Acceptable Worship, Part 1

Over the past few months, the elders have made some changes to our 11 AM Sunday worship gathering, and we’ll probably make a few more in the months to come. So you might be wondering, with respect to our worship service, how do we determine what’s appropriate and what’s not? On the one hand, the wrong kind of worship provokes God’s wrath throughout the Scriptures. Acceptable worship can be a matter of life and death!

On the other hand, the strict regulations of the OT seem to give way to tremendous freedom and variation from church to church in the NT. How do we reconcile this difference between the OT and NT?

We begin to see the answer when we take a closer look at exactly what is regulated in each period. In the OT, it was the articles and ceremonies associated with temple worship, specifically, the sacrificial system (Dt. 12:1-14). Other sacred assemblies, however, like local Sabbath meetings (cf. Lev 23:3) were not regulated, presumably because they did not include the trapping of the temple(incense, Levites, sacrifice). In the NT, what is so carefully protected is the gospel message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.Paul can abide wrong motives for preaching the gospel (cf. Phil 1), but he cannot abide preaching the wrong gospel (cf. Gal 1:8). The familiar OT curse which guarded the sacrificial system now protects the gospel message in the NT.

Why this difference? Actually, there is no difference! Through the worship rituals of the temple and tabernacle, God was proclaiming the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, though in shadows and types. He was not fussing over some arbitrary principles; He was guarding the honor of His Son and the salvation to be found in Him alone. Next week: what that means for our worship services today.