Worship (Part 3)
By bro Alvin Lin
Why should we assemble for worship?
Congregational worship is important because God has commanded it and He desires for us to worship Him (Joh 4:23). When we assemble for worship, it demonstrates our joy and desire to “go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1). It shows our gratitude to God as well. On one occasion, Jesus healed ten lepers of their leprosy, but only a Samaritan came back to give thanks, prompting Jesus to remark that “there are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (Luk 17:18). Do we want to be among the ungrateful nine, forgetting how God has healed us from our sins, such that we are unwilling to give of our time to give glory to Him? When we “keep his commandments” in assembling with the saints for worship, it also proves our “love of God” (1Jo 5:3).
Congregational worship not only pleases God, it benefits us as well. It keeps us saved by providing opportunities for “exhorting one another” (Heb 10:25), and “to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24), preventing us from settling into complacency. Every Sunday that we meet is an occasion for us to “draw nigh to God”, a reminder to “cleanse your hands” and to “purify your hearts” (Jas 4:8). We are further encouraged by the “sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1Pe 2:2).
Congregational worship also gives us an opportunity to encourage others by setting good examples so that they can “walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Php 3:17). By meeting each other regularly, we can foster closer relationships with one another and be in “favour with all the people” (Act 2:47), such that we are able to support brethren going through tough times.
Thus, we see that assembling for worship does have much benefit for both ourselves and those around us, and above all, we please God in doing so. When the church assembles for worship, God is glorified (Lev 10:3), Christians are purified (Jas 4:8), the church is edified (1Co 14:26), and the lost is satisfied (1Co 14:25).
How can we worship God acceptably?
The verse that often comes to mind when we discuss about worship is John 4:24 – “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” To worship God in spirit means to worship Him with the right attitude of sincerity (c.f. Jos 24:14), while to worship Him in truth means to worship Him with the right standard according to His Word (c.f. Joh 17:17). Notice another two key words in the verse – “must” and “and”. The word “must” means that the requirements are compulsory, not optional, while the word “and” means that both requirements must be fulfilled, not either one.
God does not accept worship that has form without substance. He rejected the offerings of the “torn, and the lame, and the sick” in the time of Malachi (Mal 1:6-14), the “burnt offerings”, “meat offerings”, and “peace offerings” in the time of Amos (Amo 5:21-27), the “multitude” of sacrifices that were “full” in the time of Isaiah (Isa 1:11-15), the “incense from Sheba” and “sweet cane from a far country” in the time of Jeremiah (Jer 6:16-20), and the “tithe of mint and anise and cummin” in the time of Jesus (Mat 23:23). God rejected these offerings because the heart of the worshippers were not right with Him. Worshipping in spirit means that we come before God with “a true heart” (sincerity), “full assurance of faith” (fidelity), “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (humility), and “bodies washed with pure water” (purity) (Heb 10:22).
God does not accept worship that has substance without form either. He rejected the worship of Cain (Gen 4:3-7), Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-2), Saul (1Sa 15:17-23), Uzzah (1Ch 13:7-10), and the Samaritans (Joh 4:20-22), because the worshippers, while having the heart, did not obey what God had commanded concerning worship. Today, there are many who practice ignorant worship that follows superstitions (Act 17:22-23), vain worship that obeys the commandments of men (Mat 15:9), and will worship that exalts humanist philosophies (Col 2:23), all of which are abhorrent to God. Worshipping in truth demands that we follow the Word of God only, nothing more and nothing less.
When the church assembles for worship, all the five acts of worship that are commanded by God must be done in spirit and in truth. We celebrate with praises to God in singing (1Co 14:15), communicate with God in prayer (Mat 6:15), contemplate on God’s Word in preaching (Jas 1:22), commemorate our Lord’s death in partaking the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:28-29), and consecrate ourselves by giving to God in the collection (2Co 9:7).