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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Defining Worship

If you have heard very many sermons you’ve no doubt heard someone define worship by explaining that it is an old English word that originally was pronounced worth-ship. And then they probably said that it meant to give worth to someone. For example, in the middle ages a knight might address a duke as, Your worship while bowing down to him. The basic meaning is that you humbled yourself before another and said they are more worthy than you are. That is almost exactly the same thing that the Old Testament Hebrew word shachah means. And it is fairly equivalent to the Greek New Testament word proskuneo, which is pictured in Strong’s Lexicon to be like a dog licking its master’s hand.

The next thing we are likely to have been told is that this means Christian worship is giving worth to God usually by way our heart attitude and through words and music of praise. Usually we’re also told that worship in the Old Testament was fleshly, meaning it consisted of rituals and sacrifices and holy places, but that in the New Testament Church age it is spiritual and that we can worship anywhere two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus (as suggested by Matthew 18:20).

All this points to the core meaning of our worship, which is essentially to humble ourselves before God. And it points to the fact that worship is expressed by various activities such as bowing down, kneeling, giving praise in word and music, prayer, and the celebration of various rituals (depending upon denomination) including communion services. Another means of worship is both the teaching and hearing of God’s word, which shows reverence to God. These are all worshipful, and when we gather in our churches they describe the things we do together, and we call it worship. And it is worship.

But does this define worship? The short answer is no. We have touched upon the essence of worship which is submission to God. But our worship isn’t just expressed in acts of worship like praise and prayer and singing and communion.

Christian worship is a large topic. There is a breadth and depth and complexity that we don’t grasp in its fullness. This isn’t suprising when we consider that God is greater than we are. God said this best in the book of Isaiah,

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

This passage implies an infinite difference between us and God that is greater than mere measurable stellar distances. But there is a relatedness, we are His creatures, created in His image to live in His universe under those heavens above us. We may know about God because He has revealed Himself by His creation (Romans 1:19-20). But there is another way of knowing about Him. He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures which are the written record of His revelation of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. He desires that we come to know Him through His Son, and that we come to know His salvation. Which leads us to a third way of knowing Him, meaning we are born again, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Who testifies to our spirits about the truth of God’s Word and speaks to us of Jesus (John 3:3-8; John 16:13-5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13). And the eternal plan of God is that His people should come to know Him fully, we read,

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)


And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

So then we see that God does intend that we should know Him. And just as we can know Him we can also explore the breadth and depth and complexity of worship. And we can discover that God has not left us to invent worship on our own. Our guide is the Bible, we don’t look to our imaginations to devise novelties for worship.

We don’t define worship by defining ye olde English worde worthschip which basically means to praise someone or something usually by way declaring that they are more worthy than oneself. We used the example of the vassal of a medieval baron who would give worthship to his lord by bowing down and using terms of respect to him. And we saw that the English word worship is used to translate several Greek or Hebrew words such as shachah, proskuneo, and doxa to list a few. The Hebrew shachah indicates a very physical action of bowing down. The Greek word proskeuno is said to indicate a servile groveling like a dog licking its master’s hand. And the Greek word doxa means glory; one speaks of the doxa, or glory of God, and one says doxa (glory) to God. The English word worship is a pretty good match for those Hebrew and Greek words but the topic of worship, especially in the New Testament, is far broader and deeper and has greater complexity than simple actions like bowing down or speaking words of praise. Therefore simple word definitions are helpful but not enough. We have to go deeper.

When we delve into the topic of worship we’ll see that spiritual and true worship begins by honoring God in our lives. This is sharply pointed out by the Lord Jesus Himself when He said,

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

In the context of a rebuke to the religious leaders of Israel, Jesus pointedly goes to the heart of the matter,

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (Matthew 15:8)

In another place it is written that Jesus rebuked false worship with a reference to the book of Isaiah,

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)

In Isaiah we read God’s rebuke to Israel that their worship was in vain because their hearts were not right before Him,

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:11-18)

And in Hosea we read,

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. (Hosea 6:4-7)

It becomes very clear that worship must have a foundation. Jesus gives us the keynote for worship that is acceptable to God in John Chapter Four. Does it surprise us that He should so clearly explain things to a Samaritan woman who had such a questionable marriage history rather than to the chief priests in Jerusalem? But He told her in a few words what the breadth and depth and complexity of worship is,

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But 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 4:21-24)

It is telling to read these words of Jesus to that woman in the light of His rebukes to those who should have known, and in the light of God’s pleadings with Israel through the prophets Isaiah and Hosea. We come to understand that our lives as we live them are our spiritual and true worship to God. Paul brings this out when he uses the language of worship to describe what our lives are to be like,

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. (Romans 12:1)

The English word service is a translation of the Greek word, latreia. It could be translated as worship, it’s basic meaning is religious service. Paul is making an analogy, using the idea of religious service to exemplify one’s personal life. And here is the heart of worship, presenting our lives as a living sacrifice. Sacrifice was at the heart of religious service and worship in the Law. Sacrifice is the heart of our salvation: the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And, sacrifice via holy living is at the heart of worship for the Christian.

Looking at this passage we see Paul telling us to present your bodies a living sacrifice, an act of worship in our spirits expressed in our flesh. It is not outward show, it is the inward working of God’s power in our lives working itself out into our entire way of life. Remember Paul also said:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

So worship begins, and has its being, and is done in spirit and in truth, in the walk the believer has with God. That is the true substance of worship in spirit and in truth. From there, when Christians join together, that worship is expressed in our congregations through praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and prayer, and celebration of the Lord. Liturgy and ritual are not excluded. The beginning of worship, its substance, the heart of the matter, therefore, is this: the lives we live in submission to Christ. True and spiritual worship must bring together the inner reality and the outward life.

We don’t define worship in spirit and in truth by defining words. We define worship in spirit and in truth by looking in God’s word for what He has to say about it. The heart or essence of worship is our relationship with God. Keynotes for worship are given in various Scriptures. The chief keynote for Christian worship is found in Jesus’ words to the woman at the well. He said that worship must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). That changes our understanding of worship from an earthly, fleshly, outward thing and gives us an entirely new way of looking at it. With our understanding conditioned by the word pictures from the Old and New Testaments we find in the words used for worship; and by our understanding that God is jealous of His glory, which speaks to the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ; and by knowing how Paul has used the language of worship to describe how we ought to live our lives in Romans 12:1; we can conclude that the essential nature of worship involves submission to God, we devote ourselves to Him. The Christian who is worshiping in spirit and in truth is presenting (devoting) their body as a living sacrifice, which is their reasonable liturgos = service = worship. To devote means to set something aside for a particular, and exclusive use. The sacrifice that the Jews brought to the temple was animal or grains and first fruits. This was their worship. The sacrifice that Christians bring is themselves (Romans 12:1). This is our worship in spirit and in truth. We don’t go to a temple, our bodies are the temple because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And when we gather together as the Church, that also is a temple, the body of Christ. Our corporate worship is how all of us together as members of the body, fitly joined and working together, act as a body. If we continue the analogy of a body, we can say that worship is the proper and healthy functioning of the body, whether thinking of ourselves as individuals, or as members of the Church, Christ’s body. One could say that we devote ourselves to the metaphorical health of the metaphorical body. The Scriptures would say that this means that we are working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) …

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)

And then God’s purpose that Jesus have the preeminence in all things is fulfilled,

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:14-20)

Thus Jesus.

And that is how we begin to define worship in spirit and in truth. If we are giving God the worthship in spirit and in truth it means we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) to God. Worship is the character of how we live our lives. That is the foundation. Then there are acts of worship, expressions of the worship we are living (Luke 6:45), such as words of praise and music. But without the spiritual and true foundation of worship they are just so much noise. However, when we live worshipful lives of spiritual and true worship, our acts of worship done with words of praise and music, and prayer, along with the living sacrifice of ourselves, rise to the Father as pure incense (Malachi 1:11) and a sweet savour (2 Corinthians 2:15a).

©FH 2012

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