WORSHIP (Part 1)

By Evan Pyle


There has been a great move and trend during this century, and more so recently, to make the message of Christianity “relevant” to our lives and our “modern lifestyle.” Nowhere has this been more apparent than in worship. New expressions of worship are sweeping the church, not only in Charismatic churches, but also in every major denomination. Traditionally staid sanctuaries are being rocked by drumbeats and amplified music. Controversies and divisions have sprung up over the raising of hands; hand clapping; “praise” music versus traditional hymns; dancing; exuberant participation versus silent contemplation. Clearly there is a problem. But, I’m not at all sure the problem has even been identified. What can be seen is the result of the problem: Strife, divisions and controversy.

James 3:15-16:
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

What I believe is lacking in all of this controversy is clear Bible teaching on the subject of worship. Good teaching, followed by good practice, will yield good fruit.

James 3:17-18:
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Psalm 119:130:
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The genesis of the problem lies, I believe, in trying to make Christianity “relevant” to our current times. While this sounds right, I believe it is the path that ends in a lost generation of Christians. In order to make it “relevant,” the truth must be moved to suit the circumstance. Truth is unchanging and demands that our lives change in order to be true. When we start by making changes to appeal to “outsiders,” we are on the slippery slope. Soon, all of the unchanging and immutable truths that have been the bedrock of our faith and walk have been changed and our foundation is lost. All points of navigation have become relative and we are lost. I fear that in our eagerness to accept all religious persuasions as valid expressions we have fallen prey to “relativism,” the curse of our age. Let us return to absolutes in understanding worship, so we can worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Noah Webster, in his original 1828 dictionary, defines worship as “to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission”. This definition certainly includes corporate worship (worship together as a group), but is not limited to corporate worship. Focusing on corporate worship alone, and on the form of that worship, has led us astray. Worship, as in other spiritual issues, is a heart attitude, not an issue of form. When our religion becomes about what we are doing and how we are doing it, we have false religion.

1 Samuel 16:7b:
... for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

2 Timothy 3:5:
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Philippians 3:3:
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Abraham is set forth by the Holy Ghost as a pattern for New Testament believers.

Romans 4:12:
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Worship is first mentioned in the Bible in connection with Abraham. The record reveals Abraham’s faith and attitude in worship.

Genesis 15:4-6:
And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

In Abraham’s relationship with the Lord, he did not rely on his own righteousness or works. He believed and God counted it to him for righteousness.

Genesis 22:2-5:
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

This, then, is the foundational usage of worship in the Bible. What better example is there of extravagant love and extreme submission? The Lord had made and established his covenants with Abraham, and Abraham responded with faith, for the Bible says he believed God. In this extraordinary account, Abraham had such faith in God’s faithfulness to his promises, that he offered up the most precious thing in his life, the promised heir, his beloved son, accounting that God would surely raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham exhibited this faith when in verse 5 he told his young men that he and the lad would return.

Abraham also demonstrated his faith, and prophesied of the coming Christ, by stating that God would provide a sacrifice.

Genesis 22:8:
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

So, what does Abraham’s story teach us of worship? Simply, that Abraham offered all on the altar. He held nothing back. He did so with faith in God’s provision. Abraham did as God commanded. In obedience, Abraham offered to God what God had given to Abraham. Abraham acted in simple obedience, not to get God to bless him for doing it.



From the March 2000 issue of The Vine & Branches