings. Now there are a few performers and the rest are there to be entertained. Apparently. But is that how the New Testament indicates our meetings SHOULD be planned and handled?
Don notes that the waving of arms (and clapping) is usually during the singing of particular rhythmic songs (or choruses), which may or may NOT be prayers directed to God. The waver often has his or her eyes closed, Don says, shutting out the rest of the group participating in the exercise. Often, the leader encourages ones who have not chosen to join in the hand waving to join with those who have. The waving is most often used in conjunction with songs with a particular tempo and beat. Don notes that often those who do the most waving have chosen to seat themselves near the front of the auditorium.
It’s not clear how this particular exercise is to help, but someone apparently thinks this puts the waver into some emotional “high” where he/she feels closer to God. The N.T. certainly is silent as to the efficacy of waving to move people’s hearts closer to God. No word from God encourages the activity. Don notices several Old Testament verses encouraging Jews to lift their hands upward in particular times of reaching out for God. Is it best for Christians to look in the O.T. for guidance as to how to reach and please our God?
Many Christians have learned that it’s NOT the O.T. where Christians find direction as to how to work and praise God as Christians. The O.T. books were written more than 400 years before Jesus came to earth. It’s JESUS who saves us. The O.T. looked forward to His coming. The gospels tell of His time with us on earth. And the rest of the N.T. provides the guidance we need in order to know how to live and worship as followers of the unique Son of God. We’re NOT under the O.T. law. We don’t shape our services together by doing what God’s people in the O.T. did. It’s not JUST animal sacrifices that were changed. The entire system was changed. We are no longer under the Old Covenant! Not in ANY way. If they prostrated themselves for prayer, or knelt to pray, that does not mean that we should or must do so. If they stood to hear the reading of the written words of God, that does not mean that we must always stand when the Bible is read in our hearing.
Shall we pick out a few practices from the O.T. that please us and then call on all brethren to join us in doing these things? Shall we say they are the right things to do because we see them being done in the O.T.? Don Sigler says he finds this arm waving distracting when in assemblies he is trying to praise God and it seems that neighbors are trying to attract his attention away from God. Others are better able to ignore those who feel led to show off in ways which seem to be designed to draw attention to themselves. What Don notes is that when he is in private devotions, his motions or notions don’t distract others, for others are not there. But in public settings, he suggests that it avoids distraction for others if everyone keeps his/her hands where others need not see them as a distraction. In consideration for others who want to sing meaningfully or pray whole-heartedly, it is suggested that everyone avoid motions or sounds which would be apt to catch away the attention of others from the words to be sung or the words being prayed.
ARE we to bring selected O.T. practices into our public meetings? DO Christians seek direction from God particularly from the New Covenant scriptures, or equally from throughout the Bible? When Jesus taught Jews how they could best please God while living under the law, is everything He then taught applicable to us who are NOT under the law?
ARE we to bring selected O.T. practices into our public meetings? DO Christians seek direction from God particularly from the New Covenant scriptures, or equally from throughout the Bible? When Jesus taught Jews how they could best please God while living under the law, is everything He then taught applicable to us who are NOT under the law?
That’s a lot to think about! And consider this also --
Leonard Clark -- Ray, ~ Again you challenge those of us who study the Word with you to consider that the meaning of the Bible may differ from what we have traditionally been taught. I applaud you for that. My first thoughts on your Viewpoint #27 are in defense of the traditional church gathering for Bible school, hymns and sermon on Sunday. I mean, look how well it has done all of these years. Then I consider the “pew potatoes,” the apathy, the fear to witness, the clock watchers that I see prevalent in most churches, and begin to question the logic of my opinion. A true statement is: The church is in the shape it is today because of us Christians -- good or bad.
I cannot find a place in the New Testament that indicates how we are to worship. But I know from experience God is glorified when we meet together for the purpose of edifying one another. I also know that we are to have an orderly meeting. Maybe we have made order the primary concern during our meetings rather than edification. I offer that the reason worship is not discussed in the New Testament is because it was assumed we would. For example, if someone in the future reads about driving a car will they know that we stop at red octagonal signs or even that the car had an accelerator pedal. Maybe not, but when it is written we assume the reader will know such things.
I believe we should do as the Bible instructs us. But I also know that if I went into my church next Sunday and told the members that we weren’t supposed to worship when we met that they would not believe me and I could not convince them. I don’t think the preachers are going to back the idea either because it would put them out of a job! Moreover, I don’t think fellow Christians will go for the idea because it puts more weight on their shoulders. We all know how popular individual responsibility is these days. Which reminds me of a popular axiom: Only you can prevent forest fires. Smoky was really wise in what he spoke. He’s not saying you are to prevent all forest fires, only to prevent the fire you make from becoming a forest fire. God is not asking us to save the world, but to shine our light in our own area. Imagine the brightness if everyone would!
Ray responded ~ Leonard, what a fine commentary on Study #27. And of course you’re right that we can and should worship together as well as seek to edify one another. I’m trying to say only that the PRIMARY purpose for which we meet should be edification rather than worship, yet everyone calls their meeting a “worship assembly” (and it has been made into a professional show where mutual edification is difficult or impossible). Thanks for sharing!
BRIEF BIBLE STUDY #30 FROM RAY DOWNEN -- A Viewpoint from MISSION OUTREACH in Joplin MO. (Additional comments about Viewpoint study #27) ___________________________________________
DAN JOHNSON -- Dear Ray, Of course we should not offer animal sacrifices (please don’t descend to the absurd in your discussions) because Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, has been sacrificed for us. (We do enter into that sacrifice by our participation at the Lord’s Table -- the heart and soul of our worship. When we take that too lightly we are warned by Paul of risking spiritual health and life.) However, we do learn much about sacrifice from the O.T. that applies to Jesus.
Temple worship has MUCH to teach us about worshipping as N.T. saints. The N.T. book of Hebrews clearly demonstrates this! How can we understand Jesus as the high priest of the New Covenant if we don’t understand the priesthood of the Old Covenant. What does it mean to be priests of God (NT saints) if we don’t know who the O.T. priests were and how they functioned? What does it mean to be living sacrifices (Romans chapter 12) if we don’t know anything about the O.T. sacrificial system?
When the apostles entered the N.T. era they did not scrap the O.T. forms of worship and invent new ones. They realized that the New Covenant was the fulfillment and continuation of the Old. Though they (probably) did not participate in temple sacrifice, they most certainly did continue in the temple courts -- “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts...” Acts 2:46. The temple courts were where temple worship took place. What do you think they were doing there if not worshipping?
Brother, I fear this conversation is going nowhere. Your attitude is causing you to entrench into your opinions and not discuss issues clearly and openly. This is a disappointment to me as the brotherhood has become far too fragmented by such thinking. If I can rejoice that you worship with folded hands why can’t you rejoice that I worship with lifted hands?
Satan has already won the victory if he can get us bickering with one another and get our eyes off Jesus! -- Dan:) (Dan Johnson)
Dan, THANKS for sharing your thought in today’s note. I surely don’t intend to “descend to the absurd” in trying to understand what you say, or what any brother shares. You mention that some early Christians met in the temple courts. I don’t think it absurd to point out that their meeting there was NOT because they wanted to share in Jewish worship, but because it was a public space where they could meet without frequent interruptions of pedestrians wanting past them, etc. in other areas of the crowded capital city of the Jews. Altars and worship were in inner courts rather than the outer courts of the women and of Gentiles.
You seem to believe it was because they wanted to continue Jewish (pre-Christian) worship practices. I think that understanding is an unfortunate misunderstanding. I do not at all agree that they were setting an example for us to follow by doing in that meeting place what we should do in our meetings. Yet that’s what I hear you saying. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding. I certainly don’t object to your praying any time with uplifted HOLY hands when your heart is right with God so that you’re seeking peace with all His people. I don’t want to be present when you SING and sway with uplifted hands, since I don’t feel such activities would in any way edify me. What you do when we’re not together MUST be what you are edified by, not by what would edify me.
Please don’t think I’m trying to judge you or limit what you’re free to do. I have NO intention of saying you can’t do whatever you feel is pleasing to God. I do not ask you to act according to MY conscience. I’m not seeking to condemn you for doing what you think is right. Neither do I feel it’s wrong for me to point out what I think and explain why I think so. I have as much right to NOT do what is not commanded as you have to DO it. Please don’t imply that we can’t be brothers without agreeing on this matter. And be sure that I won’t be making an issue of what you practice where you serve. But I surely will speak up against being asked to do it in meetings where I’m present.
And what brought the subject up was that I objected to a brother preaching from Psalm 63 and telling all present that THEY were to “lift their hands in worship” because Psalm 63 said to do so. I said, and I’m sure I’m right, that we are NOT to get our worship practices from the O.T. but rather from the teaching of the apostles who were guided into all truth and who have revealed to us all the truth we now need to know. It almost sounds as if you’re convinced that we should turn back to the O.T. and (selectively, according to OUR preferences and desires) pick up whatever we read that they did, and then call on all the church to join us in doing what we want to do. I HOPE I misunderstand, so that what you’re saying is something quite different from what it has sounded like to me.
I don’t believe that the path to peace is for everyone to have to act exactly like everyone else. Those who want to be Pentecostals surely have that right. They feel that in being guided by feelings (by emotion) rather than reason that they’re approaching most close to God. I see Pentecostal influence in the present desire to turn our services into “worship services,” at least in the ways most “worship leaders” go about their work. I’ll stick with song services and seek edification rather than emotional highs. I hope my right to do so, and to say that’s my choice will please you and not prevent our being students of God’s Word together.
Your comments about the Lord’s Supper are not fully in accord with what I understand Paul and Jesus to be saying. I don’t agree that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, any more than is baptism. I believe instead that it’s a meal of memory, a time for honoring and remembering Jesus and His atoning death for us on Calvary. I don’t believe it confers on us spiritual power. I don’t believe that we “enter into” that sacrifice. The magic word is that we remember and that we “show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.”
I’m glad He provides for us to be reminded of this significant event. I don’t believe that He demands that we perform this remembrance on a fixed schedule, as some require. But when we DO eat, we are to remember! And, yes, from the O.T. we learn about sacrifice so that we can best understand why Jesus became the sacrifice that could take away our sins. But the O.T. sacrificial system was fulfilled at the cross. God’s assemblies in the Christian age do not follow rituals such as those who lived before the cross were required to do. We do NOT follow the practices that were appropriate and necessary for those who lived before Jesus died for us. Nothing in the N.T. implies that saints in that day went into the temple to participate in the worship practices of followers of Moses. They were disciples of the Christ, as are we.
I repeat, what the early Christians did in the temple courts was MEET. They needed space to be together, and they sought to witness to others. What better place than where people were? You imply that they went there in order to join in Jewish worship. You state that the early church retained the worship patterns of the Old Testament. I disagree.
Thanks for sharing your view! Keep in touch.
Brief Bible Studies #27, #28, #29, and #30 from Ray Downen. Viewpoint’s home page. Or, the next study on Worthy Worship, OR Study #31. OR CONTINUE FOR STUDY #51
What Do YOU Say? JESUS prophesied that Christians WOULD worship. Their worship would be neither in the mountains of Samaria nor Judea, and therefore not in those or any particular “holy places.” Their worship would be “in spirit and truth.” That is, it would be from the heart (genuine, based on love and faith) and would be directed to the one Creator God and to God’s unique Son, God’s Word, Jesus of Nazareth. Some say that God set up a “worship pattern” for “acceptable worship” which all men must follow unless they want their worship to be in vain.
However, the Bible provides NO pattern for Christian worship. Various teachers have created their own patterns, which many choose if that pattern sounds good to them. One such “worship pattern” is based on Acts 2:42 with the addition of group singing which we’ve added but which is not there mentioned. Please consider the comments which follow:
In a recent Christian Standard is an article by a brother who is a popular speaker and writer in Christ’s church. This article is titled, “To the Ends of the Earth on the Wings of Worship.” Knofel Staton in this article urges us to worship God. He says this should be our ultimate goal in all that we do. I believe the Word agrees, except that specifically while we’re here on earth the worship is to be directed to the Lamb of God who is God’s unique Son.
How about Acts 20:7? Luke there speaks of disciples gathering to “break bread.” Did you imagine that was the ritual we observe and call “the Lord’s Supper”? It most likely was NOT very much like what we do. It probably was simply a shared meal with the special remembrance joined to it. We need to know what Christian worship IS. Some misunderstand Christian worship. They think in order for God’s people to worship we have to go some special place and engage in special acts. Have you thought this? When do Christians worship? How do Christians worship? Where DO Christians worship?
The study suggests, “The entire life of Jesus was a life of worship.” That seems an odd way of describing the life of Jesus Christ, but it could be correct. What did Jesus do with His time? How did He live? Was He sitting in some “sanctuary” being “inspired” by a worship leader while being careful to do only what was “authorized”? Was He in a comfortable home enjoying the luxuries of all the tools for favorite hobbies, and the entertainment centers into which so many in our day drift away from responsible participation in the life of our communities?
Where did Jesus worship?
How did Jesus worship?
If we find the correct answers to these questions, then we can decide whether or not it’s true that all His life was a life of worship. The “Wings of Worship” article goes on to say the early Christian church “bathed herself in worship” (Acts 2:42). In that verse what specific acts did Luke mention the early Christians made part of their daily lives? They continued steadfastly in “the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.” So what exactly did they do? And was it only on Sundays? Luke mentions four things they did together:
1) Early Christians sought to LEARN. The first Christians learned all they could from the apostles about what Jesus said and did while He was on earth, and encouraged the apostles to tell them thoroughly about the events surrounding the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how they should serve the risen Lord. It’s not likely they sat silent while apostles preached lengthy sermons, as we are sometimes asked to do. What we can be sure they did NOT have was a clergy doing the teaching while the apostles and elders and “laity” sat listening in courteous silence.
Some might suppose that worship is in some degree different from studying facts and learning details about things that have happened. If it’s facts about Jesus, perhaps it might be said that in that case learning and studying is a form of worship. Perhaps. Early Christians sought to learn more and more about Jesus from His apostles who knew Him best. And don’t you suppose those who had learned did some of the teaching?
2) Early Christians SHARED things. I’m pretty sure Luke wasn’t speaking only of the early Christians passing an offering plate to everyone. It’s never reported that they did in fact ever do so. “Fellowship” is sharing together. Do we normally think of fellowship as being worship? Most churches nowadays have a “worship center” that’s separate from their “fellowship hall.” They seldom consider that both might be places for worship. Early Christians helped one another. That’s what their fellowship was!
Perhaps our understanding of what worship is needs to change. But does the Bible teach that early Christians commonly met together to engage in “worship in spirit and truth”? In fact it does not! Worship was usually private and individual rather than corporate. But fellowship is doing things together! It’s sharing. Worship by fellowship is what Paul speaks of in writing to the Corinthian church. About their meetings, he wrote, “each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26). What’s that about “acceptable worship” in our meetings?
Instead of teaching us to meet for “worship services” where most of us are spectators, Paul teaches that we should assemble for fellowship and mutual edification! We are each to teach and encourage and inspire one another! Where is the Bible verse that speaks of any Christian gathering as being for the purpose of “corporate worship” where the many watch the few perform rituals aimed at placating and honoring God? It’s not GOD who teaches us to have “worship services”! Early Christians met for fellowship and mutual edification.
3) Early Christians ATE together. The early Christians there in Jerusalem, the ones spoken of in Acts 2:42, ate together. That’s what “breaking of bread” means, with the word “bread” really meaning various kinds of food and not just baked wheat or rice cakes. Yet many don’t think that worship is eating, or that eating is worship. We really DO need to seek a definition of worship which might explain how Acts 2:42 is saying the early church was engaged in constant worship. And is there any way to understand why some brothers demand that the church NEVER eat together, when the proof text they use for their Sunday “worship services” mentions that eating was on the list of things Christians did together?
What Luke says they jointly did in the first weeks the church was alive was in groups to study the facts that now are available to us in the New Testament, enjoy the company of like-minded brothers and sisters, eat together and pray together. If they did a lot of singing together, Luke doesn’t mention the fact.
If what they did is worship, then we will see indeed that the early Christians did spend their time in worship! Is Acts 2:42 a list of worship activities? Those who say it lists acts of worship seem to be saying that eating and being together is an act of worship! Is every Christian assembly a “worship service” where only “authorized rituals” are to be performed? I’ve heard Christian teachers insist that was the case for every public meeting of God’s people. I notice that no Christian assembly ever in the Bible is called a “worship service.” Early Christians learned together, shared with and encouraged one another, ate together, and--
4) Early Christians PRAYED together. Prayer is worship. Or is it? Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s petition, which is somewhat different than the praise we most often think of as being worship. When farmers in desperate need of rain pray to God to send rain, is that worship or is it petition? When we pray for our sick and for our mutual “needs,” is that worship?
Luke records that one of the prayer meetings they held was in particular to pray that God would help them to speak the Word everywhere with boldness. Was that worship? Or was it petition? Both, you say. Yes, I agree. But the reported MAIN purpose was not praise but petition. Together, the early church learned about the Lord, enjoyed fellowship with one another, ate, and prayed. For those first weeks, that was their life. It was not a once-per-week ritual. If we mean to live as they did, will we meet weekly to do so?
What did Jesus do while on the earth? What percentage of His ministry was spent in a “sanctuary” worshipping as part of an audience watching or taking part in worship rituals? If we are to imitate Him and if we are to imitate Paul, which Paul said would be a good way for us to live, will most of OUR time be spent in singing praise choruses to one another “in church”? How many sermons will we listen to before we ourselves begin doing some bold teaching to non-Christians? How much will we share with brethren and others who are in need?
I think Jesus DID worship. He did it by serving and teaching and living and dying. I think Paul DID worship. He did it by serving and witnessing and evangelizing and exhorting and writing about the Lord and how we can become like Him. How did they worship? Was it not by sacrificial service to ones who were loved by God? Was it not a way of life rather than a once-per-week exception TO life?
Paul worshipped while making tents, and while being whipped for preaching about Jesus, and while confined for his faith and testimony about the Lord Jesus. But was his purpose in life what we talk about when today we speak of us Christians assembling for “worship”? It obviously was not. So why do we call our assemblies “worship services”? And when the Bible doesn’t even once tell Christians to HAVE any “corporate worship” where “worship laws” might apply, why have we created dozens of regulations and sects based on nscriptural “worship laws”? Is it because we greatly love and respect God that we speak for Him where He has been silent?
The worship article suggests that Paul usually “evangelized first in places of worship.” Did Paul go into Jewish places of worship to do what we do when we meet together for “worship”? No, he went into places of fellowship and teaching to evangelize non-Christians, not to enjoy the company of Christians meeting together for “Christian worship” or of Jews meeting for “Jewish worship,” which was done in the temple in Jerusalem. Paul did not visit Jewish synagogues to lead or be led in “worship.” He went there to tell about Jesus who calls men to SERVE rather than to meet other believers in “worship services.” And as soon as hearers turned to Jesus as Lord, Paul encouraged and taught them how to also go out to serve by witnessing to others about Jesus, the risen Lord.
Paul writes, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your BODIES a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1,2). Do you see that Paul in Romans 12 is talking about our “spiritual service of worship”? Do you believe that Paul is talking there about “praise services” or “worship services” for Christians as appropriate avenues of Christian service? The hardest work we’re apt to be called on to do in a “worship service” is to stand, or clap our hands, or raise our arms and voices.
Do you think that what engaged the attention of the Jerusalem church as described in Acts 2:42 was what many of US think of as “worship” today? I see no scriptural reason to believe we do well to spend most of our service time in the activities which are now made the purpose for Christian assemblies. We fill up our time doing things we like to do, and especially things we hope our unchurched neighbors will also like to do, and then have no time to do what Christians in the first century actually did do as worship and service of Jesus Christ.
Neither Jesus nor Paul spent their lives away from the world and engaged in what many today think of as “worship” in a church building. They were too busy working for God in His world, which Paul says is also OUR reasonable service of worship. When we by serving others put to use the gifts God has given us, we are thereby worshipping our Creator. By SERVING Him.
Paul is not urging us to spend lots of time in “sanctuaries” (holy places, monasteries, or nunneries) where we’re separated from the world, and investing our time in “praising” God with words and no deeds. He calls us instead to LIVE and work in the world for God and in testimony to God’s love for every man. Should Christians today meet for “worship services”? God has not called us to do so. Our assemblies should be for the purpose of fellowship (edifying, encouraging one another)! Does the Bible teach us to call our assemblies “worship services”? Perhaps we should have far fewer assemblies in the “church house” and spend far more time in actual “hands on” service for God where He wants us to be instead of sitting in church pews. Watching and praying is the right thing to do, except “in church” we’re not to only be praying “watchers.”
Our worship is best done where we can be a blessing to Christians and non-Christians who need encouragement and aid that we as individual Christians are called to give them.
Those who follow human leaders are apt to be sorry when they find where the journey ends. I’m an heir of Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, who pointed men to truth. It’s God’s truth (rather than any man or men) which will save us today. I admire men such as Marvin Phillips, Rubel Shelley, Mike Cope, Cecil Hook, Don DeWelt, Seth Wilson, James S. Woodroof, Allen Brintnall, Randy Gariss, Al Karges, Carl Ketcherside, Max Lucado, John Stott, and others. We should admire good men. We should obey Jesus.