Acceptable Worship, Part 2 May 16, 2010
How do wedetermine what are appropriate expressions of worship to God? Anyone who readsthe Scriptures honestly will know the importance of the question. God rejectedCain’s offering (Gen 4), He almost destroyed the Israelites for worshiping Himin the wrong form (Ex 32), He killed two of Aaron’s sons for offeringunauthorized fire (Lev 10), and He derided His people for what He called“hateful” and “burdensome” sacrifices and ceremonies (Is 1:14). Apparently, itmatters to God how we worship Him!
In the last columnI noted the difference between what is carefully regulated in the Old Testamentvs. the New. The OT obsesses over the articles and ceremonies associated withthe sacrificial system; the NT obsesses over the gospel message. In the OT, ifyou mess with the sacrificial system, you were in deep trouble; in the NT,tampering with the gospel will get you cursed. Theologically speaking, they arethe same, since the sacrificial system of the OT preached the gospel in symbolswhile the NT preaches it in verbal propositions.
Thisunderstanding furnishes us with a regulating principle for worship: whateverconforms to the gospel is most appropriate. In 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul describescertain behavior as “that [which] conforms to the glorious gospel of theblessed God”—in other words, behavior with a gospel-shape to it. Similarly, wewant our worship services to have a gospel shape to them. Adoration of God,confession of our sins, proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, andthanksgiving arising from faith and gratitude—do you see how these elementstogether have the shape of the gospel? Conversely, any element or style that isout of step with the gospel or obscures the message of Christ is inappropriatefor worship.