I believe that our mutual quest for authentic Christianity has already helped us to see that God’s new covenant children have been called out from the world and called into a love relationship with God. The terms of endearment God uses to express this love relationship are seen in the precepts and promises set forth in His holy and inspired written word, His providential working in our hearts and lives, and, ultimately, in the sacrificial gift of His Son. On our part, the terms of endearment that we use to express our love for God are exhibited in worship. The Apostle Peter reminds us:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(I Peter 2:4-5, NASB)
However, many people have trouble associating worship with anything other than the corporate church structure and a prescribed order of worship consisting of churchly activities—liturgical practices and customs—to which they must dutifully attend. When they think of worship, they think of church buildings, chapels, temples, and other so-called “holy” places. They think of sacred days and specially appointed times when worship is scheduled to take place. Some have even gone so far as to pull the Apostle Paul’s words out of context when he said, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13, NASB); and they use this verse as a pretext for narrowly defining their own litany of religious observances which they believe must be done only in certain ways on certain days—most of which they have derived only by implication and inference. The sad result is that people are being led to believe that worship is some kind of duty to be performed in a church service held once or twice a week within the confines of some denominational structure; thus robbing God and His children of the daily, vibrant, joyful exchange of love that can be mutually experienced, by both God and man, only in true worship.
In the original New Testament manuscripts, there are several Greek words used to describe our worship. One word is “proskuneo”—meaning, “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication” (Proskuneo, 2013). Another word is “latreia”—meaning, “the service of God; the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; to perform sacred services” (Latreia, 2013). Jesus used these words side-by-side when He made the statement, “It is written, ‘You shall worship [proskuneseis] the Lord your God and serve [latreuseis] Him only’” (Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8, NASB).
The Apostle Paul captured the essence of both concepts when he exhorted God’s people in Rome with these beautiful words: “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 [latreian]. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB).
Another Greek word for worship is, “ainesis”—which means “praise, or a thank offering” (Ainesis, 2013). Our worship certainly involves expressing our love and praise directly to God, as when the Hebrew writer says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise [aineseos] to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15, NASB).
However, worship also entails, on a very practical level, our everyday life experiences. Hence, we find the Greek word, “douleuo”—meaning, “to be a slave, serve, do service (Douleuo, 2013); as when the Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve [douleuete]” (Colossians 3:23-24, NASB); and, “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service [douleuontes], as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:6, NASB).
From these passages of scripture we get the overall picture that God does not intend that our worship be something that is limited to the confines of a given period of time at a special place on any one particular day. Rather, for the new covenant child of God, worship is everything we do, every place we go, every hour we live. The ekklesia—God’s called out people—are always and continually in worship; so long as they will it so and desire in their hearts that their thoughts, their decisions, and their actions give glory to God.
So you ask, “Have you worshipped Him today?”
And I tell you, “Yes, sweet child of God; in fact, I’m worshipping Him right now, even as we speak. And you?”
In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, she said to Him, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20, NASB). In response, Jesus said to her:
Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
(John 4:20-24, NASB)
Jesus’ response to the woman at the well was not meant to simply settle a controversy that existed among the people of that day. Rather, Jesus intended to set forth a truth regarding all such discussions that were concerned with when, where, and just how to go about worshipping God. Jesus’ point was that all such discussions would soon be coming to an end; at least for those whom He calls the “true worshipers”—the ekklesia.
In these statements, Jesus takes worship out of the realm and jurisdiction of earthly, physical, liturgical forms and ceremonies and elevates it to that spiritual realm where it has always belonged. Under the new covenant in Christ, worship will no longer have anything specifically to do with “Jerusalem” or “this mountain” because it will be centered in that “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11, NASB).
Back in Old Testament days, worship was, indeed, very physical, liturgical, and ceremonial. Worship was to be carried out in specific ways prescribed by the Law of Moses. Hence, Jesus told the woman at the well, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22, NASB).
For an example, the Law of Moses prescribed that, once a year, the high priest—and only the high priest—was allowed to enter behind the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place within the temple and come into the very presence of God. He was allowed to do this in order to make atonement—procure forgiveness of sin—for the people of Israel by sprinkling the blood of a bull upon the mercy seat that was positioned above the Ark of the Covenant. Only the high priest was permitted to enter into the very presence of God and do this work because, as the inscription on the golden plate that was attached to the front of his turban stated, he was “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36, NASB).
But the New Testament informs us that the Law of Moses was “only a shadow [prophecy] of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1, NASB); and when Jesus died on the cross, “behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51, NASB). Now, as a result of His sacrifice, “we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20, NASB).
Jesus, our high priest, has gone ahead of us into the holy presence of God and made atonement for us with His own blood. But, unlike the Old Testament high priest who went in alone, leaving the rest of the people behind, Jesus invites us to follow Him right into the dwelling place of God to experience our own personal, intimate relationship with Him. The Bible says:
…this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 6:19-20, NASB)
This statement makes each one of us, every single new covenant child of God, like the high priest — “Holy to the Lord.” It also makes everything that we do, every day that we live, worship; if we choose to do it all to God’s glory!
However, despite Jesus’ words about how we “must worship in spirit and truth,” it appears to me that people today continue to err from truth by trying to make worship some kind of physical, sanctimonious display or liturgical ceremony that must be practiced at a specific time, in a specific place, and in a specific manner; similar to how they thought of worship back in Old Testament days.
For example, perhaps you’ve heard people debate back and forth over whether the church should meet together for worship on Saturday, or on Sunday? Those who are of the Sabbatarian persuasion speak of the “sanctity of the Sabbath,” while other would-be scholars debate them and herald “the sanctity of Sunday.” These folks just don’t quite comprehend the truth, do they? They don’t understand that the cross makes the whole argument a moot point—meaningless in light of Biblical teaching.
People who debate such issues are entirely ignorant of the fact that, for the ekklesia, there is no particular holy day or time. Every day we exist as a “living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1, NASB) becomes a holy day because WE are “Holy to the Lord.” And we who are “Holy to the Lord” have entered into that “Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NASB); which consists of the new covenant in Christ, itself, and all its holy provisions. So, for people like us—the new covenant children of God—the Sabbath is not a particular day of the week, but rather, a perpetual walk of life. This is why the Apostle Paul said:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
(Colossians 2:16-17, NASB)
In similar fashion, for the new covenant child of God, there is no particular holy place of worship because every place we stand becomes “holy ground.” Why? Because WE are “Holy to the Lord.” Furthermore, for the new covenant child of God, there are no particular words or actions that are any more holy than others because everything we say and do can be, should be, said and done in a way that “proves what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB). This is why we are told, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NASB). It is all holy, it is all worship, because WE are “living and holy sacrifices” to the Lord; WE are “Holy to the Lord!”
We know that the ekklesia in Bible days was far more than a mere religious organization providing regularly scheduled services that its loosely affiliated adherents could attend once or twice a week if they chose to. We know that their worship consisted of much more than routine weekly religious observances that conformed to certain doctrinal precepts meant to fulfill their sacred duty. Rather, their community worship was simply an extension, or continuation, of their personal daily worship—an extension of their daily walk with God.
In a striking example of this from the earliest days of Christianity, we are told that:
…all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people…
(Acts 2:44-47, NASB)
Whether they were selling their possessions in order to help take care of one another, meeting together up at the temple—a public place where the apostles were continually teaching—or simply eating dinner together in one another’s homes, it was all a matter of “praising God!”
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