COVER STORY – WORSHIP
“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)
We truly owe God our worship, for He is our Creator and has given us everything we need for our body and life. More than that, He has given His Son to redeem us and has chosen us in Christ to be His children, as Paul says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)
Yes, we ought to “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name” in worship. But what is true worship? You may think of worship in terms of gathering in church to sing hymns, listen to a sermon, and offer prayers to God. Those are acts of worship, but can we really give the glory that is due His name in a one-hour-a-week service?
In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul urges us to do much more: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV) Paul speaks of our worship in terms of sacrifice.
Old Testament worship revolved around sacrifices.
There were many different sacrifices in the Old Testament, but they basically fell into two categories: sacrifices to atone for sin and sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. When you think about it, our worship really revolves around those same two types of sacrifices.
God is not asking us to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to atone for sin. Like the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, our bodies would never be worthy enough to atone for even one sin. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (10:11) All those sacrifices pointed to Jesus, Who alone could truly atone for our sins. As the passage in Hebrews 10 continues, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (10:14)
Our worship services revolve around Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
We begin by confessing our sins, and Jesus gives us the fruit of His sacrifice in the absolution: your sins are forgiven. Then Jesus, Who is the Word, comes to us in His Word to fill us with everything that His sacrifice has accomplished for us: God’s presence and blessings, His grace and truth. When we receive the Lord’s Supper, again Jesus comes to us, giving us all the benefits of His sacrifice on the cross.
So our worship services are really about God serving us with the sacrifice Jesus made for us. He fills us with His love, grace, and forgiveness; and strengthens us in our faith.
Now, filled up with mercy gained by His sacrifice, we respond with the other type of sacrifice, the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. That begins with our songs of praise, our prayers and our offerings in church, but it is so much more. As Paul says, Christians are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice.” We are to use every part of our body to serve God 24/7. Everything we do and everything we say is to be a part of our worship of God. That, Paul says, is your “spiritual worship,” or “reasonable service,” which is another way to translate it.
So don’t think of your worship as only a Sunday morning event. Rather, consider your Sunday morning worship your opportunity to be refreshed and refuelled by God to go out into the world and truly worship Him in daily living, so that all “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
David Reim is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.