How Must We Worship God?

Some twenty years have now passed since the bloody crucifixion of Jesus. The temple in Jerusalem still stands and animosity continues to fester between religious Jews and Christians, between synagogue and church, between the old status quo and the new way of Christ. A zealous young Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin once stood within a Jerusalem crowd and watched closely, while a gifted preacher of Christ named Stephen gave his last, fiery sermon, before the very ruling body of Jews, known as the Sanhedrin. That young man who watched was Saul. He watched the maddened crowd of religious zealots "cast him [Stephen] out of the city, and stone. . . him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul" (Act 7:58), "consenting unto his death" (Acts 22:20). He later became the apostle Paul, after he had seen the light on the road to Damascus. He too now preaches the gospel of Christ, and is accused by the very Jews he once ran with. Paul is now living in Corinth with Aquila and Priscila, tentmakers, whose home is next to the synagogue. There "Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Act 18:8). But other Jews accused Paul, "Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law" (Acts 18:13).

by Jerry Gentry

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." (Col. 2:14)

The enigma between the religious establishment and the Christian way has kindled flames of hatred and bitterness, from the first century even until now. A preacher, a carpenter's Son, named Jesus "taught. . . as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). The establishment Israelite religious worship that had been zealously kept since giving of the Law at Mount Sinai was now changing. The doctrine of this new Jesus was a force for change that had to be dealt with.

"Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matt. 13:55), was the natural reaction of many Judean Israelites, Pharisees and Sadducees, and others. And religious people have not changed much between then and now. Old animosities still divide the people of God. That same old controversy long ago moved out of the synagogue and inside the very walls of the church. The conflict continues today. It is a question of how one must approach unto God and worship Him. It is the same enigma as in Paul's day, who was accused of worshipping "God contrary to the law." There is a straight avenue, a strict order, for approaching unto God. How must we worship God?

From the very fall of Adam, the way back to God had to deal with the reality of sin, because the Bible says, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2). Without dealing with the matter of sin, there would be no way back to God. Prayers fall on deaf ears, remain unheard and go unanswered, until sin is dealt with. That issue is the same today as in the Apostle Paul's day. What does it mean to "worship God contrary to the law," as the Apostle Paul was accused of teaching?

Some fifteen hundred years earlier, a lawful order of worship was given to Moses and the Levitical priesthood. When Jesus came, some things changed. But what exactly were those changes? Many Christians today are quite unclear about the purpose of the Old Testament system of worship. Many churches toss it out, nailing it to the cross. Others use it for poetry or mere history. Fewer still live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4), a verse that Jesus quotes from Moses in Deuteronomy 8, verse 3. Yes, Jesus quoted Moses, in defense of genuine Christianity. And if we believe the Bible is the Word of God, then we cannot toss out even one verse of Old or New Testaments. The key is that we must understand the Old Testament in light of the New, and not vice versa. The religious Jews of Corinth accused Paul of worshipping "God contrary to the law," because they understood not the New Covenant, whereby God would "put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jer 31:33).

These zealous Corinthian Jews depended upon the fact that "the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary" (Hebr. 9:1). Upon the ancient Israelite altar, they "sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings" (2Chr. 33:16). There was offered "the showbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God" (Neh. 10:33).

Every Israelite was commanded to "bring his trespass offering unto the LORD" (Lev. 6:6). There were numerous offerings "made by fire unto the LORD" (Exod. 29:41). Rarely there was "an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance" (Num. 5:15).

There was the "sheaf of the wave offering" which pictures the "Lamb of God," Jesus Christ resurrected, ascended and accepted by the Father, whereby sin is not just acknowledged and temporarily "passed over." But "now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebr. 9:26). He not only is "Christ our passover. . . sacrificed for us" (1Cor. 5:7). But it is "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received [past tense] the atonement" (Rom. 5:11). He becomes our savior in Passover. He becomes our Lord in Atonement, which are two major feasts of the Bible, instituted as statutes "for ever" (Lev. 23), to be observed for all of time. Both deal with sin. The Jews of Corinth knew the meaning of these feasts. But they did not understand that "the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Hebr. 7:12). The Apostle Paul admitted, "that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14). The sacrificial law was not done away: it was changed.

Concerning New Covenant worship, the Bible admonishes, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebr. 10:25). We are also told, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1Cor. 14:40), just as it had been under the Old Covenant, when "the service of the house of the LORD was set in order" (2Chr. 29:35) by the Levitical priesthood. It was assigned by God to "Aaron and his sons [who] shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD" (Exod. 27:21). From this and numerous other examples, we derive authority for the historic Evening and Morning Prayer services for families and the church. Yet, how many Christians do you know who engage in Evening or Morning Prayers at home? There are precious few, and we have produced a generation of Bible illiterates.

Jesus is our Passover and became our Atonement for sin, according to the law, but He is more. He did what animal sacrifices could not do. "When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebr. 1:3), "called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebr. 5:10). Because if "perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" (Hebr. 7:11). Further, all things written in the Old Testament, are "for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1Cor. 10:11). "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). Yes, the Old Testament Scriptures are written for us. These were in no way nailed to the cross. We are the "Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Rom 9:4). Lawful worship is a must for "the service of God." Yet, how must we worship God?

The New Covenant was foretold by the Psalmist: "For thou [God] desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psa. 51:16-17). We learn from the Bible that New Covenant man must approach God with contrition of heart: "But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2), says the LORD.

Here is the key to understanding the change of the law: "Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:2). Herein we find the proper offering for worshipping God, under the New Covenant. Whereas of old, Israelites brought animals and other produce to the Aaronic priesthood, to make sacrifice, Christians today must "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Hebr. 13:15), that is, "take with you words." We must "render the calves of our lips."

Under the New Covenant priesthood "after the order of Melchisadec," who is Jesus Christ, every minister is challenged: "if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth" (Jer. 15:19). Ministers of the altar were instructed: "And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer unto the LORD" (Lev. 22:15). Profane words, ideas and doctrines not found in Scripture constitute an unacceptable offering to the Lord. As Christians, our most basic prayer of all is: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6).

The prophet Ezekiel challenges every minister of the altar today: "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shown difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them" (Ezek. 22:26). Faithful ministers "shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean" (Ezek. 44:23).

Many false doctrines and practices entered the state enrolled church beginning with the fourth century, which rendered their prayers and worship "unclean." Superstitions and traditions of men took precedent and replaced the Word of God. Such practices worsened and climaxed about the time of the protestant reformation. The light of truth rekindled a degree of lawful worship for many, while the pale of darkness and death continued over the apostate church.

It is from the Bible and not tradition that "we render the calves of our lips," and "offer the sacrifice of praise to God. . . the fruit of our lips." By finding a Biblical form or format for family and church to follow, the structure of prayer, worship and praise is held to a high Biblical standard.

Against the protest of modern religious Pharisees, lawful worship today must for sure be restored from the Bible, in both concept and word. Jesus tells us that "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:11). The new wine of Jesus did not mix well with the old wine of establishment religion in the Apostle Paul's day. Neither does it mix well even today, where gospel music and traditional hymns and prayers of the church have largely displaced the "Book of Psalms" (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20), for worship and praise. Even so, the service of the God today must yet be modeled "according to the pattern shown to thee [Moses] in the mount" (Hebr. 8:5). The Holy Spirit leads worship only through God's written Word. This pattern was thoroughly revealed in the service of the tabernacle through the Aaronic priesthood. This pattern is "written for our learning," "for ensamples," "that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."

The word "ensample" comes from a precise Greek word "tupto," which is a die; a stamp or scar; a model (for imitation). The order of Aaron provides the precise die, the stamp, the format; the order of Melchisadec provides for "the calves of our lips." With this understanding, Christians can "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). We can bring "acceptable words," and "render the calves of our lips," through "the sacrifice of praise." Every book that purports to give an order or structure for family and corporate evening and morning prayer, or Sabbath and Holy Day worship of God, and other ordinances and services of the church, must take great care in both format and words chosen. The format is evening and morning, Sabbath, Holy Day, etc., throughout the year. The offering of "acceptable words" must separate between "the holy and profane, . . . to discern between the unclean and the clean." Christ is our "lamb without blemish and without spot" (1Pet. 1:19), slain for every Christian, "for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebr. 10:4). It is through the Lord Jesus Christ alone "by whom we have now received the atonement." The living sacrifice of our bodies, hearts and words to Him must "take forth the precious from the vile" (Jer. 15:19).

Failure to make this distinction has lead whole churches down the "wide. . . gate, and broad. . . way, that leadeth to destruction" (Matt. 7:13). It is safe to say that in our world the majority of churches fail to follow the pattern of Moses in lawful worship. It is safe to say that few churches model their worship "according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount" (Hebr. 8:5), for a die, a format, while correctly yielding to "a change also of the law." That change is that we may "render the calves of our lips," bring "acceptable words," and offer "the sacrifice of praise." The Corinthian Jews of Paul's day, as well as the pharisaical element of modern churches, resist such change. Therefore, we must "turn to the LORD: [and] say unto him, Take away all iniquity" (Hosea 14:2), in our daily prayers.

Though there have been many songs and prayers recorded down through the centuries, which reflect the Godly, heart felt thoughts and ideas of men who would approach unto a Holy God, the highest forms of structured prayer, song and words for worship will be found in the Holy Bible itself. Where else will we find genuine, "acceptable words," outside the Bible? There we find that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2Tim. 3:16).

The "Book of Psalms" was given to Israel for a song book. It is from these and other words of the Bible alone that we can "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). Heartfelt, extemporized prayers based in the Word of God also have a place in public worship (Acts 20:36; Rom. 1:9; Rom. 8:26). These are permitted under the service director's guidance.

The work of Thomas Cranmer, beginning with The First Prayer-Book of King Edward VI, 1549, and later editions, provided a big step forward in restoring Biblical worship of God. The later King James Version of the Bible came about fifty years after Cranmer's death. It should be remembered that Thomas Cranmer's line of prayer books for the Church of England made an enormous contribution in bringing the light of the very Word of God to the common people in the English language. It was largely the result of his prayer books that Cranmer ultimately gave his life to be burned at the stake for his stand against the papacy.

Nevertheless, during his lifetime he was restrained by many forces against making further needed reformations. We believe Cranmer would applaud further efforts which carry his work beyond that of his day. We believe he would support further work to "restore all things," especially those things pertaining to worship.

The Bible exhorts: "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1Cor. 14:15). Jesus taught us "to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). We are taught that "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23).

How must we worship God? We must worship God according to the divine pattern found in His Word. Such worship is not at all "contrary to the law," as the Corinthian Jews accused Paul of teaching, but is in fact modeled after the very die, the pattern, found in the law itself, but with an important change. That change leads Christians to worship God, not with "the blood of bulls and of goats," but with the "calves of our lips," "acceptable words," our "sacrifice of praise," as we "present . . .our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1). The Psalmist declares: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psa. 19:14). "Take with you words," the prophet instructs. Which words will we take? With right words, and a yielded heart, He will "take away all iniquity," and our worship will be accepted in the sight of the LORD, alleluia!

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