Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What do you think of when you ponder the word, "worship"?  When I think about it, my mind goes back to my childhood.  My parents took me to a huge old church in downtown Quebec City.  Just walking through the massive oak doors inspired awe within me.  The sanctuary was decorated with stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, with the names of donors who had died inscribed beneath each window.  The organ shone against the dark mahogany.  People spoke in a whisper.  Truly God was there, I thought.

When our children were young, we'd get them all dressed up to go to church.  We taught them that Sunday meetings were special, and that there was to be an attitude of reverence when we walked through the doors on Sunday morning.  After all, we were in God's House.  (If you click the link you'll see that referring to church as God's House is unwise.)

But what does the Word of God say about Christians gathering?  What does it say about worship?

Murray Campbell, a pastor from Australia, explains it well:

There are three main word-groups the Bible uses which we sometimes translate as worship:
1) The Greek word most commonly translated to worship is proskynein. This word speaks of homage or grateful submission. It literally refers to physically prostrating oneself before God or kissing his feet. This word occurs 288 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament this word mainly means a literal prostration, bowing the knee, rather than a metaphorical bowing. 
2) Another word group often translated as worship is latreuein, meaning to serve. This service is to God, and is often expressed through serving God’s people. Thus, you serve God by serving his people. 
3) Worship as reverence or respect (sebomai). This reverence or fear of God is essentially a matter of walking in His ways and keeping His commandments.
The word "worship", proskynein, to approach and fall down before someone, kissing his feet or the ground, is NEVER used in connection with Christians gathering.  It is used in the gospels, and in Revelation, but it is never given as a command to Christians.  It is only used twice in Acts and the epistles.  In one instance in Acts, it is Cornelius, an unbeliever, who falls down and worships.  In the other instance it is the Patriarch Jacob who is referred to in Hebrews as worshiping God.

As the church expands in the Acts of the Apostles, there is no mention of worship.  In the epistles, there are no instructions to the churches on how to worship.  

Why not?  Why would the word "worship" not be used?

It is very clear that something has changed drastically at the end of the gospels.

Take the time to read the story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria.  It was unusual that Jesus decided to take a shortcut through Samaria.  The Samaritans were half-breeds, looked upon with disdain by Jews.  They weren't allowed to come to Jerusalem to worship, so they set up their own worship center on Mount Gerazim.  

Jesus engaged in a long conversation with this woman, gradually revealing who He was.  He told her, "You worship what you do not know."  He insisted, "True worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.  

Something was going to drastically change.

Jesus told her that the hour was coming and was now here...

 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Something was changing.

What hour was Jesus talking about?

The hour of His death.  

Something drastically changed at that hour.

The temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.  The entire Old Covenant system of sacrifice was wiped out.  Christ fulfilled it all.

All of a sudden, location didn't matter.  The temple in Jerusalem wasn't important.  The altar on Mount Gerazim was insignificant.

True worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth, no matter where they were.  

The reason?  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is the propitiation for our sin.

Hebrews tells us that He is the Ultimate Revelation from God.

  • the better priest
  • the better sacrifice
All of a sudden, we can worship wherever we are!   We don't need to go through a priest.  We don't need to go to a temple.  We have the confidence to boldly approach the throne of Grace.  We've become a kingdom of priests with access to God.  There are no more earthly holy places.  Wherever we go, Christ is with us.  The Holy Spirit indwells us.  

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For  God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

In the Gospels and Revelation, Christ is physically present.  It is entirely appropriate that believers would bow down and worship Him.  

But see the difference?  Now He is not physically present with us, so we don't bow down and worship Him.  He indwells us!  He is in us.  It's a mystery, and it's amazing.

Colossians 1 . . . the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are  the riches of the glory of  this mystery, which is Christ in you,  the hope of glory. 
Next post I will explain what it is that Christians are to do when they gather, according to the New Testament.  This post is taken from my notes on the sermon preached by Hugh Manary at GTCC last Sunday.

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