I’m teaching Introduction to Congregational Song this semester at TMU. This week we focused on New Testament Congregational Song. I’m reminded again that as we come to the Father through Jesus the Son, we no longer have to depend on a high priest to offer animal sacrifices so we can find redemption for our sins. No longer must we follow arduous sets of rules and worship practices. We have instant access through the power of the resurrection. Worship transforms us as we meet together to encourage, edify, and express our collective thanks to God in the name of the Lord.
In the New Testament there were no new or updated worship liturgies beyond what was established in the Old Testament. Must believe that Old Testament worship practices were adhered to for the most part until Jesus came. A few elements such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper became regular parts of corporate worship then. What we DO get from the New Testament is instructions to believers about their “posture” as worshipers. While there is much more to be said, but consider these three well-known scriptures that stood out to me from our reading that I think have some powerful reminders for corporate worship.
Ephesians 5:18-20- …be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 3:15-17- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.
Romans 12:1-2- Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.
What do you see when you read these scriptures together? What stands out to you? Here’s what I see:
- We are able to worship TROUGH Christ because of the power of His death and the power of the resurrection.
- Worship is NEVER about us. It is Christ-centric; Christ is the object of our worship.
- Worship is never strictly vertical. While scripture is full of references to vertical worship e.g. “sing to the Lord,” scripture is also clear that we are sing TO and WITH one another in a horizontal fashion. Read these scriptures again. Every single one focuses on a horizontal element in worship. We are to sing to ONE ANOTHER…instruct ONE ANOTHER…admonish ONE ANOTHER.
- Worship is an opportunity for us to express our THANKS to God in THE NAME OF THE LORD.
- Worship is EXPERIENTIAL. We are to sing and make music from our hearts, offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, have a transformed mind et al. As we humbly offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, Christ transforms us to be more like Christ.
- Worship UNIFIES US. Because Christ is the object of our worship, we are called to peace, we are and are unified by the message of Christ.
Friends, let the truths of these passages remind you our purpose in worship. While our liturgies might vary to some degree, the object of our worship must be Christ who desires to continue to transform us to be more like Him. Soli Deo Gloria