Does It Really Matter How We Worship?

cropped-bible-medium2.jpgGod is deserving of our worship.  Jesus taught that God desires that we worship Him. (John 4:23) Has God instructed us as to how we should worship Him?  Or are we free to worship God in any way we choose, as long as we are sincere in what we do?

In Matthew chapter fifteen, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their vain worship. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9) The word “vain” means folly, or of no purpose. We learn from this passage that worship consisting of manmade traditions while ignoring the commandments of God is useless.  Surely, God will not accept this kind of worship.

Another kind of worship mentioned in the scriptures is ignorant worship.  Ignorant worship is worship offered to God without a knowledge of God’s will concerning who He is and how He is to be worshipped. (Acts 17:22-23) Those people at Mars Hill in Athens were guilty of this type of worship. This type of worship is also unacceptable to God.

The apostle Paul spoke of those who were guilty of “will worship.” “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23) While the King James Version refers to “will worship,” the English Standard Version refers to it as “self-made religion.”

Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines will worship as “worship which one devises and prescribes for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of the faith which ought to be directed to Christ.”  Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines will worship as “voluntarily adopted worship, whether unbidden or forbidden.”  In simple terms, we can think of will worship as “doing what we like and what we think is good, but not taught by God in the scriptures.”  Examples of this type of worship can be seen in solos, choirs, and mechanical instruments of music in worship, such as pianos, organs, etc. These are things that men desire, but are not taught in the scriptures.

Jesus spoke of the need for us to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) This is the only type of worship that God accepts.  To worship in spirit means that our worship is spiritual in nature, in contrast to worship that is physical in nature. Old Testament worship consisted of a physical structure (the tabernacle), special clothing for priests, lampstands in the tabernacle, burning of incense, instruments of music and animal sacrifices.  Worship under the New Testament is spiritual in nature.  Today, God’s temple is not physical, but is made up of Christians (I Peter 2:5), all Christians are priests offering spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5, 9), our prayers are described as sweet incense before God (Revelation 5:8) and our music consists of making melody IN THE HEART (Ephesians 5:19). Today, we worship in truth, meaning the real, or substance, of which those things in the Old Testament were merely a foreshadowing, or figure, of things to come.  (Hebrews 10:1) When we worship in spirit and in truth, we worship according to the teachings of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3:11).

It does make a difference how we worship!

Denominations Are a Product of Men, Not God

cropped-bible-medium2.jpgThis past week I read an article written by a minister of a well-known denomination.  The first statement of the article read as follows, “When the church age began during the Lord’s earthly ministry, there was only the church Jesus built.”  Questions for the minister who wrote the article, and all of us, to consider include, “Does the one church Jesus built exist today?  If Jesus only built one church, why are there so many churches today?  Who made the change?  If Jesus only built one church, who built these other churches? And does any of this really matter?”

A denomination can be defined as “a large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.” Friends, I must say with all kindness yet with all truthfulness to God’s word, denominationalism is completely incompatible with and foreign to the scriptures.  Notice the following from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) Men may accept, even applaud, the division that exists in the religious world today, but God never has and never will.

Denominations are of human origin.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Jesus said He would build His church, singular.  All denominations exist without New Testament authority, New Testament example or Christ’s approval.

Why does any of this really matter? The inspired apostle Paul taught that Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same.  (Ephesians 1:22-23) He went on to teach that there is only one body, therefore there must be only one church. (Ephesians 4:4) Later in his same letter to the church at Ephesus he taught that Christ is the savior of the body.  (Ephesians 5:23) What can we conclude from all this?  Christ is the savior of the one church that He built!

Peter told those present on the Day of Pentecost to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) When these people were saved by believing the gospel, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized to receive the forgiveness of their sins, how did the Lord respond?  He added them to the one church that He built.  (Acts 2:47) He did not add them to a denomination, for there were no denominations in existence!

The church that Jesus built still exists today, just as it did in the first century.  It has no earthly head.  It has no legal hierarchy.  It follows no manmade creeds, practices, manuals or handbooks. It simply follows the New Testament pattern for the church.  Its congregations are autonomous and are overseen by elders who have authority only over their particular congregation. (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1-3) Its members meet on the first day of every week to worship, including partaking of the communion. (Acts 20:7) Its members worship God through acapella singing, just as the early church of the first century did.  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Its members pray and study the Bible together. (Acts 2:42) Its members hear preaching together and give financially on the first day of the week. (I Corinthians 16:1-2)

Can a person be saved from his sins today and be a member of Christ’s one church without being a member of any denomination?  Yes!  He not only can, he must in order to please God.  How can a person do this?  He must believe the good news, or gospel, concerning Jesus Christ.  (John 3:16) He must repent of his sins (Acts 17:30-31) He must confess his faith in Jesus Christ.  (Acts 8:37) He must then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins.  (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) When he does this, the Lord will add him to the one church that he, Jesus Christ, purchased with his blood.  (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28)

Friends, it is not my intention to be unkind.  Rather, it is my desire to expose the clear teaching of the scriptures concerning Christ and His church. Search the scriptures and see whether these things are so! (Acts 17:11)

“The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16)