What is worship?
Worship is the divine response to the glory of God. It is motivated by divine love and arises from the divine self-revelation to his creation. In worship, the believer enters into communication with God the Father through Jesus Christ, mediated through the Holy Spirit. Worship also means giving humble and joyful priority to God in all things. It manifests itself in attitudes and actions such as: prayer, praise, celebration, generosity, active mercy, repentance (John 4,23; 1 John 4,19; Philippians 2,5-11; 1 Peter 2,9-10; Ephesians 5,18-20; Colossians 3,16-17; Romans 5,8-11; 12,1; Hebrews 12,28; 13,15-16).
God is worthy of honor and praise
The English word "worship" indicates that one ascribes value and respect to someone. There are many Hebrew and Greek words that are translated with worship, but the main ones include the basic idea of service and duty, such as a servant shows to his master. They express the idea that God alone is Lord of every area of our lives, as illustrated in Christ's answer to Satan in Matthew 4,10: «Away with you, Satan! For it is written: You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him alone » (Matthew 4,10; Luke 4,8; Deut 5).
Other concepts include sacrifice, bow, confession, homage, devotion, etc. "The essence of divine worship is giving - by giving God what is due to him" (Barackman 1981: 417).
Christ said that “the hour has come that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; because the father also wants to have such worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth » (John 4,23: 24).
The above passage suggests that worship is directed to the Father and that it is an integral part of the believer's life. Just as God is spirit, our worship will not only be physical, it will also encompass our whole being and be based on truth (Note that Jesus, the Word, is the truth - see John 1,1.14; 14,6; 17,17).
The whole life of faith is worship in response to God's action by "loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul with all our mind and with all our powers" (Mark 12,30). True worship reflects the depth of Mary's words: "My soul exalts the Lord" (Luke 1,46).
«Worship is the whole life of the Church through which the community of believers, through the power of the Holy Spirit, amen to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (so be it!) says » (Jinkins 2001: 229).
Whatever a Christian does is an opportunity for grateful worship. "And everything that you do with words or with works, does everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and thanks God the Father through him" (Colossians 3,17:1; see also 10,31 Corinthians).
Jesus Christ and worship
The section above mentions that we are giving thanks through Jesus Christ. Since Jesus, the Lord, who is "the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3,17), who is our mediator and advocate, our worship flows through him to the Father.
Worship does not require human mediators, such as priests, because humanity was reconciled to God through the death of Christ and through him "has access to the Father in one spirit" (Ephesians 2,14: 18). This teaching is the original text of Martin Luther's view of the "priesthood of all believers". «... the church worships God in so far as it is in perfect worship (leiturgia) that Christ God offers for us.
Jesus Christ was worshiped at important events in his life. One such event was the celebration of his birth (Matthew 2,11) when the angels and shepherds exulted (Luke 2,13: 14-20,), and at his resurrection (Matthew 28,9, 17; Luke 24,52). Even during his earthly ministry, people worshiped him in response to his work on them (Matthew 8,2; 9,18; 14,33; Mark 5,6, etc.). Revelation 5,20 proclaims with reference to Christ: "The Lamb that is slaughtered is worthy."
Collective worship in the Old Testament
«Children's children will praise your works and proclaim your mighty deeds. They shall speak of your high, magnificent splendor and your miracles; they shall speak of your mighty deeds and tell of your glory; they should praise your great goodness and praise your justice » (Psalm 145,4: 7).
The practice of collective praise and worship is firmly rooted in biblical tradition.
Although there are examples of individual sacrifice and homage, as well as pagan cultic activity, there was no clear pattern of collective worship of the true God before Israel was founded as a nation. Moses' request to Pharaoh that he should allow the Israelites to celebrate the Lord's feast is one of the first indications of a call for collective worship (Genesis 2:5,1).
On their way to the Promised Land, Moses prescribed certain holidays that the Israelites should physically celebrate. These are mentioned in Exodus 2, Leviticus 23 and elsewhere. In terms of meaning, they refer back to commemorations of the exodus from Egypt and their experiences in the desert. For example, the Feast of Tabernacles was set up so that the descendants of the Israelites would know "how God made the children of Israel live in huts" when he led them out of the land of Egypt (Genesis 3:23,43).
That the observation of these sacred assemblies by the Israelites was not a closed liturgical calendar is evident from the facts of the Scriptures that two additional annual feast days of national liberation were added later in Israel's history. One was the Purim Festival, a time of "joy and delight, a banquet and a feast day" (Esther [space]] 8,17; John 5,1 may also refer to the Purim Festival). The other was the festival of temple consecration. It lasted eight days and began on the 25th Kislew according to the Hebrew calendar (December), and the display of light celebrated the cleaning of the temple and the victory over Antiochus Epiphanes by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. Jesus himself, “the light of the world”, was present in the temple that day (John 1,9; 9,5; 10,22-23).
Various fast days were also announced at fixed times (Zechariah 8,19), and new moons were observed (Esra [space]] 3,5, etc.). There were daily and weekly public ordinances, rites, and sacrifices. The weekly Sabbath was a commanded "holy assembly" (Leviticus 3: 23,3) and the sign of the Old Covenant (Exodus 2: 31,12-18) between God and the Israelites, and also a gift from God for their rest and use (Genesis 2: 16,29-30). Along with the Levite holy days, the Sabbath was considered part of the Old Covenant (Genesis 2: 34,10-28).
The temple was another important factor in the development of Old Testament worship patterns. With its temple, Jerusalem became the central place where believers traveled to celebrate the various holidays. «I want to think about that and pour out my heart to myself: how I moved in in large numbers to wave with them to the house of God with rejoicing
and thanks in the crowd of those who celebrate there » (Psalm 42,4; see also 1Chr 23,27-32; 2Chr 8,12-13; John 12,12; Acts 2,5-11, etc.).
Full participation in public worship was restricted in the Old Covenant. Within the temple district, women and children were usually denied access to the main place of worship. Emasculated and illegitimate births as well as various ethnic groups like the Moabites should “never” enter the congregation (Deuteronomy 5: 23,1-8). It is interesting to analyze the Hebrew concept of "never". On the mother's side, Jesus came from a Moabite woman named Ruth (Luke 3,32; Matthew 1,5).
Collective worship in the New Testament
There are significant differences between the Old and New Testaments regarding holiness in relation to worship. As mentioned earlier, in the Old Testament, certain places, times and people were considered more sacred and therefore more relevant to worship practices than others.
From the perspective of sanctity and worship, with the New Testament we move from an Old Testament exclusivity to a New Testament inclusiveness; from certain places and people to all places, times and people.
For example, the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem were holy places "where to worship" (John 4,20), whereas Paul orders that men should not raise holy hands not only in designated Old Testament or Jewish sites of worship, but "in all places," a practice associated with the temple sanctuary (1 Timothy 2,8: 134,2; Psalm).
In the New Testament, community gatherings take place in houses, in upper apartments, on river banks, on the edge of lakes, on mountain slopes, in schools, etc. (Mark 16,20). Believers become the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3,15: 17) and they gather wherever the Holy Spirit leads them to meetings.
As far as Old Testament holy days are concerned, such as a "certain holiday, new moon or sabbath day", these represent "a shadow of the future", the reality of which is Christ (Colossians 2,16: 17). Therefore, the concept of special times of worship is eliminated through the fullness of Christ.
There is freedom in the choice of times of worship according to the individual, community and cultural circumstances. "One thinks a day is higher than the other; the other, however, considers the same every day. Everyone is certain in his opinion » (Romans 14,5). In the New Testament, meetings take place at different times. The unity of the church was expressed in the life of believers in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, not through traditions and liturgical calendars.
In terms of people, only the people of Israel represented God's holy people in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, all people in all places are invited to be part of God's spiritual, holy people (1 Peter 2,9:10).
We learn from the New Testament that no place is holier than any other, no time is holier than any other, and no people is holier than any other. We learn that God "who does not look at the person" (Acts 10,34: 35) also does not look at times and places.
In the New Testament, the practice of gathering is actively encouraged (Hebrews 10,25).
Much is written in the letters of the apostles about what happens in the congregations. "Let it all happen for edification!" (1 Corinthians 14,26) says Paul, and further: «But let everything be honest and orderly» (1 Corinthians 14,40).
The main features of the collective worship were the preaching of the word (Acts 20,7; 2 Timothy 4,2), praise and thanksgiving (Colossians 3,16:2; 5,18 Thessalonians), intercession for the gospel and for one another (Colossians 4,2-4; James 5,16), sharing messages about the work of the gospel (Acts 14,27) and gifts for those in need in the church (1 Corinthians 16,1: 2-4,15; Philippians 17).
Special events of worship included the memory of the sacrifice of Christ. Just before his death, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper by completely changing the Old Testament Passover ritual. Instead of using the obvious idea of a lamb to point to his body that was smashed for us, he chose bread that was broken for us.
He also introduced the symbol of wine, which symbolized his blood spilled for us, which was not part of the passaritual. He replaced the Old Testament passport with an adoration practice by the New Covenant. As often as we eat of this bread and drink this wine, we proclaim the Lord's death until he returns (Matthew 26,26: 28-1; 11,26 Corinthians).
Worship is not just about words and acts of praise and homage to God. It is also about our attitude towards others. Therefore, attending a service without a spirit of reconciliation is inappropriate (Matthew 5,23: 24).
Worship is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It involves our whole life. We give ourselves "as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God", which is our sensible worship (Romans 12,1).
Worship is a declaration of the dignity and honor of God expressed through the believer's life and through his participation in the community of believers.
by James Henderson