Going through the “5 acts of worship” is not the same thing as actually glorifying God. What does it take to glorify God?
First let’s look quickly at the Old Testament worship. What they did was different, but the goal of glorifying God was the same. When did God feel glorified? In Isaiah 1:11-15, we see a picture of the Israelites doing the worship that God had commanded, but God hated it. He hated it because it was offered by a people who were rebelling against Him in their daily lives.
The first part of glorifying God is to listen to Him and obey Him in all parts of our lives. People say, “Glory to God for World Bible School,” but how is God glorified by something that is in rebellion to the way He commanded His work to be done? A local church should make sure that it is operating the way God wants in all things if it is going to glorify Him in anything.
Matthew 5:16 and John 15:8 show us that we glorify God indirectly and directly by the way we live. This is one reason why church discipline is so important. If a brother is living in sin, he is doing just the opposite of glorifying God. Since it is a work of the local church to glorify God, how can a local church just let that continue? Then they are failing miserably in their mission to glorify God.
Romans 15:6 suggests that a divided church cannot glorify God properly. This again shows how important unity is in the Lord’s church. We must be unified in the truth and be able to glorify God with one voice, not many voices.
Philippians 3:3 tells us that we must worship by the Spirit of God. That means that we must worship the way that the Spirit reveals in the Word of God. That is all it can mean as far as I can tell — in 1 Corinthians 11, the problem was that the Christians were not worshipping in the way the Spirit commanded, but they had the gifts of the Spirit as you find in chapter 12. So worshipping by the Spirit of God seems to have nothing to do with having the Holy Spirit in the miraculous way they had the Spirit.
We must also have our hearts right. In Matthew 15:1-9 we learn that if our hearts are far from God, our worship is in vain. It also tells us that if our doctrine is wrong, our worship is in vain. God will not accept worship from those who will not listen to Him or from those who are not worshipping from their hearts. Of course, if our hearts are right, we will make sure that we worship God in the way He wants.
What should be in our hearts when we worship? Hebrews 12:28 says that in acceptable worship we should have reverence and awe for God. That is the purpose of worship isn’t it? We worship God because we revere Him. We worship Him because of the great things He has done — such as giving us an unshakable kingdom.
I am going to use the old “5 Acts of Worship” list that someone came up with many years ago. While it is a man-made list, I think it is fairly accurate. I cannot think of anything else that would be specificly an “act of worship,” although I realize that everything we do is to glorify God.
Preaching / Teaching
We need to understand that it is the job of every Christian (as part of the universal church) to preach and teach when they have opportunity. Acts 8:4 says that the Christians who were scattered from Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the word. The desire to tell others the gospel should be built into every Christian.
First, let’s look at the part of the preacher or teacher. In Matthew 23:3 Jesus condemns preaching the truth and not practicing it. So, as preachers, we must look at ourselves closely to see if we are really practicing what we preach. 1 Corinthians 9:27 tells us that Paul had to practice a lot of self-discipline every day to make sure that he was practicing what he preached. If Paul did, then you and I definitely need to be careful.
Most of the preaching and teaching that we find the scriptures talking about was done outside of the assembly. In some cases it was done as the work of individual Christians outside the context of a local church (as in the case of Paul preaching at Athens) and in other cases, it was an effort of the local church such as in Jerusalem. The work is always done by individual Christians (who else is there?) but the difference is that in one case they do it by themselves, and in the other case they do it in a more organized way as the local church. Both of these ways are needed.
But there definitely was preaching and teaching in the assembly. 1 Corinthians 14 clearly tells us that and there are examples of it in the book of Acts. What should be preached or taught? Everything that is needed for edification, according to 1 Corinthians 14:26. In Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, he tells them that he taught everything that was profitable (verse 20) or “the whole counsel of God” (verse 27).
That means that we must preach from the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:11) as well as from the New Testament. That means that we need to teach about the evidence for the existence of God (Psalm 19, Romans 1:19-20) and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2). We need to help prepare our brethren to give a defense for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15). Since our brethren are responsible for going out and teaching the gospel, we need to help prepare them to do that well. We cannot be afraid to preach or teach about something that is needed, just because we know it will cause trouble with some who do not have a Christ-like attitude (2 Timothy 4:2). Basically, if the Bible talks about it, we should talk about it.
In Acts 6, the apostles said that they had two jobs they needed to concentrate on — preaching and prayer. That should give us a clue as to how important prayer is.
As in all of our worship, attitude is extremely important in praying. Jesus said in Matthew 6:5, that if a man prays to look good in the sight of others, his prayer isn’t going to do any good. In verse 6, He says that we should instead pray where we will not be seen. However, this is not a strict rule that He is making. Jesus often prayed where others could see Him — he simply was not praying to be seen. It is about attitude. If you find that the only time you pray is when others see you, then you can be pretty sure you have a problem.
When we lead public prayers (1 Corinthians 14:16), we must be careful of our attitude. In any public role, it is a temptation to think of it as an opportunity to “show off.” I have heard of an older woman who would tell the young men who took a public role in the worship, “You had your chance to show what you can do today, and you did well.” The worship is not about showing what we can do. Worship is not about the worshipper, but the one being worshipped. When a man first begins taking a public role in the worship, he is usually nervous. That’s fine, but we need to make sure of why we are nervous. We should be nervous because we want to make sure that God is worshipped in the best way possible, not because we don’t want to be embarrassed if we mess up.
When we pray, we should speak loudly and clearly — otherwise how will everyone say “Amen” to the prayer? We should think about what we are saying. I know of some men who say the exact same words every time they pray. It isn’t always wrong to pray for the same things, even in the same words (Mark 14:39) if we are thinking about it anyway, but it seems like usually that means it is just words to us which Jesus condemned (Matthew 6:7). Those who are listening to the prayer should be thinking about the words — otherwise how they say “Amen” to it?
We are told to pray for some specific things. Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:9-13) that when we pray, we should praise God (“holy is Your name”), we should pray for His kingdom (“your kingdom come, your will be done”). We should pray for the physical things that we need (“our daily bread”) and the spiritual things we need (forgiveness, “keep us from temptation”). From example prayers we can read in the New Testament, we see that we don’t have to address all of these things in every prayer (Acts 1:24).
Prayer itself is talked about as work to be done (Colossians 4:12 —
laboring earnestly for you in his prayers). It is part of the work of evangelism (2 Thessalonians 3:1) and edification (Philemon 1:6). We are not only to pray for Christians, but for all men (1 Timothy 2:1), including those in authority (verse 2).
Prayer should be a major work of widows who are supported by the church (1 Timothy 5:5). It should be a work of the elders of the church (James 5:14-15). Now, I think it is important to understand that the promise in James 5 is a general promise, but not always the case. For example, Paul prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Did it not happen because he didn’t have enough faith? No, God had His own reasons for denying that request. Again in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul says that he left one of his traveling companions behind sick! Paul healed many people through the Holy Spirit and I doubt that he didn’t think to pray for Trophimus, but Trophimus was left sick. God decided not to heal him for whatever reason. So, while it is generally true that God will answer our prayers to heal our brethren, He will sometimes choose not to in His infinite wisdom.
Just as important as thinking carefully about the words of our prayers is thinking about the words that we sing. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says that we must sing with understanding. It is very easy to get caught up in the music of a song and forget about the message of the song. We have to understand that God is looking at our hearts when we sing more than listening to the notes.
Ephesians 5:19 tells us that we are to speak to each other in our singing. The songs that we sing should teach us something or encourage us. This means that we need to be careful about which songs we sing. There are some songs in the song books that do not tell the truth or are not for the worship of God and the edification of the brethren. It must be “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). Our attitude does matter in our singing — we are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God.
1 Corinthians 11 tells us a lot about the Lord’s Supper. First we learn that it supposed to be the purpose of our coming together on the 1st day of the week (verse 20). We can see in Acts 20:7 that that was the reason why the disciples in Troas came together on the 1st day of the week. That other types of worship take place at that time does not take away from the Lord’s Supper being the focus of the day.
The Lord’s Supper is not a regular meal. There is a movement today to get churches to make the Lord’s Supper into a “real meal” with a lot of bread and a big glass of grape-juice. But we can easily see that the Paul told the Christians in Corinth to eat at home first if they were hungry (1 Corinthians 11:21-22, 34). The Lord’s Supper wasn’t a meal to fill the stomach — that wasn’t its purpose.
The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember / proclaim the death of Christ. It is the one act of worship that is all about Jesus. When we eat, it is not for the purpose of just eating the Lord’s Supper as if eating it does anything for us — it is for us to remember Him. If we eat it without remembering Jesus, we are unworthy of it and are eating and drinking damnation to ourselves (verse 27) — in other words, if we don’t have the right mindset when we eat the Lord’s Supper, we are sinning.
1 Corinthians 10:16-21 also talks about the Lord’s Supper. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we are having fellowship (sharing) with whole body of Christ. This passage is often used to show that a local church must have only one loaf of bread for everyone and one cup that everyone must drink from. But that doesn’t fit what Paul says. Paul talks about the “one bread” in connection with the “one body.” The one body is not a local church, it is the universal church. If the “one bread” was meaning one literal loaf of bread, it would be pretty hard for every Christian in the world to eat from it, wouldn’t it? But when we eat the bread, it is for the same purpose that every other Christian eats it and the same with the cup. So, we have fellowship, not because of a physical loaf or a physical cup, but because of the purpose of our eating and drinking.
Another action that the Christians were to do was to share what they had for the work of the church. We see that happening almost immediately after the start of the church when the Christians were selling what they had and bringing the money to the apostles (Acts 4:34-35). Actually, they were sharing more than just money as we can see in verse 32. The idea that only money may be given to the church to supply needs has no basis in the scriptures. They shared everything.
What is the purpose of giving? Too often, I’m afraid that we look at giving as just an “act of worship” where you give just to worship God. That has never been the case even in the Old Testament. When Israel was building the tabernacle, the people were giving freewill offerings to supply what was needed (Exodus 35:21-29), but when they had enough the people were made to stop giving (Exodus 36:5-7).
In the New Testament, I cannot think of any example where anyone was purposelessly giving anything for the Lord. Either they were giving to supply the needs in the local church (as in Acts 2 and 4) or they were giving to supply the needs of other local churches who did not have enough to supply their own (as in 1 Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9).
When can we give? It seems to me that in the church at Jerusalem, the sharing was happening every day. Perhaps the money was brought to the apostles every day (since they were meeting every day). However, I can’t prove that. What I do know is that it is right to give on the 1st day of week when we come together because we have a specific example of churches being commanded to do that (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).