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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 16—Public Christian Worship

 

 

1.  What is worship?

 

“…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast down their crowns before the throne, saying:  ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor, and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.’”  Revelation 4:10-11.  “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels round the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands, saying with a loud voice:  ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”  Revelation 5:11-12.

 

Answer:  In Biblical Hebrew and Greek, the word for ”worship” and closely related words have the following meanings:  (1) “to prostrate”; (2) “to  kiss”; (3) “reverence”; (4) “fear” or “awe”; (5) “glory”; (6) “honor”; and (7) “respect”.  By combining these key words, and in the context of the worship scene in heaven (in Revelation 4-5 above), we may define worship as “the giving of extravagant honor, respect, and devotion to God with a sense of awe (humility) that one is in the presence of Almighty God.”

 

 

2.  Who is worship not really for?  In other words, who does not need worship?

 

A.  God does not need worship, because God is complete within Himself, that is, He is self-sufficient.  If He needed anything from any creature, He would not be self-sufficient, which is to say, that He would not be God.  While He desires our worship, He does not need it.

 

B.  If God wanted worship for His own sake, then He would be the greatest egomaniac in the universe.  Instead, God is the opposite of an egomaniac, for “God is love” personified (I John 4:8).

 

 

3.  Then why should we worship God if He does not need it?

 

Answer:  Although God wants our worship to be directed toward Him, it must actually be for our own benefit, not His.  First, worshipping God brings the worshiper joy, faith, and peace because he is in the very presence of God, who is the Source of joy, faith, and peace.  Second, it ennobles the character of the worshiper, for Scripture declares that by “…beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

4.  Is God concerned with how we worship Him?

 

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth….  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  John 4:23-24.

 

Answer:  First, if there are “true worshipers”, then there must also be false worshipers, even of the same God.  Let that point sink in.  Second, God does care how we worship Him.  Here He [Jesus] emphasizes the necessary balance between one’s heartfelt worship (emotions, “spirit”) and one’s intellect (mind, “truth”).  We need both, but not one without the other.  There should be an atmosphere of awe and humility but also joy, for “…In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

5.  Can the Church safely borrow worship practices from the culture around it as long as it uses those practices to worship the one true God?

 

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in your land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them…and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?  I also will do likewise.’  You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods….”  Deuteronomy 12:29-31.

 

Answer:  This passage explicitly tells us that we should not borrow false worship practices from our culture and use them in the worship of the true God!  God determines how we should worship Him.  If we go to others to adopt their practices from their cultures in order to attract people to the Church, then man is actually dictating how we worship, not God!  Yet some churches openly declare they have the right to adopt pagan practices and customs and “baptize” them and use them in the Church.  And even other churches that don’t make that claim have succumbed to the temptation to attract members by offering them non-Christian elements from the world.  This is the reason that worldly music has swept into so many churches today.  (There will be more on music later in this Lesson.)

 

 

6.  Where is true worship directed toward?

 

Answer:  We have already seen sufficient evidence to answer this question.  True worship should be directed toward God.  It is God-centered, not believer-centered.  In other words, worship is about God, not about us.  But the use of worldly music and the makeover of the platform into a stage is more about entertainment than worship—appealing to the comfort zone of people rather than to their consciences.  Instead of the Church influencing the world’s culture, worldly culture has influenced the Church.  The Church has much to be ashamed of in this modern era.

 

 

7.  Is God concerned about when we worship Him?

 

Answer:  In the broadest sense of the word worship, everything we do as a Christian should constitute worship, for we ought to honor and glorify God in what we eat, drink, and whatever else we do.  Among other things, that means we should worship God every day of the week.  But as we learned in Lessons #10-12, God has appointed the 7th day of each week (Saturday) as His blessed, holy day, in which He calls the Church together for public worship.  So, yes, God is concerned about when we worship Him—and as God, it is His prerogative to set both the way and the day to worship Him.

 

 

8.  What are the major elements of a public Christian worship service?

 

A.  Leviticus 7:12:  “If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving….”—This was part of the instructions for the peace offering in Old Testament times.  This indicates that the giving of offerings (and the return of tithes, Lesson #14) is part of what a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is.  So the collection of an offering and the tithes is a major element of public Christian worship.

 

B.  Psalm 95:2:  “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”—A psalm is a song.  Therefore, music, including congregational singing, is another major element of public Christian worship.

 

C.  Psalm 141:2:  “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands [in prayer] as the evening sacrifice.”—Prayer is also considered a sacrificial offering.  Therefore, public prayer should be a major element in public Christian worship.

 

D.  Romans 10:15, 17:  “…’How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”—Preaching is a necessary part of public Christian worship because it helps produce faith in those who hear it.

 

 

9.  Is there an additional reason that preaching of the Word is essential to public Christian worship?

 

Answer:  Yes, because no part of worship is true worship if the believers don’t know God and recognize His majesty of character that leads them to celebrate His very presence.  Therefore, all preaching should ultimately teach Biblical theology about the true nature of God’s character.  Yet so often today, preaching consists of political and socioeconomic statements on the issues of the day.  True preaching builds faith in God and awe of God.  Therefore, preaching should occupy a central place in public Christian worship.

 

 

10.  Is music itself neutral, so that as long as Christian lyrics accompany it, it does not make any difference what kind of music is used in worship?

 

“Music directly imitates the passions or state of the soul…when one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that rouses ignoble [base, inferior] passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.”  Aristotle, The Politics.

 

Answer:  We all know that different kinds of music promote different moods or atmospheres, and Hollywood has become expert in using different kinds of music to promote whatever type of mood it desires in a movie or program.  Even the Greek philosopher Aristotle knew that music can eventually change a person’s entire character.  So how can we say that, when it comes to worship of Almighty God, any kind of music is okay?

 

 

11.  What are the major elements of music besides volume or tone?

 

A.  Melody—The part of the brain that listens to melody is concerned with the emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual side of the person.

 

B.  Harmony—The part of the brain that listens to harmony is the intellectual part because harmony creates a more complex structure than melody alone.

 

C.  Rhythm (or Beat)—Human beings respond to this on a physical and emotional level when the rhythm (or beat) is strong and dominant.  Rhythm is important, however, because it binds a piece of music together—it gives it structure.

 

 

12.  What about syncopation?  Is that inherently bad?

 

Answer:  Syncopation exists when a beat is on the off-beat.  Syncopation itself is not bad.  But constant, repetitious syncopation actually creates confusion between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Heavy, dominant beats (syncopation only heightens this effect) eventually put people into at least a partial trance-like state in which the senses are numbed.  This kind of music also (1) loosens up the hips so that they begin moving in a sensual way, and (2) attacks the nervous system in which blood pressure and the heart rate are increased.  All pagan worship all over the world, historically and today, emphasizes beat.  But Christian music should instead emphasize melody and harmony, which affect the spiritual and intellectual parts of the brain.

 

 

13.  What other bodily movement should be avoided in Christian worship?

 

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!  Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”  Psalm 47:1.

 

Answer:  This is the only place in the Bible that mentions clapping in a worship context.  This was a psalm (song) to the triumphant God who rules over all the earth.  But it was a song to be sung, not a literal command to “clap” and “shout”.  In our day, applause is identified with entertainment across cultural lines, and as we have already mentioned, entertainment in worship is a false, believer-centered worship rather than a true God-centered worship.  Say a hearty “Amen” or “Hallelujah” when you appreciate something you hear in worship.  That tells the person or persons speaking, praying, or singing that you appreciate them while at the same time putting the emphasis on praise to God.

 

 

14.  Is it acceptable to raise one’s hands toward the heavens in great enthusiasm during worship?

 

Answer:  All of the Biblical references to raising hands are associated with prayer.  Thus, none of them is equivalent to the modern charismatic practice of raising hands with the fingertips pointing up in an attempt to get a tingling feeling as part of an “excitement” style of worship.  In fact, the charismatic hand-raising practice is exactly what you would see at a rock concert—hardly conducive to true worship.  Moreover, this form of hand-raising is also related to what people do when they worship the sun, a pagan practice that we should avoid even the appearance of.

 

 

15.  Shouldn’t Christians avoid using musical instruments in the church since the New Testament does not mention them?

 

“…the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full in incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song….”  Revelation 5:8-9.

 

Answer:  The scene in the passage of Revelation 5 here is a worship scene that began in Chapter 4.  And the fact that each of these creatures described there had a harp, and that they sang a song, indicates that their singing was accompanied by the playing of the harps.  In any case, here is a worship scene in which harps are present.  Although it’s a worship scene in heaven, the Lamb [Jesus] is being worshipped—which makes it Christian worship.  Therefore, musical instruments (at least one) are mentioned in the New Testament.  Besides, the modern Christians who deny the use of musical instruments in Christian worship discount the Old Testament in general—even though it was the very first Bible of the early Church (see Lesson #2).

 

 

16.  Will you provide a summary of worship music principles?

 

A.  Characteristics of Good Music:

 

  1. The melody is clearly heard.
  2. There is harmony, not clashing of sounds.
  3. The rhythm (beat) is subordinate to the melody and harmony.
  4. There is no monotonous repetition of sound patterns, which have the potential to place the listener into a trance-like state.

 

B.  Worship Music is both Good Music and Appropriate:

 

  1. It is joyous.
  2. It is reverent (evokes the feeling of awe).
  3. It is not easily identifiable with secular music or themes—“And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”  Ezekiel 44:23.

 

C.  Worship Music Lyrics:

 

  1. They should reflect accurate Biblical theology.
  2. They should be more God-centered than believer-centered.
  3. They should avoid a monotonous repetition of phrases (no mantras).

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 16—Public Christian Worship

 

1.  Which of the following words or terms are associated with the meaning of worship in the Bible? (4)

  Reverence

  Dancing for joy

  Fear

  Glory

  Honor 

  Hugging

Answer

Reverence
Fear
Glory
Honor

2.  God does not actually need worship because He is complete within Himself. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

True

3.  Identify the things we receive when we worship God. (2)

  Emotional feelings

  Joy

  Peace

  Automatic salvation

Answer

Joy
Peace

4.  What book of the Bible specifically states that we should never borrow pagan practices and adapt them for worship of the true God? (1)

  Exodus

  Revelation

  Deuteronomy

  John

Answer

Deuteronomy

5.  Which of the following statements about true worship are correct? (2)

  True worship is directed toward God.

  True worship makes the believer feel comfortable and accepted.

  True worship should appeal to people’s comfort zone so that they will return and hear the gospel and be saved.

  True worship will use a little entertainment style, as long as it is not overdone, in order to appeal to what people are used to in our culture.

  True worship allows God to tell us how and when to worship Him.

Answer

True worship is directed toward God.
True worship allows God to tell us how and when to worship Him.

6.  Which of the following are major elements of public Christian worship? (3)

  Preaching

  Skit or short Play

  Congregational Singing

  Prayer

  Music Band

Answer

Preaching
Congregational Singing
Prayer

7.  Which of the following statements about music are true? (3)

  Music itself is neutral, but the lyrics (words) are the most important element.

  Good music will emphasize the rhythm so that people can respond emotionally.

  Good music will make the beat subordinate to the melody and harmony.

  Syncopation in music is always bad.

  All pagan worship all over the world emphasizes the beat, usually with drums.

  Even Aristotle knew that habitual listening to certain kinds of music will change a person’s character.

Answer

Good music will make the beat subordinate to the melody and harmony.
All pagan worship all over the world emphasizes the beat, usually with drums.
Even Aristotle knew that habitual listening to certain kinds of music will change a person’s character.

8.  What kinds of bodily movements or positions should be avoided in public worship? (3)

  Hip-swaying

  Standing

  Clapping

  Raising one’s hands in great enthusiasm

  Kneeling

Answer

Hip-swaying
Clapping
Raising one’s hands in great enthusiasm

9.  Are musical instruments appropriate in public Christian worship? (2)

  Yes, because they were used in Old Testament times by God’s people.

  No, because there is too much danger of bringing in worldly music and corrupting the worship.

  No, because the New Testament never depicts Christian worship with instruments.

  Yes, because Revelation pictures a Christian worship scene in heaven with the use of harps.

Answer

Yes, because they were used in Old Testament times by God’s people.
Yes, because Revelation pictures a Christian worship scene in heaven with the use of harps.

10.  Worship music must meet which of the following standards? (4)

  There must be no rhythm in worship music.

  The beat must be subordinate to the melody and harmony.

  There should be no monotonous repetition of sound patterns.

  The music should be joyous.

  The lyrics (words) should reflect accurate Bible truth.

  The lyrics (words) should be believer-centered.

Answer

The beat must be subordinate to the melody and harmony.
There should be no monotonous repetition of sound patterns.
The music should be joyous.
The lyrics (words) should reflect accurate Bible truth.