TGOC Bible Class Curricula - The Church of Christ (1st Quarter) - Lesson 9 - God's Pattern For Worship
TGOC Bible Class Curricula - The Church of Christ (1st Quarter) - Lesson 9 - God's Pattern For Worship
God's Pattern For Worship
Since the beginning of time man has had a need to worship. Man has not always known how and what to worship. Some were aware of the one true God and worshipped Him. Others, not knowing what or who God was, created images of what they thought God must looked like. These images ranged from a pile of stones to elaborate images carved in wood or stone. Some of our ancestors worshipped invisible gods. Others worshipped the moon, sun, or stars. Some worshipped things in nature. It seems that there is an inherent desire in man to believe in a higher being and to bow down and worship him, her or it.
I. Worship in the Old Testament:
After the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, God instructed Moses in the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
Exodus 25:9, “9 ‘According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.’”
Let us read together about what the Tabernacle and the Temple meant to the Jews:
“It was a portable sanctuary. Housing the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle became the focus of divine worship for the Children of Israel. After the settlement in Canaan, the Tabernacle was replaced by the First Temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon. When the Second Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people dispersed, the synagogue (Greek, "meeting place") became the house of prayer. Every Jewish community has synagogues which serve as houses of worship—centers for religious life.
In ancient times the principal method of worship was animal sacrifice. Those who made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem brought doves, goats, lambs, etc. that were purchased for special holidays. These would be presented to the priest, who would sacrifice them. The sacrifice was an individual act of faith, communal or congregational worship was developed by the Jewish people during periods when they did not have access to the Temple itself. With the destruction of the Temple, it became necessary for the scattered believers to develop religious observances that did not depend on either the Temple or the priestly caste who were responsible for the Temple service. The destruction of the Temple never ceased to be a tragic event for the Jewish people.” (Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Arts)
A. God expected Israel to worship as He commanded.
All throughout the Old Testament we see God giving instructions on how they were to worship him. These instructions were specific. God gave the Israelites specific instructions for building the Tabernacle and the temple. He then gave specific instructions about how worship would be conducted in those places. When the Israelites failed to follow God’s instructions, God became very angry with them. We see an example in Hosea:
Hosea 8:1-6, “1'Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law. 2 Israel cries out to me, "O our God, we acknowledge you!" 3 But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him. 4 They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction. 5 Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria! My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of purity? 6 They are from Israel! This calf—a craftsman has made it; it is not God. It will be broken in pieces, that calf of Samaria.’”
From reading these passages we are made to understand that God had expectations of Israel. Israel did not meet God’s expectations nor were they obedient to His instructions. Finally, we see God’s displeasure with them.
There are several examples in the Bible of individuals who acted with a sincere heart, but were found to be sincerely wrong. They failed to adhere to the most important thing, namely, God’s law:
Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13:7-10)
1 Chronicles 13:7-10, “7 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and with trumpets. 9 When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it. 10 And theanger of the LORD burned against Uzza, so He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.”
Here was a man who never intended to do anything wrong. He did not purposefully set out to disobey God. God had commanded that no human hand be placed on the Ark of the Covenant. They were carrying the Ark in a wagon and the wagon tipped and threatened to turn over. Uzza, without thinking, reached up and put his hands on the Ark to keep it from falling. God took his life because he had disobeyed Him. His intentions were good. He was sincere in what he did, but it still cost him his life.
Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:1-2)
God commanded these two priests to offer a certain kind of fire on their altar. Being priests, they had no intention of displeasing God. They were sincere in what they did. They really did not think it would matter to God if they used another kind of fire. But it did! They offered a strange (different) fire before the Lord and fire came down from heaven and destroyed them.
The point of these two examples is that sincerity alone is not enough. God expects us to be sincere in our worship to Him, but He also expects us to do it as He has commanded. This being true, it is important for us to know what God expects of us in our worship to Him.
II. Worship in the New Testament
Since God had expectations of Israel to follow His instructions for worshipping, why do we think He would require any less of us? What makes us think God has given us the freedom to worship Him any way we please? In talking about the worship of the church, many in our society think that anything is okay as long as the worshipper is sincere. Some will tell you that God will accept any form of worship as long as it comes from a sincere heart. If this is true, then we do not need the Bible! We can just do whatever we want, as long as we are sincere, and God will accept it. Biblical history, and a close look at the New Testament, clearly proves that this thinking is wrong.
The Requirements for Acceptable Worship
God told the first century church how they were to worship Him. He never left it to their judgment or their feelings. This shows us the wisdom with which God instructed His people to worship Him. God knew that feelings change from one person to another. Some people exercise good judgment and others do not. How could God achieve any kind of unity and consistency in worship if He left the details up to the minds and judgment of man?
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well…
John 4:23-24, “23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Fatherseeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Jesus set two requirements for acceptable worship. It must be done in spirit and in truth. Let’s examine these two words to see what the Lord desires.
“In spirit.” Or “In Spirit.”
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the Gospel of John writes, “he (God: emphasis mine) is an infinite SPIRIT! This God can be pleased only with that which resembles himself: therefore he must hate sin and sinfulness; and can delight in those only who are made partakers of his own Divine nature. As all creatures were made by him, so all owe him obedience and reverence; but, to be acceptable to this infinite Spirit, the worship must be of a spiritual nature-must spring from the heart…he (the worshipper: emphasis mine) brings all his affections, appetites, and desires to the throne of God.”
God expects those who worship Him to put their all into the worship. We must give God the very best. Our worship must be with the right attitude/heart and consistence with His Spirit.
Desire, feeling, sincerity, and good intentions are not enough. When Christians worship God, it must be as He has instructed. What is truth? Jesus answers the question:
John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
If God’s word is truth, then to worship God in truth is to worship Him according to His word. It means we do not have the liberty to pick and choose the manner in which we will worship God. It must be done as He has instructed.
Jesus told the scribes and the Pharisees…
Matthew 15:7-9, “7 ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.””
The word “vain”, used in this verse, means worthless; of no value. If there is any verse in the Bible that teaches us that God will not accept just any kind of worship, it is this one. Were they attempting to worship God? Yes! Were they sincere? Probably! Was their worship acceptable? No! Why? Jesus said they were teaching things that came from men rather than God. What does He mean by traditions of men? When men decide how they think God should be worshipped, and when men decide what God wants them to do rather than following His word, and they do this over and over again, then it becomes a tradition. It is a tradition of man, because it did not come from God. God will only accept worship that is done in the manner He has given in his word. This is in truth!
The Day for Public Worship:
Worship was conducted on the first day of the week. Under the Law of Moses, the people of God, per His instructions, rested and worshipped on the Sabbath day. (Exodus 16:26; 20:8-11) When Christ came and died, and by His death, set the Law of Moses aside (Colossians 2:14), He gave the people a New Law. (Hebrews 8:6-10) Under this new law God’s people were required to gather and worship Him on the first day of the week. We know they were required because this is what they did.
The following are examples of the early Christians coming together on the first day of the week to worship:
Acts 20:7, “7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”
1 Corinthians 16:2, “2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
The first day was a significant day. It was the day…
Jesus rose from the dead, Mark 16:2, “Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.”
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9, “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.”
Jesus first showed Himself alive to his disciples, John 20:19, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
How do we know that the first day of the week is our Sunday? The word Sabbath means seventh. The seventh day of the week is Saturday. Therefore, the first day must be Sunday. Matthew tells us that the day following the Sabbath was the first day of the week, Matthew 28:1, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”
III. How Christians Today Are to Worship God
Just as God was very specific about how the Israelites were to worship Him, He is also very specific about how Christians are to worship Him today. God outlined in the Old Law the pattern of worship the Israelites were to follow. He has outlined in the New Testament the pattern of worship we are expected to follow today. In the chapters to follow we will look at the acts of worship God placed in His church.
Remember that it is possible to worship God in vain! Matthew 15:9. “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" The word “vain” means “of no real value; useless; unacceptable.” Jesus is saying it is possible to worship God in a way that is unacceptable; that is useless; that is of no real value. God does not accept any worship just because it is from a sincere heart. Instead, He expects us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Furthermore…
We are to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. Will God accept any less from us than He did with animal sacrifices? I think not. He wants our very best.
Once Jesus praised a poor widow, saying, “43 I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43,44)
Why did Jesus praise her? Not because she gave a great amount of money, but because she sacrificed and gave her best to God! God deserves our best when we worship Him. We need to come to services prepared to worship. Our bodies should be rested, our minds should be alert, and our attitudes should be one of reverence. We need to sing praises with our whole heart. We should open our hearts and bear our souls to Him in prayer. Our minds and spirits should join with His Spirit, and our hearts should shout His praise.
To fail to give God our best is to fail to worship Him in spirit. To fail to worship Him in spirit is to make our worship vain and unacceptable.
The Psalmist David shows us what the spirit of worship should be. The Psalms are a blueprint of worship attitudes. Look at the following:
Psalm 34:1-3, “1 I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always beon my lips. 2 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify the LORD with me; Let us exalt his name together.”
We need to graft the attitude of David onto our heart!
B. Our worship is vain when it is not in truth. In Matthew 15 Jesus is condemning the Pharisees because their worship was not in truth. The Pharisees were religious leaders of the Jews; yet, they traded the truth for their own traditions and teachings, and by doing so, made the commands of God of none affect and their worship meaningless.
We find many such examples in the Bible of people who have had the same misconception, that is, that God accepts any kind of worship so long as the worshipper is sincere. The Jews were guilty of feeling this way. Paul talks about them in Romans 10:2-3. “2For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Were these people sincere? Certainly! Were these people religious? Very! Did these people desire to worship their God? Absolutely! Was God pleased with their efforts? You judge for yourself. Listen to the words of Paul as he quotes Isaiah to them in verse 21, “21But concerning Israel he says, ’All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’” We know that God does not accept any disobedience. If the Jews were disobedient in their worship, then we know God did not accept their worship even though they worship Him zealously.
From this we learn that God will only accept worship that is done as He has directed!
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