Sermons

Summary: A consideration of the role of worship in salvation, focusing especially on how we worship.

“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” [1]

Jonathan Aigner writes of a comment he received as result of a blog post. The commenter wrote, “I have tried to avoid God my whole life. I wouldn’t know a traditional hymn from a modernized hymn. I’ve never even stepped foot into a church … until this past Sunday. The people on stage sang a song by David Crowder, and I began to feel the very presence of God. It was like nothing I ever felt before. Tears streamed down my eyes and right then, I bowed down and made a decision to surrender my life to Jesus. I ask you a simple question … wasn’t David Crowder’s song—guitars, modernized lyrics and all—worth being written and sang that way? “The writer then signed the note, The person next to you in the pew. [2]

The writer of this particular note was no doubt sincere. Whoever this individual was, he or she undoubtedly believed that experience trumped what is presented in the Word. Truthfully, what is written in this note reflects the prevailing attitude of our world. It is an attitude that has occasioned unimaginable changes in society and has even managed to transform the churches. However, the transformation witnessed has not always been for the best.

A significant problem contributing to the transformations that have taken place among the churches is that few modern Christians have thought through the issue of what worship is and what it is not. Part of the reason for this is that many Christians are unable to define the purpose of worship. Why do we worship? Why do we come together? And why do we call what we do during that time a “worship service?”

WORSHIP AMONG THE FIRST CHURCHES — “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” [1 CORINTHIANS 14:20-25].

Let’s join the worship at New Beginnings Baptist Church in Corinth. The saints have gathered early on a Sunday morning. Quiet reverence is evident among the worshippers as people come into the house where the meeting will be conducted. As the believers enter, they exchange quiet greetings before bowing in silent prayer. There is an air of anticipation as the elders take their place before the worshippers. It is not quite light outside as one elder begins to read the words of Scripture—sometimes a letter written by Paul, or one of Peter’s missives and or yet again one of the letters written by John. At almost every service the words of one of the Evangelists will be read. At yet other times, a passage from the Old Testament will be read. The lector continues reading until the particular letter is completed. If one of the Gospels is being read, the reading will continue until the reader reaches an appropriate stopping point with the intent of continuing the reading the following week until the account has been fully read aloud. A similar plan is employed when the lector reads the Old Testament books.

When the reading of the Word is completed, the pastor stands to admonish worshippers, urging imitation of the truths that have been disclosed through the reading of Scripture. Perhaps one or two other elders will provide exposition of the same passages after the pastor has finished his exposition. The exhortation continues until a full exposition of the particular Scripture that was read is provided. The exhortations are referred to as prophesying.

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