Thrust Statement: Worship is one’s way of life twenty-four hours a day.

 

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-2; James 1:26-27; Philippians 3:3

 

 

            Those who worship the Creator often misunderstand worship. Worship is something that belongs only to God and to God alone. But the question that puzzles and divides God’s people is, what is worship? Another question that confronts many sincere Christians has to do with the time frame of worship. In other words, when does an individual worship God?  Generally, worship is limited to something performed within a certain geographical location or a set time. For the average believer, especially within the Churches of Christ, worship is restricted to rituals executed on Sunday morning between the hours of 10am and 11am. Worship is not normally associated with one’s attitude of reverence toward the Creator outside the local assembly on Sunday morning. One’s submission to the Father, in and of itself, is not commonly spoken of as worship; that is to say, worship is confined to the five acts carried out on Sunday morning.

 

            This paper seeks to help promote unity among congregations that are presently divided over the subject of worship. Most of the divisions within the Churches of Christ are over the so-called worship service. Worship for many Christians consists of five customs implemented on Sunday morning. This philosophy of worship does not stop with just five acts, but these five acts are to be performed in a prescribed manner in order for worship to be “in Spirit and in truth.”

 

WORSHIP: FIVE ACTS

 

            Among many Christians, the predominant theory of worship is generally associated with five acts—singing, praying, preaching, giving, and the Lord’s Supper—exhibited on Sunday morning.[1] This philosophy is only a small part of the misconceptions that exist within the twenty-five or more divisions within the Churches of Christ over an understanding of the word worship. Churches are divided over the use of wine versus grape juice, bread-breaking versus bread-pinching, acappella versus instrumental music (vocal versus accompanied by mechanical music), and so on. If one drinks wine in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, according to some believers, one’s worship is in vain.

 

With others, if one breaks the bread into two or more pieces, then the congregation’s worship is in vain. Still others demand that the singing be without instrumental accompaniment, otherwise the worship is in vain. A definite pattern appears to be the focal point of many gatherings. In addition to these five undertakings, some congregations, especially the one-cup and non-Sunday school fellowship, maintain an “order of worship” pattern. This belief system interprets Acts 2:42 as a legal binding system concerning the exact sequence the five acts are to be performed.[2]

 

In other words, one cannot pray in the initial state of the gathering since “prayers” are mentioned last in the four specific acts to be carried out during the so-called worship service. Churches have split over this sequence. In their interpretation of Acts 2:42, it would be wrong to have the Lord’s Supper before preaching, since preaching (apostles’ doctrine) is mentioned in numerical sequence as number one.  Is worship simply going through certain ceremonials with a predetermined pattern? Does worship consist of five acts or five expressions executed on Sunday morning? To many sincere Christians, this participation in the five acts is what worship represents.

 

As a result of this viewpoint of  “pattern” worship,[3] many Christians will not fellowship other Christians when their customs do not coincide with their particular practice. Some Churches of Christ[4] make it a habit to inquire about the particular Church of Christ one attends. Why? The reason is that one must be sure that one is worshipping God “in spirit and truth,”[5] that is to say, according to a certain interpretative community. In order to be faithful, according to some believers, one must associate with a particular brand of orthodoxy in order for one to be considered “faithful” in the sight of God.

 

Christians are divided over methods adopted in the performance of certain rituals rather than reverence or devotion to God, which is what true worship is all about. Believers are splintered over the solidified thinking concerning the exact pattern to be carried out in the performance of five ritualistic acts. The question is: Is there a specific paradigm or model for a worship service authorized by God for His children on Sunday morning as is commonly practiced by Christians, especially within the Churches of Christ? Does the New Testament ever define worship? It is in this vein that William Law (1686-1761) points to the fact that the New Testament never defines worship:

 

It is very observable, that there is not one command in all the Gospel for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never so much as mentioned in all the New Testament. Whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture.[6]

 

                        The various warring factions that presently exist, almost without exception, within the Churches of Christ are over things that God has not legislated—one way or the other. Whether one prefers one cup or multiple cups in the Lord’s Supper, one loaf or multiple loaves in the Lord’s Supper, singing with an instrument or without an instrument in the corporate gathering, Sunday school or non-Sunday school in the study of Holy Scripture, grape juice or wine in the communion, breaking the bread or pinching the bread in the distribution of the loaf, and so on, one has not violated any Scripture if he/she chooses one particular method to participate in, that is to say, one methodology in preference to another.

 

WORSHIP: WHAT IS IT?

 

If someone were to ask you to describe worship, how would you explain it? If someone were to inquire as to when or where worship takes place, how would you respond?  In seeking an answer to these questions, one must also seek answers to other questions. For instance, (1) Is worship regulated to a specific geographical location? and (2) Is worship confined to a precise time frame? The general consensus about worship today is that it takes place on Sunday morning between the hours of 10 am and 11pm (or whatever time frame the congregations chooses to meet for its so-called worship service). But one cannot help but wonder if this is an accurate description of New Testament worship. Is worship like a faucet that one cuts on and off at will? Is worship something that one performs once a week?

 

Is participation in one of the five acts—preaching, singing, praying, giving, and breaking bread—concrete extensions of one’s true worship? Is one a genuine worshiper of God when one is not involved in one of these five rituals performed on Sunday morning? Are these ceremonial procedures, in and of themselves, the true worship prescribed by God?  How does one justify calling preaching worship? Does not one preach because he/she is a worshiper of God? Preaching is a proclamation of proclaiming God’s way of salvation through Jesus. It is not uncommon for many Christians to identify preaching as one of the so-called acts of worship to be performed on Sunday morning. Does the New Testament ever speak of a “worship service” or does it ever speak of “going to worship”?  Or does it ever speak of “preaching” as worship?

 

Why do Christians come together on Sundays?  R. L. (Pat) Kilpatrick, editor of Ensign, goes right to the heart of the purpose of assembling on Sundays:

 

He didn’t say one single word about performing a Sunday a.m. ritual . . . .  I have come to the conclusion that God never gave any such instructions to the church, that it is not taught in the Bible, that there is not a single instance where God, an apostle, or any inspired writer ever instructed the church to come together to perform a worship service. A corporate form of worship is not taught in the Bible. There are a number of instances where the Christian community assembled, for a variety of reasons, but never for the express purpose of engaging in items of worship. We are instructed to meet together to “exhort one another to love and good works,” for mutual edification, to encourage, to admonish, to take care of brotherhood problems (like the man who married his father’s wife, taking brethren to law, resolving the Gentile question (Acts 15), and a number of other reasons, but never to perform public (corporate) “acts” which we call “worship.”[7]

 

If Christians can arrive at a correct interpretation of worship, then this understanding should rescue believers from a sterile, barren, fruitless, and infertile life in Jesus. Furthermore, a resolution to the above queries should expedite the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).    

 

A Worship Service Is Not Defined in the New Testament

 

As stated above, worship is never defined in the New Testament. The closest thing that one can find is Romans 12:1-2 and James 1:26-27. Worship in the new humanity of God is never associated with a so-called worship service, but worship is identified with how one presents his/her body to the Lord. From the above Scripture citations, it is associated with one’s behavior toward widows, orphans, and rejection of the world in its antagonism against God. In the New Testament, worship is never clearly defined, except in relationship to others and one’s relationship to the world. These two Scriptures paint a picture of true worship for the new covenant people of God. Again, these citations are found in James 1:26-27 and Romans 12:1-2.

 

One quickly discovers that worship for Christians in the New Testament is never identified with a prearranged period of time; nor is worship identified with a preset arrangement of an ordered ceremony or ritual. If worship is not defined, then what is it? The best way to determine the meaning of the word worship is to observe how the Holy Spirit employs certain expressions to capture the essence of what worship is all about.[8] As stated above, William Law calls attention to the fact that the New Testament never defines worship. Law’s emphasis is upon a public worship service. In other words, God does not define worship as public, but personal.  Another scholar that is quite well known today is also called forth to give credence to what Law himself says about worship. This scholar is none other than W. E. Vine. He, in my judgment, rightly perceives this particular point:

 

Notes: (1) The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgment to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgment. (2) In Acts 17:25 t&erapeuw, “to serve, do service to” (so RV), is rendered “is worshiped.” See CURE, HEAL.[9]

 

TRUE WORSHIP IS ONE’S RESPONSE TO GOD

Again, What is worship? Perhaps, the best way to describe worship is to speak of worship as one’s response to God because of His nature, His attributes, His ways, and His claims upon each individual.  Also, one worships God because His redemption provides a way for sinful humanity to escape from His wrath, from the dominion of sin, from His Law, and from condemnation. This salvation results in one’s honoring and serving God, which is the essence of worship. One’s response in worship is very similar to what John says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We worship because He loves us. Within every believer there is an outgoing heart of praise and thanksgiving for all His blessings. Worship not only includes homage given to God, but it also involves service rendered to God.

 

Repentance and Baptism Is the Beginning of

True Worship for the Believer

 

The believer begins his worship by submitting to baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). Hughes Oliphant Old is perfectly correct when he says, “Baptism is a prophetic sign at the beginning of the Christian life that we belong to the people of God. It is our entrance into the church.”[10] Paul expresses it this way: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Peter in response to the penitents on the day of Pentecost answers their request about salvation this way: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).

 

Both Paul and Peter associate the Holy Spirit with baptism. One cannot help but wonder if the Holy Spirit is not the subject of Jesus’ response to the woman of Samaria about worship. When Jesus speaks of worship that is  “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), Is He not speaking of the Holy Spirit? Should the word spirit be translated as Spirit, that is to say, the Holy Spirit? This aspect of “spirit” will be explored later in a more detailed exposition of this passage.

 

True Worship Is a Way of Life

As observed above, one’s way of living is an outward manifestation of his/her worship. Worship must above all serve the glory of God. For every believer, Christian worship is Spirit-filled. It involves every area of one’s life, not just Sunday morning. Worship is an extension of one’s life. In other words, praying, singing, giving, breaking bread, and teaching are expressions of worship (private or corporate), that is to say, an extension of dedication in one’s daily walk with God. When believers assemble as a corporate body to sing, to pray, to give, to teach, to break bread, or to exhort, these activities are simply a capsulation of what has already taken place during the week.

 

The correct attitude of the heart is not something new within the Messianic age. What is new about worship for the Christian is that all worship in the now age is through Jesus and the Holy Spirit; in other words, true worship is “in Spirit and truth.” Worship in the eschatological age still requires right ethical behavior—not the performance of a set of prearranged rituals for a public worship service. God’s children are saved by grace in order to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). As one reflects upon the distinction between the ritualistic worship of the Jews and the worship of Christians, there is a division that is quite apparent.

 

OLD TESTAMENT WORSHIP AND HOLINESS

 

The Jews worshipped in a specific geographical location and performed their rituals according to the pattern set forth by God to Moses on the Mount. But, for the believer in Jesus, worship is “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The worship in the Messianic age is within the sphere of the Holy Spirit. Paul expresses it this way: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). One cannot help but wonder, Are Jesus and Paul saying, “all worship must be through the Messiah by means of the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit in the birth from above”?

 

Amos and True Worship

When one reflects upon the expressions “true worship,” or “in spirit and in truth,” one must interpret the phrases in light of the author’s intended purpose. As far back as the eighth century (760 BCE), the prophet Amos insisted that true (genuine) worship must be accompanied with their sacrifices; for Amos, participation in the prescribed rituals in the Temple must be accompanied by a holy life. Although the Jews performed certain rituals, nevertheless, their worship still had to come from a people whose lives were consecrated to God. This consecration to God demands ethical behavior—even when offering animal sacrifices commanded by God. For instance, Amos discloses God’s revulsion of their religious feasts, their sacred assemblies, their burnt and grain offerings, and their music. He writes:

 

21 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts;

                           I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,

                  I will not accept them.

            Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,

                  I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!

                  I will not listen to the music of your harps.

24 But let justice roll on like a river,

                           righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24).

 

With these stinging words from God, He announces His displeasure with Israel. The Lord enumerates the frequent evils in His complaint against a callous people: (1) mistreatment of the poor, (2) indulgence of the rich, (3) bribery in the judicial system, (4) sexual promiscuity, (4) high interest rates, and (5) tyrannical taxes. God went right to the religious dishonesty of the children of Israel. There has never been a time in which sincerity of worship and holiness of life did not belong together. These two concepts are wedded to each other; they belong together; they must be one composition.

 

Worship: John 4:24

It is not uncommon for Christians to cite John 4:24 to advance the notion that worship for the believer must be in sincerity and genuineness. Thus, many believers labor under the impression that John 4:24 is advancing a new notion about worship that was not true with a sacrificial worship in the Temple. But, the central question is: Has there ever been a time in which sincerity and genuineness was not prerequisites in worship—old economy or new economy? Is Jesus advocating a new kind of worship that is to be performed that previously did not include genuine love, deep-heart-felt praise and adoration? Did Jesus introduce a new concept of worship, which simply changed the forms?

 

Did not God require worship in Israel to be true, genuine, sincere, unfeigned, authentic, and so on—even with their rituals? What is the contrast in John 4:24? This Scripture is cited by many well-meaning Christians to justify separation from other believers over the so-called five acts of worship performed on Sunday morning. In other words, the worship of God, according to some, simply changed rituals—from animal sacrifices to five rituals to be carried out in a prescribed manner during the one hour on Sunday morning—usually between the hours of 9am and 10am.

 

Isaiah and True Worship

Just as Amos addresses God’s concern about ethical behavior in conjunction with their prescribed rituals in the Tabernacle, so Isaiah (739 BCE) also addresses the children of Israel concerning ethical behavior with true worship “according to the pattern” presented to Moses on the Mount. His theology is similar to that espoused by Amos. Isaiah, too, goes right to the heart of the dichotomy between their external behavior and their external acts of devotion:

 

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,

                   I will hide my eyes from you;

                  even if you offer many prayers,

                   I will not listen.

                  Your hands are full of blood;

16 wash and make yourselves clean.

                  Take your evil deeds

                  out of my sight!

Stop doing wrong,

17 learn to do right!

                  Seek justice,

                  encourage the oppressed.

Defend the cause of the fatherless,

                           plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:15-17).

 

When one ponders the nature of true worship, one automatically makes inquiries about what really and truly constitutes authentic worship. Is true worship simply going through certain rituals? The prophets for Israel answer in the negative. Worship is more than simply performing certain rituals commanded by God. Isaiah wants the children of Israel to understand that bona fide worship involves not only devotion to God but also service to his/her fellowman. In other words, worship that is acceptable to God is both vertical and horizontal. As Isaiah nears the end of his book, God reveals to him the true nature of His worshipers. Listen to Isaiah as he unfolds God’s revelation concerning what really pleases Him:

 

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

                 to loose the chains of injustice

                 and untie the cords of the yoke,

                 to set the oppressed free

                 and break every yoke?

                        7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

                 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe him,

  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (58:6-7).

 

These words of Isaiah are very similar to the words of Jesus in His denunciation of the religious leaders in Israel (Matthew 25:31-48). Even in Jesus’ day, the Jews, as a whole, did not understand the nature of true worship. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He went to the very core of true worship that is pleasing to God. His sermon is a classic illustration of what genuine worship is all about. Jesus calls attention to the ethical behavior of the religious leaders:

 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

 

As one reads the Sermon on the Mount, one quickly discovers that Jesus is dealing with acts (deeds) that are pleasing to God and acts that are not pleasing to God. If one adheres to the teachings of Jesus in His now famous sermon, then one is presenting his/her body as a living sacrifice to God, which is one’s spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). Some Christians want to confine worship to five acts performed on Sunday morning rather than to one’s way of life twenty-four hours a day. In the Messianic age, Christ has not assigned five prescribed rituals for worship, but rather one’s way of life. Unlike the Jewish age under the Law of Moses, there are no prescribed rituals for worship.

 

The issue of concern among many within the Churches of Christ is over five acts indulged in on Sunday morning. For example, Gary Workman seems to speak of regulated acts performed on Sunday morning as the divine pattern to be carried out by Christians when they assemble for corporate acts of worship. He bemoans the current trend to regard worship as a way of life rather than confinement to the church building during certain hours. He writes:

 

It is wrong to speak of “the attitude of worship” as if worship itself were only an attitude. Worship is an act. And it is therefore correct to speak of “the acts of worship,” regardless of what some modern dissenters have to say. Nor is an act of worship confined to emotional and mental activity.[11]

 

One cannot find fault with the above statement, in and of itself. Worship is an attitude, but it is more than that. Worship involves acts on the part of the worshipper. But the question that confronts the Christian community is: “What are these acts?” It is true that one’s attitude and one’s acts must coincide in regard to one’s worship. But is worship related to five acts performed on Sunday morning? It appears that the thrust of Gary’s article is dealing with a regulated “worship service.”  According to Workman, this kind of worship “has a starting place and a stopping place,”[12] which he calls “the acts of worship.”

 

Wayne Jackson, another patternist, in the same vein of thought concerning a public worship service, reminds his readers: “God does not, and never has, sanctioned unregulated worship.”[13] One cannot detect weakness, in and of itself, in his statement concerning an “unregulated worship.”  There must be order in any assembly (1 Corinthians 14:26-32). The problem is not with “unregulated worship,” but his application of a “regulated” worship service with its five rituals. This statement of Jackson, too, has overtones of a so-called worship service performed on Sunday morning.

 

It is true that God does regulate acts of worship (Romans 12:1-2), and He does regulate activities when Christians assemble to exhort and encourage one another through prayers, songs, readings, and table fellowship (1 Corinthians 14:26-32), but these acts   should not be confused with true worship. The acts of worship, according to Paul, have to do with holiness, that is to say, ethical behavior. In other words, these acts involve demeanor that glorifies God. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). This dedication of one’s life is true worship.

 

Paul encourages Christians to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Colossians 3:16). Christians are not only to allow the word of Christ to dwell in them while singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but they are to let every deed or act be performed “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Even submission of wives to their husbands and husbands loving their wives and children obeying their parents and servants obeying their masters should be carried out in the name of Jesus. The question is not that God has not commanded His people to worship Him. But the question is: Has God ordained a “worship service,” which consist of five acts performed on Sunday morning according to a specific pattern. This is the driving question among so many equally God-fearing men and women. Again, Has God ordained a ritualistic service of five acts for the Messianic age?

 

The big question still remains: What is worship? Just how does one express his/her worship? Is worship something that is reserved for a corporate body of believers one hour a week? Is that one-hour time frame the biblical concept of worship? Is worship tunneled through five acts performed on Sunday morning? Or is one’s way of life in devotion to God one’s worship in the Messianic age? Is worship for the Christian simply long-established rituals? In other words, once an individual executes his/her five acts, then one is no longer worshipping God until the following Sunday.

 

The worship of Israel centered on the Tabernacle, which had to be “according to the pattern” shown to Moses on the Mount (Hebrews 8:5). But for Christians, God has ordained that one’s way of life be in conformity to ethical behavior that honors Him. The Christian’s pattern is Jesus, not five ritualistic acts performed between 9am and 10am on Sunday. One is not denying that individuals are to worship God. It is not without notice that God created His creatures to worship Him. God’s desires for worship are illustrated in His encounter with Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Messianic age, the believer presents his/her body as a living sacrifice, which is one’s spiritual act of worship. It is true that God gave to Moses certain rituals associated with the Tabernacle, but for the Christian, his/her worship is strictly associated with one’s way of life, not with rituals that consist of five acts performed on Sunday morning.

 

For an example of God’s desire for worship, one should consider the first four commandments recorded in Exodus, which concerns worship. The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (20:3).  It is in this same vein that Jesus also says that the first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). And, again He says, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (22:39-40). The point is that one’s worship, one’s devotion, and one’s ardent love are to be directed toward God rather than toward oneself. 

 

WORSHIP VERSUS CEREMONY

Today, it is not uncommon for Christians to confuse worship with ceremony. This essay does not employ ritual with negative overtones. The word ritual, in and of itself, is not a bad word. Even though this word does convey to many believers something that is void of meaning, nevertheless, this connotation does not have to be. For instance, since God commanded certain acts to be implemented in Israel, one cannot condemn the performance of deeds or formal procedures. But what one can criticize is the discharge of one’s behavior without a sincere and genuine heart of praise toward God. The execution of behavior without adoration for God is like giving food to the poor, or giving one’s body to be burned without love (see 1 Corinthians 13). God, through Moses, did prescribe the performance of certain rituals, but, in the carrying out of these rituals, God still required ethical behavior. The Jews could not divorce ethical behavior from the prescribed rituals and please God.

 

BLUEPRINT ON THE MOUNT

Just as the Jewish people were given a blueprint on the Mount, so, too, many Christians believe that God has given to the Christian community another set of plans or formal procedures to be carried out in a certain manner in order for the practice to be called “true worship.” In other words, many Christians still associate worship with five acts—preaching, singing, praying, communing (Lord’s Supper), and giving—performed on Sunday morning. Within the Churches of Christ, many members have substituted the pattern on the Mount for another pattern consisting of five rituals performed in a prescribed manner on Sunday morning. 

 

The arguments advanced for this belief are fragile. One cannot help but wonder about other activities that the early Christians participated in when they came together as a collective body. For example: (1) reading, and (2) exhortation. Paul encourages Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Three acts are enumerated by Paul—reading, preaching, and teaching. Paul’s letter to the believers at Colossae also encourages the public reading of the word: “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Again, one observes in the Hebrews letter the following exhortation: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 

Is this encouragement another prescribed act of worship? How often do churches practice this activity? How often do Christians encourage one another in their daily walk with God during the so-called worship service? Just a perusal of these passages reveals that these admonitions apply equally to the individual as well as to the corporate body. What is done on Sunday is simply a capsulation of what is carried out during the week. All of the above events are extensions of one’s dedication or daily walk with God. None of the above activities—reading, preaching, teaching, and encouraging—are described as acts of worship. Christians participate in these activities because they are worshipers of God.

 

Worship in the eschatological age is more than just the performance of certain rituals engaged in on Sunday mornings. True worship is a way of life that involves Jesus and the Holy Spirit. True worship is not only sincere and genuine, but true worship also involves acts of obedience to the teachings of Jesus (see the Sermon on the Mount)—not just singing, praying, giving, breaking bread, and preaching. Today, Christians assemble to sing, to pray, to give, to break bread, to preach, to teach, to read, and to encourage one another because they are worshipers of Yahweh in and through Jesus.

 

As Christians participate in the above acts, there are invariably expressions of worship and praise directed to God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ. The issue is not that the practices performed are not praise or worship directed toward God, but the point is: Has God ordained a specific order or pattern to be followed when Christians come together to exhort and to encourage one another. When Yahweh gave the Law on Mount Sinai, He did institute some basic guidelines for ritual worship. The Tabernacle and animal sacrifices prefigured the coming of Christ. Everything in the Tabernacle had to be exact—no deviations (see Hebrews 8-10). But even in these rituals, Israel did not seem to understand fully the purpose of the liturgies. These liturgies were to exalt the holy nature of God and foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus the Messiah.

 

The five acts—as they are sometimes called—are not called worship in the New Testament. The gathering of Christians on Sunday morning is never referred to as worship. The gatherings had more to do with their encouraging and strengthening one another in the faith than worship in the traditional concept. Mike Root correctly points out:

 

When we read passages in the New Testament that refer to Christians assembling together, we impose our erroneous viewpoint and say, “See, they’re coming together to worship!” That statement is true if you mean it as an extension of their living worship, but it is false if you mean they were meeting to do something that only happened when they were together. In the New Testament they never mentioned “going to worship.” They would not know what we are talking about because they were “offering uninterrupted worship.”[14]

 

All activities are done to the glory of the One whom all believers serve. The book of Revelation reveals the true nature of worship: “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever (Revelation 4:9-10). Today, as Root forcefully states: “Our religion has become a performance or a series of acts that have become the object of our worship instead of pointing us to the object of our worship.”[15]

 

True worship is not in fleshly or carnal customs. Rather, it is the opposite of liturgy, form, and ceremony. Genuine worship is being able to pray “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). The Hebrews author describes true worship: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship (latreuvwmen, latreuwmen, “we might [may] serve”) God acceptably with reverence (eujlabeiva", eulabeias) and awe (devou", deous, “fear”), for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28). The King James renders this verse: “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve (latreuvwmen, latreuwmen) God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”[16] The NIV translates the Greek word (latreuvw, latreuw) as “worship,” but the KJV translates the Greek word as “serve.” When one worships God, one serves God.

 

A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE TRADITIONAL

FIVE ACTS OF WORSHIP

 

My uncle, E. H. Miller, taught me the concept of five acts of worship and five steps to salvation in 1951. But this mindset about a prescribed worship service with its five acts did not originate with my uncle. Another famous preacher and teacher, N. B. Hardeman, also advanced this philosophy in his debate with Boswell in 1923. This understanding of worship has created divisions within the various fellowships known as the Churches of Christ. Christians have divided over instrumental music, individual communion cups, Sunday school, bread breaking, bread pinching, grape juice, wine, and so on. These controversies center around one thing—the five acts of worship and the precise manner these five acts are to be performed.

 

Hardeman, in his debate with Boswell, set forth this philosophy of a so-called worship service with its five acts—one of which excludes instrumental music. In order to stress his objection to instrumental music, he says to Boswell:

 

Name one item, therefore, in the acts of worship presented to-night, and if there be not a “Thus saith the Lord” for that act of public worship of the church of God I want to drop it. I want to occupy no ground that all my brethren cannot stand upon. . . . Whenever a man departs from the gospel of Christ and “Thus saith the Lord” for acts of worship, the end of it is to drift toward infidelity and skepticism of various kinds (emphasis mine--RDB).[17]

 

One also discovers, in the reading of this debate, that Boswell was a child of his times. He, too, never understood that God had not ordained a ritualistic worship service with its five acts for His Messianic community.

 

In 1976, Rubel Shelly and Dwaine Dunning debated one of the acts of worship—as it is generally referred to. This debate discussed the use of the instrument in praise to God in the so-called public worship of the church. But in this debate, Dunning set forth a novel ideal among those within the Stone/Campbell movement. Dunning questioned the traditional concept of a regulated worship service with its five acts. The amount of time and space taken here to cite Dunning’s new concept about worship is easily justifiable. One should give special attention to his words:

 

What I want to say at this time is going to be pretty hard for a lot of you to understand. I know because it took me six months of constant wrestling with the word of God before I realized that the key term in this debate is the term, “worship.” Never once has God referred either to instrumental music as unauthorized worship or to singing as authorized worship. Now, as I’m sure most everybody in this room knows, the various groups in this battered, scattered, tattered Restoration Movement, that most of us are part of, have ever since the days of great old evangelist of long years past, generations past, made use of a plan of salvation; and I suppose that when, something over a hundred years ago, conflict arose on the subject of worship that it would sooner or later occur to somebody to put together a “plan of worship” consisting of acts or items similar to the “plan of salvation.” There is one great and extremely significant difference in these two plans. One of them is that “the five-finger exercise” in every case refers directly in context to salvation—“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”—every last one of those items. My only criticism of that particular plan is that it is probably not long enough. I have a list back home of about thirty-two items that have to do with salvation as the subject is discussed in the word of God. But I’ve been asking for years , I’ve been begging and pleading, for just one verse of scripture that has God clearly and distinctly stating that these “five acts or items” are, by his definition, worship.[18]

 

Also, in 1988, Alan E. Highers and Given O. Blakely conducted a debate on instrumental music. In this debate, Blakely also sets forth the position that God has not legislated a worship service with five acts.[19] Garland Elkins, in his forward to Curtis Cate’s book on Worship: Heaven’s Imperative, or Man’s Innovations? states the same position of  Miller, Hardeman, Shelly, and Highers:

 

One cannot worship God and please Him unless God has authorized a given act (John 4:14). . . . God required certain acts to be offered in certain places. In the New Testament, God has placed His name upon certain acts, and to please God we are limited to those acts in our worship. . . . Apostasy in worship to God occurred when in 1859 at Midway, Kentucky, mechanical instrumental music was introduced into the worship of the church.[20]

 

Cates also calls attention to these five acts of worship: “Scriptural worship, therefore, is composed of certain specified, specific, prescribed activities.”[21] Again, he cautions his readers about deviating from “God’s prescribed pattern of worship.”[22] He then calls attention to his first encounter with the concept that God has not ordained five acts of worship:

 

The first place where the author saw this “wind of change” firsthand was in Portland, Oregon, in May, 1981. The “choir director” at Columbia Christian college stated in chapel before three hundred students that “since everything we do in life is worship, there are no such things as five acts of worship.”[23]

 

He then cautions his readers: “Please be assured, dear reader, that there are five items of worship set forth clearly in the New Testament; there is a Divine pattern for worship. The early church engaged in those acts (Acts 2:42).[24]  Buster Dobbs, Editor of the Firm Foundation, also advances this same notion of five acts:

 

A right attitude toward God will produce right acts of worship. In the assembly of the saints, the worship involves five acts that are motivated by an attitude of fear and trembling. . . . The New covenant authorizes five specific acts as worship on the prescribed assembly day. The centerpiece of Christian worship is the Lord’s Supper.[25]

 

One cannot help but wonder why God did not take the time to reveal the five acts of worship. God had no problems with details concerning animal sacrifices and the construction of the Tabernacle. He instructed Moses to “make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5). Also, one wonders why Paul and his fellow workers did not take the time to write about a worship service with its five acts. Is it possible that God did not give instructions concerning a public worship service since He did not legislate anything in the New Testament about a divine pattern.

 

Christians are divided over something that God has not legislated one way or the other. In spite of the fact that there are no patterns, no commands, or no examples of this divine pattern of five acts, nevertheless, Christians continue to force other Christians into their own mold of orthodoxy of five ritualistic acts to be performed in a precise manner before one can extend the right hand of fellowship—no conformity, no fellowship. Perhaps, a brief look at the supposed five items should reveal the utter futility of advancing the notion of a prescribed worship service on Sunday morning. The faith of the fathers became the watchword of orthodoxy. Their interpretation became normative and passed on to others as authoritative.

 

SUNDAY MORNING WORHSIP: FIVE ACTS?

 

Apostles’ Teaching

 

Acts 2:42 is an attempt on Luke’s part to depict the whole of the Christians’ way of life. These activities were not confined to a worship service, as is presently propagated by many godly men. Rather, Luke summarizes the activities that the early Christians were doing in their ongoing walk with God. Some believers interpret this statement of Luke’s as a reference to preaching on Sunday morning. In other words, the apostles’ teaching is interpreted as one of the five acts performed on Sunday morning. But there is not one thing in the context to indicate that this passage had reference to a worship service. One writer asserts that singing, without instruments, is found in the “apostle’s teaching.”[26] By adding singing to the “apostles’ doctrine,” then this gives the elders and preachers the authority to bind ritualistic acts to be performed at a certain time and in a prescribed way. If you fail to conform to their mishandling of the Scriptures, then you are excommunicated and written up in their religious journals.

 

Luke had just recorded Peter’s sermon about the Messiah, and, it seems, that Luke is simply saying that the disciples continued steadfastly in doing the same thing in their daily lives. This teaching no doubt included the message of God’s grace. There was an ongoing attempt on the part of the early Christians to call attention to the implications and applications of what God had accomplished through Jesus. The apostles’ teaching is just one of their daily habits. One cannot deny that this took place privately and publicly. But there is nothing in the context to indicate that this activity is just one of the so-called five acts of worship. One can assume that the apostles’ teaching included the words and works of Jesus in bringing about redemption. 

 

If one wishes to understand the apostles’ teaching, one should reread Peter’s speech concerning the Messiah. Also, immediately following Acts 2:42, one observes Peter’s message about Jesus in the Temple (3:11-26) following his healing of the crippled beggar (3:1-10). Next, one finds Peter speaking to the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law in the Sanhedrin (4:1-7). These citations are examples of what it means to continue steadfastly in the “apostles’ teaching.” What was this teaching?  Luke informs his readers that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (4:8) and began to say:

 

If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (4:9-12).

 

Another example of how the disciples continued steadfastly in the proclamation of the good news of God is found in Acts 6:7: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”  Following this description of how the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, Luke tells about the missionary work of Stephen (6:8-15). He was brought before the Sanhedrin and charged falsely concerning statements about the Temple and the Law of Moses. During this encounter, Stephen proclaimed the apostles’ teaching about the Christ (7:1-60). If one would take the time to read the Book of Acts, one would quickly see how all of the activities mentioned in Acts 2:42 simply summarized the day-to-day life style of the early converts. There is nothing in Acts 2:42 that even hints that this passage is to be interpreted as a worship service Scripture.

 

Fellowship

 

The second activity that Luke records in Acts 2:42 is “fellowship.” In order to substantiate the five acts of worship, “fellowship” is put forth as the Sunday morning collection, which is one of the five acts of worship. Goebel Music, another patternist, also advances the “collection” as one of the five acts. He writes: “Within the pages of the New Testament, the standard, the norm and the rule that governs man today, we find the following.”[27] In “the following,” he lists the Sunday morning collection as one of the five acts: “The disciples gave according as they had prospered (cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:1ff; 9:6-7, as well as other verses in these two great chapters on giving).”[28] He than labors the point that “The New Testament Church Was Organized By The Divine Standard.”[29]

 

Dobbs gives credence to Music’s application of “giving” as one of the five acts: “Giving a portion of our material wealth to God is another act of Sunday assembly-worship (1 Cor. 16:1-2).”[30] Again, Woods cites Acts 2:42 as his justification of “giving” as one of the five acts expounded: “Five items are specified or implied here, teaching, singing, the contribution, the Lord’s supper, and prayer.”[31] It is significant that none of the above Scriptures cited by Dobbs, Woods, or Music deal with a worship service—not one speaks of a worship service. There is not the slightest hint of a corporate worship service in any passage cited.

 

How does one determine the meaning of a word in a specific Scripture? One way is to remember that in the interpretation of any passage, the context is the best guide to determine what was in the mind of the writer. Justo L. Gonzalez and Catherine G. Gonzalez explains how to determine the best meaning of a word:

 

Most of us assume that if we wish to know what a word means, a look in the dictionary will answer our question. Obviously, this is true as far as definitions are concerned. But as to what is communicated by that word, we need to look at more than the dictionary. Words do not stand alone. They are spoken by one person and addressed to another.[32]

 

The question is: Is the word “fellowship” utilized as one of the acts of worship in the so-called public worship of the church? This “fellowship” (koinwniva/, koinwnia) has to do with the sharing of their substance to help sustain others in their lack of funds to take care of their daily needs—not a Sunday treasury. Luke says:

 

All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).

 

These verses are a good commentary on Acts 2:42. Another example that  describes Acts 2: 42 is found in Acts 4:32-35:

 

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

 

There is not one hint of a worship service in Acts 2, Acts 4, Acts 5 (Ananias and Sapphira), or Acts 6 (the choosing of the seven deacons). Christians sold their possession and shared as individuals had need. Many Churches of Christ today still teach that it is sinful to gather money to help individuals in need if the collection is gathered other than on Sunday. The argument is that 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says the collections are to be done on the first day of the week. Thus, any other day is sinful. This mentality of five acts leads to false perceptions about fellowship. But this word koinwnia is much broader than just money. The concept is that of brotherly unity in Acts 2:42.

 

Breaking Bread

 

The “breaking of bread” is generally associated with the Lord’s Supper. But there is nothing in the context to indicate that this activity is the Lord’s Supper. The expression breaking of bread is also an idiom for a common meal. In fact, in verse 46, one reads: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). If the “breaking of bread” refers to the Lord’s Supper, then they observed the communion on a daily basis, not just on Sundays.

 

Of the five acts forced upon the Christian community, the Lord’s Supper is put forth as the most important of the five acts. Dobbs speaks of the Lord’s Supper as “The centerpiece of Christian worship.”[33] Does the New Testament single out the Lord’s Supper as “the centerpiece of Christian worship”? The belief that the Lord’s Supper is one of the five items of worship is based upon a wrong interpretation of Luke’s account of what transpired among the early Christians following the day of Pentecost. Luke writes: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Guy N. Woods (deceased) bemoaned the fact that some, in his judgment, were disregarding the set pattern in Acts 2:42: “Acts 2:42 may be disregarded as the expression of the divine pattern, and thenceforth each of us may be governed by our own wishes and preferences in our worship to God.”[34]

 

Even though only four acts were mentioned in Acts 2:42, Woods was able to still get five acts of worship out of Acts 2:42 based upon one of the items of worship called “teaching” as two distinct categories. How? Well, he reasoned that since Paul speaks of “singing,” as another act of worship (Ephesians 5:19), then singing is included in “teaching” because one also teaches in singing.[35] Woods, too, explains Acts 2:42 as a public worship passage with five acts:

 

The early disciples “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Five items are specified or implied here, teaching, singing, the contribution, the Lord’s supper, and prayer (Eph. 5:18-19); and these are the essentials to acceptable worship on the Lord’s day (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:25.) Observe that these acts were thus engaged in according to “the apostles’ teaching,” who, in turn, were instructed to teach these matters to all who were disciples. We thus have both apostolic example and divine command for the observance of these “acts” in the church in Lord’s day worship. (Matt. 28:18-20.)[36]

 

Again, he asks the question: “What does the New Testament authorize us to do in worship?”[37] Following this question, he writes:

 

The early church, under the guidance of inspired men, continued “steadfastly” in the apostles’ teaching, which included singing, the Lord’s supper, the contribution and prayers. These divinely given items are specifically said to have been the means by which the first Christians worshiped. (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2.)[38]

 

One cannot doubt the sincerity of Woods in his interpretation of these passages, but his interpretation is a hand-me-down interpretation, not the actual teachings of  Acts 2:42. He cites Acts 2:42, 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 without citing one bit of evidence to substantiate that these Scriptures have any reference to the corporate assembly of the saints for corporate worship. Just a perusal of these Scriptures falls short of his intended goal. In fact, Luke continues this scenario and says: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). 

 

Sometimes the powerful have difficulty hearing God’s word accurately. These verses teach that the Christians in Jerusalem lived out these activities in their day-to-day walk with God. It is significant that verse 46 speaks of breaking bread in their homes and eating their food with gladness. The context does not define “bread breaking” as the Lord’s Supper, but rather a common meal. Acts 2:42 does not mention singing, in spite of Woods’ assertion to the contrary. One has to stretch the imagination to get a corporate worship service with its five rituals out of this passage. Again, one wonders why Luke did not use the word worship in this context.

 

In the Lord’s Supper, the early church did not meet together as Christians do today and just “pinch” a piece of bread off a larger piece of bread and then “sip” a small quantity of grape juice. No, they had a love feast—a regular meal—and during the course of the meal they remembered the Lord’s death.

 

Prayers

 

Since Luke mentions prayers as one of the activities that the early church continued steadfastly in, many Christians assume that this is one of the five acts of worship for the corporate assembly, or public worship. But, there is no evidence in Acts 2 to suggest that this occurred in a so-called corporate worship service. Luke is simply stating what occurred in their daily walk with God. In order to understand this particular verse in Acts, the reader should look at the way Luke thinks and writes in the verses surrounding the isolated text. For example, just a few verses below, one discovers the disciples going up to the Temple to pray: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1).

 

Another example of how the early disciples carried out what Luke reports is found in the prayers of the saints following the release of Peter and John from prison: “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (4:23-24). This prayer is recorded for the benefit of his readers in verses 24—31. Luke then says: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (4:33).

 

Again, Luke reveals how seven men were chosen to look after the widows of the Grecian Jews by the insistence of the twelve disciples (6:1-3). Following the selection of seven deacons, the apostles say, “We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (6:3-4). These prayers were not confined to the corporate worship service with five acts—prayer simply being one of the five acts. Once more, there is no reference whatsoever concerning a corporate assembly, or gathering, of the saints in Acts 2:42. Luke unfolds the nature of their devotion to God in their day-to-day walk with God—prayer was their way of life.

 

CONCLUSION

True worship is submission to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This submission includes the development  the Spirit” as described by Paul in his Galatian epistle (5:22-46). This kind of worship, or service, includes deeds done toward those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). James, our Lord’s brother, describes worship, not as five ritualistic acts performed on Sunday morning, but as actions performed toward orphans, widows, and abstinence from the ways of the world:

 

If anyone considers himself religious (qrhskoV", t&rhskos, “pious”) and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion (qrhskeiva, t&rhskeia, “worship”) is worthless. Religion (qrhskeiva, t&rhskeia, “worship”) that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27).

 

The Greek word t&rhskeia describes the true nature of worship. But this word is not employed to denote the so-called five acts of worship in the New Testament, but rather the word is employed with reference to relationships. W. E. Vine makes the following succinct observation about threµskeia:

 

1. threµskeia (qrhskeiva , (2356)) signifies religion in its external aspect (akin to threµskos, see below), religious worship, especially the ceremonial service of religion; it is used of the religion of the Jews, Acts 26:5; of the “worshipping” of angels, Col. 2:18, which they themselves repudiate (Rev. 22:8, 9); “there was an officious parade of humility in selecting these lower beings as intercessors rather than appealing directly to the Throne of Grace” (Lightfoot); in Jas. 1:26, 27 the writer purposely uses the word to set in contrast that which is unreal and deceptive, and the “pure religion” which consists in visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” and in keeping oneself “unspotted from the world.” He is “not herein affirming . . . these offices to be the sum total, nor yet the great essentials, of true religion, but declares them to be the body, the threµskeia, of which godliness, or the love of God, is the informing soul” (Trench).[39]       

 

Pure worship is associated with concern for orphans and widows and freedom from worldliness—not five acts performed on Sunday morning in a prescribed manner. What kind of worship has God authorized? The answer is found in James 1:26-27, as cited above, and in Romans 12:1-2:

 

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 (logikhVn, logikhn, “reasonable”) of worship (latreivan, latreian, “service”). Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Both James and Paul describe true worship as keeping oneself unspotted from the world.  James also zeros in on the law of love in the Law. For Paul and James, the authorized worship of God is not in rituals performed, but in a life lived in reverence and awe before God and love for one another. The verb form (latreuvw, latreuw) of the noun form (latreiva, latreia) employed by Paul in Romans 12:1 is also utilized by Paul in Philippians 3:3: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship (latreuvonte", latreuontes) by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.”  The NIV translates the Greek word latreia as “worship,” and the KJV also translates the Greek word as “worship.” The participle simply means to “render religious service or homage.” The word is employed in the New Testament in the sense of “serve” in Acts 7:42, 24:14, and Hebrews 10:2.

 

Worship is not merely a matter of form and appearance. Hopefully, this essay will persuade its readers to discard wrong notions and conceptions of true worship. In conclusion, another citation from Root explains worship and service as just two sides of the same coin:

 

Worship and service are interchangeable. This concept is the key to understanding what New Testament worship is all about. Both are nutshell descriptions of what the Christian life is. We have given ourselves to God as living sacrifices and He has declared our lives to be worship to Him.[40]



[1] For examples of this concept of worship, see Bobby Duncan, “Acceptable and Unacceptable Worship,” The Spiritual Sword 24, no. 2 (January 1993): 16; Paul Nichols, Fifty Years of Service (Oakdale: Nichols, 1992), 357. Both Duncan and Nichols agree on five acts of worship, but they do not agree on the precise performance of these five acts. To illustrate this distinction between these two equally godly men, consider the following differences: Duncan participates in Sunday school and the employment of individual communion cups in the distribution of the fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper, but, on the other hand, Nichols objects to both because they are not “according to the pattern” set forth in Scripture.

[2] For a detailed study of this philosophy, see Dallas Burdette, Ensign 20, no. 8 (September 1992): 147-148.

[3] For an analysis of “pattern theology,” consult the following essays: Dallas Burdette, “Pattern Theology,” Ensign 20, no. 7 (August 1992): 129-132; Idem., “Pattern Theology,” Ensign 20, no. 7 (September 1992): 147-148; Idem., “Pattern Theology,” Ensign 20, no. 9 (October 1992): 168-169; Idem., “Pattern Theology,” Ensign 20, no. 10 (November 1992): 195-196; Idem., “Fellowship and Patternism,” Ensign 20, no. 11 (December 1992): 208-212.

[4] Since this author is a part of the movement that grew out of the Stone/Campbell Movement, then this essay explores the theory of worship as is currently understood by the vast majority of members within this Movement.

[5] It is this writer’s opinion that “spirit” should be “Spirit.” One refers to a good attitude; the other refers to the Holy Spirit. See a forthcoming article on: Worship in Spirit and in Truth.

[6] William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 16-17.

[7] Pat Kilpatrick, “Editorial: Thirsting for a Pattern?” Ensign 21, no. 1 (January 1993): 2-3.

[8] See a forthcoming article on Worship: An Analysis of the Various Greek Words for  a more detailed study of all the words translated as worship in the New Testament.

[9] W. E. Vine, “Worship (Verb and Noun), Worshiping,” in An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (New York: Nelson, 1985), 687.

[10] Hughes Oliphant Old, Guides to the Reformed Tradition: Worship (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1984), 10.

[11] Gary Workman, “What Is Worship?” The Spiritual Sword 24, no. 2 (January 1993): 9.

[12] Ibid., 9.

[13] Wayne Jackson, “Worship in Truth: A Study of John 4:24,” The Spiritual Sword 24, no. 2 (January 1993): 13.

[14] Mike Root, Spilt Grape Juice: Rethinking the worship Tradition (Joplin: College Press, 1992): 25.

[15] Ibid., 31.

[16] The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

 

[17] N. B. Hardeman & Ira M. Boswell, Boswell-Hardeman Discussion on Instrumental Music in the Worship, Conducted in the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn., May 31 to June 5, 1923 (Fairmount, IN: Guardian of Truth Foundations Publications, nd), 118, 120.

[18] Rubel Shelly and Dwaine Dunning, Shelly-Dunning Debate (West Monroe, Louisiana: William C. Johnson, Inc, 1977), 20-21.

[19] See Alan E. Highers and Given O. Blakely, The Highers-Blakely Debate on Instrumental Music in Worship, conducted April 12-15, 1988, Neosho, Missouri (Denton, Texas: Valid Publications, Inc., 1988).

[20] Garland Elkins, “Foreword,” in Curtis A. Cates, Worship: Heaven’s Imperative, or Man’s Innovations? (Memphis, Tennessee: Cates Publications, 1993),  9, 10, 11.

[21] Ibid., 16.

[22] Ibid., 17.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 21.

[25] Buster Dobbs, “Worship,” Firm Foundation 114,  no. 1 (January 1999): 3.

[26] Guy N. Woods, “Q & A,” Firm Foundation 114, no. 1 (January 1999): 27.

[27] Goebel Music, Behold the Pattern (Colleyville, TX: Goebel Music Publications, 1991), 393.

[28] Ibid., 394.

[29] Ibid., 395

[30]Dobbs, “Worship,” Firm Foundation 114, no. 1 (January 1999): 4.

[31] Woods, “Q & A,” Ibid., 28.

[32] Justo L. Gonzalez and Catherine G. Gonzalez, Liberation Preaching: The Pulpit and the Oppressed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980), 94.

[33] Dobbs, “Worship,” Firm Foundation, 3. 

[34] Guy N. Woods, “Q & A,” Ibid., 27.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid., 28.

[37] Ibid., 27.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Vine, W. E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1981),  [CD-ROM]  Nelson’s Electronic Bible Reference Library, Version 2.1.

 

[40] Root, Split Grape Juice, 23. See also the next essay in this series on worship: Worship: An Analysis of the Various Greek Words Translated Worship.