God has commanded us to worship Him and He alone is worthy to be worshipped. But how are we to worship God when assembled together as a congregation? The answer will transform your worship service, your congregation, and your life. How could biblical, God-centered worship of an almighty, infinite God do otherwise? The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 7, describes God in this manner:
God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.Westminster Larger Catechism Q.7
This is the glorious God who warrants worship, must be worshipped, and who prescribes worship. This prescription for worship, an unequivocal mandate from God, is, indeed, explicit since He has left His people with His Word and it provides a blueprint for gathered worship.
Every book of the bible has both explicit and implicit references and instruction on worship, and New Testament worship—Christ-exalting and Christ-focused worship—is the culmination and fulfillment of Old Testament worship. In other words, we see a foreshadowing of Christ and Christian worship practice in the Old Testament. We cannot rightly understand God’s prescription for corporate worship in the New Testament without understanding God’s requirements for worship in the Old Testament. Suffice it to say that Jesus’s fulfillment of Old Testament gathered worship is the impetus for transformed New Testament gathered worship. Although location and time and ceremonial rite have changed in the New Testament, the moral imperative underpinning worship continues.
Before we examine this transformed New Testament gathered worship, let’s compare the other three categories of worship found in scripture:
“Devotional,” one-on-one time. It is worshiping alone.
- Mark 12:30 – Call for each person to fulfill the greatest commandment
- Matthew 6:6 – To pray in secret is to enter into the throne room and worship in secret
- Acts 10:9 – Peter upon the housetop to pray
- Mark 1:35 – Jesus found regular solitude to pray
Cherishing Christ moment by moment; as we rise up and as we lie down.
- Romans 12:1-2 – A life not conformed but transformed, all to His glory
“Devotional togetherness” in covenant households
- Genesis 18:19 – That Abraham may command his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord
- 1 Timothy 3:4-5 – Elder qualification: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive”
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Teach children always
- Joshua 24:14-15 – “As for me and my house”
God has not left us free to do as we please in the worship service. On the contrary, He has left us with exactly what we need. God has given us His Word which sets out explicitly how He is to be worshipped. In fact, there are three passages which unlock God’s design for gathered or corporate worship and over the next week or more I’ll provide a brief exposition of each passage. Taken together, these passages serve as God’s design for the worship service and they serve as a framework that bring together all that the King commands in worship into a helpful grid or blueprint. With this blueprint for corporate worship, the New Testament church—your local church!—can properly interpret the teaching and implications of all the relevant New Testament passages.
The three passages which are the blueprint for Christian gathered worship are:
|John 4:24||Spirit and Truth|
|1 Corinthians 14:40||Decently and In Order|
|Hebrews 12:28-29||Reverence and Awe|
Editors Note: You may find the following sermons on the topic of worship beneficial.