Summary: #4 of 7 on Worship. This looks at a traditional Church of Christ doctrine on the "Five Acts of Worship"
In Spirit and In Truth
A Series on Worship
#4: Acts of Worship
We’re going to start off with a game: "Who Wants to be a Worshiper?" The first question reviews something we saw several weeks ago:
Q. How many times does the Bible use one of the words for "worship" to describe a Christian assembly?
Q. How many times does the New Testament refer to a worship service?
(The Bible never says that the purpose for Christians coming together is for worship. And it never talks about a worship service.)
Q. How many acts of worship does the Bible say must be performed every Sunday?
(The operative word is "say." While we can follow the example of the early Christians in doing certain things, the Bible never specifically says that we have to do these things every Sunday)
Q. Which of these is not seen in the New Testament as part of a Christian assembly: fasting, church discipline, eating together, speaking in tongues?
A. This was a trick question. They are all portrayed as a normal part of a Christian assembly in the New Testament. Now I do feel that some of them do not have a place here today, but I want to broaden your minds a little bit. I want you to see that things were done in the assembly in the New Testament that aren’t always done today.
This is the fourth in a series of lessons about worship. Today we are studying "Acts of Worship." Let’s start off looking at the Bible.
In the Old Testament:
God established certain rituals to be used in worship. Unfortunately, the people came to focus on the ritual and not the relationship. They thought, "If I go and sacrifice and tithe and do all the feasts, then I’m right with God."
Look at Jeremiah 7:21-23--
21 “‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.
God is saying, "When I brought you out of Egypt, the first thing I said was not about sacrifices. It was about our relationship, that you would be my people and I would be your God. Sacrifices are a means to an end, not the end itself."
Let’s look at Micah 6:6-8
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
We have this concept that the Old Testament was all about ritual and that theirs was a physical religion. Yet you read these passages and you see that God wanted their hearts and not just their rituals.
• We run the risk of replacing one ritual-focused worship with another. Shall we perpetuate the errors of God’s people of old? We can’t just focus on rituals. We have to look beyond the externals. We can’t tell people: “Come, do these five acts and you will have done worship.” That can’t be our message to the world.
• We have created something called “the worship service.”
• This “worship service” has a definite beginning and a definite end. When you enter this building, in our religion that we have created, we aren’t worshiping until somebody comes up here in front. Then the "worship" starts. Then we have a closing prayer, and "worship" is over. Can you find that in the Bible? Can you find anything remotely similar to that in the Bible?
• We have arbitrarily chosen acts that have to be done every week in this worship service. This is our invention, not God’s. We did this. If you look in God’s book, it’s not there.
What does the New Testament say about acts of worship?
There is only one New Testament passage that uses the phrase "act of worship":
Romans 12:1--"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship."