Worship in the New
By Daniel Thompson
Distinctions between the Old and New Testaments
Introduction - Christ and the Church - The Risen Saviorís
Order for His Body (Eph 4: 10ff)
The Church, Worship, and Congregationalism
The Church, Worship, and the Charismata
The Church, Worship, and Congregational Devotion
The Church, Worship, and the Word
The Church, Worship, and the Ministry of Need
The Church, Worship, and the Centrality of Christ
between the Old and New Testaments
state of the Congregates
As we look
into the issue of New Testament worship and the elements of style and practice,
we are immediately struck by the fact that the congregation which worshipped
in the Old Testament was entirely distinct from the New Testament congregation.
Old Covenant, the crucial element was oneís relationship to Abraham and
subsequently to the twelve tribes related to Jacobís sons. Birth, circumcision
- in a word, Jewishness was the basis for having a part in the Covenant
God made with Israel at Sinai and the religious worship which was a part
of the Covenant law. Thus although Israelites such as Moses, Joshua, David,
and a list of others (as in Hebrews 11) were men of faith, this was not
an issue when one partook of appointed times of worship.
YAHWEH was the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you need only
be born of this genealogy to have access to all the privileges of the Old
these Old Testament elements change with the New Covenant as Hebrews 8
delineates. Under the New Covenant, those who partake of the covenant have
the following "birthmarks:" "I ... put my laws in their mind, and write
them on their hearts" (sanctification), "I will be their God" (adoption),
"They shall all know Me" (regeneration), "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness"
(Justification). God is their Father personally, not nationally. Under
the Old Covenant the issue is birth, whereas under the New Covenant the
issue is the new birth.
the congregation mentioned over 300 times in the Old Testament in covenantally
linked together by their relationship to Moses and the Siniatic Covenant
via Abraham. The assembly of the New Covenant is linked together via Abrahamís
seed - Jesus Christ (Gal 3:15f) and their union with Him. The sign of this
Abrahmic relationship was circumcision (Gen 17:7), while the "sign" of
the relationship to Abraham in the New Covenant was/is faith (Gal 3:27-29).
Emphasis of the Old Testament
It is instructive
to observe the activities which were part of Old Testament worship. In
the Psalms: "I will worship towards thy holy hill," (5:7); "let us bow
down and worship Him," (95:6); "worship at His holy hill," (99:9); "I will
worship towards thy holy temple," (138:2). Worship is associated with alters
(2 Chron 32:12), Godís manifest glory (Ex 33:10), the firstfruits of labor
(Deut 26:10), repentance (1 Sam 15:30), purification (2 Sam 12:20), sacrifice
(1 Sam 1:3), and praise and music (2 Chron 29:28). The most basic and prevalent
idea, indeed the essence of the Hebrew word "worship," was to "bow down"
(cf. 2 Chron 29:29). The key ingredient to all this is structure. Worship
for these unregenerate congregates was appointed; appointed place, appointed
time, appointed sacrifices, and even an appointed choir for praise! If
there is a word to describe this, it is ritual, not Spiritual.
of New Testament Worship?
few doctrines in the New Testament that give us as much surprise as the
doctrine of worship. One might even say we are stunned. Although there
are references to worship in the Gospels, the book of Acts and Revelation,
the New Testament Epistles - the doctrinal/explanatory part of the New
Testament - is completely silent as to worship. This is all the
more incredible when we consider: First, 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 is
an extensive treatment of church life and interaction with no mention of
worship. Second, 1 Timothy was an epistle written to make known "how thou
[Timothy] might behave thyself in the house of God." Surely one
would expect a reference to worship here, yet there is none. Third, our
Lord tells the Samaritan woman that "the hour is coming ... and now is,
when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth:
for the Father seeks such to worship Him" (Jn 4:21-23). With such a definitive
statement of future devotion, it is inconceivable that worship would be
passed over completely in the instructional part of the New Covenant, the
Epistles, yet this is exactly what we find.
examination of "worship" in the Gospels and Acts finds worship of individuals
to Christ, deceitful or false worship and, with reference to Acts, worship
directed towards Jerusalem. But there is no direction as to Christian
worship. This leads us to one of two possibilities; either the church
was to continue Old Testament worship (or the "synagogue" worship developed
in post- exilic Israel, ca. B.C. 200), or we might be looking in the wrong
place for our direction regarding New Testament worship.
with the first option are that the issues of "place," "time," "sacrifice,"
and such terminology in the law which formed the essential ingredients
of Old Covenant worship ceased to have meaning because God has established
a New Covenant. Now, under the New Covenant, a holy place is where two
or three are gathered (Mt 18:20); time is always special, such that God
calls upon us to redeem it (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5); and our sacrifices are
ourselves (Rom 12:1), giving (Phil 4:17), and praise (Heb 13:15).
- Christ and the Church - The Risen Saviorís Order for His Body (Eph 4:
it is written of Christ and His headship of the church that He "ascended
up far above the heavens, that He might fill all things, and He gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors
and teachers; for (pros)
the perfecting (katartismon)
of the saints, for (eis)
the work of the ministry, for (eis)
the edifying of the body of Christ: until we all come in (eis)
the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:10-13).
Scriptures direct us to Christ as the Head of the church (Col 1:18), as
such is also our Shepherd and Overseer (2 Peter 2:25), our teacher (Jn
13:13-14), our Apostle (Heb 3:1), and our Prophet (Acts 3:22). This is
reflected in the statement of Christ to the leaders-to-be of the New Testament
(e.g. Apostles) when He said, "he that is greatest among you shall be your
servant," (Matt 23:11). Christ is our Master, and His under-shepherds are
servants (just as Christ said He came not to be served, but to serve, Mt
then why Paul taught us that Christ ascended and gave pastors and teachers
to face the congregation (pros)
and equip (katartismon)
His saints to this end (eis)
that they (the saints) might do the work of ministry (diakonia)
edify fellow saints unto maturity. The pastors/elders/teachers equip;
and the saints thus equipped minister to the body. The Greek leads
naturally to an illustration such as a community building a house.
electricians etc. (i.e. leadership) equip and instruct the community (congregation)
regarding the elements of constructing a home, and then the community actually
goes about the task of building the structure. In the case of the church,
structure being built by the community of saints is the lives of each
and every member, and the goal is the maturity of the body in the faith
(that is, in Christ). In this way, all saints use their gifts, and
all play an essential role in the growth of the body of Christ.
is foundational as to why we shall find the kind of activity and body life
in places such as Romans 12:3ff and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
the Christ-given structure for the New Testament Church!
Church, Worship, and Congregationalism
face the fact that the emphasis of Godís presence at the finishing of the
tabernacle (Ex 40), and His presence at the dedication of the temple (2
Chron 7) prepares us for Godís descent at Pentecost. The great difference,
of course, is that Godís presence is in His people. Each saint is
a holy temple (1 Cor 6:19), but much more important, is the dwelling of
God in the midst of His saints.
is Godís temple where the Spirit dwells (1 Cor 3: 16f), which is why a
teacher can defile Godís temple through false teaching). Ephesians 2:20-22
states "[the household of God] is built upon the foundation of apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone; in whom all the
building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple of the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through
the Spirit," This confirms our Lordís words, "where two or three are
gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20),
and the corporate promise of prayer, "if two shall agree ... it shall be
done," (Mt 18:19).
stunning example of this corporate dwelling of God is written by Peter,
a Jew! He wrote "Ye (plural) also, as living stones, are builded up a spiritual
house, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,"
(1 Pet 2:5). God is not just with us, He is in us by His Spirit,
that is, corporately (Jn 14:17).
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Church, Worship, and the Charismata
there are several places where the charismata
or gifts are discussed, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 give us the essence
of New Testament teaching,
12 begins by introducing us to the practical life which flows from free
grace in Christ (chps 1-11). Paul exhorts his readers to personal devotion
and service, while warning them to have their minds transformed by truth
so as to discern the will of God.
this as a backdrop, Paul encourages humility via examination as to the
grace God has granted to them, or, as he identifies this concept, the measure
of faith God has dealt every man. Paul has now laid the foundation for
gifts and their use by the Roman congregation. Every man has a measure
of faith, although it may be in unique spheres. Some saints prophecy (12:4),
but only according to the proportion of faith given them (that is, the
measure of understanding granted them by Godís Spirit in Christ). Some
serve and must give themselves to this gift which their sovereign God saw
fit to grant them (12:7) - as is true of teaching (12:7), exhorting, giving,
ruling, and mercies (12:8). In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul will remind us that
all ministries in the church are exercised in love, and Paul states the
same in Romans 12:9.
be noticed is how Paul introduces the exercise of gifts by speaking of
the state of our hearts, and then reminding us of the unity of the assembly
within which the subsequent gifts will be used. The Romans are many members
with many diverse gifts yet are one in purpose. Paul goes out of his way
to point out: 1) differing gifts (12:6) and "all members have not the same
office," (12:4); yet 2) they are "one body" and "members one of another,"
use of diverse gifts, the Romans were to "love without dissimulation,"
"be kindly affectionate one to another," in honor preferring one another,"
"given to hospitality," and more! The point I would like to mention
is that in Roman church life, the issues of love, affection, and such graces
are a perpetual theme in all evangelical 20th century pulpits,
the practice of the gifts,which
are inseparably linked to the graces listed (indeed, the graces form the
context of how to use our gifts), is more or less
absent in our 20th
century assemblies! How can this be? Worship is gifts exercised via
12 supports the themes of Romans at every point. First, the unity of the
body is emphasized with Pauline statements such as "the body is one," (12:12),
"by one Spirit we are baptized into one body," (12:13), "God has tempered
the body together," (12:24), and as a result, Paul says, "there should
be no schism."
unity does not negate diversity. We find Paul telling the Corinthians that
God has purposed "diversity of gifts ... administrations, and ... operations"
in His Church. There are many members (12:12, 14,20), yet God has set them
in order as it has pleased Him (12:18).
the Holy Spirit rules for the blessing and growth of the Body. He enables
us to confess Christ (12:3), grants the gifts (12:4,8), works these gifts
in the saints (12:8-11), baptizes (12:13) and all these works are according
to His sovereign will (12:11).
ALL SAINTS have and should use these spiritual gifts. Paul says in the
context of these gifts; "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to
every man to profit withal (e.g. Profit all in the body). To one ...
wisdom, to another ... knowledge, to another faith," etc. Again, the diversity
and use of these gifts is 1) "to profit withal" (12:7) and 2) these gifts
are "tempered ... that there should be no schism in the body" (12:24,25).
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Church, Worship, and Congregational Devotion
theme of the gospel and the sinner is the joy of hearing the good news
of forgiveness and the joy of the Christian life. Note just in Acts; "they
that gladly received the Word" (2:4 1), "they (Christians)... ate their
meat with gladness" (2:46), "they (Christians) departed... rejoicing" (5:41),
"when the Gentiles heard this (the gospel), they were glad" (13:48). The
epistles echo this truth: "The kingdom of heaven is joy" (Rom 14:17), "we
have all joy and peace in believing" (Rom 15:13), "Christ is preached ...
and I rejoice" (Phil 1:18), and "Rejoice evermore" (1 Thess 5: 18). This
initial joy in Acts, and the commonplace expressions of rejoicing in the
epistles will carry over in Christian devotion and worship. Thus with praise,
Christians express this aspect of worship in three ways: First, our redemption
as a people praises God; we are "predestined to the adoption of children
... to the praise of the glory of His grace," "that we should be to the
praise of His glory," "unto the praise of His glory," (Eph 1:6,12,14).
Second, our lives bring Him glory. Scripture says, "filled with the fruits
of righteousness ... unto the praise of God" (Phil 1:11), "your faith ...
might be found unto praise and honor and glory ... of Jesus Christ" (1
Pet 1:7). Third, there are the words of praise. The Word speaks of "the
sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15), "Praise our God" (Rev 19:5), and even
Hebrews says of Christ (quoting Psalms) "in the midst of the church I will
sing praise to thee" (Heb 2:13). In summary, "Rejoice evermore," (Eph 5:18).
has Paul exhorting the saints regarding songs (New Testament songs), hymns
(Old Testament songs), and spiritual songs (songs from the heart, i.e.
impromptu?), "singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord" (Eph
5:19). Colossians says almost the same: "teaching and admonishing one another
in "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts
to the Lord" (Col 3:16).
As to prayer,
saints were to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:19). Paul constantly prayed
for the saints he ministered to (Rom 1:9; Eph 3:14; Phil 1:4; Col 1:3;
1 Thess 1:2). When Paul laid out priorities in church life, prayer was
first on his mind. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says "first of all supplications,
prayers, intercessions ... be made for all men." Soon after, he will exhort
"men to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands" (1 Tim 2:8). Women were
to do the same, although their expression of holiness was "adorn(ing) themselves
modestly (1 Tim 2:9). In 1 Corinthians 14:16, it is clear that prayer is
in mind in the congregation when he says "when thou shall bless with the
spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say ĎAmení
at they giving of thanks," and again, "I will pray" (1 Cor 14:15). This
is all worship.
a perusal of early Christian confessions and hymns in the New Testament
gives us the depth of devotion to God and to Christ:
"Glory to God in the highest and
on earth peace,
good will toward men,"
"For who has known the mind of the
Or who hath been His counselor?
Or who hath first given to Him,
and it shall be recompensed unto Him again?
For of Him, and through Him, and
to Him, are all things:
to whom be glory forever. Amen,"
(Rom 11:33- 36)
God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up in glory,"
(1 Tim 3:16)
"To the only wise God our Savior,
be glory and majesty, dominion
both now and ever. Amen,"
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Church, Worship, and the Word
peruse the restoration period in Israelís history (Ezra, Nehamiah), the
importance of the Word in the renewal of Godís people is evident. In Nehamiah
we find, "they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law
of Moses," (Neh 8:1); "He read therein ... before the men and the women,"
(Neh 8:3); "they (the people) stood up in their place, and read in the
book of the Law of the Lord their God," (Neh 9:3); "on that day they read
in the book of Moses," (Neh 13:1).
Testament testifies to the centrality of the Word in the same sense as
the Old Testament. Christ gave us His commands in the gospels and revealed
that more of His truth would come through the apostles. This is why we
find statements in the epistles such as Paulís "you know what commandments
we gave you by Jesus Christ," (1 Thess 4:2); Peterís "be mindful ...
of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior," (2
Pet 3:2); Johnís "Again, a new commandment I write unto you," (1 Jn 2:18);
Judeís "remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles
our Lord Jesus Christ," (Jude 17).
the apostolic words and letters were to be read to the churches. In Revelation,
we read "blessed is he that reads, and they that hear," (Rev 1:3). In 1
Thessalonians, Paul writes "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle
be read unto all the brethren," (1 Thess 5:27). Colossians, echoing Thessalonians,
states "when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also
in the church of the Laodiceans," (Col 4:16). This was so serious, that
we find in 2 Thessalonians" if any man obey not our word by this epistle,
note that man, and have no company with him," (2 Thess 3:14).
we have many serious exhortations regarding the Word and the doctrine contained
in the Pastoral Epistles for the health and blessing of the hearers: "If
thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good
minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good
doctrine," "until I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to
doctrine," "Take heed to thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them;
for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and those that hear thee,"
"hold fast the form of sound words," "Study to show thyself approved,"
"Preach the Word," "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine,"
(1 Tim 4:6,13,16; 2 Tim 1:13; 2:15; 4:2; Tit 2:1). This was leadershipís
duty with respect to the people of God and the ministry of the Word.
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Church, Worship, and the Ministry of Need
not spend much time on this ministry. It is literally everywhere in the
New Testament. It begins with the basic "he that giveth, let him do it
with liberality" (Rom 12:8), and "for the ministry (diakonias
of this service (giving), not only fills up the measure of the wants of
the saints, but aboundeth ... to God (2 Cor 8:12). The key here is that
giving is a "ministry." Giving has the truest and most Christlike of qualities
when exercised in the Spirit. We give with singleness of heart (e.g. One
motive, blessing to the recipient), (Rom 12:8); it is voluntary, (2 Cor
9:5,7); done with desire and eagerness, (2 Cor 8:4); cheerfully, (2 Cor
9:7); at times, sacrificially, (2 Cor 8:2); in summery, the New Testament
ministry of giving is a true, freewill offering - 2 Cor 9:7 (As an important
aside, Paul says "if I bestow all my goods to the poor ... and have not
love, it profits me nothing - 1 Cor 13:2).
establishes the aforementioned truths. When the needs of the early church
arose, great efforts were made to meet them (Rom 15:26; Acts 11:27-30).
Peter makes this absolutely clear as a priority when he ended his exhortation
to his fellow apostle Paul by stating "only they (the Jerusalem apostles)
would that we should remember the poor, the same which I am forward to
do" (Gal 2:10). Even more wonderful in terms of ministry, Paul commands
"us [to] do good to all men," (Gal 6:10).
giving and serving is also the essence of ministry and worship as the saints
assemble. In the employment of spiritual gifts, we "seeketh not her own"
and "thinks on the things of others (Phil 2:4). Indeed, if we, as the saints
of God, do not care for the needs of others (saints), James says
we have not faith James 2:14- 16).
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Church, Worship, and the Centrality of Christ
perpetual ordinance of the New Testament is the Lordís Supper. The detail
is given 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. This ordinance was a church/corporate
ordinance as seen by the terminology of "ye come together", v.17,18,33,34;
"ye assemble," v.20.
Lordís Supper centered around Jesus the redeemer and the corporate proclamation
of the Lord (11:23-26). It was a corporate meal which reflected the unity
of the body in Christ, as reflected in the rebuke of verse 21, "one taketh
before another," and the Pauline remedies in verses 33 and 34; "when ye
come together, wait for one another" and "if any man is hungry, let him
eat at home." If sharing Godís provisions at the Lordís Supper did not
occur, Paul was bold to say, "When therefore you assemble together [and
do not share], it is not to eat the Lordís Supper!
the Passover is any indication, along with the proclamation of Christ as
Lord and the sharing of a common meal, there were probably songs along
the lines of Matt 26:30, "And when they (our Lord and His apostles) had
sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives." Thus the ministries
of proclamation, praise, and sharing mixed to give us worship during the
THIS IS NEW TESTAMENT
Corinthians 14 is expounded in Thompson,
Prophecy and Tongues, I Corinthians 14, An Exposition
As with Romans 12, it seems the 20th century church encourages
the application of graces but not the exercise of gifts, and this is surely
to our detriment.
A comment must be made on the issue of the early church in Jerusalem "having
all things in common" as a paradigm for all Christian giving. I believe
there is good reason for such action; for in 1 Tim 6:17, Paul does not
say "charge them that are rich in this world to give up all their goods,"
but he says for them to "trust in the living God," and "That they do good..
.ready to distribute, willing to communicate." The reasons for "communal"
type life in Jerusalem was that - within a generation - Jerusalem would
be reduced to rubble as prophesied by Christ in Matt 24: 1ff; Lk 2 l:5ff;
Mk 13: 1ff, in particular the prophesy of Lk 2 1:20-24, 29-32. Radical
things were to happen as well at Corinth, for Paul states, "the time is
short," and therefore Paul admonishes his readers that "those who buy,
as though they possess not ... for the fashion of this world is passing
away." There were near and radical persecutions and conflicts that were
to arise soon, such that the "communal" issues of Acts 2, and the statements
of 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 must be understood in their context.
The issue of examination (11:27-29) relates not to personal examination
of our walk with Christ, but our examination of the Lordís Body and
our love and relationship with those in Christ as expressed in the sharing/fellowship
of our common meal, common love, and common union in the Savior.