“God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24
Good day, readers! Thank you again for staying with me along this journey and continuing your support. Once I figure out how to end this blog and start one that is more economical and effective, without causing any damage to what’s already up and running on this site, then I’ll make a necessary transition. I’m eager to do it. Details are to come when that time arrives.
We’ve already discussed how Christians must follow the pattern that Christ has laid out for the organization of His church (2 Tim. 2:13). It’s also important that we follow the pattern as designed by God’s Word for worship. Jesus said that anyone who worships Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). He also said that His Word is truth (John 17:17). Whatever we do in worship must be authorized by God’s Word (Col. 3:17).
Some may say it doesn’t matter what we do in worship as long as it’s from the heart. But, it’s actually a big deal. And anyone thinking differently, is mistaken.
“For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.” – 1 John 5:3
We get the authority for what we do in worship by following the direct commands of Christ (John 14:15), the examples set forth in Scripture (Philippians 3:17; 2 Thess. 2:15), and by necessary inference.
Necessary inference is a method of reasoning that leads you to a logical conclusion based on deductions made from all the given information. Wayne Jackson explains it this way:
“[I]f an “inference” is characterized as “necessary,” this means that the conclusion drawn from the facts is irresistible. If there is snow covering the countryside in the morning, one may necessarily conclude that the temperature was below 32 degrees during the night” (What Is a “Necessary Inference?”).
So when Jesus said to worship Him in spirit and in truth in John 4:24 and in John 17:17 He said that the Word is truth, it’s not a likely possibility that we must worship Him according to His Word. It’s an undeniable truth, by way of necessary inference, that we must worship God according to what He’s said in the Bible.
When Christians come together to worship, we are to give – and give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:6-7). Unlike what most religious sects within Christendom teach, a tithe is not required of Christians. Tithes were given under the old covenant, but we are no longer under it (Hebrews 8:6, 13). In the New Testament, we’re commanded to give cheerfully and not out of necessity. Giving a tithe, or 10%, would be out of obligation – not from the heart. If a Christian wants to give 15%, 3%, or 20% of all that they have, then that is acceptable to the Lord, as long as it is from the heart.
“Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Cor. 9:6-7
In worship, we also pray as the early church did (Acts 2:42) and as the Bible commands (1 Thess. 5:17) and the way it commands us to do it – with the spirit and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15).
As given by example and command, we also have the preaching of the gospel in worship (1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Tim. 4:2). Paul preached on the first day of the week when the church gathered (Acts 20:7-11). He also encouraged Timothy, a preacher, to always be ready to teach.
“Then He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’.” – Mark 16:15-16
The Lord put in place communion as memorial of His death (Matt. 26:26-29). So we break bread and drink fruit of the vine to commemorate what Christ did on the cross for us. The example we have as laid out in Scripture is to partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, as the early New Testament church did (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11: 23-29). Some people do not follow that pattern and they take communion once a month or even on Saturdays. But that’s not how God wants us to do it.
“In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:26-27
We also have the authority as given by God to sing in worship when we come together and meet as the church. The Lord commands that we teach and admonish “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace” in our hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:17). The scripture explicitly says that we are to teach and encourage one another by singing. That means that everyone present is required by God to sing. This eliminates the practice of having a choir or praise team. There is no biblical authority for those. Everyone is commanded to sing and encourage one another. It’s not just for a specific few.
“Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:19
Note that a piano, guitar, or any other musical instrument cannot teach anything. Teaching and encouraging is done with words, and we are instructed to sing in order to do that. In addition to that, the Bible says that we are to make melody in our hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19). Many people hone in on the words “make melody” to say that instruments are permitted by God in worship. A review of the Greek word psallo, from which it is translated, allows us to see that the only instrument that could be possibly referred to in Ephesians 5:19 is the instrument of the heart.
Wayne Jackson also wrote an insightful article on the history of the Greek word psallo and it’s use in the New Testament, specifically in Ephesians 5:19. It can be found here: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/829-psallo-and-the-instrumental-music-controversy. One point that he contends is that each Christian is instructed to make melody in that verse, and if psallo means to “pluck the strings of” an instrument, as some historical uses of the word could suggest, then that would mean that every Christian would have to play an instrument.
Jackson concludes that the word psallo, or “make melody,” refers to singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs without the accompaniment of instrumental music. The early Christians did not use mechanical instruments in worship. And, as we follow their pattern, we should not either. Instruments do not belong in worship when the church assembles.
Some argue that Psalm 150 says to praise God with trumpets, flutes, harps, and other instruments. Yes, the psalm clearly says that, but we are also clearly no longer under the old law. So, instruments (and even praise dancing and miming) are out and not authorized by God. We follow Christ’s law, which is a new and better covenant. So the only authority we have for music in worship is to sing, without accompaniment of mechanical instruments.
““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
Some people have said that if they want to give God more than what He has asked (like, play the guitar or to worship Him when He didn’t say that was what He wanted), then why can’t they. Well, we only do what we have authority to do by God (Col. 3:17). People get caught up in their emotions and their opinions, sometimes, about what should be done in worship. But your opinions don’t matter, when it comes to serving God acceptably. Christ has the final say.
Also, consider the example of Nadab and Abihu where they offered unauthorized sacrifices to God and died because of it (Leviticus 10:1-2). Doing anything more or less than what God says is allowed would not be doing as He commanded (Revelation 22: 18-19). We are not to add or take away from the Word of God.
The things that we have authority to do in worship when the church gathers to worship God are: preaching, giving, praying, singing (with no instruments), and taking the Lord’s Supper (or communion). Anything else done during worship is more than God has given us the green light to do.
If we want to be like the church that we read about in the New Testament and do what they did, then we must follow the commands of the Lord regarding worship, and we must follow the pattern (or the blueprint) as designed. Otherwise, we will have something different and be doing something different than what Christ intended.
Does the church where you meet follow Christ’s blueprint for worship? His blueprint for salvation is that everyone might believe in Jesus, confess His name, repent of sins, and be baptized. Let’s be careful to follow God’s design and not one made by man.
Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com
Jackson, Wayne. “What Is a “Necessary Inference”?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: February 6, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/609-what-is-a-necessary-inference
Jackson, Wayne. “Psallo and the Instrumental Music Controversy.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: February 6, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/829-psallo-and-the-instrumental-music-controversy