In worship services today you may find all kinds of atmospheres. So the question becomes, do we have authority for the worship services to God? As our society seems to be drifting farther away from the truth and down the river of subjectivism, it’s becoming more difficult to find a “Thus saith the Lord,” for many things we do today. It seems that an “anything goes” attitude is key for the day. When we consider our services, how do we establish anything we do or say in the worship period? Is it up to you and me to decide, or is there a pattern for us to follow? What is the truth on the matter?
What is Our Authority?
Many institutions have authorities, in fact all established institutions have a source or standard in which they govern their business. How do we establish our authority, and what is our ultimate standard in religious matters today? From the beginning of time God has been the authority and by his instrumental word people have known what they should and should not do.
When God created the world, He gave Adam and Eve the authority for what they could and couldn’t do. When God said, “…of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest therof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17), this was the one law of God they were to submit to. In the previous verse, God placed man in the garden to “dress it, and keep it” Genesis 2:15). Adam and Eve were blessed with the responsibility and opportunity of serving and worshipping God with the one exception of not eating of the tree of “knowledge of good and evil.” God is the creator and designer of our world. We either serve God or we don’t. God is our source of authority.
How do we Establish the Authority of God in Worship?
Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (John 12:48-50). Jesus recognized the authority of God as being in His word. We must have the same attitude as Jesus did toward the word of God, “whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” Do we speak where the Bible speaks and keep silent where the Bible is silent? The silence of scriptures is binding. Again, how do we establish our authority in New Testament worship of God? We accomplish this through the word of God and observing the silence of the scriptures.
What has God said on the Issue?
In the Old Testament we learn about a principle called the Law of Exclusion. For example, when Cain and Abel went to offer their sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:3-5), He was not pleased with Cain’s sacrifice, but with his brother’s. Cain’s offering was not authorized or acceptable to God, thus we are all familiar with the outcome. What about when God commanded Noah to build the ark? God gave Noah specific directions on how to design and build the ark. When God said build the ark out of gopher wood, what did that exclude? Could Noah have used some of the cedars of the region? Did God tolerate a little pine, oak, or any other hard wood tree? Or, did God intend only the usage of the gopher wood? When God specified the gopher wood all other kinds were excluded (Genesis 6:14-22). When the Passover was instituted in Exodus, what kind of blood did God command to be used (Exodus 12:3-21)? God commanded the blood of a lamb; did He tolerate the blood of a camel, cow, or a pig? No. God, in His infinite wisdom knew what He wanted and what was best. He wanted a lamb slain. Why? Because it would eventually be the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world (Isaiah 53; John 1:29). Finally, what about Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1ff)? What was that “strange fire” they offered before the Lord? It was a fire that wasn’t authorized. Through God’s eternal discipline, He expresses the importance of obedience to His word.
What About Authority in the New Testament, How do We Establish it?
Does the Law of Exclusion cease to exist in the New Testament? No, it is an eternal principle of Hermeneutics, or the science of interpretation. When God states a law, that law usually excludes all other possibilities, unless otherwise noted. For example, when we partake of the Lord’s supper what is authorized? Can we use hamburgers and soft drinks, pie and ice cream, ham and eggs or are we commanded to partake of the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread? What does the Bible say? When Paul spoke about this in I Corinthians 11:23-26, he was charging them to partake in a worthily manner and with the right elements: fruit of the vine and unleavened bread. These are the only two instituted by the Lord (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19). What does this exclude? It excludes all other possibilities.
Another important issue surrounding the Lord’s supper is when do we partake of it? In Acts 20:7, we find the brethren coming together upon the first day of the week to “break bread.” On the day of Pentecost (the first day of the week, Leviticus 23:15-21) when the church was established, we find the new converts to Christianity continuing “stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:1,42 emphasis mine). We are to partake of the Lord’s supper in a worthily manner, and on the right day. This excludes all other options such as wedding days, other special days, or just doing it for any reason under the sun. The Lord has spoken on the issue.
The issue of instrumental music in worship has also been debated over the years. What does the Bible again say on the matter? The apostle Paul commands us to “sing” (Ephesians 5:19). We find no example anywhere in the New Testament where the instrument of music was ever authorized. If we conclude that singing is the only authorized way of utilizing music in the worship hour, then what does this exclude? I believe the answer is implied, we must simply sing. But what about those who insist “the Bible doesn’t say we can’t use it?” The answer is already stated. It is excluded because the Bible is silent on the issue, and the Lord hasn’t spoken on the matter. It is more appropriate to ask the question, “why hasn’t the Lord said we could do it” rather than saying “He didn’t say we couldn’t do it or use it.” With this in mind, I like to refer to what John said in the last verse of his gospel account, “and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). So does this mean we don’t have all we need to know about the “Perfect Law of Liberty” (James 1:25)? Peter said, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3). The Bible is clear and precise and we only need to read and study to know.
Truth and Spirit Worship
Jesus said to the women of Samaria, “…the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Jesus stated the truth would set us free (John 8:31-32). Freedom is through the truth with the proper attitude (which is what “spirit” means) This is how we approach God properly in worship and truly understand our freedom in Christ. Paul handled the certain situations in Corinth with their own worship practices (I Corinthians 11-14). In this context he deals with their abuse of certain acts of worship and not fulfilling John 4:23-24. In the last statement of this context he comments, “let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40). It is a command to be decent, orderly, and authorized in our worship. Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Let us “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21) and understand that worshipping God without authority and without understanding is vain and empty. As preachers and elders of the church, we must see to it that the brethren are edified and admonished through the worship period. This doesn’t mean we are to “tickle their ears,” but on the contrary “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2). Elders must feed the flock of God which they oversee and make sure they are on guard at all times watching for the wolves (Acts 20:28-32). We need to all come together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and worship God in the spirit [attitude], and in the truth [authority] of His word (Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:23-24). Shall we throw a party during worship, or shall we worship God decently and in order?
Please e-mail me (Bryan Braswell) if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
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