Worship in the New Testament

With all the talk in Christian circles about worship, worship services, experiencing God through worship, and so on, you’d think the New Testament was full of such sentiment, too, right?

Guess again.

The idea that humanity was created to worship God, or that one day when we die we’ll all go to heaven and have one big worship party around the throne for endless ages is nowhere to be found in scripture. Even in the story of creation, where you might (rightly) assume we’d be given some view of God’s original intention for mankind, we find no such element. Strange, is it not? We do find some mention of eating and drinking, of walking, of bearing God’s image and exercising authority, but not a single word about worship. Nowhere does God say, “Adam, you are a worm of the dust and I am Almighty God. I have created you to worship me for who I am.”

And what about the New Testament? We Christians believe that God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. And though Jesus’ disciples were slow to grasp the significance of who He was, there were flashes of light here and there which helped them to see into the mystery surrounding this unconventional Rabbi in whose footsteps they were following.

So did they spend their days prostrated at his feet? Singing praises and chanting hallelujah as they swayed from side to side to the heavenly music? Actually, no. In all the gospels we only find one or two instances where it says “they worshipped him.” And in each of those moments their worship was a spontaneous response to some clear, heaven-sent revelation to their hearts concerning Christ.

Looking at my own life and relationship with the Lord, I find it to be very similar to this pattern. In all honesty I can think of only a few times when true, spontaneous worship has risen from my spirit unto the Lord. And each time it was in response to some sighting I’d just received of Christ.

For instance, I can take you back to the very moment and the spot on the bed where I was sitting in the room of a friend at college when I first said the word “hallelujah” in true and living response to a revelation of the Lord. It was during a time of fellowship as I sat listening to some brothers share about their experience of God. As one of them spoke it was like a light turned on inside my spirit-some connection was made-and I saw the Lord in a way I’d never seen Him before. Instantly, without thought, from hidden depths within me, worship arose and came out of my mouth in that word which I’d used rhetorically countless times before. 

This is not to say I was never sincere in my attempts to “worship” God, or “press in” to His presence in all those church services from the past. I was, actually. But so much work remained to be done in me (and still does) in the way of what the writer to the Hebrews calls “dividing between soul and spirit.” I had no idea that the majority of my thoughts and feelings of connecting with God in those moments was taking place mostly in the realm of my soul, and therefore was very natural and not spiritual. Unfortunately, this is what so much of what passes for “worship” across the Christian world today seems to be based upon: A highly orchestrated emotional experience (or, for you thinkers out there, an intellectual experience) masquerading as fellowship with the living God.

The soul is an incredible thing, don’t get me wrong. Our minds are God-given. The intellect, the emotions, the will-all are wonderful in their proper place. But they are there to express the life of God residing in our spirit, not to be the source of our living themselves. This is where we all know so very little compared with what we ought to know. This, in fact, makes up a great deal of the Christian quest: learning to live by the life of God in our spirit rather than the natural life we each possess in ourselves. And what a long and arduous quest it is! But well worth the effort, if you ask me. I was never fully convinced I was connecting with God in those vaunted times of “worship” anyway, to tell you the truth. I strained and strived and tried my best, but deep down I knew I was really just practicing at faking it.

🙂

I hope what I’m trying to say with this post has come across clearly enough. Dividing between soul and spirit is not a topic that gets much airplay in the evangelical world today. I would love to open up a conversation among anyone out there who has anything to say in relation to the thoughts I’ve shared here.

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

10 responses to “Worship in the New Testament

  • John Wilson

    amen brother!

  • Jim Brown

    Hi Josh, an interesting subject indeed. For years I have been questioning this arena of worship. I have heard that the Tab. of David is all about restoring the Davidic worship with the singing teams, instruments and banners, ect. I even “led worship” and much of the time it was always a chore to either get into it myself or get the people pumped up…sounds like a soul thing doesn’t it. About 12 years ago the Lord began dealing with me about this subject and recognizing that David’s approach to God was primarily on the basis of outward worship and God seemed to require that as along with the rest of the ceremonies, feasts and times set apart to approach Him in a specific way. I think that is clear in the O.T. But you kicked the golden calf in the side when it comes to discovering that in the N.T. little, very little is mentioned at all. Yet, in comparison to todays Western Christianity where spirituality is measured by outward worship there seems to be a great controversy with the New testament. If we are built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ being the one who we measure all things, I don’t read anything about this outward style of worship. Why didn’t Paul who seemed to have the revelation of the church and Christ the corporate man lay a strong emphasis on this subject of outward worship as seen in the O.T.?

    Our approach to the Father is by the righteous Blood of Jesus. It is that Holy Sacrifice which we accept and makes us accepted in the beloved. We do not make an approach unto our God any longer by any system of worship. If we do, we are living by laws and ordinances or ceremonies, and not purely by the life of the Spirit of His Son who is now our Life with in. God only acknowledges His Son in us. We must remember that the prophesy given by Amos explicitly stated that God was going to restore the “Tabernacle of David”. There was no mention the restoration of King David’s approach to Jehovah through his system of praise and worship, laws, ordinances, or ceremonies. Our approach to the Father is through the wonderful sacrifice and blood of His Son Jesus the Christ. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near true hearts and fullest confidence…” [HEB.10:19-20].

    The Apostle Paul did address something about praise when writing to the Church at Ephesus, saying that we might be “ to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace, which He so freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved” [EPH.1:6 Amp. Trans.] Could it be possible that Paul was saying that WE ARE the ‘Praise’ of God? It is possible that he was implying that we no longer praise merely as something that we strictly do outwardly. Could it be that praise is a lifestyle. It is an expression of His Word, Will and Ways being walked out through our life individually and corporately.

    The New Covenant concept of praise and worship is not something we do in a Sunday morning worship gathering in order to bring God’s Presence down to us from ‘out there somewhere’, but praise is something we are as we walk in obedience to the Will of God. We are praise in the eyes of God because of ; 1. Our changed disposition through His Beloved Son is now in us “the praise of the glory of His grace”. If this is true, then God does indeed inhabit ‘praises’ and these praises are His people because of the new nature imparted to us and our obedience to follow the Spirit. We definitely do worship the Lord, but now it is in a way that far exceeds our voices raised in adoration accompanied by instruments. We praise and worship the Lord through the beauty of Christ-filled lifestyle. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” [PS.29:2]. Holiness means a life that has been changed from the inside and is reflected on the outside. Holiness stands against and is contrary to the perspectives of the world’s philosophies. Holiness is pleasing to the Father because it is an expression of His Sons life. Holiness is proceeding from the Spirit and living by that motivation in all things. So it must be with us, as we are separated unto Him thus being separated from anything other than Him.

    I will say though that we here in Dahlonega do spend some time singing to the Lord as an expression of our adoration as well as speaking those to him in the gatherings, but we do realize that true worship is a life of following and obeying the spirit both individually and corporately. thanks for touching this touchy subject. brother.

    Sorry this is so ling Josh, but it is one of those dealing that the Lord laid on me pretty heavily. I wrote an article I would like to send you but don’t know how in a blog.

    Blessings,
    Jim

  • Katie

    This is really good josh! It was refreshing to read. And Jim, also a great response. I’ll write more but im on my phone

  • Josh

    Jim,

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on this subject. You can send me the article via email if you would like: jlawson691@gmail.com. I look forward to reading it.

  • Josh

    Katie,

    Thanks! It was refreshing to write. 🙂

  • lucas

    Thanks for sharing! I can relate to this as I’m sure many people can.

  • Sue Rackley

    I’m reading this a month late, but really like both the blog and response and would love to see the article as well. I have been growing in an awareness of this for a while. i think you state the truth well. It is sad to think of the years I devoted to what a thought was being a passionate worshipper of God when “worshipping in Spirit and truth” is allowing the Life of Christ in me to be manifest.

    Living in a city where restoring the Tabernacle of David with 24 hr worship and prayer is a cause hundreds of people are giving their lives to makes seeing what worship truly is all the more important.

    email is: srackley@gmail.com

    Thanks

  • Josh

    Hello, Sue! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Sounds like you really relate to some of the stuff I was trying to bring across here. In case Jim doesn’t see your comment I’ll forward his article to your email myself, as I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

    Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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