In a famous broadcast to the United States, England’s Arch Bishop William Temple made a statement that he knew could be considered an outrageous statement. “This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse by one thing only,” he announced, “and that is worship.” We would love to be able to agree with Temple that worldwide worship would ultimately lead to worldwide peace. However it is so difficult to do because the earth is covered with monuments of man’s worship, some of which are contested prizes in bloody holy wars. There is no lack of worship in this world. The Japanese visit their various Shinto shrines, Indians their various Hindu temples, the Muslims make their pilgrimages to Mecca and Jews their Jerusalem. It was an exaggerated expression of worship that cost the followers of Jim Jones their lives in Guyana. In America growing religious bodies like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses rely on the religious zeal to expand their cause. Bizarre occultists gather yearly to celebrate various pagan festivals. There is no lack of worship in this world. Yet the Arch Bishop was not off his rocker to call for worship, especially with in the context of how he defines it. True worship can improve the hearts, souls and behavior of humanity. The Bible is very direct in defining the purpose of worship to be less in what is done for us than what we do for God. The disappointed church attendee who complains that they never get much out of the worship service betrays their own self centeredness. The truth is that it is not about me. We all would be wise to take to heart what one Christian leader has said, “My friend it makes very little difference what you get out of it. What is important in worship is what God gets out of it; it is Him who you are worshipping, not yourself.” Our English word worship comes from an Old Saxon word weorth-scipe, which means to ascribe worth and value to someone because we consider them to be worthy of honor or reverence. Today as we look at John’s vision of heavenly worship we will discover the essential nature of the earthly adoration of God presented. Today let’s discover the meaning of worship.
I. Here is the victorious Lord, who, having vanquished all other gods, now reigns on His throne high and lifted up.
A. The one on the throne is God Himself, and in His right hand He is holding a scroll.
1. In John’s day many books were written on scrolls, pieces of papyrus or vellum up to thirty feet long, rolled up and sealed with clay or wax.
2. In ancient times, papyrus rolls were used for public and private documents.
3. Upon the scroll is written His universal plan for the destiny of the world.
4. No one can reveal what is written on the scroll, it is secret and sealed up.
5. Only the one who is worthy can open the scroll.
B. A mighty angel shouts out a challenge for anyone to come forth who is "worthy" to open the great scroll and its seals.
1. Against this background, we conclude that, when John calls Jesus “the Root of David” in Revelation 5:5, he is identifying Jesus as the Messiah—and particularly a David-like warrior Messiah.
2. The Lamb has died; he has the marks of being slain on him. The Greek word here translated “slain” is sphazô, which is a technical term for being “slaughtered as a sacrifice.” John is here describing Christ as a sacrificial Lamb.
3. Christ alone, as the Messiah, is the executor of the purposes of God and the heir of the inheritance of the world. He obtained this by his substitutionary and propitiatory death on the cross.
4. Jesus is qualified to be the Judge by His infinite wisdom, by divine decree, by personal excellence, and by His work at Calvary. (John 5:22, 27)
5. Under the New Covenant Christ has the same worth as God ascribed to Him.
6. Christ is place above all dominions, powers and principalities. (Philippians 2:5-11)
C. From this passage we learn that ones God is whatever they find worthy of their total allegiance, what they are willing to sacrifice everything else for in order to preserve and honor.
1. We have no choice in the matter; we cannot live without an established order of values.
2. Whether we can easily explain our faith or not, we make daily decisions according to our established priorities.
3. Whatever is the first priority on our list is our god.
4. Man will worship. The only question is whom will it be?
II. Worship is doing everything in our power to please God from whom all blessings flow.
A. God’s word gives us record of how those who loved Christ best expressed their love for Him.
1. It makes perfect sense that we who love Him would imitate what they knew would please Him.
2. In both the O.T. and N.T. worship has the double meaning of both serving and prostrating one’s self.
3. One worships by kneeling before the Lord but also one worships by serving Him.
4. Prominent in worship were all kinds of music, including solos, anthems, shouting, dancing and processions.
5. Receiving the word of God through preaching, teaching or study is also considered worship.
6. A balance to this somewhat noisy adoration of God was encouraged through the practice of silent meditation.
B. Christians did not slavishly imitate the practices and rituals that they grew up with in the synagogue.
1. The new Christian faith was an outpouring of God’s spirit and could not be confined to any of the previously set limits.
2. Such new concepts as the personal fatherhood of God and Jesus being a personal Savior needed expressed.
3. The joy and enthusiasm about the forgiveness of sins, new life in Christ and eternal life was never meant to be kept quiet.
4. Quite simply put one could not keep new wine in the old wineskins.
III. Revelation 5 contains many of the aspects of public worship which is seen in the fact that praising God through prayer in song dominates the passage.
A. Music occupies an important place in Christian worship, for Christian faith pours it self out in laughter and singing.
1. In the earliest church the music and chants were very close to the customs of the synagogue.
2. Few details are given about music in the New Testament church but in the book of Revelation vocal and instrumental music is given an exalted place much like it is in the modern church.
3. Christians gather together because they just could not learn enough about Jesus.
4. Early Christians never grew bored of praising Him.
B. At the beginning Christians met together for daily community worship, but before the first century would end this yielded itself to one special day set aside for worship.
1. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity and he instructed his armies to have special devotional services on the Lord’s day and no public forms of entertainment was allowed that might profane the Lord’s day.
2. Justin Martyr records that by the middle of the second century that worship had become more liturgical.
a. Service began with Scripture reading.
b. The president of the assembly would deliver a sermon while seated on a chair.
c. The Lord’s Supper was the climatic act of reverence.
3. The informal spirit led worship that existed in the New Testament Church by the late second century would become more formal and structured.
C. In secular America, the Lord’s Day has lost most of its meaning even to many Christians.
1. It is probably good that civil law no longer demands that one observes the Lord’s Day because legislated worship is not really worship at all.
2. It is good that attending worship no longer advances one’s social standing or increases their chances to hold political office.
3. There can only be one reason to observe the Lord’s Day and that should be the fact that God is worth a special day.
IV. We need to commit ourselves to worship because Christ is worth it.
A. The truth is that heaven and earth and all that is within them is designed for the praise of Jesus Christ.
1. The whole book of Revelation deals with the subject of new things.
2. Jesus Christ brings into our lives qualities that never existed before, new joy, new excitement, new strength and new peace.
3. This way the Christian life needs to be characterized as being a lifestyle of worship.
4. Worship is the way that all those that have been redeemed by His blood express their thanksgiving.
B. Christianity is the only religion in the world that can truly be called an equal opportunity faith.
1. All Christians stand on level ground before the cross of Christ.
2. We all are sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
3. Other religions set up barriers between people.
a. The Hindu religion believes in the caste system.
b. Muslim men will not worship with Muslim women.
4. We often put barriers up in our own churches based on economic or social status and sometimes even race.
5. Christ alone abolishes all barriers and we should not ever try to rebuild walls that Christ has torn down.
In a recent magazine article, a pastor stated clearly the fact that at his best man longs to worship some power above him. And it is this capacity for worship which is the measure of man’s self-culture and the test of his character. It is the touchstone by which to test the ideal nature of the individual and the trend of a whole civilization. A man may be a source of beneficence, he may be a reservoir of practical social effort; he may through the power which he possesses, and therefore the influence which he wields, make himself the object of universal acclaim. And yet there is something intensely distorted in his character if he feels not by some impulse of humility the desire to worship the Maker, whose creation he is. For otherwise the deepest fact in his experience is not a sense of responsibility to a higher authority, but rather a complacent self-reliance and self-sufficiency. In every act of worship, however crude and mistaken, there was some liberating influence, through which man was led away from his egoism, and experienced the restraint to his power and the quickening inspiration to his stirring virtue. And today it is the same ability to acknowledge the existence of an Infinite Perfect--beside whom our brightest virtues pale, and to whom we stretch out our hands in reverence and worship--that is the salt that protects the health of the soul and gives to life an unfailing, because a never completely realized, purpose.