The New Testament Church - Its Worship
One thing which sets the New Testament church apart from manmade denominations is the type of worship it offers to God. The Bible speaks about different types of worship which people might offer. Jesus speaks about some whose worship was made vain by their teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7). When we substitute the commandments or traditions of men for the word of God, then our worship too will be vain instead of pleasing to God. The Bible points out some people worship ignorantly. Paul spoke of the Athenians worshipping without knowing whom they were worshipping (Acts 17:23). Colossians 2:23 in the King James Version speaks about “will worship.” The same phrase is translated “self-imposed religion” in the New King James Version. What some people do in worship is something they came up with themselves rather than what God directed them to do in worship to Him. Vain, ignorant, and will worship are clearly types of worship which are not acceptable to God today. Jesus plainly teaches the type of worship which is pleasing to God is when people “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:19-24, NKJV). Worshipping in spirit would involve worshipping with the right attitude and worshipping with out inner man engaged and participating. Worshipping in truth would involve worshipping in accordance with the truth which is found in God’s word (John 17:17). Let’s examine some aspects of worship which is in accordance with truth.
Worship according to truth today will involve prayer to God. Prayer is something God expects Christians to be engaged in regularly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is also something we find the New Testament church engaged in when they came together to worship God together (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:15-16). Most religious bodies will engage in this act as a part of their worship.
Worship according to truth today will involve preaching of the word of God. Early disciples were continuing to be instructed in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). When Paul worshipped with the saints in Troas, he presented a lesson to them which lasted till midnight (Acts 20:7). Again, preaching is something found in the worship of many religious bodies today.
Worship according to truth today will involve a collection upon the first day of the week. Paul instructed the Corinthians as well as other churches (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17) to take up a collection upon the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). We learn this collection was to be given willingly and not out of compulsion or obligation (2 Corinthians 9:7). Sadly, there are religious groups which take up collections outside of the first day of the week which is nowhere authorized in the New Testament. There are also religious groups who want to require their members to give a certain percentage of their income which also is not taught in the New Testament. If we want to be the New Testament church, let’s follow the pattern for how the New Testament church took up a collection to help carry out the work God gave it to do.
Worship according to truth today will involve partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted a remembrance of His death which was to be observed by His disciples until He comes again (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The Lord’s Supper consists of two elements: the unleavened bread, which represents Jesus’ body, and the fruit of the vine, which represents Jesus’ blood. Some erroneously teach the bread and fruit of the vine become the actual substance of Jesus’ body or blood when blessed. However, after Jesus blesses the fruit of the vine, He still refers to it as the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:28-29; Mark 14:23-25). Some want to partake of the Lord’s Supper on a day besides the first day of the week. However, the only day we read about disciples observing the Lord’s Supper is on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). How often to partake of the Lord’s Supper is a subject where there is much difference among religious people. The statement, “on the first day of the week,” indicates we are talking about something which was observed weekly. When God commanded the children of Israel to remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8), they understood they were to observe the Sabbath as often as it came around. In a similar manner, we need to observe the Lord’s Supper every time the first day of the week comes around, which is weekly.
Worship according to truth today will involve singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15). God specified the type of music He wants in worship today - singing. Under the Old Testament God commanded the Israelites to worship with mechanical instruments of music (2 Chronicles 29:25). Under the New Testament no such instruction is given. To go back to the Old Testament to establish authority for using mechanical instruments of music in worship to God would be like going to the Old Testament to bring in the offering of animal sacrifices, etc. which were also authorized under the Old Testament. God may not specifically say not to use instruments in worship in the New Testament. However, the fact God is silent about their usage indicates they are not authorized just like a priest could not come from the tribe of Judah under the Old Testament because God had been silent about priests from that tribe (Hebrew 7:14).
Let’s be content to follow God’s simple pattern for worship which was followed by the New Testament church lest our worship be considered vain by the Lord.